Babywise Week: An Attitude of Adventure

We’re finishing Babywise Week with a post from Claire at My Devising. Claire’s son is only 2.5 so she hasn’t quite gotten into the years when we really deal with attitude, but she has some great advice. One thing I gather from her situation is that it’s important to think about potential parenting issues before you run into them. It’s always best to have a plan, a roadmap of sorts, to guide us in our parenting and help us aim for a goal. So it’s great that Claire has had thoughts about attitude. When her son starts displaying problems with attitude, she’ll be ready to deal with it.

Here’s an example of how Claire is thinking about attitude in parenting: “I want to create little humans that look at hardships and hurt as a challenge, an adventure, and an opportunity.”

It’s so true that attitude makes all the difference. When our kids face difficulties in life, we can help prepare them by teaching them how to face them with grace. I know of some people who face hardships by pointing fingers. It’s always the other person’s fault. It takes real character to point to ourselves and see hardships as an opportunity for self improvement.

Head on over to Claire’s blog to read her post in its entirety. And if you haven’t had a chance yet, check out everyone’s posts on attitude from this week. It’s a real treasure-trove of parenting advice!

Babywise Week: Teaching Appreciation in an Entitled World

It’s Babywise Week. Today, we hear from Emily at Journey of Parenthood. This week, we’re talking about attitude, and Emily offers tips on how we can teach our kids to be appreciative in our entitled world. Entitlement seems to be running rampant in kids these days. Whether it’s from excessive (and unwarranted) praise or the “every child gets a trophy” philosophy, kids are being taught that they deserve everything their little hearts desire.

As Emily says, “Our kids are constantly made to feel so special, so perfect, and are so accustomed to the our worlds revolving around them that they no longer appreciate any of it. They expect praise. They expect rewards. They expect to have us catering to their every whim.”

Emily offers specific tips on how to ensure our kids don’t grow up to be entitled. They include:

  • Remain the parent
  • Don’t always give what they want
  • You get what you get (and you don’t get upset)
  • Let them lose
  • Praise when appropriate
  • Limit rewards
  • Don’t be fair
  • Have honest talks about reality
  • Model appreciation
  • Keep the focus above

Emily does a great job explaining what each of these means. Head on over to Emily’s blog to read her post in its entirety. And be sure to follow us all week:

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Babywise Week: Improving Attitude without Stifling Emotions

Today, for Babywise Week we hear from Rachel at A Mother Far From Home. She continues our discussion on attitude with some thoughts on how we can require a good attitude without stifling our children’s emotions. She does a good job of offering specific steps on how we can do so. She tells us what it means to express a good attitude and how to appropriately express emotions. She sums up every parent’s goals with saying that we want our children to:

  • Exhibit a positive attitude
  • Be able to express their emotions
  • Feel understood and heard by their parents
  • Not be ruled by their emotions and moods

There are several ways we can go about doing so. She offers these five great steps:

  • Learn to separate the emotion from the event
  • Find a safe place for your child to vent
  • Determine if a conversation will help or only make things worse
  • Help them find outlets to express their emotions
  • Be appropriately empathetic

Head on over to Rachel’s blog to read her post in its entirety. And be sure to follow us all week:

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Babywise Week: What Do We Mean by Attitude?

Yesterday, Valerie gave a great overview of why it’s important to encourage a good attitude from our children. It truly is a gift to teach our kids how to deal with their emotions. There’s very little in life that’s more important than handling difficulties with grace. It’s a skill that will serve them well for many years.

Let me get into the specifics of a few types of attitudes and emotions we want to cultivate in our kids.

Submission

Requiring our kids to submit to our authority is something we should teach from a very early age. Submission makes the difference between a child who will sit willingly for a timeout and one who will have you running around the house to get him to sit. The earlier you begin teaching submission, the better off you will both be.

I remember putting my kids in timeout in their cribs (as young as 15 or 16 months), and they would lie down in the crib rather than stand up and look me in the eye. It was a very subtle act of defiance. When I saw that happen, I told the child that I would come back when they were “happy.” Once they would stand up and look at me (while I explained what they did wrong), I knew they were submitting to my authority.

