Raising Independent and Responsible Children

independentandresponsibleby Valerie Plowman

I have such a passion for helping children to be independent and personally responsible. I know that personally for me a huge part of my success as a person in my life can be attributed to the fact that I know I am responsible for myself. There are a lot of good reasons to be personally responsible–that isn’t the purpose of this post. The purpose is to discuss how you get there. Here are some ideas.

Start with Proper Expectations

The first place to start is to realize what your child is actually capable of. Chances are your child is capable of more than think. Whether you are working with chores, personal care, homework, practicing skills, or obedience, you want to have the proper expectations. Your child will rise to the occasion. You will likely often find yourself in the middle of a task you have always done realizing, “Hey, my kid could be doing this.” For everything you do for your child, the day will come that your child will be able to do it himself. That is the time to move on in our list of steps outlined below. An example from my life is last year when I realized Brayden, who was in second grade, could be making his own lunch in the morning. It was time to have him do it himself.

Explain and Teach

Just because your child is capable of something doesn’t mean he was born knowing how to do so. For whatever it is you want your child to be able to do, you will need to instruct. Have your child help you. Have your child observe. Talk through the process. Ask your child to explain the process. Let your child do it while you verbally instruct. Be patient with this process as it can take some time. Back to my lunch example, I decided that during the summer between second and third grade, I would have Brayden pack his lunch for park day to give him practice for packing it for school. I told him how, showed him how, and stood by his side as I handed the task over to him and helped him with questions that came up along the way.

Have Rules and Expectations

Once your child knows how to do something, it is time to set some rules and expectations. Explain when the task needs to be done. Explain if you will be giving reminders or not. Explain the consequences that will follow if the task is not done. Make sure your child is clear on these rules. Going with my lunch example, if Brayden doesn’t pack his lunch, he can eat the lunch the school provides.

You can have rules for the order things are done in–like maybe homework is done first thing after school. We have expectation that our children will clean up after themselves. We also have a rule that everyone cleans no matter who made the mess.

For help with appropriate chore expectations, see these posts:

Give an Instruction and Walk Away

A lot of times we impede our children’s progress by getting impatient and doing the task for our child. When you give your child an instruction, walk away so your child can do it. If you tell your child to get shoes on, walk away and do something else that needs to be done in order to leave. Don’t stand there for five seconds (or even five minutes) and then get impatient and start to do it for your child. A good strategy is to tell your child to do something much sooner than you need it done. Another good idea is to do something to busy yourself while your child works on it.

Always remember, doing things for your child might seem nice, but it can actually be harmful in the long run. It is such a benefit to your child to learn life skills and be able to take care of himself. I think it is fine to do some things for our children that they can do for themselves at times. My husband often helps Brayden with a portion of his lunch each day. There is nothing inherently wrong with making lunch for your child. It can be a display of love and service from you. Just be sure your child is learning the skills associated with the task you are doing in some other way (in our example, Brayden helps make dinner at other times).

Start by Helping with Charts/Cards/etc.

We all need reminders, and it is fun and helpful to give your child a way to keep track of what needs to be done. I find when starting a new responsibility, these things are necessary, but as the child gets use to it, it is no longer needed. When we started having Brayden make his own lunch, I made an instruction list he could refer to each day. Today, he doesn’t need to use it, but initially, it helped him make sure  he had everything he needed for his lunch. I have some posts on chore charts and such:

Have Consequences When The Child Doesn’t Follow Through

A concept I love from the Parenting with Love and Logic book is to keep in mind that stakes are low. This means that today, Brayden having to eat school lunch isn’t a huge deal. He might not like what is made that day, but he will surely survive. He will also likely not forget to make his lunch another day. He might be hungry, but life will go on. It is better to learn these lessons now while he is young and the consequences won’t have a long-term negative impact on his life than in 20 years when he is an adult and his stakes are higher.

Logical consequences are often effective for things your child is supposed to take care of himself. You can also remove privileges as a consequence. If you have a rule that there is no TV time until homework is done, if your child decides to watch TV first, you might take away TV time for a week.

Help Child Solve Own Problems

When your child comes to you with a problem that needs to be solved, don’t just solve it for him. Help him learn wisdom. Talk him through it. Ask him some ways he could fix it. Stay calm and help him think it through. Do a brainstorming session. Once you have talked about options, ask your child which option he wants to do. Doing this helps your child become self-sufficient. Your child will be able to do the process on his own before long.

