Don’t Forget the Good

A friend recently reminded me how important it is to speak up to our children about their good qualities. It’s our job as parents to right their wrongs and correct them when something goes awry. But when we get caught up this job of correcting our kids, we often neglect the good. If our days are spent calling out the bad, it begins to affect the self-esteem. Now, I’m not a big fan of this term. Often, permissive parents are guided by a fear of damaging the self-esteem. But that’s not to say that we should ignore it completely.

There are times in my life when I’ve been praised more than I’ve been reprimanded. In fact, I had a boss once who was always so good at praising me. Ten years later, I still remember some of the wonderful things he said about me. That praise made me feel good, and it was very motivating. It gave me a reason to please!

Let’s think this idea through more completely. Which statement do you think will motivate your child to do well?

  1. Don’t touch that. You’ll mess it up.
  2. You’re doing such a nice job keeping your hands to yourself.
  1. Stop whining. It’s only a little scrape.
  2. I know you’re upset, but you’re being so brave by not crying.
  1. Hurry up and brush your teeth. Move faster!
  2. You’re doing a such a careful job brushing your teeth.
  1. Be careful! You’re going to spill that juice!
  2. Good job being independent enough to pour your own juice. Let me show you how to clean up after yourself.

When my friend mentioned this idea to me, she suggested that our kids will start to believe in all the negative words we spout out at them. If all we say are things like “don’t touch that,” “move faster,” and “stop whining” they will start to think they are destructive, slow cry babies. If we replace those words with “nice job,” “brave,” and “independent,” those words will stick with them. They will believe they are good, brave, and independent.

My friend said to do this even when things aren’t going quite right. The example she gave was when her son got mad and yelled at his sister. My friend could still praise her son for using only his words, not his hands, and not swearing. True, he could have walked away before getting angry, but it could also have been a lot worse.

If you’re not in the habit of offering praise, think of ways to remind yourself. Perhaps set a timer so you say something good once an hour. Or put up a note in your kitchen to remind yourself. Remember to always look for the good, even in bad situations.

Hit the Reset Button

Source: gsdrew91.wordpress.com

Do you ever feel like you’re looking for life’s reset button? It’s so easy when our computers act up. We can just hit that reset button and start anew. If only we had a reset button with our kids. I’ve blogged before about the ebb and flow of parenting. There are days when we’re super committed to doing all that we know is right. Then after doing that for a while, our kids are super obedient and do all that we ask. Then, after a while of that, we take that for granted and become complacent in our parenting. Once we realize that’s what’s happening, we start fresh with our drive to improve our parenting.

Well, I speak from experience when I say that it can take a little longer than we’d like to realize that things have gone awry in our parenting. When this happens, and when we let it go too long, our kids’ behaviors can get really out of control. Of course, it’s not ideal to let this happen, but hey, we’re human.

When we realize that our kids’ behaviors have been out of control for a little too long, we need to hit that reset button. I’m sorry to say it’s not as easy as pressing a button, but I’ll offer a few steps here to get you back on track.

Sit down with your spouse

There are a few things we can do to hit that proverbial reset button. It all begins with a little planning. Sit down with your spouse and hash it out. Talk big picture about what you would like your kids to think and act like, and examine how far you are from that ideal picture. It can even be helpful to sit down and write out the characteristics you’d like to see in your child. Or reference an old list if you’ve done this before. Check off the ones that you currently see in your child. Then highlight those that still need work. Then start thinking about what it will take to get you there. Here are a few pointers:

Create a plan. Whether it’s a discipline plan, a reward chart, or some other system that focuses on the child’s strengths and weaknesses, having a plan is key. This plan can be in your head, but it’s often much more effective when it’s on paper.

Create a schedule. If you don’t have a schedule already, create one. If you have one, figure out where it’s failing you. Is it too detailed to realistically follow? If so, scale it back considerably. Personally, I have a hard time following a detailed schedule. I like to plan things around breakfast, lunch, and dinner since they are typically all at the same time every day. Be realistic with yourself and the schedule. When in doubt, start small.

