Attitude Influences


Do you have a child whose attitude changes on a daily or weekly basis? Have you considered the various influences in her life that might change the way she interacts with the people around her?

Attitude problems run the gamut with our little ones. We may see a surge of backtalk, forgetfulness with “please and thank you,” and general disrespect toward parents and other adults.

It can sometimes take a little while before we recognize attitude issues, not to mention figuring out where they come from. If you model the attitude you want from your child, it’s important to look outside yourself to see where it might be coming from. Most kids don’t come by it naturally.

There’s an article on Motherlode, the parenting blog on The New York Times, that discusses the effect of TV on our kids. Here’s a quote:

“My children talk back more after they overdose on Disney programming that finds its humor in the ‘children are smarter than their parents’ trope. They’re bossier and less pleasant to one another if we watch movies where characters interact that way – which can range from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Toy Story.’”

The point is that your child’s attitude can very much be influenced by the TV he watches. So as you consider the influences that might be affecting his attitude, consider TV. And as you evaluate the TV you allow your child to watch, consider more than just violence and foul language. Watch the show and determine for yourself how the people in the show treat each other. If it’s a show whose characters act as though it’s cool to ignore or disrespect parents, steer clear.

Aside from TV, think about the people your child interacts with. If he has a friend who just rubs you the wrong way, there’s probably a reason why. While we want to give our kids some independence when it comes to forming friendships, they are still little and subject to our rules. If we don’t want them spending time with a particular person, it is our prerogative to limit their interaction.

Also think about the adults in your child’s life. We all have one of those irreverent friends who likes to buck the system. It may even be a family member who refuses to watch his or her language in front of the kids. Or worse, he will tell the child that it’s okay to disobey mom or dad.

Be on the lookout for these influences in your child’s life. When you see attitude problems pop up, figure out where they came from, and don’t be shy about putting a stop to them.



There’s a big problem in our world these days with people acting as though they’re entitled to the best things in life. It’s gone so far that Generation Y has been renamed by some as the Entitled Generation. It’s said that people of this generation buy things they can’t afford, put personal matters above professional ones, disrespect their elders, and have no desire to set down roots.

Of course, this is a sweeping generalization, but what exactly does entitlement mean and what can we do to ensure our children don’t become entitled? At the root of entitled behavior is selfishness. Put simply, those who feel entitled think only of themselves. It’s all about me, me, me and instant gratification.

The first step in ridding our children of this ugly characteristic is to first recognize it. You may not want to admit it, but if you see entitlement in your children, recognize it first and then come up with a plan to address it.

From a big-picture parenting perspective, entitled kids grow up with parents who do everything for them. I can see how this is tempting. When we become parents, our children are often the focus of our world. The Ezzos warn us of child-centered parenting, which is easy to understand intellectually. But at the same time, when you are running your kids from piano lessons and soccer games to Kumon and gymnastics, it becomes very easy to build your life around your child. It’s easy to justify this because you are doing what you believe to be the best thing for your child.

And I’m not saying that children shouldn’t have activities outside the home. It’s just that they should see that mom and dad have a life, too. We don’t live our lives simply to please our children.

What’s ironic is that in an attempt to create enriched, smart, sporty kids — what we believe is the best they can be — we may actually be doing more harm than good. It’s all fine when a child is a soccer super-star and still respects his elders. But if a child is a soccer super-star at the expense of important moral values, then something somewhere has gone horribly wrong.

And it runs deeper than the activities our children are in. Entitlement ultimately comes down to parents giving their children everything they want and doing everything for them. School is their job, we say to ourselves, so they don’t need to take out the trash. They’re so busy practicing piano, we say, that we shouldn’t require them to unload the dishwasher. Homework is more important, we say, so we pick their clothes up off the floor for them. We may even put such a high price on grades that we do their homework for them — in the guise of “help.”

This extends outside the house, too. If a child is shy, we’ll order their meal for them at a restaurant. If a boy is bouncing in his seat in a restaurant, we excuse his behavior, saying he’s all boy. If a child goes so far as to hit another child, we let the child run off and say that he’s going through a phase. We do whatever we can to excuse or perpetuate poor behaviors.

