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.

The Importance of Listening

How well do you listen to your child? Do you ever have trouble striking a balance between empathizing with your child and requiring strict obedience?

Those of us who follow the Ezzos’ teachings know that maintaining a parent-centered or family-centered home is important. We do our best to ensure that our lives aren’t too child-centered. We want our children to know that they’re not the center of the universe. They may in fact be the center of our universe, but for the sake of the marriage, family, and the foundation upon which the child stands, we treat the child as a welcome member of the family but not the center of it.

Despite our emphasis on parent-centered methods, we cannot undervalue our children or their thoughts and feelings. The idea that the child is best seen, not heard, is simply unacceptable. In fact, it’s when we show cooperation in conquering the world together that we get better behavior and acceptance from our children. If our children know we are on their side, they will share their thoughts and more readily adopt our values.

This post is inspired by the book How to Talk so Your Kids Will Listen by H. Norman Wright, and though I’m only 30 pages in, it’s very enlightening. One idea that stands out to me is this:

“How do you get kids and teens to listen to you? Listen to them,” (p. 28).

It’s so true. In fact, the times that I’ve struggled most with obedience is when I’m immersed in some other activity or in my own thoughts. If I’m unavailable or detached from my children, they know it and they see it as license to do as they please. Alternatively, if I listen and interact with them, they are much more likely to hear me and obey my instructions.

It’s like what the Ezzos say about the threatening and repeating parent. When we threaten and repeat, we train our children not to listen to us. The same is true when we speak to our children in anger.

Knowing that there’s value in listening, we must also understand that listening is an art form:

“Listening is giving sharp attention to what your child shares with you. It’s more than just hearing what he or she says. Often what your child shares is more than what he or she says. (Read that sentence again. It’s a key thought.) You must listen to the total person, not just the words spoken. Listening requires an openness to whatever is being shared: feelings, attitudes or concerns, as well as words,” (p. 31).

Rather than having our own agenda or formulating our own thoughts or response, we must simply be quiet and listen. It’s only after we listen that we can reply. And understand that listening doesn’t mean complying. You can listen to your child ask for a lollipop for dinner, but that doesn’t mean you have to agree. Listening simply shows that we care.

The following statement is great:

“Listening is an expression of love. It involves caring enough to take seriously what your child is communicating,” (p. 31).

And when they see that we’re loving them by listening, the reward is huge:

“When your child knows you hear him or her, your child will trust you and feel safe with you. And if you’re a good listener, your child will be more apt to invite you into his or her life. Your child also learns through your example to respond openly and lovingly to what you share with him or her,” (p. 31).

So if you’re struggling with your child, try just listening for a little while. Whether you have a tween who’s challenging your values or a preschooler who refuses to obey, simply listening to their thoughts and feelings will strengthen your relationship and move you one step closer to your goals as a family.

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!


Are you a wife or mom first?


Note: Forgive me for assuming most of my readers are women. For the few men who read my blog, this post does also apply to you.

Are you a wife or mom first? Do you identify yourself as a wife or mom? Which relationship do you make a priority in your life?

We all take on many different roles in our lives based on our relationships with others: friend, sister, aunt, niece, daughter, granddaughter, etc. Our roles of wife and mom take precedence simply because we spend our days with our children and husbands. And when our children are young, we spend the majority of our time caring for them and tending to their needs.

But let me assure you, for the benefit of your family, your role of wife should be a higher priority than that of mom. By redefining the husband-wife relationship, you run the risk of maintaining a child-centered household. In a child-centered home, you are not wife; you are mom. And as mom, you are less accountable to your spouse and yourself. You are solely accountable to the child.

For many, it’s preferable to only be accountable to the child because:

  • As parents, we are perfect in our child’s eyes.
  • Unlike any other role in our lives, our role as mom allows us to feel needed. Our children give us purpose.
  • Our culture says that we can do anything we want as long as it’s what we deem best for the child.