Examine your weaknesses. This is a hard one. But look long and hard at yourself and try to examine where you might have gone wrong. Personally, I have a hard time “meaning what I say.” I tend to spout out instructions without really listening to myself. This ultimately leads to a lack of follow through. As for my husband, he probably threatens consequences too much. We all need to realize that actions speak louder than words. No matter your weakness, pick one and write it down. And work on that one only. Once you see improvement in yourself, you can start working on any other weaknesses you may have.

Sit down with your child

If your child is of the age where he can understand (or even if he isn’t) sit down and explain your new rules. Inevitably, life will look a little different after you go through this exercise. Why not explain it all to the child. Prepare him for the change. And above all, explain the behavior you expect of him. If you’re working from a reward or discipline chart, show it to him. Read it over and explain it all step by step.

Evaluate your progress

In the business world, they call this a “post mortem.” After every project, we examine how it all went and what we might improve for next time. Even better than having a final evaluation of your progress, set a few milestones along the way that will tell you how you’re doing. Schedule a time to meet with your spouse, perhaps a month after your first meeting. Have a list of your milestones and evaluate each one. One of your milestones might be your consistency with a schedule, or following through on everything you say. Be honest with yourselves. And let your spouse be critical so you can improve. Always see your spouse as a partner in this effort, not an adversary or critic.

There’s probably a lot more I could say about this, but I’ll stop here. Perhaps in future posts, I’ll dig a little more into the nitty gritty on how you can hit that proverbial reset button with your kids. Wherever you are in this process, realize that you’re never alone. Read more of my blog. Lean on your spouse. Enlist the help and support of friends. It takes a village!

 

What’s Your Summer Schedule?

Source: navigators.org

If your kids are of school age, you know what it’s like to have the kids home for the summer. Many schools are already out for the summer. Ours are not, and as we are homeschooling, we’ll continue for another week or two. Summer can bring a welcome relief. There’s the relief that comes with no lunch packing, no homework, no early mornings, etc. But there’s also that little bit of uncertainty that comes with having the kids home all day. Again, this won’t be a big change for us, but I know what it’s like, considering that both of my boys were in school last year. Any change in routine brings a bit of uncertainty and potential for mischief.

Let me tell you that now more than ever, you will need to structure your child’s day. Don’t wait for the child to get into trouble. Don’t wait for him to be bored. Don’t wait for him to come to you every five seconds asking you to play with him. Stock your playroom with new, stimulating, and educational toys, and sit down and write out your schedule.

I wrote about this very topic this time a year ago. Take a look at what I had to say then. You’ll see the idea is essentially the same:

Many of us are heading into the last few weeks of school for the year. My boys get out of school on June 13. That’s just a few weeks before we will be forced to make some routine adjustments. While I look forward to having them home, I know that I will have to structure our days, or else they’ll end up getting into all kinds of trouble!

I had a rude awakening just the other day. I had to get some work done after they came home from school. You would have thought a tornado had run through our house! My husband even asked what happened. If I had just taken a few minutes to put them in roomtime or sibling playtime in one of their rooms, they would have caused far less mischief (and mess).

So save yourself this hassle all summer long. And no, you don’t need to be running all over town driving from one summer camp to the next. Just structure your days at home. Read more for some background on structuring your day and creating your schedule.

If you’re not one to follow a strict schedule, just jot down a few items and when they’ll take place. They might include:

  • Regular meals and snacks
  • Roomtime
  • Sibling playtime
  • Naps/quiet time (depending on the age of the child)
  • Reading time
  • Couch time
  • Chores
  • Bath/shower

I would advise you to have just these basics down every day. If those don’t quite fill your days, other schedule items include:

  • Classes: art, music, etc.
  • Library story times
  • Outside play (This can be so important for quality sleep, it might belong in the must-have category.)
  • TV/computer time (Keep it limited.)
  • Mom time
  • “Summer school” (Don’t let their brains rot over summer! Research homeschool websites for ideas. There are a ton of free resources out there.)
  • Time with friends (Schedule weekly play dates.)
  • “Field trips” like zoo, museum outings

Also, think about any skills you might want to teach your child over the summer. Your days will be less chaotic than school days, so you might want to take the opportunity to teach your child how to tie his shoes, properly brush his own teeth, ride a bike, organize his toys, cook a meal, write letters to grandparents, and more.

Take the time now to create your summer schedule!

Does School Inhibit Healthy Sleep?

