Dads are parents too

New Daddy

It’s Babywise Blog Network Week! 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: Hank Osborne, 
Daddy Life
·     Thursday: Rachel Rowell, 
My Baby Sleep Guide
·     Friday: Bethany Lynch, 
The Graceful Mom 

Help us promote solidarity within the Babywise/Ezzo community by subscribing to these blogs.

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By Hank Osborne from DaddyLife.net

There is no greater calling for a man than that of being a husband and then a father. Dad has a responsibility to love, protect, and provide for the family. The Daddy Life podcast and blog was created to help dads fulfill those responsibilities and more. The choices a dad makes directly affect the future of the family, the community, the nation, and the world. Our society often portrays parenting to be a spectator sport for dads. This is unfortunate and yet is too often an accurate description. Some kids grow up with their dads not even being fans of parenting at all given the overwhelming evidence available as listed in The Father Factor. It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t. Parenting works best as a team sport rather than as a solo sport or a tag-team sport.

If you read enough material authored by Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo you will learn very fast that they put a premium on the husband-wife relationship. Mr. Ezzo goes as far as to say that you will only be as good of a parent as you are a spouse. I agree with this and encourage you to work to keep your marriage strong. This will be a great live demonstration for your children while also keeping you and your spouse tuned in to each other during this parenting journey and for when your children are grown.

There are some other things that dads in particular need to be intentional about that will help him maintain his role as a key player in parenting. The following are four out of the eight items that Gary Ezzo calls The Father’s Mandate:

1. A father must give his children the freedom to fail. Your children need the freedom to fail–in front of dad. So many adults are haunted by the fact that they feel like they could never live up to their dad’s expectations. Achievement and relationships are areas that every person will experience failure. Dad’s job is to help them find the good in those failures so their kids can learn and move on.

2. A father must be the encourager of the family. We’re not just talking about encouraging words but a spirit of encouragement. Dads can leave little notes for the kids in their lunch boxes telling them you love and are thinking about them. Dads can write a letter each year on their child’s birthday telling them how much the child means to them. How many of us wish we had just one single letter like this from our dads? Ladies, remind your husbands about this one!

3. A father must guard his tongue and his tone and learn to measure his response against the excitement on their faces. Mr. Ezzo does such a great job explaining this one. In Daddy Life podcast episode 17 I included a clip of him telling a story about how he learned the importance of this mandate in his own home. It had to do with the 1980s and his wife and daughters getting “perms” for the first time. I promise, you will laugh out loud at this one. Dads and moms need think before they speak. Keep in mind that your kids might be trying to be helpful. They might be following instructions given by the other parent. Try to understand the context of the situation before responding too quickly.

4. A father must routinely embrace his children. This sounds so simple, but it can be difficult, particularly for some dads who are not the hugging type. Mom’s hugs most often provide a feeling of comfort and love. Dad’s hugs deliver feelings of security and safety. Dads of girls need to be sure they do not change how they treat their daughters in this area when their bodies begin to mature. Don’t be afraid of your girls just because their bodies are changing. Continue to show them love in the same way, otherwise you might be setting them up to look for that safety and security in someone else’s arms. I recently had a guest (Stacy Ratliff) on the Daddy Life podcast. He is the father of three teen girls and he reemphasized this one during the interview.

So those are some of the macro-level things for dads and even moms to work on. I want to wrap this post up with a short scenario and some tips to help dads remain a team player in the parenting journey on a day-to-day basis.

These are the ways I’ve learned over the years to help me become more of a team player.

Do your Couch Time! – Yes it IS that important.

If dad has a job situation that allows for occasional calls from mom, then show an interest and give your wife the freedom to call when she needs input from you. This is a way to engage in the game of life with your wife and children when needed. Occasionally things have happened that prompted my wife to call me at work during the day to ask my opinion on how to respond. It might have been a behavior issue, a feeding/nursing problem, or even a health issue that she wanted a different perspective on before taking action. It makes me feel valuable when she truly wants my input in a problem area. My wife is in the trenches solo from the time she gets up until I get home in the evening. She has found herself in situations where she couldn’t see the forest because of the trees. My wife knows that she can call me. Dads should be willing to take these calls.

