Babywise Week: Be a Little Selfish

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Tuesday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Rachel Norman, A Mother Far From Home
· Friday: Emily Parker, Journey of Parenthood

Go ahead, think only of yourself every now and then. It’s okay. In fact, it’s good for your child. I’m not saying that you should ignore your child and have him fend for himself. Odds are, if you’re reading a parenting blog, you’re not the type to neglect your child. It’s likely you can’t even imagine a parent who neglects their child. I was that way for a while. I’d hear stories of completely selfish moms, like one mom I know of who just tells her kids to go to bed without reading or tucking them in. I was aghast!

But I digress. The point of this post is that if you are the type to build your life around your children, it’s important to take some time for yourself. Now I’m not going to tell you to nap every time your baby naps. That’s just unrealistic. The dishes and laundry have to get done at some point. But do take some time away from motherhood. Even if you’re still physically with your children (it’s hard to get away sometimes), let your thoughts wander. Think about your own dreams and aspirations. Think about whatever it is that excites you.

If you’re not sure what excites you — as a person, not a mom — then it might be an indication that you’ve been mired in mommyhood a little too long. We need to keep growing as people because some day, our kids will leave the nest. It scares me to think about it, but my oldest is almost 9. That’s half-way to 18! Anyway, spend some time pondering whatever you think might help you grow as a person. Take a cooking class. Join a book club. Learn photography. Volunteer for a cause you believe in. Whatever it is, find something that will help you grow and get out of mommy mode for a while.

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that being selfish can be good for your child. The Ezzos warn us being too child-centered. Our children need us to not build our lives around them. The oft-uttered phrase in Ezzo circles is “the child is a welcome member of the family, but not the center of it.” To avoid raising selfish children, we need to be a little selfish ourselves. Our kids need to see that we have lives that don’t include our kids. We weren’t born to wipe noses, pick up toys, and taxi our children around town. We stand on our own two feet and don’t need our children to fulfill us — or at least that’s how it should be.

I know how easy it can be to build a life that’s centered around the children. I couldn’t wait to be a mom. The corporate life wasn’t thrilling me. In fact, it was exhausting me. And I was so ready to move on to the next phase of my life. But I had to wait. As it happens, I got the mommy bug when my husband was in flight school. He wasn’t thrilled about having a child during such a rigorous program. So I waited, and waited, and waited. Finally, he was ready, and I quit my job! It’s a good thing, too, because William was so difficult (colicky, allergies, speech delay, etc.) that I can’t imagine his needs being met in a daycare.

But you can imagine that after having waited and changing my life so drastically, I did build my life around my child. Ultimately, when I learned more about child-centered parenting, I realized that I needed an outlet. I needed to escape from mommyhood every now and then. So I shifted my focus a bit and started to build my freelance copywriting business. It was, and still is, the perfect mix. I get to be a mom, and they get to see that I have a life that doesn’t include wiping noses.

If you’re a Babywise mom, you’re probably a planner. So take the time to plan out your escape from mommyhood. Find the catalog to the local community college to see what classes might excite you. Go to the local bookstore or library to find out about book clubs. Figure out what cause it is that you believe in most (animals, sick children, homeless, elderly), and find out how to volunteer. Whatever it is, make a plan to find your hobby and schedule it into your life.

Parenting to the Lowest Common Denominator


For those of us with two or more children, we need to recognize that each child deserves different treatment and should be granted freedoms according to their age and level of responsibility. Many of us get caught up in parenting to the lowest common denominator. We treat them the same, and all freedoms tend to be guided by the responsibility of the younger child. The Ezzos call this parenting from the youngest up.

“The fear that the younger child will not understand or will seek the freedoms of the older child causes some parents to pull back on age-appropriate freedoms, creating a condition of frustration,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 64).

Certainly, when we restrict our older kids’ freedoms simply out of fear of what we will have to say or do with the younger child, that older child feels frustration. While this is important on a day-to-day basis, it’s also important to parent differently from a philosophical level. As our children age, we need to parent more from the influence of our relationship and not by the power of our authority.

“By the time your kids approach adolescence, you should be well on your way to leading by your influence and less by the power of your authority. Too often the exact opposite takes place. Coercive parental authority is still the primary way of controlling the child. It shouldn’t be, and it will backfire on you. Do not parent your oldest child out of the fear of what the youngest might think,” (Parenting the Middle Years, p. 64-65).