Source: oprah.com

Is your child in school yet? If so, you know how easily our lives change when they start school. Starting school typically means waking early, rushed mornings, a little playtime after school, and then homework that can potentially run late into the night. The older they are, the faster the pace becomes.

This is the way of the world. The issue is further compounded by all of the activities that our children participate in. I know of a couple families who have an activity every day of the week. Just the idea of it exhausts me!

One concern with this fast-paced world is that our kids simply don’t get enough sleep. More than this, their lack of sleep affects their ability to learn.

“More and more studies are confirming what our grandmothers knew intuitively just a generation ago. Preschool and school-aged children who suffer from a deficiency of healthy sleep have a pervasive fatigue that affects alertness. Such a child becomes inattentive, unable to concentrate, easily distracted, and physically hyperactive,” (On Becoming Childwise).

It’s no wonder kids are being diagnosed with ADHD in record numbers! They are simply being run ragged and aren’t getting the healthy sleep they need to stay alert and attentive.

The Ezzos go on to discuss this idea of healthy sleep:

“Researchers have found a clear relationship between poor sleep habits and misbehavior. One significant report found that children who sleep less than ten hours in a twenty-four hour period may be more likely to throw temper tantrums than those who get more sleep,” (On Becoming Childwise).

Then we parents become the lucky ones to deal with this misbehavior in the late afternoons and evenings!

So what can we do about it? Well, everyone can homeschool! I’m kidding, but in all seriousness, homeschooling has alleviated this problem for us. We get our schoolwork done in a few hours in the morning and early afternoon, so homework isn’t an issue (unless we’re having a focus and attention issue in the morning). And except for co-op day, my boys can sleep as late as they need to in the morning.

But if homeschooling isn’t for you, I think it’s wise to limit their extracurricular activities. Don’t get guilted into signing them up for every sport and musical instrument offered to you.

Another good way to ensure healthy sleep for our kids is to do our best to cut out device/TV time during the week. I know it offers us a break, but when we consider that our kids’ time is so limited, there are many other things that they can do with their time. And if it seems like they need time to zone out in front of the TV, it’s entirely possible that they’re not getting enough sleep. Let them relax for a few minutes with a book, then get homework and playtime done so you don’t run the risk of putting the kids to bed late. Better yet, put them to bed early if they “need” time to zone out.

Consider this:

“Children whose parents help them develop healthy sleep habits are optimally awake and optimally alert to interact with their environment. They are more self-assured, happier, and demonstrate longer attention spans. As a result, they are better learners,” (On Becoming Childwise).

So if you want to make sure your child learns well in school, do your best to make sleep a priority!

Do You Open the Door to Disobedience?

Source: peteraxtell.com

Ultimately, when our children disobey, they are making the choice to disobey. Whether it’s childishness or foolishness, they still have control over their own actions. But there are times when we parents open the door to disobedience.

The Ezzos give us many ideas to prevent misbehavior from occurring in the first place. And we know well and good that structuring their day, reducing their freedoms and choices, and ensuring healthy meals and sleep all contribute to a healthy, obedient atmosphere.

But when we don’t do all of these things, we open the door to disobedience. There are times when we put our children into situations where they are tempted to disobey.

This is what the Ezzos have to say about prevention:

“There are many excellent methods of correction available to Childwise parents, but ultimately the best form of parental correction is prevention. There is no better way to deal with behavior problems than by preventing them in the first place. Parents may find themselves correcting misbehavior that could have easily been avoided had they first considered the principles of prevention,” (On Becoming Childwise).

And here’s where the rubber meets the road:

“It is even possible that parents, by overlooking prevention, may actually be encouraging misbehavior in their children. If a parent puts a child in a situation in which he is likely to have a problem being obedient, who is really to blame for the disobedience?” (On Becoming Childwise).

The point here is not to place blame. The idea is simply that we have great power over our children’s obedience simply by being aware of the situations that could tempt them to disobey.

This is somewhat timely for me because I’ve been dealing with a situation with my boys at our homeschool co-op. There are two other boys there who bring computers, iPads, smartphones and several other devices to co-op. My boys are drawn to these devices like moths to a flame, but they also become a problem because my boys have a much more difficult time obeying my instructions when they are wrapped up in these boys’ devices.