We have learned from the Ezzos to be thinking parents, and to do this effectively as a team we need to agree to a game plan. That means we need to regularly communicate so that neither of us are making important decisions in a vacuum and we are both working off of the same game plan. Call your wife on the way home from work. This helps you to know what your wife is working on with each of your kids and what the issues of the day might be. Mom sometimes needs to alter the game plan a little to work on a specific behavior issue and dad can undo all the ground that has been gained in that area by giving different consequences (or none at all) when he comes home. Know what the issues are, what encouragement or discipline is being used, and be ready to reinforce it when you get home.

Choose what you listen to on the way home carefully. It should be something that would help you transition out of your workday. Also be ready to turn your work off so to speak. This may require a few minutes at home to change clothes and regroup before fully engaging with your wife and the kids. Let your wife know what you need when you come through the door at the end of the day.

Be fully involved. Pick a single sport game to watch during the weekend and then turn off the TV. If you like to watch a sport with your kid(s) then record it and watch it with your child later when you can fast forward through the commercials. If you are anything like me you don’t want your little ones watching commercials for Hardees’s, Victoria Secret, or GoDaddy just to name a few.

Take a child with you when running errands. My oldest is beginning to realize that riding along to the big box store is not always the most fun for him, but the younger ones don’t care what you are doing with them as long as you are together. My oldest is getting to a point where he wants to have input into what we do when we spend time one-on-one.

Take care of all of the kids solo. Let your wife go out for a day or even a weekend. You will not do things perfect and the house might be a wreck by the time the weekend is over, but give your wife a break. Walk a day in her shoes. You will get a whole new appreciation for the job she performs while you are off “killing it and dragging it home”. You will gain a whole new level of respect from your wife by even attempting this one. Call in a grandparent for reinforcements if necessary, but at least give it a try once in a while.

Dads are parents and they should act like it. Be weird. Be different. Be more than just a biological father to your children. Be a Daddy.

First-time obedience: first things first

Source: cc.byu.edu

First-time obedience (FTO) is a phrase you commonly hear in Babywise parenting circles. But what exactly does it mean? It’s really quite simple to understand. First-time obedience means your child obeys your instruction the first time, no questions asked.

First-time obedience is important for many reasons including:

  • It sets clear expectations for the child.
  • If you teach obedience, you don’t have to teach anything else.
  • It helps you decide when a correction is necessary; disobedience is disobedience.
  • It teaches your child to obey your word and not rely on bribes or rewards for motivation.
  • It teaches your child to submit to your authority and adopt an attitude of submission when obedience is required.
  • When your life is not fraught with disobedience, your days are happier and your relationship with your child grows stronger.
  • If you teach moral values (through obedience) when he’s little, you give yourselves many years of a trusting, loving relationship.

What does first-time obedience look like?

First-time obedience is a fairly simple to identify. Here’s what it looks like:

  • Your child responds to the call of his name with “yes, mommy”.
  • Your child gives you eye contact when you call his name.
  • Your child immediately complies with any instruction you give, whether it’s putting his shoes on or cleaning his room.
  • Your child obeys with an attitude of submission and a happy heart.

What does first-time obedience NOT look like?

Would your child be characterized by first-time obedience? Be honest with yourself. Do any of the following go on in your home?

  • Your child ignores you when you call his name. Or worse, he runs away when you call.
  • You repeat your instruction 50 times before he complies. (This is 50th-time obedience!)
  • Your child counts on your inconsistency and will keep pushing the envelope to find out how serious you are.
  • Your child whines or talks back when you give an instruction. If it worked once before, it might just work again.
  • You offer threat after threat to get your child to comply.
  • You count to three in a threatening tone when your child doesn’t comply.
  • You bribe your child with stickers, marbles, pennies, or promises for ice cream to get him to obey.
  • You guilt your child into complying with your instructions.
  • You beg your child to obey.
  • You and your child end the day frustrated and stressed out.