Believe in Your Child

There is huge power in believing your child can do things. Have confidence in your child and trust your child to follow through.

For more on this topic, see:

Valerie is a mother to four children ages 1-8 and blogs at www.babywisemom.com.

Parenting Inside the Funnel

By Emily Parker at The Journey Of Parenthood

funnelMy biggest struggle so far as a parent is resisting the tendency to parent outside the funnel with my children. Toddlerwise reiterates the importance of avoiding this on page 36: “By ‘outside the funnel’ we are referring to those times when parents allow behaviors that are neither age-appropriate nor in harmony with a child’s moral and intellectual capabilities. To allow a 15-month-old child freedoms appropriate for a 2-year-old, or a 2-year-old child freedoms suitable for his 5-year-old sister, is to parent outside the funnel. Such freedoms do not facilitate healthy learning patterns – they only contribute to confusion.”

When Kye, my now four-year-old son, was my only child I didn’t struggle as much with this issue. The only time I really found myself parenting outside of the funnel was when he first developed the ability to use language. As he was more and more able to express his wants and desires, I caught myself giving him more control and asking him what he wanted, thus putting him in a position of power over me. By giving him too many choices (freedoms) I caused confusion for him which lead to behavior issues. At meal time he’d say he wanted more raisins and I would give him more raisins. But then he’d ask for more raisins and I’d want him to eat his beans first and we’d end up in a power struggle because he was used to making the decision as to what he’d eat.

Thankfully, I realized early on that this was something I struggled with and I took back over the control of meal times as well as all other areas of decision making. There aren’t too many age-appropriate decisions for a toddler to make, right? ;)

Once I had Britt, my daughter, it became much, much harder to parent her within the funnel. Instead of just one funnel to worry about, I now have two. In every situation I have to think about what is age-appropriate for a four-year-old (Kye) and what is age-appropriate for a 20-month-old (Britt). My struggle typically becomes allowing her too much freedom and treating her older than she really is.

Recently Kye became old enough to handle eating whole grapes without me cutting them up into slices for him. Britt naturally wanted her grapes whole as well since that’s how her brother’s were, and she would fuss and fuss about it at lunch time. I gave in, thinking (as I often do with her) that it “wasn’t fair” for her to see him getting something different than she was. However, it’s not age-appropriate for a 20-month-old to eat whole grapes. It’s dangerous and not something I feel comfortable with. I had to have a reality check and remind myself that I am the parent and SHE is the child. Things won’t always be fair nor should they be and that it is okay for her to fuss about getting sliced grapes instead of the whole ones. I went back to cutting hers into quarters and she was FINE about it. Barely any fussing at all and I knew she was eating in a safer way.

I have to often remind myself of the funnel and literally stop what I’m doing and consider whether or not something is age-appropriate for each of my children. Kye being the older child I think I often tend to not allow him freedoms when he is ready for them whereas with Britt being the second child I think I allow her too many freedoms too soon.

DSC06416I also catch myself expecting more from Britt than I should. I have to remind myself of the funnel not only to make sure I have age-appropriate freedoms for Britt, but also age-appropriate expectations. We require Kye to always reply with either “yes ma’am” or “no ma’am” and naturally we expect Britt to respond the same way. Hearing her say “no” gets under my skin and I find myself irritated with her for not saying “no ma’am.” At her age she doesn’t have the language ability to say “no ma’am” so instead of expecting her to say it, I simply repeat “no ma’am” to her every time she says “no.” She has started to be able to say “no ma’am” and we are mindful to shower her with praise whenever she does! At four years old, Kye is expected to say it without any praise but at her age, she needs the praise to be encouraged to say it every time!

Whenever in doubt I refer back to page 36 in Toddlerwise and keep the following equations in mind:

1. Freedoms greater than self control = developmental confusion
2. Freedoms less than self-control = developmental frustration
3. Freedoms equal to self-control = developmental harmony

Thankfully, Kye is not yet at an age where us withholding certain freedoms from him is an issue. I typically will handle sibling issues by lowering Kye’s freedoms down to ones that are more age appropriate for Britt. Kye has a lot of board games he enjoys playing but many of them have small pieces and also require deeper understanding and patience that Britt just can’t handle yet. Kye knows we don’t play with those games while Britt is awake and instead Zach (my husband) and I will play a game of Kye’s choosing each night during the fifteen minutes between when Britt goes to bed and when Kye goes to bed. He is still able to enjoy his age-appropriate game but without it affecting Britt’s ability to stay within her appropriate limits.