So I have made it clear to my boys that they are not to go over to those boys’ devices unless they ask permission. And even at that, I still often say no simply because I know I will be allowing a situation that will tempt them to disobey.

Bedtime is another tricky situation. Simply by being near each other, my boys tempt each other to disobey while they’re showering, brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, etc. My husband and I have eliminated that temptation by requiring them to get ready for bed in separate bathrooms.

Think of it this way:

“Just as you wouldn’t send a recovering alcoholic into a bar to test his resolve, so it may not be wise to send your excitable child into a McDonald’s play area where the other kids are running around with out-of-control ecstasy,” (On Becoming Childwise).

So think twice before putting your kids in a situation that would tempt them to disobey.

5 Ways to Stay Motivated

Source: kareywhite.blogspot.com

by Valerie Plowman

It isn’t always easy to be “on” as a mom. We have a lot of tasks and goals we want to meet for our children daily as well as in the “big picture,” and sometimes it gets exhausting! Sometimes we wonder if it is worth it to worry about independent play, first time obedience, learning time, and all of the other items on our list. So how do we keep up the motivation to go on and stick with our goals in the face of the craziness life throws at us? Here are five ideas to keep us going.

1. Look to Examples

Look to the examples around you. I always like to observe people with children older than my own to see what they do and what I like and what I don’t. I don’t mean this in a judging way–I don’t like the “mommy wars” of whose way is better than whose way. We all have our own priorities and goals. I like to observe what efforts produce the results I am looking for, and what efforts do not. I am looking for what I want for my family and trying to emulate those actions. I tweak them for our family and make them work for us. This idea of observation is discussed in On Becoming Childwise. See this post for more on that: Instilling Qualities: Observation.

2. Believe That You Will Miss It Some Day and Live in the Moment

Sometimes when the older women approach you in the store or at church and tell you how much you will miss these years so you better enjoy it, you really just want to punch them in the face hand off your kids and walk away and see how much they really do miss it. However, this is the comment I get most often from older women, so I really try to heed that advice to enjoy the moments. When something gets ruined, I try to think about how that mark on that book will always remind me of when so-and-so was young. When my freshly washed window has fingerprints and has been licked (WHY?!?!?), I try to remind myself that I will miss those prints and licks (so they say!). I try to enjoy it for what it is because apparently, someday I will miss it. See also Enjoy the Moment.

Along those same lines, I try to live in the moment. I don’t like to think, “I can’t wait until…[so-and-so is older, so-and-so masters this skill, etc.]. I just try to enjoy where everyone is for what they are at that moment. There will always been things you love and things you don’t love about each stage, so you have to just focus on what you enjoy rather than pining away for what you believe will surely be better in the future. See also It’s A Journey, Not A Destination

3. Simplify Where Possible

Simplify your life so you have the time and energy needed to do what is necessary. We can’t do it all, and when we try to do more than we can handle, we start to let important things slide. When we are too busy,we get tired, and when we get tired, we find it easier to let the child get her way than to correct her and require obedience. For more on this, see Days of Motherhood.  See also Good Sacrifice vs. Foolish Sacrifice. See also  Slow the Pace

4. Have Faith the Hard Work Will Pay Off

Day in and day out, you are taking small steps and working hard to make sure your child is being raised in the best way for your child. You remind your child over and over again to do a certain thing (say yes mommy, put shoes away, clean up after self…) and sometimes you wonder why you even bother. And is this much attention to the schedule that important? And why bother with bedtime and naps because life could be a bit less complicated if you weren’t worried about those things…

Have faith that your hard work will pay off. This brings us back to number one. Who are your positive examples? Their hard work paid off! This is something that gets easier with perspective. This is why having a fourth baby is less stressful than the first; you know the hard work pays off at some point. When you need a pep talk, look through my pep talks: Word to the Weary/Pep Talks Index

5. Take Breaks At Times

Sometimes, you need a change in the schedule. Sometimes, you as a mom need a girls’ night out. You need to take a break from the sharp focus of being a mom so you can see the big wide world, gain some perspective, and realize that everything will be okay. The world keeps spinning and your child refusing to sign at the end of the meal is not the end of the world.

Have time for yourself to develop your talents and to be you as an individual. See Developing Talents.