Don’t worry if you recognize any of these scenarios. I’ve been there and I’m here to help!

First things first: Ezzo fundamentals

By now you’re probably convinced of the value of first-time obedience. It’s so very promising for us as parents and for the moral and ethical health of our children. Now, are you ready to put in the effort to make it a reality?

The first thing you need to do as you attempt to instill first-time obedience in your child is forget the idea altogether. Yes, you heard me right. Set it aside for now. There is a much bigger foundation you must lay before your FTO work can even begin. I realize that it’s tempting to jump into first-time obedience training with both feet, but I promise that it will be much more difficult if you don’t implement the Ezzo fundamentals first.

Make your marriage a priority

What does your marriage have to do with parenting? Everything. If you have read any of the Ezzos’ books, then you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage must come first. As Ezzo says in On Becoming Childwise, “Great marriages make great parents,” (page 43). Your marriage is the ground upon which your child stands. Practice couch time to proactively show your child that you value your marriage. Also be sure to maintain your roles as husband and wife, not just mom and dad.

Avoid child-centered parenting

Too often, once a child is brought into the marriage, parents focus extensively on the child. Though it is often done in the name of good parenting, child-centered parenting actually does more harm than good. Instead of integrating the child into the family as a welcome member of the family, they make the child the center of their world. This creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes and attitude issues run rampant.

Schedule your child’s day

When you direct your child’s activities, you drastically reduce the risk that he will be bored and stir up trouble. Create a daily schedule that includes activities like nap time, quiet reading time, independent play time (room time or playpen time), sibling play time, outside time, and more.

Establish your funnel

Envision a funnel or inverted cone. At the bottom, the opening is narrow. This represents the freedoms you allow your child when he is young. As he grows (in maturity and chronologically), you increase those freedoms. Keep your child in that funnel. Don’t allow your two-year-old to roam the house at will or require your 12-year-old to keep his hand on the cart at the grocery store. Make sure freedoms are age-appropriate and award new freedoms based on responsibility, not age.

Say what you mean; mean what you say

Trite as they may be, these eight simple words have great power over your first-time obedience training. The underlying principle of “say what you mean; mean what you say” is that you clearly communicate to your child what you expect of him and follow through on every word you say. Take your time before you speak and be sure that whatever you say are words you can stand by. The Ezzos say, “Never give a command unless you intend for it to be obeyed,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 126.)

Teach your child to ask for permission

If you have a child who roams the house or goes into the backyard at will, you will greatly benefit from this simple technique. Having your child ask for permission stops behavior problems in their tracks! You can even teach a non-verbal child to do the sign for “please” to ask for permission.

Encourage and love your child

There are parents who feel that they desperately need first-time obedience because they spend their days yelling at and barking orders at their children. Frustration is the name of the game. These parents often skip to the discipline section of the book in an attempt to nip behavior problems in the bud. But let me be clear: love and encouragement go a LONG way toward improving your child’s behavior. So be sure to encourage through praise, spontaneous rewards, physical affection, and goal incentives; and speak your child’s love language to make sure he is receiving your love. Most important, enjoy and have fun with your child!

Be intentional in your parenting

Planning and intent are key to establishing first-time obedience:

  • Start as you mean to go on. Don’t start a habit you won’t want to continue.
  • Read, read, read!
  • Understand why you do what you do. Ignore parenting experts whose theories don’t make sense to you. (Many of them offer only short-term fixes anyway.)
  • Create a discipline plan and decide on consequences ahead of time.
  • Work with your spouse to identify the values you wish to instill in your children.
  • Identify the behaviors you’d like to see in your children. Set the bar high but also be realistic in your expectations!
  • Keep your attitude in check. Find a tone that communicates that you want your child to succeed in first-time obedience, but that you hold authority over him if he doesn’t.
  • Be sure you understand the difference between childishness and foolishness. Always give your child the benefit of the doubt if you’re unsure.
  • Model for your child what you expect from him. Avoid hypocrisy at all costs.
  • You are your child’s teacher. Never forget that all discipline takes place to teach a lesson.

