Best of Childwise Chat: Moving to one nap a day

I’m taking time off from blogging for the holidays, so this week I’ll be sharing the best of Childwise Chat. These are the most popular posts of all time. Enjoy and have a fantastic Christmas!

Originally posted January 10, 2011

I don’t usually use this blog as a forum to give advice on naps and specific schedule items, but I see this one come up so often, I thought I would address it here. When our children drop the morning nap, it marks a shift in the child’s development. Dropping the morning nap is a big milestone in the lives of many parents of toddlers. Yet it’s almost one of the most frustrating. Many Babywise parents don’t know how to drop the nap without affecting baby’s sleep too terribly.

Here’s how the situation typically plays out. Baby is napping well and is able to overcome teething and various disruptions without too much trouble. For the most part, things have been going well for quite some time. Then suddenly, baby stops falling asleep for his afternoon nap. He’ll play in his crib for the whole nap, or he’ll go down fine but wake up after just 45 minutes. Mom gives it a day or two before deciding that something is going wrong. She knows that baby needs his afternoon nap and he seems to nap so well in the morning that she’s a little dumbfounded.

It’s true, these babies would nap a couple hours every morning if left to their own devices. But mom knows that there’s no way baby can go from late morning until bedtime without turning into a monster. The afternoon nap must be saved!

Before I give you my advice on dropping a nap, let me explain how I would not do it.

Don’t #1: Get out in the morning

Some say that the best way to preserve the afternoon nap is to cut out the morning nap entirely, cold turkey. To avoid a cranky baby in the morning, you should go out. Run errands. Take baby to story time at the library. Whatever. Just get out. It’s true, that getting out will help keep baby alert enough that he won’t get as cranky as he would at home. But still, it deprives the child of sleep.

Don’t #2: Every other day

Another approach is to allow baby to have a morning nap every other day. It’s true that this could help baby drop the morning nap, but the problem is it still deprives the child of sleep. By allowing him the nap every other day, you are depriving him of sleep and then letting him catch up on sleep on the days you allow it. His sleep is not on an even keel. The other problem with this approach is that it’s still likely that baby will not nap well in the afternoon on the days he takes a morning nap.

Don’t #3: Early bedtime

One idea to drop the nap is to let baby nap in the mornings and then do an earlier bedtime to compensate for the lack of sleep in the afternoon. Mom gradually moves the morning nap later and later while doing an early bedtime. Eventually, the morning nap becomes an afternoon nap. There are two problems with this approach. First, mom is messing with both naps and bedtime. There’s no need to mess with bedtime (if you’ll finish reading this post). Second, baby is still cranky and overtired until the transition process is complete.

My advice: Shorten the morning nap

When you’re sure that baby is ready to drop the morning nap and that the afternoon nap disruptions aren’t due to anything else (noise, teething, etc.), start shortening the morning nap. For this approach to work, it’s important to know your baby’s optimal wake time. When I did this with Lucas, his wake time was 2 hours. I realize that not all babies can go to sleep after just 2 hours, which is fine. The key is knowing what your baby’s optimal wake time is. It’s different for every child.

Before his afternoon nap disruptions, Lucas would usually nap for 1.5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. When I knew that nothing else was causing the problem, I started waking him up after one hour of sleep in the morning. I would allow him his usual wake time of 2 hours and then put him down for his afternoon nap. This meant that his afternoon nap started 30 minutes earlier, but it worked because he was still getting used to a shorter morning nap.

I continued allowing him a one-hour morning nap until his afternoon nap was again being disrupted in some way. I let him tell me when he was ready to shorten the nap even more. So then I started waking him up after 45 minutes. Again, I would put him down after 2 hours of wake time. Throughout the transition, I would let him sleep as long as he wanted to in the afternoon and I never messed with his bedtime.

After a few months of a 45-minute morning nap, we reduced it to 30 minutes. After a few months of that, we ended up going on vacation and it was the perfect time to drop the morning nap altogether. If we were home, I might have allowed a 20-minute catnap, but it also became apparent to me that he would have done fine without the morning nap entirely.

Bear in mind, this is not the fastest way to drop the morning nap. We started shortening the morning nap when Lucas was about 14 months old. He didn’t drop it entirely until he was almost 23 months old. Did I mind? Not in the least. Would I have minded a cranky baby all morning or afternoon? For sure. Would I have minded difficult bedtimes due to an overtired baby? Of course.