When a child is raised with parents like this, it’s no wonder he’ll grow up to feel entitled. When he’s been given everything he’s ever needed or wanted without having to work for it, and when his poor behaviors and attitudes are excused, he will of course feel like the world should revolve around him.

One of the best things we can do as parents to ensure our kids don’t grow up to be entitled is to encourage self-sufficiency. If we encourage them to do for themselves and gain some independence, then they will grow up to believe that they have to work for whatever it is they want. They will grow up to believe that their parents don’t exist to fulfill their every desire.

Find Your Inner Cheerleader


I’m amazingly fortunate to have a friend who is traveling the homeschooling journey with me. Her kids are slightly older than mine. All four went to the same school together last year. As luck would have it, before the school year was over last year, I took Lucas to a birthday party and overheard another friend say that Missy* was going to homeschool her kids. If there was ever a purpose for those crazy birthday parties, this was it.

I bring this up because Missy is an amazing cheerleader for her kids. She is so excited to be homeschooling her kids, and her excitement is infectious, both to her kids and me! While I’m rethinking my decision to homeschool, she plans to homeschool her kids the whole way through. She loves every minute of it. I think her attitude towards homeschooling completely sets the tone for their days. She is the ultimate cheerleader.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no cheerleader. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of girl. But recognizing my weakness is the first step to changing it, right? When I face an obstacle with my kids — whether it’s related to school or some behavioral issue — I now ask myself, What would Missy say?

Last night, William was almost done with his math books (yay!) but he had to make a few corrections before we could call it done. After therapy and a quick trip to the mall, we came home and sat down to finish. After he redid a few incorrectly on his own, I realized that I needed to sit down with him and help him through. It was late, we hadn’t eaten dinner, our routine was completely off, there were quite a few corrections to be made, we had a difficult morning, Lucas was off playing, and I wasn’t going to let him go to bed until it was done. It had disaster written all over it. I’m happy to say that with Missy sitting on my shoulder (figuratively, of course), I cheered him through it!

At every turn, I had to stop myself from spouting out something negative and defeating. I then mustered up the most positive thing I could say. I uttered “You can do this!” quite a bit, and while I was going for variety, the repetition didn’t hurt. We even laughed together at some of his crazy incorrect answers. We were in it together, and he got it done!

So if you are struggling with a particular issue with your child — whether it’s a behavioral issue, a difficult chore, homework or anything else — find your inner cheerleader. I once read a quote that said something like, “Who came up with the idea that making our kids feel bad about themselves (through discipline or derision) would make them change their behavior?” It’s so true! If we want them to improve, we need to make them feel good about themselves.

Here are a few negative phrases I’m sure I’ve uttered at some point and their cheerleader alternatives:

1) You’re 5 years old. You should know better. –> You’re such a big boy. I had no idea you were so smart.

2) Come on. You know this. Why can’t you do it? –> You can do this! I believe in you!

3) Please try folding laundry. You may not do it perfectly, but that’s ok. –> I had no idea you were so good at folding laundry! That was really hard! (Refold after the child has gone to bed.)

4) Did you really think that snatching that toy from your brother was a good choice? Really? –> I know you like that toy, and it can be so tempting to take the things you want. But I think your brother would feel better if you asked first. Do you agree? Let’s give it back and find another toy like that one.

5) You were good at riding your bike last time. What happened? Try harder! –> I see your bike-riding skills are a little rusty. That’s okay. It happens to me, too. Let’s keep going and it will get easier.

6) I see you got a good grade on your spelling test. Good. That’s as it should be. –> Wow! You got such a good grade on your spelling test! Let’s put it up on the fridge so Daddy sees it when he gets home!

Try to step outside yourself to listen to how you speak to your child. Honestly evaluate whether you are defeating or lifting up your child. If it’s the former, make it a point to work on it and stop yourself before you utter another negative phrase. Our kids want to please us. Let’s encourage them by making them feel good about doing so.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. :)

Christmas Role-Playing


It’s a busy time of year! Shopping: done! Wrapping: done! Cookies: baked! Christmas cards: stamped and mailed! Role-playing: huh?!