Don’t forget attitude

External compliance is great but it’s not our ultimate goal. Compliance with a happy, submissive heart is our ultimate goal. If your child complies with your instruction but sulks off after, make him do it over. Discipline for attitude just as much as you would for behavior problems.

Begin first-time obedience training

Once this all-important foundation has been laid, you can move on to your first-time obedience training. Understand that first-time obedience is a skill your child needs to learn. It will be difficult at first, especially if your child is used to ignoring you, but the payoff will be so rewarding.

Stay tuned for specifics on first-time obedience training. In the meantime, explore the links above to learn more about each layer of your parenting foundation.

 

Tuesday Triumphs: Family stability

Notice how the parents are in the center of this picture. In most family pictures, the children are in the center. I like it much better this way. :)

On Friday, my husband went to a friend’s house after work, so the kids and I were on our own for dinner and bedtime. I took them out to dinner, and while we were out, I told them that I would need their cooperation since I would be putting them to bed by myself. William looked at me like I had three heads and asked, “How are you going to do that?!”

What makes his comment noteworthy is that not long ago, I put them to bed by myself every night—for six months. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan and just came home in November.

I reminded William of this, and he seemed to remember, but I’m still shocked by his initial reaction. My husband has been home less than four months, which seems like nothing to me, but I suppose in the life of a child, four months is a long time.

But more important is the idea that my kids have bounced back so easily from the deployment. Those six months were definitely a struggle for all of us. We all had times when we missed him terribly. I expected William to have a harder time with it since he’s older and more aware than his brother, but I didn’t expect him to forget about it less than four months later.

The experience tells me that my kids are resilient to any change or difficulty in our lives, and it’s probably because of the stability we have here at home. Despite the change and difficulty that the deployment brought, our family life is very stable.

This circles back to the marriage priority that I have learned from the Ezzo books. Honestly, if I hadn’t been introduced to these books, I never would have thought to make my marriage a priority for the sake of the children. In fact, most parents these days believe they must put the children above all else, including the marriage. Yet, if we make our marriages the priority, we establish firm family stability—for the children.

Feeling grateful

Ever since I started writing these Tuesday Triumphs, I have become all the more aware of how great my kids are and how meaningful the Ezzos’ books have been to my parenting. Yesterday, when I started contemplating what to write about, I couldn’t really think of much. The troubles we’ve had this week seemed to outweigh the good times. But then I was reminded of this one little comment that William made, and not only did it turn into a whole blog post, but it makes me think about the big picture and validates almost everything I’m doing as a parent.

Your opinion?

So I love to write these posts, but of course, I’m not writing for myself. I’d love to get your thoughts on this series. Do you enjoy reading about our triumphs? Are they entertaining? Are they helpful at all? My intentions are to continue blogging about general parenting, but there’s only so much time in the day. Given that I have a limited amount of time to blog, would you prefer that I offer more generic parenting advice and stick to the books, or should I keep going with my Tuesday Triumphs? Are there any topics that you’d like me to blog about?

Let me know what you think! Please leave a comment below.

Tuesday Triumphs: Thinking of others

If there is one lesson that I have learned in my six years of parenting, it’s that my marriage must stand at the center of all parenting decisions. Avoiding child-centered parenting doesn’t always come naturally, but there’s no doubt that it helps us teach our children to think of others and not only of themselves.

The idea is that parents who build their lives around the child can end up with self-centered children. The child learns that his parents and family put his needs above all others. By extension, he learns that his needs and desires are more important than anyone else’s. And while it’s not usually a conscious parenting decision, the child is never taught to think of others.

Babywise parents, on the other hand, are taught to build their family identity with their children, not around their children. There is a common saying among Ezzo circles: the child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it.