This gradual approach ensures that baby still gets the sleep he needs while allowing for an easy transition to drop the nap.

Schedule examples

To spell it out more clearly, here’s how our schedule looked during the transition.

Transition months 1-3

Morning nap: 10:00-11:00

Afternoon nap: 1:00-3:00-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

Transition months 4-6

Morning nap: 10:00-10:45

Afternoon nap: 12:45-2:45-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

Transition months 7-9

Morning nap: 10:00-10:30

Afternoon nap: 12:30-2:30-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

You’ll recognize that the time between Lucas’ afternoon nap and bedtime got longer and longer. He handled this well. I realize, however, that some might not. The alternative is to keep the afternoon nap at the same time regardless of the child’s optimal wake time. There is something to be said for babies who are used to falling asleep at the same time every afternoon no matter how the long the morning nap was.

Finally, be sure baby is waking up at the same time every morning. No matter the method, the nap transition will not go well at all if you allow baby to sleep in every morning to compensate for a lack of sleep. The afternoon nap is where you will allow him to sleep as long as he needs.


The Morning Rush


Do you have kids in school? If so, you know all about the morning rush. For many, it’s the most dreaded time of day. Honestly, the morning rush was a factor in my decision to homeschool my boys. When William was in preschool, I deliberately chose to send him to the afternoon session to avoid the morning rush. And then he started full-day kindergarten. So we had a full two years to figure out our morning routine, and I can honestly say we never fell into a good groove.

If I had it to do all over again, here’s what I would do:

Get up and get showered before the kids wake up

This is a tough one since I’m such a night owl and really value my sleep. And waking up in the dark is always difficult. But what’s 30 minutes if it makes for a smooth morning? My shower is the thing that makes me feel like I can face the world. If it’s a cup of coffee or just some peace and quiet with your morning paper, take that time for yourself before the kids get up.

Figure out what wakes your child up

Our kids are like us in many ways. If we need a shower, a cup of coffee, or some alone-time with the newspaper to face the day, our kids likely need their own version of a wake-up activity. Allow your child to do whatever it is that he needs to face the day. Lucas always needs his morning snuggles. William likes to play with Legos or draw. It’s no fun if every morning is rush, rush, rush. Allow them some downtime before you walk out the door.

Get ready the night before

My kids always showered at night, and I usually packed lunches the night before, but I’m sure there’s more I could have done to get ready for the morning rush. I could have laid out their clothes, put their shoes (and socks!) by the door, had extra toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom, made sure their coats were accessible, and made sure their backpacks were packed and by the door.

Make sure everybody gets enough sleep

Kids in elementary school should get about 10-12 hours of sleep, on average. That means, if you’re up at 6:00am, your child should be in bed no later than 8:00pm. Little kids tend to wake up early, so if you’re having to drag them out of bed, it’s likely they’re not getting enough sleep.

Make a chart

Most kids are visual. You can give them tasks orally until you’re blue in the face, and it still doesn’t get done. But if you give them a visual chart, they’ll be more likely to get all of their morning tasks done…and done quickly. I’ve used task cards for bedtime. I lay them out and they can follow them in whatever order they like. Then as they finish each one, they turn the card over. A checklist works just as well. Here’s a link to some free printable chore cards. For durability, take the file to your local office supply store to have them printed on cardstock and laminated.

Give them motivation

Let’s face it, when kids don’t want to go to school and don’t want to leave the warm, cozy house, it can be difficult to get them moving. The more they dislike school, the harder your mornings will be. There may not be much you can change about school, but you can motivate him to get moving. Put marbles in a jar for every task completed quickly, and go out for ice cream when the jar is full. Or give a penny or two for every task done. Stickers can also work well. It all depends on what excites and motivates your child. We’ve been doing pennies for school tasks, and we all love it! They are motivated to do their work, and it’s a lesson in itself since they have to count their money and understand what they can buy with it. One thing a wise teacher friend told me is that it’s important to switch up your reward system regularly. They always get stale, and a new system will create excitement.

Decide what matters most

Make sure you prioritize your morning activities. If you’re spending 30 minutes making sure your daughter’s hair is perfect but not giving your son his necessary morning snuggles, your priorities are a little off. Nobody’s going to notice if the ponytail is a little off center or if the socks don’t match. But your child will notice if you don’t feed his love language in some way every morning.

