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.

Free Summer Planner Download!

Planner Cover image

Click to download

Homeschooling has changed me a bit, for the better, I think. It’s made me crafty! It has also encouraged the planner in me. So I created a free download for you!

Last Tuesday was our last day of school, and we had a very lazy week and tossed all routine out the window. I was feeling guilty about requiring “summer school” from my children, so I let them do pretty much whatever they wanted for three days as long as it wasn’t destructive. Well…it drove me nuts! There was a lot of TV and a LOT of asking for TV and devices (iPad, iPhone, etc.).

Well, it’s a new week! I set my guilt aside and decided to plan out our summer, school and all. As I think ahead to next school year, I want to teach William to be more independent with his studies, so I’m using this planner as a test. I plan to print it out and maybe have it spiral bound. Isn’t it cute?!

Included in the free download are the following:

  • Sample Schedule (Mon, Tues, Weds)
  • Sample Schedule (Thurs, Fri, Sat/Sun)
  • Weekly Schedule (Mon, Tues, Weds)
  • Weekly Schedule (Thurs, Fri, Sat/Sun)
  • Chore List
  • Virtue List
  • Allowance Checklist
  • Allowance Record

Sample schedule image

Click to download

Let me explain the two schedule types. At first, I created our schedule as you see in the Sample Schedule. Then I realized that I’m more likely to get him to follow it independently if he’s involved in the process of creating it. So I then made another version, the Weekly Schedule, which has many more blanks. I’ll go through it with him to fill it out.

You’ll see that the schedules are created for one week, and they have a virtue listed at the top. Again, I’m going to involve William in this. I’m going to have him decide which virtue he thinks he needs to work on for the week. He’ll then write it in at the top. He can refer to the Virtue List to decide.

And to motivate him in all of this, I’ve created a couple forms for allowance. We’ve done allowance in the past, but I’ve never been very consistent with it. This outlines exactly what needs to be done to receive an allowance, and it puts William in the driver’s seat. He’ll fill out the checklist all week long, and at the end of the week, he can come to me for his allowance if all of it has been completed.

There are a few other items I’m including in his planner (that aren’t in the download):

  • Monthly calendars for June, July, and August (just so he can see what we have planned). I created these in Word. Simple with the calendar template.
  • Library’s summer reading program sheet (yay!)
  • Year at a glance

If you have a child who you think might benefit from a planner like this, feel free to download. I’m giving you the PowerPoint file so you can modify it to suit your needs. Or if you don’t give it to your child to use, you might use it for yourself.

Note: This is for personal use only. Please don’t reproduce multiple copies or (gasp!) sell it.

How Do Your Kids Act When You’re Not Around?

Source: blendedfamilymoments.com

Don’t we all wish we could be a fly on the wall when our kids are in social situations with their peers? The way that our kids react when we’re not around is so important to their moral fiber. It’s also indicative of how we parent. If we tend to control our kids rather than guide them and let them learn, we are more likely to end up with kids who are outwardly obedient, yet inwardly defiant.

The Ezzos offer this as a warning flag in Parenting the Middle Years, the book that comes after Growing Kids God’s Way and On Becoming Childwise. (It’s directed toward parents of kids ages 8-12.) This is what they say about this warning flag:

“Warning flag one: your child does not follow the family standard outside of your presence (or the presence of others who know and represent your family values) …. When your middle years child becomes characterized by not caring who sees him or what he is doing, especially when he is around people who are familiar with your family’s values, then the child’s problem is one of shame — the lack of it,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 75.)

Essentially, our kids — no matter their age — should care what people think. If we know we have done our job in teaching them the way we think they should act, we can expect that they will carry this with them wherever they go. Some indiscretions will happen for sure. But on the whole, we should be able to expect that our kids behave appropriately.

So I suppose the question becomes, How do we find out how our kids act when we’re not around? Our friends can be very helpful in this endeavor. But more than that, listen intently when anyone comments on your child’s behavior. Ask questions. A mom from our homeschool co-op came up to me recently and told me how polite my kids are. Of course, I was appreciative of the comment. But I had to ask more. I wondered what the scenario was that helped her come to this conclusion. We are working on “thank you” at home as my kids seem to have forgotten the value of this phrase. But they almost always say “please” when asking for something, especially from a near-stranger. She also commented on how patient they were when or before they were asking for something.

You might also call upon other people in your child’s life: teacher, coach, scouts leader, etc. Ask them to tell you honestly how your child acts when you’re not around. Then ultimately, if you hear anything negative, you can make that priority number one in what you teach the child.