I know that Kye does sacrifice for his younger sister in many areas and I’m always mindful of that. I make a special effort to always compliment him and to give him plenty of opportunities to enjoy his well earned four-year-old status freedoms. We go get ice cream just the two of us quite often, I allow him to have some quiet time in his room with his preschooler age toys before she wakes from her afternoon nap, and he attends a half-day preschool where he’s around other children his age every day!

With two children, parenting within the funnel is definitely a greater challenge than it ever was with just one child. I know as we add more children to our family eventually that I will have to readjust and always be mindful of what limits, freedoms and expectations are appropriate for each child at their given ages. I understand how important parenting inside the funnel is at any age and try to always have it at the front of my mind when making any parenting decisions.

Parenting to the Lowest Common Denominator

Source: 123rf.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Has Your Child Earned All Freedoms?

Source: www.noisycoworkers.com

The idea that our kids need to earn their freedoms is so crucial to the Babywise way of raising our kids. We cannot give our kids certain freedoms without making sure they can handle those freedoms.

How do we determine whether we should allow a certain freedom? Many parents award freedoms based on the child’s age. We think, He’s 5 now. He’s old enough to cross the street without holding my hand. Or she’s 7 now. She should be old enough to take care of a pet. But do we stop to actually think about the child’s level of responsibility? Is the 5-year-old responsible enough to stop and look both ways before crossing the street every single time? Is the 7-year-old responsible enough to fill a pet’s food and water bowls and do it every day without reminders?

When we decide whether our kids have earned certain freedoms, we should determine whether they are responsible enough, not old enough. You might even find that your younger child is more responsible in certain areas than your older child. It’s perfectly normal.

Before I get into certain types of freedoms we should evaluate, let me take a minute to explain why this is so important. Essentially, our kids need to learn how to make decisions. And to learn anything, we need to take baby steps. To open the world up to a child and allow him to choose everything from what shirt he wears to whether he’ll do his homework is just too much for a young child. This is how the Ezzos put it:

“[There is] a legitimate concern that warns against creating the false impression in the mind of a child that she is able to do anything, say anything, and go anywhere without parental guidance or approval. Simply put, this is a child who has been granted too many freedoms of self-governance too early, and this is how children become ‘wise in their own eyes.’ It is our firm conviction, based on our observations, that more conflicts arise out of this ‘wise in your own eyes’ attitude than any other single factor in parenting,'” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 180).

Pretty powerful stuff, huh? Let’s take a minute to look at a few areas of freedoms that we might be tempted to award our children without ensuring responsibility:

Physical Boundaries

I’ve been a long-time proponent of the idea that our kids should not be allowed to roam the house, no matter how old they are. When we allow our kids to roam the house, they get the idea that every room in the house and everything in it is there for the taking. Before we implemented this rule, William would root through my bathroom drawers, wander upstairs by himself, and even go into the backyard without asking permission. Now, my kids know they are to ask permission to go anywhere but the main downstairs area.

Now at age 8, William has earned the freedom to go upstairs without me, but he still tells me or checks in before he does. I’ll allow him to take a shower (upstairs) by himself. But I have to make sure Lucas doesn’t go with him. Lucas has not earned the freedom to be upstairs by himself or without a parent. If he’s up there with William, they often wreak havoc.

Time

As odd as this may sound, our kids need to earn the freedom to choose what to do with their time. Before they learn the value of managing time, our kids will certainly choose to play all day and not do a single chore or bit of homework. I’ll be the first to tell you that our kids certainly need time to play. It is through play that our kids learn. It is through the imagination (which flourishes in play) that our kids learn to be creative and think critically. But we need to manage our kids’ time for them so they learn the value of time management. They need to learn that it’s usually far better to get your work done first and then play.

Plus, if you’ve been a Babywise parent, you’ve learned that directing our kids’ lives is so beneficial to their development. Keeping them on a schedule and directing their time tells our kids that they don’t get to choose to do whatever they want whenever they want. They learn that they are held accountable to the parents’ expectations.