Vow not to nag

Nagging, yelling, screaming, and threatening have no place in the morning routine. And trust me, I know how easy it is to nag and yell. I have realized, however, that I can simply choose not to nag and yell. And guess what, it works! Attitude is a choice. You can choose to yell and have grumpy kids as a result. Or you can choose to be happy and have a happy start to your day. It makes a huge difference for everyone. You know the old saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” Well, I think this applies to our kids, too. “Happy mom, happy kids!”

Take a mental health day

If you’re having one of those mornings where it’s cold and blustery outside, and nobody wants to leave the house, take a mental health day! Let the kids stay home from school. Get a fire going in the fireplace, read your favorite books, crawl back into bed, eat soup on TV trays, put some cookies in the oven. Do your favorite things, and cherish that time with the kids. You can always email the teacher and ask her to send in whatever work needs to be completed.

How are your mornings? Do you have any tricks that have saved your sanity?

Babywise Week: Is Obedience Ever an Option?


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

· Monday: Valerie Plowman, Chronicles of a Babywise Mom
· Tuesday: Maureen Monfore, Childwise Chat
· Wednesday: Bethany Lynch, The Graceful Mom
· Thursday: Hank Osborne, Daddy Life
· Friday: Surprise guest blogger


One of the many ways we parents get into trouble with our children is by making obedience an option. Of course, we  never set out to make obedience an option, but unfortunately, it happens. It’s important to recognize the ways that we may communicate to our children that they have a choice when it comes to obedience. Then after recognizing those ways, we are better equipped to spot them as they pop up in our daily lives.

So how exactly do parents convey that obedience is an option? There are many ways.

Not giving instructions with authority

How do you sound when you give instructions to your child? Do you ever sound like you might as well put a question mark on the end of your instruction? Do you sound like this: “Johnny, it’s time to get dressed.” Or like this: “Johnny, we need to leave the house soon, and we all need to be dressed and ready to go, so go get dressed. Okay?”

There are two things wrong with this example. First, don’t feel compelled to give your child an explanation as to why you’re requiring him to obey an instruction. Knowledge is power, and he may turn that information back on you in an attempt to get out of obeying. He may argue that getting dressed doesn’t take much time, so he doesn’t really need to obey you right then. Simply telling a child to get dressed leaves no option for disobedience.

The second problem with the above example is that big fat “okay?” at the end. Don’t ask your child to obey. Don’t ask him if he agrees with you. Don’t ask him anything. Simply direct him and do it with authority. If you can’t quite get a grasp on your firm mommy (or daddy) voice, work on it and do it now. If you want an obedient child, you don’t have the luxury of being your child’s friend — at least not yet. You are his parent, and parents stand in a position of authority over their children. So dig deep and get a grasp on your authority.

Front-loading consequences

Another way parents make obedience an option is by front-loading consequences. By this I mean that we tell our children what their consequence will be if they disobey. Hopefully, whatever consequence we threaten will be one they won’t like, but we never can know for sure. By front-loading consequences, we give our children a choice. They can either obey, or they can choose the consequence which as been laid out neatly for them. They can weigh the odds. And they may in fact decide that they’d rather run around at bed time and miss story time than obey.


How many times do you repeat yourself when giving your child an instruction? It can be so easy to repeat ourselves when our children don’t immediately obey. We may think they didn’t hear us or we may think that if we repeat ourselves with a more stern voice, they’ll be more likely to obey. Let me tell you that the opposite is true. When we repeat ourselves, we are training our children that they don’t have to listen or obey the first time. We are teaching them that we don’t really mean what we said the first time. Teach your child that you mean what you say. Don’t utter a word unless you are ready to follow through on that word. Train your child to obey your word among all else.


Similar to front-loading consequences, threatening our children with consequences does not get them to obey. When our children learn that we don’t mean what we say, they learn that our threats are meaningless. Now, it’s one thing to warn a child of an impending consequence and another thing altogether to threaten one and never follow through.

“The mother who first coaxes, then threatens, then bargains, then pretends to punish, and finally punishes a little is only making a bad situation worse…. Lack of moral fortitude and resolution in the parents undermines obedience,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 124).

Parenting from the hip

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a plan when teaching children to obey. Parenting from the hip only gets us into trouble. We must recognize our own fallibility. When we’re tired, hungry, or just plain grumpy, we cannot parent with a firmer hand. By the same token, if we’re in a good mood, we cannot let bad behavior slide simply because we don’t want to ruin the mood. Obedience cannot be subject to our mood or whim. If it is, our children will gauge our mood when deciding how important it is to obey. Children love to push the boundaries to see how flexible they are. If your boundaries are flexible based on your mood, your children will quickly figure it out.