What TV Do You Allow?

Little Bear!

I think we all know that we should limit the amount of time that our kids spend in front of the TV. But do you think twice about the quality of TV they watch? I don’t know about you, but my kids and their media habits seem to be maturing much faster than I’d like! They’d watch all of the Star Wars and Harry Potter movies if I allowed it! If I had it my way, they’d watch only Little Bear. It’s such a sweet little show with absolutely zero negativity. Even all Disney movies have some sort of villain. There’s no villain in Little Bear!

Despite the infatuation I have for Little Bear, I realize that my kids have graduated beyond the Little Bear age. There are times that I can get them to watch it still, but they would always choose something else. But it means there’s a job for me in this. My job is to watch the various shows they would want to watch and decide whether I should allow them. I’m fairly strict with what I allow my kids to watch, which I think is a good thing. It’s far better to be too strict than not strict enough.

Here’s what I don’t allow:

  • Harry Potter movies after the third. We require that the books be read before the movies can be watched.
  • Star Wars movies. They’ve only seen the first, and that was a special birthday treat.
  • Anything on Cartoon Network. I hate this channel. All of the cartoons available on this channel are dark and violent.
  • Any movie that I haven’t previously reviewed and approved
  • Spongebob Squarepants. Super annoying and mindless.

Here’s what I do allow:

  • Phineas and Ferb. This is their favorite show. I try to look past the tattling aspect of the big sister.
  • Johnny Test. I’ll admit that this isn’t my favorite, but it’s not violent, and they really do like it.
  • Anything educational. Think Super Why, or even documentaries/biographies on history topics like the Paul Revere one William once watched.

There are just two shows that we watch as a family:

  • The Amazing Race. We all LOVE this show and it’s pretty benign. Great for the whole family.
  • America’s Funniest Videos. We watch this on Hulu and Netflix.

And there are a few movies that we own, that I always approve of. (We wouldn’t have purchased them if I didn’t approve.) They are:

  • How to Train Your Dragon (great movie!)
  • Cars 1 and 2
  • Toy Story 1, 2 and 3
  • Horton Hears a Who
  • Curious George
  • Wall-E (a few scary elements, but okay overall)
  • A Bee Movie
  • Ratatouille
  • Up

I’d love to hear if you have any great (and innocent!) TV shows or movies you would recommend!

How’s Your Child’s Heart?

Source: ourprincessdana.com

There’s a little problem that occurs when we focus on our children’s obedience (or disobedience). We forget to check the status of their hearts. And if there’s anything we want to be careful of it’s that we not raise children who are outwardly obedient but inwardly defiant.

When you see your child obediently pick up his toys, does he do it happily? Does he obey your command because he’s knows it’s right? Or does he simply obey because he’ll face a consequence if he doesn’t?

Now, I think it’s important to realize that we can’t expect happy hearts all the time from toddlers and preschoolers. The Ezzos are frequently quoted as saying, “Actions precede beliefs.” For example, we need our kids to share with friends before they understand why they should do so. But if we have sufficiently taught our children the need for happy obedience, then we can expect that the correct attitude will accompany the obedience.

I expect William, age 8, to obey with a happy heart. He doesn’t have to love whatever chore I’ve given him, but he must do it correctly and without complaint. He’s at an age where I know that he knows why I expect him to clean up his toys. I know that I’ve sufficiently taught him. In fact, just yesterday, I reminded him, “We have to take care of our things. If we don’t take care of our things, then we aren’t responsible enough to have them.”

Ultimately, we need to check our kids’ hearts because our primary goal in parenting is shaping their moral compasses. If we allow them to get by with outward obedience but don’t require a good attitude, how will we know that they won’t adopt a similar attitude with teachers, bosses, and other authority figures?

We can teach a child how to sweep and do dishes, but if we neglect to teach them why it’s important to keep a clean house, what will he do when he’s living on his own? He may view chores simply as something his parents required but that he doesn’t see the need for.

This idea extrapolates to much more important moral considerations like lying, stealing, cheating, hard work, kindness, selfishness, etc. We want to not only teach them HOW to be good people, but WHY they should be good people.

So whether they’re two or twelve, we should expect a happy heart. If in the early years, after a timeout, you go through the motions of getting an apology and seeking forgiveness yet your child remains grumpy about it all, leave him there! If in the preteen years, you see a defiant heart, take stock and figure out where you may have forgotten to explain the importance of the action you’re requiring.