“Some parents equate overindulgence with love, giving a child everything he wants in the belief that they are teaching some form of benevolence. Withholding correction from the child is equated with teaching a form of heavenly grace. Tolerating disobedience is equated to teaching patience. Diverting a child from sadness, regardless of the root cause of that sadness, is thought to be a form of compassion and consolation,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 47-48).

I’ll be the first to admit that prioritizing my marriage is not easy. As a stay-at-home mom, my kids are my primary focus. And our culture makes it so easy and acceptable to put the children first. But make no mistake, child-centered parenting creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes and attitude issues run rampant. Do all that you can to prioritize your role of wife over that of mom.

Do you enjoy your child?


How’s that for a loaded question? I think it’s important for all parents to ask themselves this question every now and then. Yes, we go through struggles with our children. Yes, they often do their best to push our buttons and test boundaries. But on the whole, we should be enjoying the time we spend with our children.

If your answer to this question is an unequivocal no, it is your cue that you need to change your parenting methods. Do be honest with yourself when you ask yourself this question. Nobody else needs to know. Have your spouse ask himself the same question, especially if you see struggles between him and the child.

Understand that the onus to change your situation falls on you. If you don’t enjoy your child, do not blame the child. Children will very happily comply with our instructions when we are clear and consistent. You might find this very encouraging. It’s all under your control!

Take the steps you need to take to change the atmosphere in your home. Keep your eye on the goal (a happy, loving relationship with your child), and do the work it takes to get yourselves there.

Here are some ideas:

1)    Read, read, read. Learn all you can about different parenting methods.

2)    Talk to older, wiser parents. Learn from their experiences.

3)    Take a parenting class with your spouse. Ask around at local churches to see where you might find a Growing Kids God’s Way class.

4)    Step back and evaluate your attitude. Are you too lax? Too strict? Yes, children need to be corrected, but don’t make your life more difficult by focusing on behaviors that make a child a child. Choose your battles.

5)    Make sure you have all the basics under your belt. Work on good eating and sleeping habits. Practice couch time and avoid child-centered parenting.

6)    Do all that you can to prevent misbehaviors. Don’t wait for the child to misbehave before you act.

7)    If you have the basics under control, work on first-time obedience. You can learn more in my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience. It will take work to train your child in first-time obedience, but the payoff is so worth it.

Always remember your goal. If you ever need encouragement to continue your work in parenting, remember that you are working on developing a happy, loving relationship with your child. Remind yourself of that sweet little soul you saw when he was a baby or toddler. Stare at him while he sleeps. Trust that his sweet spirit will reemerge. He wants to be that sweet little child; he just needs your help to get there.

Are French parents better?

This is the question posed in a recent Wall Street Journal article discussing a new book, Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman. In the book, the author discusses French parenting and contends that American parents are much more lenient, yet also overly focused on child discipline.

The author’s basis for the book? She lives in Paris with her (British) husband and three children:

“A few years ago, while enduring nightmarish restaurant meals with her then-18-month-old daughter on a French seaside vacation, it struck Druckerman that the French children around them were all perfectly well-behaved. Thinking further, she realized she’d seen the same on French playgrounds and in her French friends’ homes,” (Wall Street Journal, “Are French Parents Better?”)

The book’s description notes that:

“The French children Druckerman knows sleep through the night at two or three months old while those of her American friends take a year or more. French kids eat well-rounded meals that are more likely to include braised leeks than chicken nuggets. And while her American friends spend their visits resolving spats between their kids, her French friends sip coffee while the kids play,” (Bringing Up Bebe).

Sound familiar? This is exactly the type of parenting the Ezzos have been espousing for decades. But what exactly is the difference between American and French parenting?

They call it the French parenting “secret” but it’s no secret at all. It’s the ability to set clear, firm boundaries for children from their earliest days.