Any time you see an act of overt defiance, you’ll know that you’re not seeing a submissive attitude. And think about the ways submission will benefit your kids for years to come. If our kids can learn to submit to us, they will submit to teachers, bosses, coaches, and other authority figures.

Optimism

Valerie touched on this yesterday. Optimism will get our kids very far in life. I agree that optimism or pessimism is predetermined. Admittedly, I am more naturally pessimistic than optimistic. My husband is the opposite. And I have one of each in my kids.

I love seeing William’s optimism flourish as he grows older. He’s almost 10 now, and just last week, he was competing in a swim meet. He was literally smiling as he swam the breaststroke (his favorite). The swim team has been rigorous and very difficult for him. He’s often the slowest swimmer on the team. But not once has he complained about it.

Lucas (age 6), on the other hand, needs a little encouragement to find his hidden optimist. I think modeling positive attitude is best for him, as is explaining what it looks like and why it’s important.

Determination

When life gets tough, it can be so tempting to just give up. This is true with everything from school work to getting across the monkey bars. As you can imagine, determination is important for adults just as it is for kids.

I mentioned how determined William is with swim team, despite how difficult it’s been. When he tried out for the team, he hadn’t been in a pool in months, but he did well with the rigorous tryout.

I saw one or two kids who got angry with themselves that they couldn’t get across the length of the pool. One little girl stopped midway and took her goggles off in anger. I’m not sure whether she made the team, but her actions proved a lack of determination.

There were a couple kids who were borderline, and the coaches allowed them on the team, commenting on the fact that they were “teachable.” They didn’t necessarily need to see perfection in ability. They needed to see that they would be able to teach the kids and that the kids were determined enough to work hard.

Encouraging determination in our kids is all about words of affirmation. Praise your kids when you see them work hard. Model determination for them. And give them strategies for the times when they feel like giving up. If homework seems a little too daunting, let the child have a snack and a break and get right back to it. But don’t let him give up. Then when it’s done, give him huge praise, not for getting the answers right, but for sticking with it when it got tough.

Striving for personal best

I’ve heard many times that a motivated child will get much farther in life than a smart child will. Intelligence doesn’t do us any good if we’re unwilling to do the work. But if we’re motivated, we can compensate for a lack of natural ability. At the heart of motivation is a willingness to strive for our best. And to be clear, we’re talking about internal motivation, not working for an external reward.

Notice that I didn’t say to strive for perfection. Perfection is a loaded word and gets many of us in trouble. William and I both struggle with perfectionism. But striving for our personal best is great.

If you see your kids doing homework or a coloring page with carelessness, do something about it. A friend once told me about a time when she would crumple up her daughter’s coloring page when she was intentionally scribbling or coloring outside the lines. Don’t do this if coloring outside the lines is their personal best. But if they are intentionally scribbling, that’s a different matter. It’s all about intent.

Confidence

Confidence is another attitude trait that will get us far in life. It’s particularly important to help our introverted, shy kids with confidence. My boys are both extroverts and have very little difficulty in standing up for themselves. But confidence is something I’ve struggled with. I have always been introverted and shy. I’d always rather let my work speak for itself than to have to speak or boast about it.

I’ve noticed that confidence plays a big role in the business world. You can compensate for a lack of ability with confidence. But even the most capable person won’t get very far if they can’t speak up for themselves.

But let me make a clear distinction. We don’t want false confidence. We want our kids to be proud and confident of the things that they have personally achieved. We don’t want confidence if it comes with lying.

Kindness

Let me finish with what’s possibly the most important attitude trait. Teach your kids that kindness should be at the heart of everything they do in life. There are some who say, “Nice guys finish last.” But I’ve found the opposite to be true. In the business world, I’ve gotten far with my consulting clients because of the willingness and kindness that I always express. It’s all about the relationship and establishing a friendship. Who wants to work with someone who’s cutthroat and only looks out for himself?