If at any point you see a blip in your child’s moral radar, go back to teaching the moral lessons behind everything you expect. Use every opportunity possible to mold their little hearts. And never stop at obedience.

Lucas Got a Medal!

Lucas with flag football medalLucas got a medal today for his great work in flag football today! Last week, I posted about the “every child gets a trophy” generation that our kids are apparently a part of. Both of my boys are playing flag football. At the beginning of the season, William’s coach told us that he has medals for every player on the team but that he’s decided to hold on to them until the last day of the season when he can hand out one to every child on the team. Lucas’s coach, on the other hand, is handing out medals to the best player (or two) from that day’s game.

Well, today, Lucas was one of two kids who got a medal. We are all so proud of him. We know he played hard and earned recognition from his coach. And the best part about receiving a medal this way is that it actually means something. When every kid gets a medal, it doesn’t mean a thing. And the kids know this. Lucas knew that his medal meant something, and he was so proud of himself.

After today’s events, I can now say I firmly believe that not every child should get a medal, at least not all at once. I like the way Lucas’s coach is handling the medals. Last week, I was a little unsure. In theory, I believe that kids should work for the appreciation they receive. But the mama bear in me is a little protective and wants to keep my kids’ feelings from being hurt if they don’t receive a medal. Last week was Lucas’s first game, and another kid got a medal. Lucas played really hard and ran really fast, but he didn’t get one. Did he care? Not in the least.

Did he care about getting it today? Absolutely! When he came home with it, he had a huge smile on his face. And I was able to give a heartfelt “good job!” and a high five. I was excited for him because I knew that it was special. He worked hard, and he earned the appreciation. He also knew it meant something. I asked the boys if they wanted to join me on a trip to the grocery store, and Lucas jumped up. He wanted to show off his medal. Luckily, we ran into a former neighbor who was impressed. He also got a few smiles from strangers in the store.

Honestly, though, if either child’s coach decided to hand out medals all at once at the end of the season, I’m glad it’s William’s coach. William is not the sportiest kid. Truth be told, he’s a little bored by the whole thing. He’d rather be reading a book or playing with Legos. He even told his coach today that he wanted to go home. Granted, it’s the hottest day of the year (81 is hot for us), but even so, sports just don’t interest him. Lucas, on the other hand, wants to be a professional football player when he grows up. He’s a super sporty kid and is really competitive.

So even though handing out medals to every kid at the end of the season could protect William’s self-esteem, I’m not sure he would care. If another kid walked off the field with a medal around his neck, I don’t think his ego would be bruised in any way. I think he knows it’s not his thing. If he really wanted to earn a medal, he would try hard. I think that’s what Lucas set out to do when he started playing today. And he was rewarded for his determination.

 

Taking Initiative

Source: family.go.com

I don’t know about you, but one of my biggest parenting endeavors is getting my children to take initiative. When our kids are motivated to please and when they’ve been taught what we expect, we can encourage them to take initiative. The biggest benefit in getting them to take initiative is that we don’t have to nag! But even more than that, working by internal motivation will serve them well through school and into adulthood.

I’ll admit that we aren’t there yet, at least not in all areas. But I will say that I’m seeing progress in school. On Wednesday, I talked about the reasons we homeschool. One of the reasons we left a private school was that it was too lax and William lost his internal drive to do well. In fact, his teacher noticed this drive and called him “industrious” early in the year. I attribute this industriousness to the rigid structure his Kindergarten teacher brought to the class. But by about mid-year in first grade, that industrious spirit was gone. I was very sad. No matter how little he may have learned that year, losing that internal drive was the most upsetting. However, I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten it back! William does his math and daily writing journal first thing in the morning, every single day, and he’s gotten so good at finding his own motivation to get it done.

Early last week, we took a day and a half off school to go to a water park. (Have I said how much I love homeschooling?!) Before we left, I told William I wanted him to finish his math and journal. As our friend was about to arrive to pick us up, I was running around to finish packing. Quickly, I looked into our school room and saw William writing furiously in his journal. He knew we were about to leave, and without me there even paying attention to him, he was working hard to get his work done. Not only did it fill me with pride, but it completely validated my reasons to homeschool.

But unfortunately, this internal motivation hasn’t carried over into every area. Until recently, I have had my boys do chores only when I needed their help. I didn’t have a very consistent approach. Well, we’ve started doing chores every weekend, and when they’re done, they get an allowance. Even with the money sitting on the table to entice them, my boys needed a little nagging to get their chores done. They’re still learning, though, so I completely understand why William was so frustrated that he couldn’t sweep. The only thing I can do to improve the situation is to keep prompting and encouraging and do the same thing consistently, week after week.