Yes, add Christmas role-playing to your list. We work with our children all year on cultivating a generous and grateful spirit. Children make Christmas fun and special, but they can make us cringe when we think of how they might react when receiving gifts on Christmas morning. Will he say “thank you” for every gift? Will he even acknowledge the giver? Will he stop to express sincere gratitude before moving on to the next gift?

Ultimately, will the child express an understanding of the value of giving and receiving? Does he know that Christmas is about much more than receiving gifts?

If you’re unsure, now is the time to work with your child. Take the time to do some role-playing for Christmas morning. Sit around the Christmas tree, and pass make-believe gifts around to each other. Have a parent go first, and display an ungrateful, greedy spirit. Go over the top with it. Make it funny to make it memorable. Then go to your next “gift” and show your child what it looks like to be grateful. Then let the children show gratitude with their make-believe gifts.

Teach your children to say more than just “thank you.” Teach them to look into the eyes of the giver (of course making sure they know who the giver is before the gift is opened), and have them say something like, “I’ve always wanted this!” Teach them that saying something special will make the giver feel good.

After all, this is what’s most important when it comes to giving and receiving gifts. We want to make the people who give us gifts feel good for doing so. We want to express gratitude for the fact that they went out of their way to buy us a gift, no matter how expected it is.

In addition to role-playing, have a back-up plan. Teach your children the sign language sign for “thank you.” It’s simple. You hold your fingers together, touch them to your chin and pull them forward. It’s as if you’re blowing a kiss, just from your chin. Then, when your child opens a gift and forgets to say “thank you,” you can stand behind the giver and quietly do the sign to remind your child to express his thanks.

Merry Christmas!

Don’t Forget Attitude

When training a child in first-time obedience, external compliance is great, but it’s not our ultimate goal. We must teach our children to have a submissive attitude as well as obedient behavior. The following is an excerpt from my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience.


Compliance with a yielding, submissive heart is our ultimate goal. If your child complies with your instruction but sulks off afterward, make him do it over. Discipline for attitude just as much as you would for behavior problems. Ezzo explains the importance behind training the child’s heart.

“Disciplining–heart training–is best accomplished by parenting from the first principle. Values-based discipline urges children to treat other people the way they want to be treated. Neither child-centered nor authoritarian parenting styles emphasize personal responsibility, inner growth, self-control, and other virtues the way first principle parenting does. We have found that if parents shape their child’s heart and character, they will not have to concentrate as much on reshaping the child’s outward behavior,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 115).

As you go about your day, decide whether your child’s actions are coming from a heart of submission. For first-time obedience to be effective, the child must respond without challenging parental authority. There are some subtle and not-so-subtle ways that a child will challenge authority:

  • She says “yes, mommy” with a smart, sarcastic tone.
  • She mimics her parents.
  • He says anything but “yes, mommy” such as “what?”
  • He says nothing
  • She says “yes, mommy” so quietly you can’t hear her.

In all of these examples, the child is refusing to submit to authority. Do not allow such responses. Have him repeat with the appropriate response and if he still refuses, send him to his bed to sit in isolation.


Holiday Behavior Problems?


How was Thanksgiving? Did your children handle the day with grace and gratitude? Or did you uncover new behavior problems amidst the holiday hubbub? It’s not unusual, particularly when we spend the holiday with many friends and family members, for our kids to act uncharacteristically.

There are several issues that contribute to this problem. As much as we may attempt to keep life consistent, big holidays often disrupt the routine, causing sleep and meal disruptions. The kids may get more sugar than usual. They may go to bed later than usual. They may sleep less soundly if they’re not in their own beds. (My kids sleep on the floor at Grandma’s house.) They might get too much attention from family members. Our usual parenting tactics may get disrupted, either on our own accord (being lax), or comments from others may undermine our efforts.

No matter the specific cause, we are left to deal with children who are not themselves. Whether they are showing behavior problems or attitude issues, our kids are behaving uncharacteristically. This can confuse the most well-meaning parent. What do we do with this child we don’t recognize? And how do we deal with behavior problems we’ve never encountered before?