We have all heard about the pitfalls that parents run into when parenting out of fear. There’s the fear of what the child will say, whether he will obey, how big of a fit he’ll throw, and whether we’d be damaging the self-esteem. But no child wants parents who don’t have the strength to stand up to the child and do what’s right no matter how the child may react. Our children WANT boundaries, and they want freedoms and boundaries that are appropriate for them as an individual, not as part of a sibling unit.

So the next time you’re tempted to lay down a ground rule for your kids, stop and think about whether that rule should apply to both/all of your children. And by all means, if you’re headed into the middle years (starting around age 8), begin to shift your mindset and parent by the influence of your relationship, not the power of your authority.

Expect Excellence, Not Perfection


I came across an interesting idea in my reading the other day. It’s the idea that we should expect excellence, yet not perfection, from our children.

We struggle with perfectionism in my house. I have always been a perfectionist, to the point that it stops me from doing things because I know I can’t be perfect. And without recognizing this weakness in myself, I seem to have passed it on to my child. (Only William is plagued by perfectionism.)

So when I read about this idea of excellence, I thought it was great. Excellence speaks to effort. When we strive for excellence, we put in hard work. It encourages us to strive for perfection but to be okay if we don’t achieve it. It enables all the good aspects of perfectionism without the bad.

I recognize that I do this with my kids already. If they do a half-hearted job at cleaning up the playroom and don’t put toys in the appropriate bins, I will simply pull those toys out and throw them back on the floor. I don’t harp on them. I don’t remind them where the toys go. I simply throw them on the floor with the expectation that they will put them where they belong. This also teaches the idea that if we don’t take the time to do a job right the first time, we’ll have to do it all over again.

Do I expect 100% neatness with all the bins lined up and even spaces between each? The perfectionist in me would love this. But I simply want my boys to strive for excellence and to work hard to achieve it.

This applies well to our schoolwork. Perfectionism can certainly get in the way when we’re learning. William is a smart kid, and he often learns quickly and easily. So he gets frustrated when he can’t perfectly grasp an idea.

It’s my job as his teacher to make sure that I don’t require perfection. And I’ll be honest, it’s not easy. As I’m watching him write, I want his letters to be the same size. I want the spaces between words to be the same. I want him to pay attention to margins. But that’s the perfectionist in me. I often have to stop myself, realize that I’m being overly critical and that in doing so, I’m only feeding the perfectionist in him. That, or I drive him to exasperation because, well, he’s only 8!

I know of other homeschoolers, on the other hand, who don’t strive for perfection or excellence. They accept mediocre work. Of course, the perfectionist in me finds this unacceptable, but I do realize that we all have our own failings.

This idea applies to everything from schoolwork/homework to cleanliness. And we can even start instilling the need for excellence when they’re little. If a toddler is putting his cars away, and one drops outside the bin on the floor, have him go back and put it fully in the bin.

And always remember that you can expect great effort, even excellence, but not perfection.

Do We Need to Earn Our Kids’ Respect?


There is a funny thing about respect. Many teachers, parents, and other authority figures feel that we need to earn our kids’ respect. But is that true? Can we only expect respect from our kids if we earn it? Do we need to prove that we deserve their respect or can we simply expect it?

The Ezzos teach us that parenting is all about respect. Kids need to respect authority figures simply because they are authority figures. If you stand in a leadership position, respect should come along with the role. In fact, if you’re simply older than a child, you should expect respect.

I’ve been known to say that my home is not a democracy. My children do not have the same decision-making power that my husband and I have. They are children, and we are adults. Yes, we are all human and we all deserve respect, but there is a very clear, intentional imbalance of power. We are the authority figures, and we make the decisions, with their needs in mind, of course.

Now, this is not to say that we can abuse respect. In fact, if we stand in a position of authority, we need to model the behaviors that we expect of our children.

The leader of our Growing Kids God’s Way class once said that if we expect respect from our children we need to be RESPECTABLE. To be respectable means that we are able to command respect. If we don’t act respectable, we can command respect, but we might only get it superficially. Our kids may show us respect externally, but they may not believe that we deserve it.

Ultimately, while our position of authority as parents means that kids should show us respect, we must still act respectable. We should show them that we deserve their respect. But in the end, we can simply command respect because we are their parents and we are the primary authority figures in their lives.