Take a look at this excerpt from Growing Kids God’s Way. It’s not only educational, but motivating:

“The highest and most desirable level of initiative is self-generated initiative. At this level, a child responds to needs without prompting or instruction. When Nathan saw the laundry basket filled with clean clothes, he began to separate his personal items, fold them, and put them away so Mom and Dad did not have to do it later. For a younger child, it may be as simple as putting away a toy left out after playtime. When a child responds without being asked, parents should give plenty of verbal and physical affirmation. In addition to affirming the child, parents may choose to reinforce the behavior with a reward. It doesn’t need to be expensive. What the child finds value in is the appreciation that the reward represents,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 128).

So as you give this idea more thought, think about the various chores you can assign to your child. Keep them age-appropriate, and make sure you are patient as he learns to do them. And always, throughout the day, be on the lookout for any time the child takes initiative. “Catch him in the act” and give huge praise!

Has Your Child Earned All Freedoms?

Source: www.noisycoworkers.com

The idea that our kids need to earn their freedoms is so crucial to the Babywise way of raising our kids. We cannot give our kids certain freedoms without making sure they can handle those freedoms.

How do we determine whether we should allow a certain freedom? Many parents award freedoms based on the child’s age. We think, He’s 5 now. He’s old enough to cross the street without holding my hand. Or she’s 7 now. She should be old enough to take care of a pet. But do we stop to actually think about the child’s level of responsibility? Is the 5-year-old responsible enough to stop and look both ways before crossing the street every single time? Is the 7-year-old responsible enough to fill a pet’s food and water bowls and do it every day without reminders?

When we decide whether our kids have earned certain freedoms, we should determine whether they are responsible enough, not old enough. You might even find that your younger child is more responsible in certain areas than your older child. It’s perfectly normal.

Before I get into certain types of freedoms we should evaluate, let me take a minute to explain why this is so important. Essentially, our kids need to learn how to make decisions. And to learn anything, we need to take baby steps. To open the world up to a child and allow him to choose everything from what shirt he wears to whether he’ll do his homework is just too much for a young child. This is how the Ezzos put it:

“[There is] a legitimate concern that warns against creating the false impression in the mind of a child that she is able to do anything, say anything, and go anywhere without parental guidance or approval. Simply put, this is a child who has been granted too many freedoms of self-governance too early, and this is how children become ‘wise in their own eyes.’ It is our firm conviction, based on our observations, that more conflicts arise out of this ‘wise in your own eyes’ attitude than any other single factor in parenting,’” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 180).

Pretty powerful stuff, huh? Let’s take a minute to look at a few areas of freedoms that we might be tempted to award our children without ensuring responsibility:

Physical Boundaries

I’ve been a long-time proponent of the idea that our kids should not be allowed to roam the house, no matter how old they are. When we allow our kids to roam the house, they get the idea that every room in the house and everything in it is there for the taking. Before we implemented this rule, William would root through my bathroom drawers, wander upstairs by himself, and even go into the backyard without asking permission. Now, my kids know they are to ask permission to go anywhere but the main downstairs area.

Now at age 8, William has earned the freedom to go upstairs without me, but he still tells me or checks in before he does. I’ll allow him to take a shower (upstairs) by himself. But I have to make sure Lucas doesn’t go with him. Lucas has not earned the freedom to be upstairs by himself or without a parent. If he’s up there with William, they often wreak havoc.

Time

As odd as this may sound, our kids need to earn the freedom to choose what to do with their time. Before they learn the value of managing time, our kids will certainly choose to play all day and not do a single chore or bit of homework. I’ll be the first to tell you that our kids certainly need time to play. It is through play that our kids learn. It is through the imagination (which flourishes in play) that our kids learn to be creative and think critically. But we need to manage our kids’ time for them so they learn the value of time management. They need to learn that it’s usually far better to get your work done first and then play.

Plus, if you’ve been a Babywise parent, you’ve learned that directing our kids’ lives is so beneficial to their development. Keeping them on a schedule and directing their time tells our kids that they don’t get to choose to do whatever they want whenever they want. They learn that they are held accountable to the parents’ expectations.