The most important idea to remember is that you will have to put effort into retraining your child. Whether the child has picked up bad behavior habits from others or has created some of his own, commit to retraining those bad behaviors right out of him. If your lives were only disrupted for a day or two, you might only require that much retraining time. If you were out of town for a week or longer, the behavior problems will be more deeply ingrained, and you’ll likely need more time for retraining.

Now, you may also be thinking ahead to Christmas. If your family is like mine, the time spent with friends and family over Christmas is similar to Thanksgiving, only on a larger scale. Again, you may need to retrain your child. But if you’d like to prevent behavior problems from occurring during Christmas festivities, rather than retrain after the fact, you’ll need to address your child’s specific needs. For example, if your child is an introvert and there are 20 people in your house, you may give the child an extra room time session to help him gather the energy to face all the people.

A few considerations to prevent holiday behavior problems include:

  • Keep meals as consistent as possible, even if that means feeding the child before or after the main family meal. Set alerts on your phone for meals, snacks and nap times.
  • Keep bed and nap times as consistent as possible. It can be difficult to get children to bed at their normal bedtimes when so many others stay up hours later, but sleep is the top consideration when facing behavior and attitude problems.
  • Limit sugar. Allow the child a Christmas cookie or two, but not much more.
  • Limit food dyes.
  • Do your best not to relax too much during the holidays. Take turns with your spouse and do all you can to stay consistent and follow through on your word.
  • Limit the child’s freedoms. If he’s not allowed to wander the house at home, he shouldn’t be allowed to do so at Grandma’s.
  • Consider the child’s personality. If he’s an introvert, give him some quiet, alone time.
  • Consider the child’s love language. If he thrives on words of encouragement from you and you spend all day talking to adult relatives, he may act up.

If, despite your best efforts, your child shows behavior problems, act on them before they escalate. Deal with whining before it escalates into a tantrum. Deal with grumpiness before it turns into a fight with a family member. Keep your eye on your child, and quietly and politely excuse yourselves if you need to discipline him. Then commit to retraining him when you get home.

Happy holidays! :)


Baby signing “please.” Source:

After my post last week about kids doing what works, I’ve gotten a few comments and questions about what to do with kids who whine. Whining is one of those things that can just grate on our nerves. But at the same time, if it goes on for too long, we get used to it and let it go until it gets worse!

The Ezzos say this about whining:

“Whining is an unacceptable form of communication that becomes annoying to the listener if left unchecked. Besides being obnoxious, it is often a subtle challenge to parental authority. Whining is a learned trait, not a warning of deep-seated, emotional problems,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 191).

Lucas struggles with whining (as did I as a kid), so I have very real personal experience with this. The key to squelching whining is to understand why they do it. What is their motivation? If the child is a “glass half empty” kind of kid, whining and complaining simply come naturally. These are the kids who thrive on a routine and hate any disruptions to that routine. Surprises are never a good thing for these kids.

Whining also comes easily to kids who learn that it works. If you have ever given in to the whining, you are just encouraging him to do it again. For some parents, whining grates on their nerves so much that they’ll give the child whatever he wants just to make the whining stop. Not good.

Another reason kids whine is simply to communicate. This is true for kids who aren’t yet talking. Grunting, screeching and whining are their main forms of communication. The screeching is happy, grunting is neutral, and whining is unhappy. But this doesn’t mean that you have to accept the whining. Teaching other forms of communication is key.

So how do you work with a child to stop whining? How you respond will depend on the child’s age.

For kids under age 2.5 (non-verbal kids), teach sign language! I took a baby sign language class when William was a baby. He picked up on it very quickly and was signing by 7 months. Lucas did just as well. I taught them several signs but the ones they used most were please, more, all done, thank you, milk, eat, water, and change (as in change my diaper). You can pick up a few signs from the Internet or get a DVD on baby sign language. Make sure you learn from a video. It’s hard to understand from static pictures.