My Take on Love & Logic

My readers often ask me about my thoughts about Love & Logic. My husband and I took a Love & Logic class when William was little, and I have to say that although I’m a big proponent of logical consequences, in general, I’m not a huge fan. There were a few tips and tricks that I learned from the class, but I feel that method is somewhat lacking, particularly when it comes to giving our kids a moral foundation.

A big thing that the Ezzos teach us that books like Love & Logic don’t is to teach the moral reason behind the behaviors we expect. We don’t need to explain everything. In fact, when it comes to daily, practical matters, I feel like we shouldn’t give an explanation. Kids don’t need a reason to obey, and they certainly don’t need fodder to negotiate. But when it comes to moral matters, we should teach and instruct at length. We don’t want to raise children who only act appropriately because of external consequences. We want them to internalize moral behavior.

So when it comes to sharing, we teach the value of others. Ultimately, we expect that they will think of others on their own. When it comes to lying, we teach the importance of truth and how consistent lying can create a “boy who cried wolf” situation. And when it comes to sibling rivalry, we teach our children to love and empathize. The Ezzos teach us that modeling these behaviors is also extremely important.

There is certainly some crossover between Love & Logic and the Ezzos’ teachings since the Ezzos do recommend logical and natural consequences. But Love & Logic take these consequences a step too far, in my opinion. Some of the consequences recommended in the class are too extreme. I’m not going to follow any parenting method that tells me to kick my kids out of the car because they’re fighting, even if a friend was standing by to pick them up or follow them as they walk (as was recommended).

Even less extreme consequences like letting a child forget his lunch bother me. I agree that perhaps the only way to change the behavior of a child who consistently forgets his lunch is to let him go hungry. And maybe I’ll come across this when my kids are older, but I cannot imagine knowingly letting my kids go hungry at school. First of all, William has hypoglycemia, so he would be a blood sugar nightmare. Besides kids need nourishment to learn.

As for the theory behind Love & Logic, I teach my kids to obey my word because I am their mom, not because there’s a threat of a consequence hanging over their heads. Sometimes there is no logical consequence for a given situation, and sometimes we don’t have time to deal with consequences. Children should obey and respect their parents simply because they are children.

When consequences are our kids’ sole motivation, how will they act when we’re not around? If there’s no one there to issue a consequence, will they have the moral integrity to act appropriately? Sure, natural consequences (like being scratched by a cat) will still happen, but natural consequences are few and far between.

This is a bit of a loaded question, but how do you feel about Love & Logic? Feel free to contradict me! Have you gleaned any good tips or tricks from the method?

Babywise Resources on Sale

Does anybody need a refresher on the Babywise principles? Are you ready for the next book in the series? Do you want to see how the Growing Kids materials are different from the (secular) Babywise books?

Well, you’re in luck! They’re all on sale!

Amazon has many of the books for sale in their bargain section. On Becoming Babywise Book 2 is on sale for $3.98 and On Becoming Childwise is on sale for $4.98! Check out all the Babywise bargain books!

If you’re interested in the Growing Kids God’s Way materials, go to the Growing Families International website to take advantage of their Christmas sale. My favorite resource, the Growing Kids God’s Way workbook, is on sale for $16.10. This book has many of the principles outlined in Childwise, but I feel like it’s a little more organized and is much more comprehensive. Check out the GFI store to see all of the GKGW materials, all on sale. The GFI home page has a note discussing all the materials that the Ezzos are currently working on or have completed this year, including the new Nap App!

As I write this, I thought I’d check the Mom’s Notes website to see if any of their materials are on sale. I’m not seeing any sale prices, but I just discovered that Joey and Carla Link (producers of the Mom’s Notes) have written a new book! It’s called Why Can’t I Get My Kids to Behave? Seeing as how I just discovered it, I can’t vouch for it personally, but I do like and agree with most of what the Links say about parenting and the Babywise principles. If anybody has read this book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy book shopping!

Babywise Week: The Power of Babywise

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week again! All week, we’ll be featuring blog posts from other Babywise-friendly blogs. The schedule is as follows:

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Friday: Emily Parker, Journey of Parenthood

Today’s surprise blogger is Emily Parker, author of Journey of Parenthood. In her post, Emily talks about how Babywise has had such an impact on her life. She talks about the dreaded “luck” word, referring to the fact that many people tell Babywise parents we are lucky to have babies, toddlers, and children who are so well-rested and well-behaved. But as we all know, luck has nothing to do with it. The child’s personality does come into play, as does the parents’ tenacity to stick with the Babywise methods even through difficulties. Beyond that, all the credit goes to Babywise. Put simply, it works!