Sometimes you also need a break from the routine. Take a pajama day. Take a day to watch a movie as a family. Take the day off from your regular routine every once in a while. It will be a fun break, and when you return, everyone will be glad for it.

For more ideas in this area, see 10 Ways to Save Your Sanity.

Conclusion

Remember as you go along and things are hard, these hard times are what make us grow. Just like when you exercise, your muscles strengthen, when you practice managing time and efforts, you get better at it. See Increasing Our Capacity for more on that.

Valerie is a wife and mother of four, ages 7, 6, 4, and 9 months. She blogs at www.babywisemom.com.

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.

Make Time for Your Relationship

Source: yourneighborhoodtoystore.org

Based on the title of this post, you may be thinking that I’m going to talk about making time for your relationship with your spouse. I wholeheartedly believe you need to make time for your marriage, but that’s not what this post is about. Today, I’m talking about making time for your relationship with your child.

You may be asking yourself why you would need to make time for your child. You probably spend all day every day with them, if you’re a stay-at-home mom. Even if you work outside the home, you still have plenty of evening and weekend time together.

But you know how easily life gets in the way. We’re all so busy with school, work, life, and whatever other activity might be filling our thoughts and actions. When our kids are in school, we rarely have much time with our kids. By the time they get home from school, there’s not much free time between homework, dinner, bath/shower, and bed. Busy, busy, busy. Even if you are home with your kids all day, you may be present physically, but are you really there for your children mentally and emotionally? You may be thinking about the next meal, any nap problems you’re struggling with, or what you are doing to train the child in first-time obedience. Even when we’re at home, the busyness of life takes over.

So it’s important to take time for your relationship with your child. The interesting thing about this is that when we build a relationship with our children, we give them motivation to do the things we want or need them to do. Perhaps that nap problem you’re struggling with is really your child’s attempt to spend more time with you or to get more attention from you. And I speak from experience when I say that our children are much more likely to obey when we have a healthy, loving relationship with them.

I once heard of a story that told of a family who left a busy life in New York and traded it for a more peaceful existence. Their primary reason? They noticed their son had stopped trying to please them. For whatever reason, he had lost a connection with his parents and no longer felt the need to do as they asked. I don’t know about you, but this idea frightens me. Parenting is nothing without that innate desire in the child to please us. And if we don’t take the time to build or maintain a relationship with our children, they may lose that desire.

This goes beyond simple nap struggles and obedience training. This strikes to the core of all that we aim to do with our children. We all hope that our children will grow up holding the same values that we hold ourselves. We all have high hopes for our children. We hope that they will grow to be adults guided by honesty, integrity, persistence, grace, love, and any other positive character trait you can think of. But if we have no relationship with our children, how far will we get with this?

As you think about making time for your relationship, think of it as another activity to schedule into your day. It can be something as simple as one-on-one reading time or a family game night. The only thing you must be sure of is to be present throughout the entire activity. Look in your child’s eyes. Live, love, and laugh together.

My husband and I read to our boys (separately) every night. And while I treasure this time with them, I’m often not giving them my full attention. We do it at the end of a long day when I’m often motivated to turn out the light and close the door.

We just had family game night again recently, and now that my boys are getting older, it was a lot of fun! Lucas struggled with losing, so we need to work on that. But all four of us were very engaged in the games and spending time together. The other benefit of family game night is that it allows me to give my husband a chance to make time for his relationship with the kids, something I’m not sure he’d do with much excitement otherwise. With a simple pronouncement by me that we’re having a family game night, he joins in and builds his relationship with our boys. So when you think about scheduling time for your relationship with your kids, see if there’s a way to schedule time for your husband and children to build their relationship. It’s always best to do this without being super obvious about it.

Let the idea of this post sit with you for a few days. Mull it over and give honest thought to how much time or work your relationship with your child might need. Have some impromptu one-on-one time in the morning, reading a book or playing a game, and see how it affects your day. See if your child acts more obediently or whether you have an easier day overall. You will have your proof that it works. Then you can schedule your daily reading time, weekly game night, or any other activity that helps to build your relationship.

 

Prevention: Lay a Foundation

Source: alivecu.coop

Earlier this week, I talked about the benefits of outdoor play and cultivating the imagination in our children. Both of these ideas speak to the heart of what it so important in training our children: laying a foundation. By laying a foundation for our kids and our parenting, we do more to prevent problems with our children than to deal with them after they occur.