Play

Yes, our kids need to earn freedoms when it comes to play. There are many aspects of my kids’ playtime that I direct:

1) Sibling playtime

2) Independent playtime

3) Play with friends and neighbors

4) Outdoor play

5) Exercise through play

6) Video game play

My kids are allowed free play, but I will tell them when it’s time to play outside, when it’s time to ride their bikes, and when it’s time to play with friends. And they must earn freedoms and show responsibility even when it comes to play. During free play, they are not allowed to trash the playroom. I don’t limit the amount of toys they can have out at once. But they have earned this freedom simply because they know they need to put toys away as they go.

Sibling playtime is also a freedom they need to continually prove responsibility for. If they say nasty things to each other or don’t share, they lose the freedom to play with each other. And for my boys, this is one of the most severe punishments I can give. My boys love each other so much and hate playing alone.

Playtime with friends is also a freedom my boys need to earn. There are always kids out playing on our street (when the weather isn’t too bad). And many of them will come to the door to invite my kids out. I allow my kids to go when the neighbors are out, but I watch their play closely. If one of my boys speaks rudely to another child, I’ll give a warning. If it happens again, I make the child play by himself or go in the house. Playing with friends is a skill they need to learn, and I’m not going to just let them figure it out on their own.

And as you might guess, I limit video game play quite a bit. It’s only allowed on the weekends, and my boys need to have cleaned up their toys before they are allowed to play. If the video games cause anger or violence in the child, I turn it off. They need to learn how to play video games and not let it negatively affect their disposition.

These are probably the top three areas where we find we need to limit our kids’ freedoms. Think through each one to determine whether your child has any freedoms he needs to earn. If you have given a freedom that the child hasn’t earned, don’t be afraid to take it away. Our kids go through phases where they are responsible for a certain freedom and then they stop being so responsible. Freedoms come and go with the child’s level of responsibility.

Shifting Responsibility

Source: parents.com

Are you doing all you can to encourage your children to take responsibility? When they are little, we do everything for them, whether it’s making meals or bathing them. But as our kids get older, we need to shift that responsibility over to them. The types of responsibilities I’m thinking of are:

  • Feeding a pet every day
  • Walking the dog
  • Doing homework without being asked
  • Practicing piano (or any other instrument)
  • Any chores you expect of him

This shift happens very gradually, typically with one responsibility at a time. It can sometimes be quite tricky to manage this shift in responsibility ownership. We don’t want to overload our kids with so much responsibility that they don’t handle it well. Nor do we want to give them the idea that they are allowed to be independent in all things.

It’s all about balance. We want to require them to take on responsibility for certain tasks in the home. But at the same time, we don’t want an independent, wise in their own eyes attitude.

Which of these best characterizes your child?

1)    He asks you to do everything from putting his toys away to tying his shoes (well beyond the age when he can do it himself).

2)    He refuses your help in most things, claiming he can do it himself.

The problem with the first is that he’s not being required to do enough. The problem with the second is that he’s allowed to be too independent which often comes with attitude problems. When a child is too independent, he will convince himself that you don’t have the power to tell him what to do.

If you have a child who seems to have a little too much responsibility – and a wise in his own eyes attitude – start limiting his freedoms. Give him just the right amount of responsibility and start having him ask permission for almost everything he does.

Consider the funnel when deciding what responsibilities you can allow your child. The funnel tells us to keep our kids’ freedoms age appropriate. But more than age, we should consider whether they will act responsibly with the freedoms we give.

Having our kids take on responsibilities also requires a certain amount of attention on our part. If we have the child feed the cat, we need to make sure he does so consistently without us having to nag. If you find yourself nagging, then the child isn’t handling the responsibility well. Think about making a chart that lists the child’s responsibilities. Don’t make it a reward chart, but more of a daily checklist.

With my oldest, I’m thinking about moving him to a calendar system. I need to determine whether he’s old enough for it, but I want him to manage his own responsibilities. If he has a calendar, he can schedule piano practice at a time that suits him (and the rest of the family), his home therapy session three times a week, any schoolwork that isn’t directed by me, and more.

Kids are always in a hurry to grow up. So feel free to give them responsibility and a way to manage their responsibilities, but also keep an eye on whether the child is in the funnel and not acting too independent for his own good.