Here are my favorite quotes from Emily’s blog post:

As a new mom I originally had NO plans to have my baby on any type of scheduling. I was under this grand idea that a baby would be fitting into the life we already had. Feel free to laugh at me ;) Within weeks of implementing the techniques I had a baby who slept through the night! A happy baby! A content baby!

Through Babywise I learned that there is freedom in structure.

Now when people hear about Brittlynn they don’t say “oh you got lucky!” Instead, they say “that Babywise stuff sure is awesome!”

She is so right that there is freedom in structure! To see Emily’s post in its entirety, check out her blog Journey of Parenthood.

Are you on the same page?


Are you and your spouse reading from the same playbook when it comes to parenting your child? Perhaps you discussed your parenting ideals even before you married. Or did you have a child, wait for problems to creep up and then start thinking about how you want to parent? Or worse, have you still not come up with a plan?

If you’re reading this blog, my guess is that the latter doesn’t apply. But how much of a planner are you? And do you discuss it all with your spouse? Does he or she agree with you?

There’s nothing like differing parenting styles to throw a wrench into the marriage. If one parent is a super-strict, legalistic parent who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “childishness” and the other is a permissive conflict-avoider, there are bound to be a few arguments. Even if one parent provides the majority of the child care duties, the child is half of each of you, so you each have equal rights in deciding how to raise the child.

The only problem is that this is confusing to the child. Even a toddler is keen enough to realize that you don’t provide a united front. As this child ages, he’ll know to ask permissive dad for anything that strict mom might say “no” to. And while conflict-avoider dad might have an easier time saying “yes” to everything, he won’t know what to do when the child refuses to comply with a simple request. Permissiveness is all well and good — until we have to ask the child to do something he doesn’t want to do (to say nothing of the long-term ramifications).

The ultimate — and potentially most damaging — ramification of differing parenting styles is the judgment that can creep into the marriage. When two parents don’t agree on how to parent, mom or dad will start to feel protective of the child and the judgment takes over. Instead of mom and dad standing together, one parent stands with the child against the other parent. Not good.

So what do you do if you find yourself in this position? Leave the judgment on the table and talk it out. Have an open conversation where nobody’s ideas are shot down. Come up with some real-life examples of troublesome behaviors and discuss how you each parented and the results you each achieved. Then meet in the middle. It might even help to take a parenting class or two and read some parenting books. Go to a bookstore and you each choose the book that appeals to you most. Then have the other parent read that book. Glean a few ideas from each book and come up with your middle-of-the-road plan.

No matter how you approach it, being on the same parenting page is good for your marriage and for your child. Creating that page and sticking to it will be well worth the time and effort you put into it. You’ll trade conflict and judgment for peace, harmony and a compliant child!

Back in their own beds?


I’ve seen so many articles lately on the topic of children in the parents’ bed. This notion of the “family bed” isn’t a new one, but it is so foreign to me that I’m a little surprised to see that it is still so prevalent.

See, I thought the pendulum was swinging. When our parents were kids, they were taught to be seen and not heard. They were taught to obey at all costs. This notion of the “family bed” didn’t exist. And even when I was a kid, I can’t imagine a child sleeping in his parents’ bed.

I thought the “family bed” idea was at its peak about 10 years ago and that the pendulum had begun to swing in the other direction. I’m not sure why, but I was thinking that most kids sleep in their own beds nowadays. I guess I was wrong. The “every child gets a trophy” generation has been coddled so much by their helicopter parents that their self-esteem is being protected even while they sleep.

I know many good, caring, loving, dutiful moms who have their babies — and children — in bed with them. There’s even a small part of me that envies those snuggles. But I simply don’t think it’s worth it.

I may not win any popularity points with this post, but I will mention a few of my beliefs:

1) What good is a mom or dad who doesn’t get enough sleep? With feet or elbows in your ribs, can you be the best parent you can be without a solid night’s sleep? How patient can you be when all you’ve had is 6 hours of fully interrupted sleep?

2) Who’s to say that the child’s self-esteem is protected in the family bed? My stance has always been that my children are stronger because I prepare them for the world, not shield them from it.