There are many ways to show our kids what kindness looks like. If you see an adult struggling to open a door, have your child open the door for them. If you see an elderly person drop something, have your child pick it up. If you see a friend struggling to get across the monkey bars, have your child offer words of encouragement to the friend.

By the same token, stop your kids if they’re ever unkind. Listen not only to what your kids say, but how they say it. And make sure you’re around to witness your child’s kindness (or lack thereof). When friends come over, don’t hover, but be sure you can see how your child treats friends.

As you can imagine, living a life of kindness is the best way to teach it to your kids. Model the behavior, but go beyond even that. Be on the lookout for ways that your child can express kindness. Kids are naturally self-absorbed, so they won’t always spot opportunities for kindness. But if you do it often enough, they will begin to see it for themselves.

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Babywise Week: Should You Correct for Attitude?

It’s Babywise Week! All week, you’ll be hearing from the Babywise Friendly Blog Network (BFBN) with posts on a similar topic. This week, it’s all about attitude. We kick off the week with a post from Valerie. She asks the question, “Should you correct for attitude?”

There are many who would say that correcting for attitude runs the risk of stifling our kids’ emotions. But as Valerie explains, teaching our kids to deal with their emotions is a great gift. By instilling in our kids a sense of emotional maturity, they will be much better prepared for any difficulties life may throw their way.

Here’s a quick summary of the points she covers:

  • The value of a good attitude
  • The importance of self-control
  • Learning the right way to respond
  • Developing a habit of good attitude
  • Correcting for attitude

Head on over to Valerie’s blog to read her post in its entirety. And be sure to follow us all week:

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Parenting Inside the Funnel

By Emily Parker at The Journey Of Parenthood

funnelMy biggest struggle so far as a parent is resisting the tendency to parent outside the funnel with my children. Toddlerwise reiterates the importance of avoiding this on page 36: “By ‘outside the funnel’ we are referring to those times when parents allow behaviors that are neither age-appropriate nor in harmony with a child’s moral and intellectual capabilities. To allow a 15-month-old child freedoms appropriate for a 2-year-old, or a 2-year-old child freedoms suitable for his 5-year-old sister, is to parent outside the funnel. Such freedoms do not facilitate healthy learning patterns – they only contribute to confusion.”

When Kye, my now four-year-old son, was my only child I didn’t struggle as much with this issue. The only time I really found myself parenting outside of the funnel was when he first developed the ability to use language. As he was more and more able to express his wants and desires, I caught myself giving him more control and asking him what he wanted, thus putting him in a position of power over me. By giving him too many choices (freedoms) I caused confusion for him which lead to behavior issues. At meal time he’d say he wanted more raisins and I would give him more raisins. But then he’d ask for more raisins and I’d want him to eat his beans first and we’d end up in a power struggle because he was used to making the decision as to what he’d eat.

Thankfully, I realized early on that this was something I struggled with and I took back over the control of meal times as well as all other areas of decision making. There aren’t too many age-appropriate decisions for a toddler to make, right? ;)

Once I had Britt, my daughter, it became much, much harder to parent her within the funnel. Instead of just one funnel to worry about, I now have two. In every situation I have to think about what is age-appropriate for a four-year-old (Kye) and what is age-appropriate for a 20-month-old (Britt). My struggle typically becomes allowing her too much freedom and treating her older than she really is.

Recently Kye became old enough to handle eating whole grapes without me cutting them up into slices for him. Britt naturally wanted her grapes whole as well since that’s how her brother’s were, and she would fuss and fuss about it at lunch time. I gave in, thinking (as I often do with her) that it “wasn’t fair” for her to see him getting something different than she was. However, it’s not age-appropriate for a 20-month-old to eat whole grapes. It’s dangerous and not something I feel comfortable with. I had to have a reality check and remind myself that I am the parent and SHE is the child. Things won’t always be fair nor should they be and that it is okay for her to fuss about getting sliced grapes instead of the whole ones. I went back to cutting hers into quarters and she was FINE about it. Barely any fussing at all and I knew she was eating in a safer way.