A few weeks ago, I asked you all what you wanted to read more about. Many of you said you wanted to learn more about consequences. I feel like I’m shirking my duty in giving you what you need. But I also feel like you’ll have more success as a parent if you lay the right foundation. It’s better to do your work ahead of time and set your child up for success than it is to discipline a child after the fact.

I certainly relate, though. When I first got my hands on On Becoming Childwise, I skipped ahead to the chapters on discipline. I felt like I needed a fix and I needed it now! I felt like if I could just get my hands on the right discipline method (timeouts, logical consequences, etc.) I would have my answer. That was so short-sighted of me. If there is anything I’ve learned in my 8.5 years of parenting, it’s that there is no quick fix in parenting.

This idea is even a primary focus in my e-book. Before I get into the specifics of training our children in first-time obedience, we need to set the stage. We need to do all we can to avoid child-centered parenting (couch time), give them independent play, schedule their days, make sure they eat healthy meals and get quality sleep, and more.

This applies to everything we hope to accomplish with our children. It goes beyond behavior. So whether you’re hoping to improve table manners or wanting them to get ahead in school, it’s all about laying that foundation. We need to set an example and create an environment that allows them to succeed.

An example of this is giving our boys outside time. While our greatest desire for our child may be creating a piano prodigy, we need to recognize our kids’ needs and give them the things they will need to succeed. It’s only by giving them outside time that we can expect them to sit still at the piano for any length of time. It’s only be cultivating their imagination that we can inspire creativity. It’s only by scheduling their day that we make sure we have time for it all.

This idea of laying a foundation forms the basis of my parenting. I believe in it so much that it affects everything I do with my kids. If we’re having issues with my boys not listening, I won’t immediately blame them or come up with a discipline plan. I will think through whatever it is that I’m doing wrong in laying a foundation. Whenever we have struggles, rather than blame my kids or lecture them on it, I’ll reevaluate our schedule and find a renewed commitment to follow it. (Following a schedule is one of my weaknesses.)

The other wonderful benefit of laying a foundation is that it’s all under our control. We cannot physically control our kids, but we can use our authority to follow a schedule, make sure they are in bed on time, take them outside, do couch time, and more. Probably the biggest detriment in laying our foundation is believing that it’s important.

Look at it this way. Our society has gotten a little carried away with the idea that popping a pill will cure whatever ails us. Popping a pill is so much easier than changing our diets or exercising. But we all know deep down that diet and exercise are the only true ways to improving our health. The same holds true with our children. Perfecting your timeout routine or finding a new logical consequence is akin to popping a pill. Laying that foundation and setting the stage for success for our children — the equivalent of diet and exercise — ensures a healthy home and children who will live the lives we want most for them.

Cultivate the Imagination

William in character

William in character

How imaginative are your kids? It’s only natural that our kids express themselves through imaginative play, especially beginning around age 3. On Monday, I talked about the benefit of taking our kids outdoors for some play in nature. The same holds true for imaginative play.

Imaginative play is so good for our kids. When they act out their little scenarios, with a toy or simply in their minds, they are expressing a true, developmentally appropriate form of creativity. I discussed the many important benefits of imaginative play about a year ago, and my philosophy remains the same. Given that there are only 24 hours in the day, I would much prefer that my boys have more time for imaginative play than learning their multiplication tables. There is a place for both, but I believe that imaginative play does more for our kids’ ability to create and learn than rote memorization does.

We are not the family that does flashcards for fun. If you came to my house, you’d be much more likely to find my boys raiding their costume bin or setting up a Lego battle than sitting at a table doing school work. The interesting thing about it is that my kids are smart (if I do say so myself). William is a year ahead of grade level in math and reads several grade levels ahead. Lucas is in pre-K and is reading. He will listen to a story, and without skipping a beat, will be able to narrate it back to me (tell me what happened in the story).

As is the case with outdoor time, if we give them the freedom for imaginative play, they’ll be that much better off when it comes to academics. Yes, imaginative play takes time away from school work, but if we did nothing but school work, I doubt we’d be any farther ahead. I believe my boys do well academically because we spend time outdoors and play imaginatively, not despite it.