Not only is this ineffective in teaching obedience, but it’s simply unfair to the child. Our children shouldn’t have to suffer the wrath of our mood. They should know what to expect; and they should expect that we will follow through every time. Have a plan and be consistent.


Many of us know that bribes don’t help. But when we’re in the heat of the moment, thinly veiled bribes often escape our lips. We may not say, “Be good in the store and you’ll get a lollipop.” But we may say something like, “I expect you to be a good boy in the store today. You can do that, right? Good, then when we’re done, we might be able to get some special treats.” No matter how you phrase it, a bribe is a bribe.

Scare tactics are just as bad. “If you’re not good in the store today, the police will come and get you!” Or, “We’re leaving… We’ll see you later. I hope the store leaves the lights on for you tonight.” The fundamental problem with bribes and scare tactics is that we are teaching our children that we don’t mean what we say. We only expect them to be obedient to gain a reward (or avoid a scary situation). We are not expecting our children to obey simply because we expect them to.


When we give our children an instruction, there should be no doubt that we expect them to obey the instruction exactly as we give it. When we tell a child to clean up his room right away, he should do so right away. He should not be allowed to negotiate with us by telling us he’ll do it in 5 minutes. When we tell a child it’s nap time, he should not be allowed to tell us he’s not tired. When we agree to a dessert of one cookie, he should not be allowed to convince us that he deserves three cookies.

“When parents become characterized by continually accepting a negotiated compromise, they undermine their attempts to bring their child to first-time obedience. If all is negotiable, then no instruction is absolute. When we negotiate in the heat of battle, there is no true surrender,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).

Have no doubt: obedience requires submission.

If you ever wonder whether you’re undermining your authority and training your children not to obey, ask yourself whether you are training your child to obey your word. Whether you lack resolve and don’t follow through on your word or allow your child to negotiate with your instructions, take a minute to realize that the fundamental idea is that the child isn’t being taught to obey your word.

Remember this: “When you speak to your child in a way that requires an answer or action, you should expect an immediate and complete response,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 125).

Your children are capable of complete obedience. All you need to do is pave the way for them to get there, removing any obstacles that may give them the idea that obedience is an option.


This was a weighty post with a lot to think about. I can’t not end this post without mentioning my eBook. While I’ve given you ways to spot a lack of obedience, I haven’t really told you how to train our children to obey. This is where my eBook comes in. I’ve written several other blog posts on first-time obedience, but if you are looking for a detailed, day-by-day instruction manual on first-time obedience, check out my eBook. Endorsed by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo, Live in Harmony With First-Time Obedience: How to Use Love, Authority and Consistency to Teach Your Child to Obey the First Time, Every Time offers 112 pages of a detailed, step-by-step approach to creating an environment of peace, obedience and contentment in your home. Click on the above link to purchase and download it instantly, or download a sample to learn more. 

Change “go” to “come”


How often does the word “go” precede your instructions for your child? These instructions sound like this:

  • Go wash your hands for dinner
  • Go upstairs and clean your room
  • Go brush your teeth
  • Go put your shoes on

How well does your child obey when you tell your child to “go” do something? Even if you get eye contact and “yes, mommy,” the child might not be so willing to comply, especially if he has better ideas in mind.

Here’s a simple idea. The next time you hear yourself say “go” do X, try saying “come.” It works like this: instead of telling your child to go put his shoes on, try saying, “Come with me to the shoe basket so you can put your shoes on.” Hold out your hand to give him an indication that he is to hold it. It almost immediately changes the tone from one of confrontation to one of cooperation.

Be sure to understand that this does not mean you do the activity for him. You are not putting his shoes on for him. You are simply bringing him over to his shoes so he can put them on.

Other variations of “come” instructions might include:

  • Come with me to the table so you can sit down for dinner
  • Come with me to the bathroom so you can wash your hands
  • Come with me to your room so we can see what toys and books need to be picked up
  • Come to the bathroom so we can brush your teeth

The other benefit of this type of instruction is that it allows you to take your child by the hand and lead him to where you want him to be. It allows you to guide your child without giving an instruction, worrying about first-time obedience, or following through with a consequence. Because of this, it’s especially useful when you’re in a time crunch (no time for timeouts) and for tasks that your child typically resists.