Now, one of my readers asked what to do if they still whine after you’ve taught them to sign. I can understand if a toddler needs you to look at him so he can sign. If that’s the case, I would work on teaching the child to say “mama.” William started saying it at 11 months, and he had a speech delay. Make “mama” your cue that the child will sign after he gets your attention. If you’ve done this and he’s still whining, it’s simply become a habit. If this is the case, give the child a stern comment telling him not to whine. Show him with your voice what whining sounds like. Remember, these kids understand much more than they can communicate. So teach him, and remember that it’s better to overestimate their understanding than to underestimate it.

Also be sure that your actions teach that whining is unacceptable. I remember holding Lucas in my arms while he would whine for something. I would swiftly put him down to indicate that his whining is unacceptable. My quick action shocked him into changing his behavior.

For kids over age 2.5 (verbal kids), they key to stopping whining is to not ignore it but to make them wait. You might try saying, “I can’t understand you when you use that voice,” and have them ask again. But this might not be enough to break the habit. Typically, the whining comes in when they are asking you for something. Say the child is asking you for a cup of water in a whining voice. You would say, “I understand you’re thirsty, but since you asked in a whining voice, you will have to wait. I will set the timer for 5 minutes. When it beeps, you can come back and ask with a normal voice.”

Making them wait will have much more of an impact than simply telling them to ask their question over again. I’ve tried that, and Lucas just starts whining again. And ignoring it doesn’t work at all. You might think that ignoring the behavior would clue them in to the idea that whining doesn’t work, but as with everything in parenting, our kids only learn if we actively train them.

Another tactic with a verbal child is to have them acknowledge that whining is unacceptable. In the same way that we require our kids to verbalize submission by saying, “yes, mommy,” we can have them do so with whining. For example, you might respond to whining with the following dialogue: “Nathan, repeat after me, ‘Yes, mommy, no whining.'” The child repeats you and hears himself verbally agree to not whine. If he does this and continues to whine, the offense is direct disobedience, in which case a timeout (in isolation) is appropriate.

Now, if a child whines not when he’s asking for something but when you’re giving an instruction, your reaction would be very different. Getting a “But I doooon’t waaaan’t toooo,” after you’ve told a child to make his bed is simply unacceptable. Here, you would not make the child wait. You would stop the child immediately after the word “but” comes out of his mouth, put a finger over his lips, lean down to make eye contact and say, “Your only acceptable response right now is, ‘yes, mommy.'” At that point, the child says, “yes, mommy” and goes to make his bed. If he refuses, have him sit for a timeout and vow to yourself to work harder on first-time obedience. Yes, this is much more of an obedience issue than a whining issue.

I hope this helps. Let’s unite to rid the world of whining children! :)

Obedience and respect require training


We all know that, as parents, we take on a position of authority with our children. This idea is very natural to most of us. But understand that obedience and respect for authority do not come naturally to our children.

In Growing Kids God’s Way, the Ezzos say:

“Your children will not automatically obey, respect, or honor you. These activities run contrary to their natures. They must receive training and guidance from you,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 93).

When our kids hit about age 18 months, they begin to assert some independence. It is in their nature to follow their own free will. They want to do what they want to do. It’s not easy–for anybody–to submit to another person’s will. It goes against our nature.

But for us to accomplish anything with our children, we must teach them to obey and to respect our authority. This goes for everything from staying in bed after bedtime to teaching important moral qualities. In fact, having our children obey us is the first step in teaching them to show respect for others.

“Teaching children to respect and honor their parents is basic to teaching them how to show respect for others. It starts with the parents….There is something special about the role you serve as a parent. For that reason, we give this warning. Do not allow your children to mock your position as their guardian by their impulsive thoughts, words, and deeds,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 92-93).

It takes real work to teach our children to obey and to respect our authority, but without it, we are left with very little. As parents, we are tasked with training our kids to be good people. That requires serious moral training. If they do nothing but ignore or mock us, none of this important training will happen. There are too many selfish, disrespectful kids (and adults!) who feel a sense of entitlement and that others are there to serve them.

If you want to raise a child who is selfless and thinks of others before he thinks of himself, start with obedience training. If you see any signs of disrespect, nip it in the bud. It’s when our children are little that this important work needs to happen.