According to the book, French parents also avoid child-centered parenting (again an Ezzo idea):

“[T]he French have managed to be involved with their families without becoming obsessive,” Druckerman writes. “They assume that even good parents aren’t at the constant service of their children, and that there is no need to feel guilty about this. ‘For me, the evenings are for the parents,’ one Parisian mother told me. ‘My daughter can be with us if she wants, but it’s adult time,’ ” (Wall Street Journal, “Are French Parents Better?”).

I’m intrigued by the author’s contention that French parents rarely discipline their children. Their consistent modeling of patience and obedience teaches children to do the same. In fact, French parents are puzzled by the American emphasis on discipline.

Druckerman says, “Instead they stress ‘educating’ their kids, meaning not schoolwork but a holistic way of showing and telling them what is and isn’t allowed. This means infractions that require American-style punishments are rare,” (Wall Street Journal, “Are French Parents Better?”).

This reminds me of the Ezzos’ approach to non-conflict training.

This quote from the book’s description sums it up nicely:

“Of course, French parenting wouldn’t be worth talking about if it produced robotic, joyless children. In fact, French kids are just as boisterous, curious, and creative as Americans. They’re just far better behaved and more in command of themselves,” (Bringing Up Bebe).

I love it!

My favorite Ezzo-isms

There are several sayings that get repeated throughout the Ezzo community, and for good reason. If you commit these sayings to memory, they will guide you through your parenting journey. Here are my favorites:

The child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it.

Read more about child-centered parenting.

Great marriages make great parents.

Let your child see that you value your marriage. Let the stability of your marriage serve as the foundation for the child and family. Learn more about the marriage priority.

Never give a command you don’t expect to be obeyed.

Read more about saying what you mean and meaning what you say.

Constantly reminding a child to do what is expected only means you have no expectation.

This is the crux of first-time obedience. Give your instruction one time! Learn more about first-time obedience in my eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience.

Holiness is more important than happiness.

Teach the value of living with contentment. Learn more.

Obedience is only the beginning.

Parents should aim to eventually transition from leading by authority to leading by influence. At first, our children obey out of duty. Eventually, a child must exchange obedience (duty to comply) for submission (desire to comply).



Best of Childwise Chat: Couch Time

With family in town for the holidays, I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging this week. So here are my top posts of all time (according to visitor stats). Read and enjoy!

Couch Time

In my last post, I discussed the marriage priority and how the Ezzos implore us to put our marriages first—for the sake of our children. By maintaining a loving, healthy marriage, we create a sense of security and stability for our children. Here I will discuss one practical method for building a happy marriage: couch time.

Couch time is a very simple idea. You and your spouse take 10-15 minutes at the end of your day (or whenever really) to sit down and just talk. Don’t watch TV. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t think about the day ahead. Just sit and talk to your spouse.

The rules
There is only one rule when it comes to couch time. It can take place at any time of day. It can be on the couch, at the dinner table after everyone is done, or even standing in the kitchen. The only rule about couch time is that you must do it while your child is awake and in the same room. The whole point of couch time is to show your child that you and your spouse make time for yourselves and that your marriage takes priority. Explain to your child that this is a special time for you two and that he must not interrupt you. Find an activity to keep your child occupied so you’re not constantly turning away from your spouse to tend to your child. (This is where having a blanket-trained toddler can really help.) Keep a special basket of toys just for couch time. Start small (just a few minutes a day) and work up from there. Throughout your day, make a mental list of things you might want to discuss with your spouse during couch time. Make a mental note of cute things your child did or how you were able to get through to him on an important moral lesson.

Must we really do couch time?
Yes! You may be thinking that you spend plenty of time talking to your spouse and that maybe your child is so young (or old) that he won’t really get any benefit from seeing the two of you talk. But really, if you are going to have any success with your parenting, you must put first things first. Couch time is so important that it’s discussed early on inChildwise (page 40). And putting your marriage first is principle #1 in a long list of principles.