I have to often remind myself of the funnel and literally stop what I’m doing and consider whether or not something is age-appropriate for each of my children. Kye being the older child I think I often tend to not allow him freedoms when he is ready for them whereas with Britt being the second child I think I allow her too many freedoms too soon.

DSC06416I also catch myself expecting more from Britt than I should. I have to remind myself of the funnel not only to make sure I have age-appropriate freedoms for Britt, but also age-appropriate expectations. We require Kye to always reply with either “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” and naturally we expect Britt to respond the same way. Hearing her say “no” gets under my skin and I find myself irritated with her for not saying “no ma’am.” At her age she doesn’t have the language ability to say “no ma’am” so instead of expecting her to say it, I simply repeat “no ma’am” to her every time she says “no.” She has started to be able to say “no ma’am” and we are mindful to shower her with praise whenever she does! At four years old, Kye is expected to say it without any praise but at her age, she needs the praise to be encouraged to say it every time!

Whenever in doubt I refer back to page 36 in Toddlerwise and keep the following equations in mind:

1. Freedoms greater than self control = developmental confusion
2. Freedoms less than self-control = developmental frustration
3. Freedoms equal to self-control = developmental harmony

Thankfully, Kye is not yet at an age where us withholding certain freedoms from him is an issue. I typically will handle sibling issues by lowering Kye’s freedoms down to ones that are more age appropriate for Britt. Kye has a lot of board games he enjoys playing but many of them have small pieces and also require deeper understanding and patience that Britt just can’t handle yet. Kye knows we don’t play with those games while Britt is awake and instead Zach (my husband) and I will play a game of Kye’s choosing each night during the fifteen minutes between when Britt goes to bed and when Kye goes to bed. He is still able to enjoy his age-appropriate game but without it affecting Britt’s ability to stay within her appropriate limits.

I know that Kye does sacrifice for his younger sister in many areas and I’m always mindful of that. I make a special effort to always compliment him and to give him plenty of opportunities to enjoy his well earned four-year-old status freedoms. We go get ice cream just the two of us quite often, I allow him to have some quiet time in his room with his preschooler age toys before she wakes from her afternoon nap, and he attends a half-day preschool where he’s around other children his age every day!

With two children, parenting within the funnel is definitely a greater challenge than it ever was with just one child. I know as we add more children to our family eventually that I will have to readjust and always be mindful of what limits, freedoms and expectations are appropriate for each child at their given ages. I understand how important parenting inside the funnel is at any age and try to always have it at the front of my mind when making any parenting decisions.

Correct for Attitude: A Tip

It can be so easy to fall into the trap of correcting our kids’ outward signs of disobedience while ignoring attitude. We often focus on their actions without paying attention to what’s going on in their little hearts. I think attitude is just as important as actions, if not more so. By the same token, we may correct our kids for the words they speak but not correct facial expressions. Attitude is attitude. Whichever way our kids reveal their attitudes to us, our job as parents is to get to their little hearts and make sure they’re in the right place.

Here’s a tip on figuring out whether to correct for attitude, especially those little facial expressions that often go by unnoticed. The next time you see your child with a not-so-happy expression on her face, picture a little comic strip thought bubble over her head and fill in the words. Imagine what she would be saying if she were talking. And if she were saying those words, would you correct her?

Here are a couple examples:

  • Expression: Eye roll
  • Thought bubble: That’s so stupid.

  • Expression: Furrowed brow and tight lips
  • Thought bubble: I’m so angry I could hurt someone.

  • Expression: Lifted chin while looking away
  • Thought bubble: I’m better than you.

You would certainly correct if your child spoke these words, right? And aren’t these words an accurate expression of the attitude you see on her face? Again, attitude is attitude. Correct if it needs correction.

Now, perhaps assigning words to her expressions isn’t entirely fair. So you might not correct as harshly as you might if she actually spoke them. Nonetheless, the point is understanding what’s going on in her heart. If this little exercise helps you get a better feel for her attitude, give it a try. Keep in mind that we cannot forget attitude when correcting our kids. Correct for actions, speech, facial expressions, and any other expression of attitude, always making sure the child’s heart is in the right place.