3) When a child sleeps between mom and dad, how stable is the marriage upon which the family — and child — stands? I know many moms who say their marriages are stable and that it doesn’t matter where they sleep. That’s wonderful. But I also know of many marriages that thrive because of those nighttime snuggles (between husband and wife) and early morning chats. Besides, I often wonder how equitable the family bed is anyway. See my next point.

4) Do both parents usually agree to the idea? I’ve heard stories of the family bed not being so family friendly. Dad, who has to be up early in the morning and coherent at work, often sleeps in another spot in the house.

5) And finally, is this what’s truly best for the child? At what point will you send him back to his own bed? Will it really be easier to do so at 6, not 6 months? Won’t the habit be so engrained at that point? What happens when a new baby comes along? If he needs you by his side to go to sleep, does he go to bed late or do you go to bed early? Is he learning that he shouldn’t feel comfortable being alone? Is he being taught to be overly dependent on his parents when he might want to spread his wings a bit?

This reminds me of a comment I made here recently about Lucas and his lovey. It’s somewhat insignificant, but I really want him to need his lovey. The boy is almost 5, and I in denial that my baby is growing up. I need that lovey more than he does. But the fact of the matter is he doesn’t need it. He’ll hold onto it sometimes, but usually, it’s for my benefit. He knows that I want him to want it. And honestly, it bothers me a little. It’s sweet that he’s thinking of me, but at the same time, I wonder if I’m stifling his independence, his desire to grow up.

The same can be said about the family bed. Our kids want to grow up. They can’t wait to be grownups. They can’t wait to have the freedom and independence that we adults all seem to have. So why should we deny them that independence when it comes to something as simple as sleep?

There’s another article that came out recently that reflects my opinions. In My Message to Dr. Sears, the author discusses “detachment parenting.” She states:

I read a great book when I was pregnant, Suzy Giordano’s Twelve Hours Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old. (It was recommended by a well-rested friend.) She says it’s our responsibility to teach our children many things. We of course expect to teach them to eat and sit up, walk, talk, say please and wait for the green light. But she says the very first thing we have to teach them, right out of the womb, is to self-soothe. That self-reliance and self-confidence needs to be rooted in the core of their being. That thrilled me. I want a daughter who believes that she has everything inside her to meet all of life’s challenges and isn’t waiting for some invisible hand to help her do something as simple as fall asleep.

I could not agree more!


Helicopter moms at the park


I just came across this hilarious post at Motherlode (parenting blog sponsored by The NY Times) about moms who can’t help but be helicopter parents over their children at the park. It’s a reality check to all those helicopter moms we see at the park. This sums it up:

Oh, I know you mean well. You’re trying to be a good mom. In fact, you are a good mom. That’s the problem. Your enthusiasm is killing my buzz. See, I’m a mother, too, at the very same park with my 4-year-old, but I’m here to stop mothering. The playground has a gate, and the asphalt is covered with rubber mats. If I can’t turn on my iPhone and tune out here, I don’t want to live.

Here’s another gem:

Wait, where are you going? Back to your daughter so soon! Oh dear. Is that a BPA-free plastic shovel in your hand? You know, my mom used to say, “One man’s litter is my child’s toy.” Just before you arrived, I passed this wisdom on to my son when I gave him a Starbucks cup I saw wedged under the slide. The trash can’s loss was our gain.

I agree. It’s not that I completely ignore my kids when we’re at the park, but if I happen to pull out my iPhone, I’m not going to feel guilty. If I opt to sit on a bench for a nice chat with a friend, I’ll do that. I may even pull out a book. If they’re enjoying themselves (which they always are at the park), why can’t I?

When my kids were younger, I was more attentive at the park. This was especially true with my eldest who was a complete daredevil at the park. At age two, he was scaling ladders that other five-year-olds were hesitant to attempt. So I would spot them, help them up on swings, push them on swings, and offer any other help they requested.

I suppose that gets to the crux of helicopter parenting. If they need help, help them. If not, give them the freedom to explore and find their own way. Don’t teach your child that he can treat you as his servant. Don’t offer him juice that he doesn’t request. Don’t chase after him shoving food in his mouth. Don’t act as if he’s incapable of finding his own fun.

At the same time, treat yourself to a little time off. Of course, keep an eye on your little ones at the park, but don’t feel like you have to teach him how to use the slide, join in other kids’ games, etc. If he’s having fun, leave him alone and find some fun of your own!