“Does your child exhibit behavior problems, moral disruptions, impulsive behavior, talking back, sleep problems or just outright defiance? Before you do anything else, before you pick up another book, listen to another tape, attend another parenting conference, call your therapist or get on the Internet—simply practice ‘couch time’ for a week…. You will be amazed at how this one little exercise can bring peace to a home and emotional confidence to children,” (On Becoming Childwise, page 40).

In the Mom’s Notes presentations, Carla Link will often take questions from the audience about particular behavior problems parents might be experiencing. One of her first questions of them is whether they are doing couch time. The answer is typically no. She then goes on to say that the simple act of adding couch time to your day will greatly improve your child’s behaviors. Having someone tell you to sit on the couch with your spouse may not seem like it will help you teach your preschooler to share his toys. But it is step #1 in getting our children to behave. It’s so simple yet so effective!

And on top of the benefits your child receives, couch time will improve your marriage! “One other thing about couch time: it’s not only for your children’s benefit…. For some couples, this time together might be as new for them as it is for their children. You never know, you might just rediscover your best friend,” (On Becoming Childwise, page 40).

The next time you hug your spouse, take a peek at your child’s face. He will be staring at you with a glimmer of happiness in his eye. Once you see that, you will be motivated to do couch time every day.

Testimonials for couch time
In the sidebars of Growing Kids God’s Way, there are several testimonials from children whose parents practiced couch time:

“There is something wonderful about growing up in a home where your parents are truly in love with each other. They laugh together, play together, pray together and parent together. As siblings, we have a ‘best friend’ relationship with each other. We learned that from watching Mom and Dad.” –Aimee, age 14

“When my parents had couch time consistently, my siblings and I were more obedient and there was harmony in the family. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, sitting on the couch talking to each other every night, but makes a big difference in the home.” –Justin, age 17

“When my sister Emily and I were young, we loved it when Mom and Dad had couch time. I couldn’t have explained why back then. There was just something right about it, comforting and secure. We contrived all sorts of things to make them comfortable like getting them tea when they sat down. Now we realize that ‘couch time’ was for us as much as it was for them.” –Aubrey, age 16

“Out of all the wonderful things my parents implemented into our family life, couch time is the one I most want to have in my own family when I get married. Growing up, I felt more secure knowing that my parents were taking the time to communicate and verify that they were a united team. This is how I know that my parents love our family and they loved each other.” –Sarah, age 22

“My parents have shown me how very important having dates and couch time on a regular basis is for a good marriage relationship. When they spend time with each other, it shows us that they love each other.” –Rebecca, age 14

Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience. New eBook!

Have you always wanted to teach your children first-time obedience but you’ve never been sure where to begin? Let my new eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedienceteach you how.

I am very proud to announce the release of my new eBook! Several months ago, I realized that it might help parents to have one easy-to-read, digital source for advice on teaching first-time obedience. After many hours and late nights, it’s now a reality!

After reading through my own posts on the topic of first-time obedience, I decided that there were several holes in my teaching that needed to be filled. So I am excited to offer this eBook, which covers just about every idea I’ve had about training children in first-time obedience. The 112-page eBook serves as a great complement to the Parent Wise books from Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo.

In Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, you’ll learn how to:

  • Rid your home of tantrums, whining, complaining and negotiating
  • Train your children to be respectful and obedient
  • Create peace and harmony in your home so you can enjoy your children again
  • Work on obedience while they’re young and the stakes are low
  • Reduce the stress that comes with parenting young children
  • Achieve a balanced life of love and learning with your children

Gary Ezzo himself has endorsed the eBook:

One of the most important parenting tasks is helping children learn to obey. This eBook offers practical advice for parents in the throes of obedience training and is high on my recommended reading list. ~ Gary Ezzo

Get your copy of Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience while it’s on sale! Until January 9, 2012, it will be available for just $6.99! That’s 30% off the original price!

Click on the graphic below to learn more about the eBook and to download a sample of the eBook. Have a look before you buy.

If you like what you see, consider becoming an affiliate. Earn 30% of the purchase price for every buyer you refer. Read more.