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!

First-time obedience in front of others

By Bethany Lynch,

As a mom with a full-time occupation outside the home, I am still quite passionate about requiring first-time obedience. Sometimes that means we have to put in a lot of effort to require first-time obedience or address the lack thereof very promptly. We often do not have all day to work on attitudes, so it feels like we have to work double time. It is extremely tempting to make excuses for not working on it…I have already put in over 8 hours of work outside of the house, people will understand that I have been gone, I feel guilty for being gone so I let my children get away with more, and so on.

I try really, really hard to limit that line of thinking. I knew before we had children that we believed in first-time obedience, and I knew that I would most likely have a full-time occupation. The only surprise was just how much time it can take to reinforce obedience. I think one of the hardest times to require first-time obedience is in public or in front of others.

When I have limited time to run errands, the last thing I want to have to do is leave my cart full of carefully selected items to take a screaming toddler out of the store. When we actually find a night to get together with friends, it is so easy to let children run around like tornadoes just so the adults can talk for a few uninterrupted minutes. What if we come across as overly strict in front of others?

I can tell you from skilled personal experience it is well worth it to take the high road and stick to your beliefs. Don’t give in just because it is hard or uncomfortable to work on obedience in front of others. The after-effects and amount of work that is required to make up for giving too much freedom can take a lot more time than I have to give.

Here are some of the ways we have decided to handle first-time obedience in front of others:

  • Foremost, we try to stay rested ourselves. There is no way a tired mama can properly deal with disobedience when she is exhausted. Make sure you get the sleep you need, and you will have much more energy to work on FTO and other priorities.
  • Be prepared ahead of time. Maureen has written before how to stay consistent and recommends having rules for being out in public. Whether it is an immediate consequence now or later, know ahead of time how you will respond. Ideas could include: hand folding (we use this a lot! Even my 2 yo is learning), loss of privilege to talk, time out away from others or in car, no special treats. Note: I would not recommend buying treats often on trips so that you end up bribing or threatening.
  • Prep your kids before going to someone’s house or the store. Don’t give threats or set them up for failure, but simply encourage them to follow the rules. Go over what is expected and how they should handle any particular situations. If they are struggling with hitting, for example, go over other options to express their frustration instead of hitting…not that we have ever struggled with that.
  • Act. You prepared to be consistent. Your kids knew the expectations. Now it has to be enforced. Consistency of the parent is parallel to the expected consistency of the child to obey. If both parents are there, I believe one parent should handle the consequence immediately. We have done timeouts outside of the furniture store, outside of the pizza restaurant in winter, oh and timeouts at the wedding this past weekend with all of our extended family watching to see how we handled it. Many times both parents are not there so Maureen also has given ideas on how to do timeouts at home after misbehaving in public.
  • Praise your kids for making a conscientious choice to obey. This doesn’t mean bribing them with a small $1 toy every time you go to Target. Make sure you verbally take time to tell your kids how proud you are of the way they handled a challenging situation. For a 4-year old, keeping hands folded at someone’s house with breakable items is challenging so make sure they know you noticed!

It can be hard to follow through with others watching, but I promise they will remember the way that you followed through. You will not be the first mom to ask the manager to take her grocery cart, and your child will learn that you have consistent expectations.

Do you overparent?


There’s a great NY Times article that’s been circulating the social media circles. Titled, “Raising Successful Children,” it talks about how many parents “overparent” or do too much for their children–much to the child’s detriment.

The article talks about finding that balance between being too lax (permissive) and being too controlling (authoritarian). This idea is nothing new to those of us who have read the Ezzos’ books. That parenting sweet spot is called authoritative parenting, not to be confused with authoritarian parenting. The authoritative parent has no fear of taking a position of authority with the child, yet he makes no attempt to control the child. Here’s how the NY Times describes it:

Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved.

One of the most important tasks of the authoritative parent is knowing when to step back. As the Ezzos tell us, it’s important that children make mistakes–and learn from them–while the stakes are low. But actually letting our children make mistakes is no easy feat.

Hanging back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. It’s easier when they’re young — tolerating a stumbling toddler is far different from allowing a preteenager to meet her friends at the mall.