Our Timeout Script

Source: cloudmom.com

If we understand that the purpose of discipline is to teach, not to punish, it’s important to ensure our kids learn from the experience. No consequence is effective unless the child learns from it.

With this in mind, I always have a chat with my kids after every act of discipline. Timeouts or some form of isolation usually work well for my kids. After every timeout, I make sure to go over a few things to make sure they learned what went wrong and why it was wrong. Here’s our typical timeout script:

Me: “What did you do wrong?”

Child: Either explains what he did wrong or says he doesn’t know. If he says he doesn’t know, I’ll tell him I’ll come back later after he “remembers” what he did wrong. Usually, it’s an issue of them not wanting to own up to what they did. If I can see in their eyes that they truly don’t know what they did wrong, I will prompt them a bit.

Me: “I need an apology.” The child will then apologize if he didn’t already.

Child: “I’m sorry for XYZ.” I ALWAYS require that they state what they did wrong in their apology. I don’t accept a simple, “I’m sorry.”

Child: “Will you forgive me?” This last step is crucial. I don’t accept their apology until they ask for my forgiveness. Lucas is still learning this, as he often says, “I forgive you.” But we’re working on it.

Me: “I forgive you.” Hugs and kisses, and we’re done.

If the child hurt or offended someone else, I then make him apologize to and ask forgiveness from that person.

Here’s what the Ezzos say about forgiveness:

“Humility is the basis for healthy families. Seeking forgiveness for an offense and humbly admitting error in an effort to be restored with the offended party is a prerequisite for a loving and enduring relationship. This is serious heart business. Children and adults who are in the habit of asking for forgiveness take ownership of their wrong actions. They show they believe the relationship is worth the possible embarrassment often associated with admitting wrong,” (On Becoming Childwise).

You can start teaching the importance of asking for forgiveness when they’re young and then make it a habit after every wrongdoing.

Correcting Disobedience

Source: resourceful-parenting.blogspot.com

If there’s anything that we Babywise parents know, it’s that disobedience needs correction. When our children are blatantly and intentionally disobedient, our correction serves to teach them that their behavior is unacceptable. There’s little doubt that our role as parents is to correct our children’s misbehaviors.

Having said that, it’s this very fundamental idea that trips us up. It’s difficult to answer the what, when, how, why, and to what degree questions that we must grapple with. Even the Ezzos cannot offer specific advice that says, if the child misbehaves in X way, give Y consequence. Why? Our children are human. We are human. And context changes everything.

Plus, we all tend to lean a certain way in our parenting. I most decidedly have a permissive bent. For example, when William doesn’t clean up his Legos when asked, I’ll convince myself that he didn’t hear me. If I could let my kids get away with everything, and stay sane while still raising morally responsible children, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I know it’s unlikely that that’s possible, so I must encourage myself to correct disobedience.

So what do we do about it? The Ezzos offer a few parameters by which we can determine how to correct our children.

“Where should parents begin when considering correction for their children’s intentional disobedience? Disobedient behavior needs correction, but parents should not correct all disobedience the same way or with the same strength of consequence,” (On Becoming Childwise).

There are five factors we can use to determine the appropriate correction:

  1. The age of the child
  2. The frequency of the offense
  3. The context of the moment
  4. The overall characterization of the behavior
  5. The need for balance

And of course, it’s always in the heat of the moment that we struggle with this correction question. Try to memorize these five factors. Then when your child misbehaves, you can run through the list to determine how to correct the child. If memorization isn’t your thing, or you can’t trust yourself to remember, perhaps write these out and post them in a prominent spot in the house.

One important thing to remember is that even if you afford the child leniency due to one of these factors, it doesn’t mean you forget the disobedience altogether. If you see your child blatantly break your park rules because a friend cajoled him to, you might not correct harshly because you realize your child wasn’t the ringleader. Nonetheless, you would take note of your child’s willingness to follow others to disobedience. You might not correct, but you can still use it as a teaching opportunity. Also make a mental note of the scenario so that if it does happen again, you can correct without as much leniency.