Set Up Your Environment for Success: Pre-toddlers and Home-Proofing

Source: safeslider.com

By Amanda, Planning On It

Home-proofing means “setting appropriate limitations” on your pre-toddler’s mobility, introducing freedoms only when your child is old enough and wise enough to understand how to handle them. Where does the difference lie between “home-proofing” your child and “baby-proofing” your home? It lies in philosophy. … In contrast, “baby-proofing” has parents rearranging their living area so the child is never placed in a situation where Mom or Dad would have to limit his freedom of exploration or confront him with the feared words, “No, don’t touch.”  –p. 129, On Becoming Pretoddlerwise

After reading the above description of home-proofing your child vs. child-proofing your home most Babywise parents will nod their heads in agreement. Then they will go their merry way thinking they can leave their home completely unchanged and surely they can train their pre-toddler not to touch any off-limits items. At least that’s what I thought.

And then my child actually became a pre-toddler.

I learned that maybe Ezzo didn’t mean that we should leave out the glass dishware on the coffee table, or that tube of medicated cream in the nursery, or all those DVDs on the low shelf right beside the toybox. Oops! Live and learn, right?

So how do you find that balance? How do you train your child in self-control and respect for others without either endangering their safety, causing irreparable damage, or just plain driving their mothers crazy?

Much like child-proofing, home-proofing your child starts with setting some physical boundaries. You will make use of baby gates and playpens, child locks and regular locks. But as above, the difference lies in philosophy. Your goal is very different. Your goal does not end with keeping your 15-month-old from throwing books all over the room; it ends with teaching him proper respect and care for those books. But in striving for that goal you also recognize he is just 15 months old and this will take time. You recognize that you can teach respect for books by keeping out a few paperbacks and then later reintroduce the rest of the books that usually reside on your coffee table or low bookshelf.

Here are a few tips and ideas on home-proofing your child while staying sane.

Put a physical limit in place if…

  1. An item is dangerous. All the moral training in the world isn’t much good if our kids don’t live to be 3, right? So first we make sure their environment is safe. This means put medications and even vitamins in very high medicine cabinets or locked in a toolbox or small safe. Put a child lock on that knife drawer. Put a latch on the front door that your child cannot reach. Make sure heavy furniture is secured, especially things like TVs and tall bookshelves. No need to go crazy, just do a few commonsense things as a precaution.
  2. An item is precious. If an item is very valuable, sentimental, or irreplaceable, do not leave it within reach of your pretoddler until you can rely on him to not touch it. The risk isn’t worth it for the emotional or financial distress it would cause you.
  3. Your child is driving you crazy. How do I define crazy? Well, if you find yourself yelling frequently, spanking frequently, or feeling exasperated or exhausted by the simple act of keeping your child out of trouble, then these are clear signs your child is outside his or her funnel! A pre-toddler can be brought back inside his funnel by putting a boundary in place to limit his activity. This allows you to keep an eye on him, and it allows you to focus on training him to one or two items at a time. Using a baby gate is not admitting defeat. It’s admitting that you have a healthy, active 12-18-month-old and need to scale back his freedoms so he can listen to your instruction better. By scaling back on the number of off-limits items you can really use your energy wisely to buckle down and enforce the “that’s a no” instruction with consistency, patience, and firmness for just a couple items. Once your child is reliable with those, expand the boundaries a bit again and work on training with a wider funnel and more off-limits items.

Keep in mind the foundational principle in Babywise, that you are welcoming your child as a part of the family, not rearranging the family to conform to his desires or asking him to tag along with your adult lifestyle. Do not rearrange your living room to look like a daycare or only decorate the top half of your Christmas tree. But also do not keep fragile vases on the coffee table and then lose your temper when your 15-month-old topples one over on herself in a mischievous moment. Welcome your newly walking pre-toddler into your home by making sure his needs of stimulating play and safety are met while also slowly but surely teaching him what is valuable in your home, what deserves more care and attention, and where his personal boundaries lie within the home.

Amanda blogs about her family and home organization adventures over at Planning On It. She’s a former teacher and nanny and currently a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to her three young children. 

How to Manage Screen Time

Lucas with remote, age 2

Lucas with remote, age 2

We all know that we are supposed to limit our kids’ screen time, right? Whether it’s TV, video games, the iPad, or our smartphones, a screen is a screen. It can be so nice after a long day to let our kids veg out in front of a screen and give us some much-needed quiet. But while we’re enjoying that quiet, we know deep down that our kids’ brains are rotting from the inside out!