Being able to step back and let them make mistakes is easier when we understand that parenting is not about ensuring our children’s happiness. It’s about guiding them as they grow, and helping them to become confident, capable adults. Those of us who followed Babywise when our kids were babies are familiar with this idea. Letting a baby cry is so, so difficult, but if it teaches the little one how to sleep well and sleep independently, it’s so worth it in the end.

So if children are able to live with mistakes and even failing, why does it drive us crazy? So many parents have said to me, “I can’t stand to see my child unhappy.” If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business. The small challenges that start in infancy (the first whimper that doesn’t bring you running) present the opportunity for “successful failures,” that is, failures your child can live with and grow from. To rush in too quickly, to shield them, to deprive them of those challenges is to deprive them of the tools they will need to handle the inevitable, difficult, challenging and sometimes devastating demands of life.

And when we’re too concerned with preventing our children from making mistakes, we need to realize that it’s more about us than it is about them. Doing so can have detrimental effects on a child’s developing sense of self:

When we do things for our children out of our own needs rather than theirs, it forces them to circumvent the most critical task of childhood: to develop a robust sense of self.

If pushing, direction, motivation and reward always come from the outside, the child never has the opportunity to craft an inside. Having tutors prep your anxious 3-year-old for a preschool interview because all your friends’ children are going to this particular school or pushing your exhausted child to take one more advanced-placement course because it will ensure her spot as class valedictorian is not involved parenting but toxic overparenting aimed at meeting the parents’ need for status or affirmation and not the child’s needs.

But how exactly do we find the strength and determination to not overparent?

It’s hard to swim upstream, to resist peer pressure. But we must remember that children thrive best in an environment that is reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering.

Finding that balance is all about creating an environment that allows them to fail, but does so in a way that’s safe. I’m all for shielding a child from negative social influences when they are young and super impressionable. Because of this, I make sure they are around people who will show them a good example. At the same time, I make sure they are given the freedom to make mistakes within their sheltered environment. So when they make a mistake, there will be an attentive adult to call attention to the child’s mistake and teach him better alternatives.

Also, I have learned from the Ezzos that the difficult things that are required of parents are not done in spite of the child or the circumstances, but because of them. We maintain healthy marriages not despite parenting demands, but because of them. We don’t put the child in the center of the family despite the child, but because of him. In the same way, we let the child make mistakes and resist overparenting, not despite the child but because of him. All of these difficult tasks that some would say are done selfishly, are in fact, done to provide a healthy, stable foundation for the child.

So if you see signs of overparenting in yourself, don’t be afraid to create a sheltered environment, but know when to step back. Lay the foundation, and then step back and let the child grow.

Do you set a good example for your spouse?


Let me know if you can relate to this scenario:

After I’ve been home for 10-12 hours with my boys, my husband walks through the door after a long day at work (and a long commute), and I say “Tag, you’re it!” I figure that now that he’s home from work, he can take over with the kids and let me have a break. We are partners in this effort (yes, it’s often effort) of raising two small, rambunctious boys. So we often share kid duty.

But there are several problems with this. First of all, my husband needs just as much of a break as I do. His work day is different, and he can go to the bathroom by himself, but his day is no less stressful than mine.

The other problem with this is that I’m not setting a good parenting example for him. I am the one who has read the parenting books and know everything we should do to prepare our kids for this world. But at the end of a long day, I’m not the best mom I can be. It’s even worse when I don’t ask him to take over. If I just retreat into the computer or a book for a few minutes without telling him that I need a break, it looks like all I do is ignore my children. Not good!

My husband hasn’t read all of the books, and he depends on me to teach him good parenting methods. This is fine, and we both understand our roles in parenting. But when it’s the end of a very long day and I’m not the most patient mom, that’s all he sees. He doesn’t see the schedule I follow, the room time I require, the “yes, mommy” and eye contact I get before giving an instruction, and more.

I’ve seen with my own eyes what happens when my husband follows the bad example that I model. It’s not a conscious thing for either of us, but it happens nonetheless. So just as much as we need to model good character for our children, we need to do so for our spouses as well. Only then can we expect that our spouses will be the great parents that we hope they will be.

Consistent bedtime

By Bethany Lynch,

Bedtime is one of the main sleep issues that parents struggle with in children. The problems range from developmental disturbances and nap-related disturbances to summer activities. Occasionally, it is also a temptation to relax the bedtime routine out of guilt.

Source: Nerissa's Ring

As a working mom, having a consistent bedtime has been a lifesaver…one of my top tips. However, it is often tempting to be much more permissive about bedtime and blame it on not getting enough quality time with our kids.