And I cannot end this post without mentioning my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time ObedienceTeaching our children to respond with a “yes, mommy” when we call their names is the first step to instilling kindness and selflessness in our children. Teach them that they cannot do simply as they please. Teach them that by obeying you, they are learning to show respect and kindness for everyone in their lives.

Do you relate to your child?


Did your child come out of the womb looking and acting different from you? Does he take after your distant Uncle Bernie more than you? Our kids are born with their own little personalities. And sometimes, their personalities are far different from our own.

If this is the case, it’s important that we take the time to understand the world from our child’s perspective. We need to relate to our children so we can fully meet their social and emotional needs.

I struggle with this a bit myself. William, my oldest, is the spitting image of my husband. They even have matching personalities. When I describe William, several words come to mind: extroverted, social, smart, always happy, inquisitive, easily excited yet laid back at the same time, bold, and friendly. Sadly, I would not use these words to describe myself. I’m an introvert to the core. While William is adventurous, I like to play it safe. While he likes to try new things, I like to stick with what I know is good. Lucas is the one who looks and acts more like me.

Do I just recognize our differences and call it done? No. I need to find a way to relate to William. I need to understand his needs so I can find a way to meet them (or find someone who does). While the thought of going to a party sounds completely draining to me, I need to realize that a party may be just what William needs to recharge his batteries. And when his inquisitiveness comes out, rather than answer his endless questions with “I don’t know,” I need find it in me to be just as interested and tell him that we’ll look it up later.

Whether your child is just like you or you’re polar opposites, take the time to understand your child and the motivations behind his thoughts and feelings. It’s only by trying to relate to our children that we can truly understand them and give them what they need.

Childishness vs. defiance


When your child misbehaves, does he do it out of willful defiance? Or is it that he just doesn’t know any better? The Ezzos make the distinction between childishness and defiance in the chapter titled “Five Laws of Correction” in On Becoming Childwise.

“If parenting were all about drawing lines, we would quickly run out of chalk. Fortunately, a thick black line has already been drawn for us in permanent ink. It marks the border between two totally separate realms of behavior. On one side is the land of Childish Mistakes. On the other is the land of Defiant Misdeeds…. The first speaks of rebellious acts, the second speaks of acts committed with malicious intent. Both require correction, but of different kinds,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 131).

Understanding the difference between the childishness and defiance makes perfect sense when you’re reading a book (or a blog). But when you’re in the throes of parenting a young child, it can be easy to forget that sometimes they just don’t know any better. We often think that they should already know better. But we need to ask ourselves whether we’ve really taken the time to teach the child in whatever behavior it is that we expect.

And we can’t expect that a lesson in one area will carry over to another. Kids are so black and white and don’t always make the connections that we adults do. Maybe you’ve told the child that he must stay in his chair while eating lunch, but will he know that the rule also applies to breakfast and dinner? Or maybe you’ve taught your older child never to walk on the carpet with his shoes on, and just assumed that your younger child learned through osmosis.

So much about parenting involves teaching our children. It applies just as much to behavior issues as it does to moral ones.

The next time you’re frustrated with your child and ready to correct him, stop yourself and make sure that it is an act of willful defiance and not just childishness. This should help you remember:

“Childishness is usually a head problem–a lack of knowledge. Defiance is usually a heart problem–the child does not what to do right,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

If you tend toward leniency, the above quote will help you as well. If you’re faced with defiance and try to make excuses for the child, thinking he doesn’t know any better, think about the child’s motive behind his actions.

“When instructions have been given and received about something, there is little room for ‘innocent mistakes’ regarding that behavior. If the wrong thing is intentionally done, it’s disobedience–outright defiance–pure and simple,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 133).

This is where getting your “yes, mommy” and eye contact play a huge role. When the child is looking you in the eye and has acknowledged you with a verbal response, you have little doubt that he heard your instruction. If he fails to comply, he’s being defiant.

If you are new to my blog and the idea of “yes, mommy” and eye contact, read more at those links. You might also benefit from reading my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, which lays out how to use these tools to get your child to obey immediately and consistently.