So what are we to do to manage their screen time? Some would say we should eliminate screens altogether. I know of a couple families who have lived without a TV. I commend them for living a TV-free lifestyle. But ultimately, I think depriving our kids completely does more harm than good. When they hear friends talk about their favorite TV shows or hear about the latest Angry Birds app, these kids will feel like social pariahs. Not only that, but when they are finally introduced to TV and all its flashy goodness, they’ll want nothing to do with their former TV-free existence. As with anything in life, when we feel deprived of something (TV, food, etc.), we want it all the more.

For those of us who do have TVs, computers, and mobile devices in our homes, we are called upon to actively manage our kids’ exposure. (That TV-free life sounds kinda good in comparison.) But knowing that we don’t want to deprive them completely or let their brains rot, our only choice is to manage.

Fortunately for you, I seem to have found the answer to managing screen time: trade time.

By trade time, I mean that we trade our kids for the time they spend in front of a screen. I started this recently and it’s working wonderfully. I require my kids to earn minutes. For every minute they earn, they can spend it in front of a screen. Here’s the key to trading time: to earn minutes, they have to do something I want them to do. And when I think about how I want them to spend time that is completely different from zoning out in front of a screen, it involves reading!

Sometimes my kids will earn minutes by finishing their school work early or by having a good attitude. But mostly, they earn minutes by reading. Lucas is still learning to read, so I simply require him to leaf through a book. Any book is fine, and oddly enough, he will sometimes choose chapter books. My only requirement is that he tell me that he wants to earn minutes so I can time him. We have a simple digital timer that I use to track his time.

William is a fairly advanced reader, but he will still choose comic books and magazines over chapter books. But to earn screen time, this doesn’t cut it. He has to read a chapter book. I bought him a bookmark that has a digital timer attached, so he can easily track his own time. I know he would never lie to me about it, so I let him track his own time.

The beauty of this plan is that it puts all the power of screen time in their hands. If William has only 5 minutes, he will choose to read for another 25 before he asks for a device. And they get a sense for how time can fly when you’re in front of a screen, a skill that many adults haven’t mastered.

The other wonderful benefit is that they seem to spend much less time in front of a screen. They can make the choice to read and earn time or simply play with Legos or some other toy. It’s all up to them, and I’ve learned that sometimes Legos are just as attractive as screen time.

And one final benefit of this plan: no nagging required!

I can even get them to do their more difficult chores before I allow screen time. They will come to me with the number of minutes they have earned, and I will allow them to have their screen time. But before I do, I make a quick request for them to put away a few toys, empty the dishwasher, or any other quick chore. They do it without complaint since they know that device (usually my iPhone or iPad) is calling their name.

I will admit, there are still times that I allow screen time simply because I need the quiet. But I make the clear distinction when the TV is on for my benefit or theirs. If it’s for my benefit, they don’t have to earn minutes. I just use caution and don’t do this very often.

Holiday Behavior Problems?

Source: favim.com

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! :)

Back in their own beds?

Source: forbes.com

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!

 

Do you say “no” too often?

Source: billycoffey.com

How many times in a day do you hear the word “no” escape your lips? Do you feel like all you ever do is say “no” to your child?

There are some parents who are so legalistic in the training/teaching of their children, that they say “no” much more often than they say “yes.” Do you fall into that category?

If so, imagine life from your child’s perspective. Yes, many times when we say “no” it is valid. Whether the child is being unsafe or flagrantly defying our instructions, saying “no” to our children is perfectly fine. But how about all the other times in the day?

I’ll be honest, I sometimes feel like my husband and I say “no” to our kids too often. There are many times when it’s warranted, but then I try to imagine life from my kids’ perspective. It can be stifling. It can create an “us vs. them” (children vs. parents) adversarial mentality. Really, when they’re just curious about something and not hurting anything, we should just allow the behavior.

So when you’re tempted to say “no,” stop and ask yourself if any of the following are true of the behavior:

  • Is it unsafe?
  • Is it hurting anyone or anything?
  • If it continues, will it bother you?
  • Will it lead to long-term behavior problems?
  • Does the child know when and where the behavior is unacceptable? (For example, if you allow a child to hold his lovey during dinner, does he know it’s inappropriate to bring it to a restaurant?)

And finally, ask yourself if any of your child’s misbehaviors are a direct result of the fact that you say “no” too often. When our kids feel stifled, they often act out because of it. When they are denied every bit of freedom, some children will try to get it in any way they can.