Milestones and Behavior

A recent shot of Lucas. If only he were always so peaceful.

There’s a new phenomenon going on in my home right now. I haven’t read about this in any parenting book, but I have heard other moms mention it. There’s something about kids hitting a certain age or particular milestone that sends their behavior completely off-kilter.

Lucas has been 5.5 for 13 days now, and I’ll tell you, it’s been 13 days of defiance, disobedience, attitude, and pretty much any other behavior problem you can think of. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I did the math and realized that he had hit his half birthday. We were doing all kinds of timeouts, logical consequences, pulling our hair out (William included), and more.

I explained this phenomenon to my husband, and he wondered why a half birthday would do it. But I’ve seen it mentioned on the Babywise message board. And it’s not that Lucas is aware of this milestone. It’s just a little change in his development that perhaps has him a little confused.

I think many parents see this phenomenon much earlier in their kids’ lives. Typically, age two and three present big challenges. But for us, with Lucas at least, two and three were a breeze. I’ve always considered it 10% luck, 20% personality, and 70% training. I started training him in the Babywise principles from day one. My blanket time success story was one of our shining moments.

As odd as this sounds, I think part of the reason Lucas was so easy was that William was so difficult. I don’t think anybody who knows William would call him easy-going or laid back. A friend recently described him as intense, and that’s him in a nutshell. He’s intense in everything he does, and he’s been like this from the minute he was born. I remember being in the hospital wondering if it was okay that I went to sleep, considering my newborn was lying in his bassinet bright eyed and bushy tailed! Sleepy newborn? What’s that? Even his entrance into this world was intense since my water broke before I had a single contraction. And then it was 11 hours of painful, intense labor. We had colic, developmental delays, you name it!

When I was pregnant with Lucas, I “told him” that he had to pay me back for all the terror that William caused. The obedient thing that he is, he listened. :) Kidding aside, I think Lucas subconsciously recognized that William was a lot to handle. And he let William do his thing. He let him direct their play. They rarely fought ever because Lucas was so appeasing. You may have noticed that I rarely discuss sibling rivalry. Plus, whenever we were out, Lucas was his brother’s watchdog. He always made sure he was coming, even if I was walking at my own pace and William was lagging behind.

When I step back and examine their behaviors, William is much easier to manage now. I’ve noticed a change in him just in the past few months. I don’t know if it’s his occupational therapy, homeschooling, maturity, or what, but something is working for him. Perhaps Lucas noticed that things were a little too quiet, so he decided to fill the void. Not only has he been testing the limits lately, but he’s stopped letting William get his way. Sadly, they fight a lot more now.

I’ve also noticed a few other changes in Lucas’ development. For one, he’s been stuttering lately. I don’t think of it as a problem, but as a developmental speed bump. My niece has struggled with stuttering over the years, and my sister noticed that it’s just one of those things that goes along with their growth. It comes and goes. I can also tell that Lucas’ brain is moving too fast for his mouth. He knows what he wants to say. It just takes a little while for it to come out.

Lucas has also shown big progress academically. Because we homeschool, I see this with my own two eyes. His reading is coming along so well, and he’s at the point now where he reads the words he sees around him. When I read to him at bed time, he’ll point out a few words he recognizes. And he was watching TV the other day, and simply said to himself “fox.” He read the network logo.

What am I to do about all of this? Recognizing the problem and its cause helps immensely. But it still doesn’t get to the root of the issue. If I weren’t a Babywise mom, I might call it a phase and wait it out. But since I know better, I’m going to train this disobedience right out of him! It means my husband and I need to buckle down and tackle it head on. Consistency is the name of the game these days. We can no longer be lax with our schedule, room time, couch time, etc. We will also be looking for logical consequences that “hurt” a little more than a timeout would, because after your sixth timeout of the day, they start to lose their effectiveness! And thank goodness he still naps!

Wish us luck!