Play

Yes, our kids need to earn freedoms when it comes to play. There are many aspects of my kids’ playtime that I direct:

1) Sibling playtime

2) Independent playtime

3) Play with friends and neighbors

4) Outdoor play

5) Exercise through play

6) Video game play

My kids are allowed free play, but I will tell them when it’s time to play outside, when it’s time to ride their bikes, and when it’s time to play with friends. And they must earn freedoms and show responsibility even when it comes to play. During free play, they are not allowed to trash the playroom. I don’t limit the amount of toys they can have out at once. But they have earned this freedom simply because they know they need to put toys away as they go.

Sibling playtime is also a freedom they need to continually prove responsibility for. If they say nasty things to each other or don’t share, they lose the freedom to play with each other. And for my boys, this is one of the most severe punishments I can give. My boys love each other so much and hate playing alone.

Playtime with friends is also a freedom my boys need to earn. There are always kids out playing on our street (when the weather isn’t too bad). And many of them will come to the door to invite my kids out. I allow my kids to go when the neighbors are out, but I watch their play closely. If one of my boys speaks rudely to another child, I’ll give a warning. If it happens again, I make the child play by himself or go in the house. Playing with friends is a skill they need to learn, and I’m not going to just let them figure it out on their own.

And as you might guess, I limit video game play quite a bit. It’s only allowed on the weekends, and my boys need to have cleaned up their toys before they are allowed to play. If the video games cause anger or violence in the child, I turn it off. They need to learn how to play video games and not let it negatively affect their disposition.

These are probably the top three areas where we find we need to limit our kids’ freedoms. Think through each one to determine whether your child has any freedoms he needs to earn. If you have given a freedom that the child hasn’t earned, don’t be afraid to take it away. Our kids go through phases where they are responsible for a certain freedom and then they stop being so responsible. Freedoms come and go with the child’s level of responsibility.

Should Every Child Get a Trophy?

Source: leighsportsvillage.co.uk

After learning from the best (the Babywise series), I’ve always been of the assumption that not every child should get a trophy. But after living with this first-hand, I’ve started to question my assumption.

I’m sure we’ve all seen or heard of it. Today’s sporting events just aren’t like they used to be. When kids are involved, either the games aren’t scored or every child is given a trophy, no matter how well they do. Yet for as long as I can remember, I’ve held the belief that this idea of every child getting a trophy isn’t good for our kids. When our kids put in great effort and work hard, they should be rewarded. I don’t believe a child should be rewarded for putting in minimal effort or for just showing up. This is how our world seems to be operating these days. It seems as if everyone is afraid to tarnish our children’s fragile egos.

I also believe that by giving every child a trophy, it completely robs the trophy of any value. It makes the trophy practically worthless. Plus, it’s possible that kids will lose all motivation to do well. Kids are smart. If they realize that the kid sitting on the sidelines will earn the same recognition as the child who works hard, then what good is it to work hard?

Now, if we are doing our job as parents, we should teach our kids that the reward is in doing a good job. In the case of sports, when you take one for the team and run harder than anybody else, your efforts will get noticed. But what about these trophies?

Let me back up a minute and explain why I bring this up. My kids have started flag football this season, and with William being more cerebral than athletic, this is our first real foray into kids’ sports. Well, today was the big kickoff event for the season. After William’s coach explained the rules of the game, he mentioned to us all that we might see other coaches handing out medals but that he wouldn’t be. The organization encourages coaches to hand out one medal after every game, which I assume would go to the kid who played his hardest. Well, our coach has decided to do it differently. Rather than handing them out after every game, he said he would hold onto them, and at the end of the season, we would have a celebration where every child would receive a medal.

After watching the kids practice and play, there’s a part of me that can see why he does this. There are some kids (like the coaches’ kids) who are clearly more experienced and talented than the rest of them. William, who was doing math problems in his head on the way there, would be outrun by one or two of those kids any day of the week. But my issue with trophies and medals has nothing to do with experience or talent. It has to do with effort.

If a child shows great determination and comes running onto the field and scores five touchdowns, then perhaps his effort should be rewarded. If a child shows great improvement in an area where he has struggled previously, then he should probably receive a medal. And I like the idea of kids getting recognized for their effort on the day of the game, and when nobody else is being recognized. Being rewarded by a coach (someone other than mom or dad) like this, on a day when only he is being recognized, would certainly bring a smile to William’s face. I’m not sure his smile would be as big when he receives the medal at the same time as all the other kids.

But then again, the mama bear in me does want to protect William’s self esteem. What if he’s staring off into space doing math problems in his head while the receiver runs right by him? What if he’s just not as capable as the other kids? What if his sensory issues get in the way of his ability to play?

What do you think? Should every child get a trophy?