Permissiveness leads to inconsistency.

Letting my kids stay up late out of guilt is not quality time for me or for them. I am a much better mom by having well-rested children, and they love having a well-rested mom. We also make few exceptions.
Some, yes, but not many. We have left parties early, sent strict notes to the grandparents, and put a lot of effort into establishing an efficient routine.

Here is how we did it:

  • Stick to the plan. Once bedtime routine starts, there is hardly any variation. Ours is brush teeth, pajamas, pick/read a book, say prayers, sing a song, tuck in, lights out, door closed.
  • Establish consequences for purposely not obeying the bedtime routine. The first consequence is losing the privilege of picking the book. The
    second consequence is losing the privilege of reading a book. Last would be going straight to bed the second pjs are on, but rarely, if ever, have we gotten to that point.
  • Make bedtime a priority. I usually start picking or guiding activities about 15-30 minutes before our bedtime routine starts. For
    example, if bathtime runs long, then any TV time before bed is either eliminated or cut short. We also aim to be home before bedtime and
    carefully choose activities that will not compete with getting home close to bedtime.
  • Do not over-analyze bedtime difficulties. It is very common for toddlers to have bedtime disruptions around 2 years old and again when
    naptime needs to be shortened. I have been there, and I tried everything. It almost always comes back to staying consistent. See #1!
  • Cherish the routine and make it work. If bathtime takes too long every night, try every other night or 3 nights a week. If you have a
    special family event, do not be a slave to the routine. That is the beauty of the -wise series…flexibility when you need it. I have also
    had some of the best conversations ever with my children during bedtime. Some nights I stay for extra kisses, cuddles, and questions. My son also knows that once the door is closed, it stays closed. My daughter with SPD sometimes gets a 2nd check if she has an extremely hard time soothing herself.

Start as you mean to go on and know that bedtime can be enjoyable for everyone!

Why exactly is consistency so important?


We’ve all heard how important it is to be consistent with our children. I’ve mentioned it countless times on this blog. The Ezzos emphasize it, as do authors of other parenting books. But why exactly is consistency so important?

If you’ve been a parent for any length of time, you know that it’s not easy to be consistent. We live our lives and some days we are more on top of our game than others. Some days we’re in a mood to be the best parent we can be, and other days, we’re just tired. For most of us, our level of consistency varies based on our mood.

But that’s exactly what makes it difficult for our children. Why should they have to calculate our moods, the weather and many other factors when determining whether to obey?

It’s very simple: Inconsistency confuses our children.

It’s natural that children will try to assert as much independence as possible. They will push every limit to see how far they can get. They know that different parents, grandparents and other caregivers set different limits. They are very quick to figure it all out. They are also very quick to recognize when we’re being inconsistent.

I had an episode of this just today with Lucas. We were on a walk, and I always require that he hold my hand while crossing the street. Well, I wasn’t consistent in requiring it today. He’s starting to show that he’s responsible enough to not hold my hand. And when we were walking on sleepy residential roads, I tended to let it go. But when we got to a bigger road with more cars, I required that he hold my hand. He was defiant, pure and simple. He ran away from me to avoid holding my hand.

I realize that I was the cause of his defiance. I should have required that he hold my hand on every road, or at least explained to him the difference between the roads. In his mind, I was just changing the rules as we went. His confusion led to defiance.

Given that consistency is so important, yet so difficult for parents, what can we do to make it easier? Some ideas:

  • Create a list of house rules
  • Write them down and post them in a prominent place in your home
  • Ensure your spouse and other caregivers agree with those rules
  • Get them to commit to helping you follow through on those rules
  • Explain your rules to your children
  • Evaluate your rules regularly as your child ages and shows more responsibility (Perhaps Lucas is responsible enough now to not hold my hand.)
  • Create a list of rules for situations when you’re out in public
  • Keep that list somewhere handy (like on your smart phone)
  • Start your day vowing to be consistent
  • Establish a signal that you and your spouse can share when you see you’re not being consistent. For example, if he sees inconsistency in you, he can tug on his ear.
  • Be on the lookout for episodes of defiance caused by inconsistency (like Lucas’ defiance on our walk). See those episodes as an affirmation for consistency.
  • Work on your authority and avoid child-centered parenting, so your child knows he doesn’t make the rules

Do you find it difficult to be consistent? Have you established any tips or tricks to make it easier?