Now on to my Tuesday Triumph. Just yesterday, after pulling a muscle in my back over the weekend, I was in pretty severe pain all morning. I had to push through because I had to get William off to school. I winced and whimpered my way through a shower, and when it came time to get them both dressed and fed, I told them that I would need their help.

Initially, I wasn’t expecting much of a change in their behavior. They typically try to squeeze in every minute of play they can get before we head off to school. But both kids seemed genuinely concerned and immediately responded to my request for help. William helped me make their breakfast and pack his lunch. And Lucas was particularly obedient with every request I made of him. I could even see a change in his eyes.

The experience offered subtle evidence that putting my marriage first has paid off. I’m happy to see that at the young ages of three and six, they are well on their way to learning that they must think of others before themselves.

The new year offers a new start

Here we are at the beginning of a new year. What resolutions have you made? Despite all the failed resolutions I’ve made over the years, I feel particularly inspired this year. Yes, January 1st is just another day, but I’m choosing to see the new year as a fresh start.

I’ve decided that many of my former resolutions failed because they weren’t specific enough. This year, I decided to forgo the usuals: exercise more, lose weight, be healthy. This year, I’m being specific. I’m giving up soda. Completely. Cold turkey. I’m doing it primarily because it’s a healthy thing to do, but I also hope that I’ll shed a few pounds.

While making healthy choices is important, the new year also gives us a chance to make new parenting resolutions. It’s a great time to take stock, reset our goals and make sure we’re on track.

So in the spirit of the new year and the fresh start it affords, consider the following:

Reevaluate your parenting goals. Be specific. Don’t say, “improve first-time obedience.” Say, “have my child respond with ‘yes, mommy’ three out of five times in the day.”

Evaluate your schedule. Is it still working? If you’re having a hard time sticking with it, pare it down.

Take stock of your child’s freedoms. Does he have too many? Too few? His freedoms should grow, not as he ages, but as he shows more responsibility.

Revise your discipline plan. Make sure your child’s most chronic behaviors are at the top of the list. Add new ones as you tackle the old ones.

Pledge to do couch time. Make your marriage a priority. Set a specific day, time and place. Be realistic and shoot for three nights a week if you can’t do five.

Evaluate your attitude. Are you encouraging your child enough? Correction must be balanced by encouragement.

Vow to be consistent. Nobody’s perfect. We all slip sometimes. Just remember this: Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

Have fun. While our job as parents is to train and teach our children, we can’t forget to live in the moment. Play and be silly with your child. Before you know it, your toddler will be in preschool, your preschooler in elementary school and your teenager in college.

Here’s to a fresh start and a fruitful 2011! Happy New Year!

Working moms: The emotional side of returning to work

by Bethany Lynch

All moms are working moms, but I also have a job outside of the home. At first, I thought I would love being a working mom. I envisioned myself as a worker bee that would love working all day while my children played. I thought brightly lit, highly staffed daycare centers would be our best option. I never thought I would want to be home all day. While I desperately wanted to be a mother, I honestly had no idea how much my feelings would change once I had a baby.

I was extremely unprepared for the wild wave of emotions about returning to work that I experienced almost as soon as I found out I was pregnant. My amazing career that I had worked so hard for and thought was such a blessing for my family became a thorn in my side. The need to provide for my family away from home made me question everything.

The hardest part was accepting that I could not stay home or even reduce my hours. I resented my career. I resented making more than my husband. I resented every stay-at-home mom whose husband made enough and every working mom that could work part-time. I was angry. Cutting our grocery budget was not enough. Moving was not an option. I felt stuck.

I struggled for a long time with the idea of being a working mom. It was probably a year before I came to peace with the idea and accepted that I was where God wanted me to be. The best advice that anyone gave me was that a wife is called to be a helpmate. Ultimately my marriage is priority. By working, I was not only supporting my children; I was supporting my husband.

Of course my children are more important, WAY more important, than my career, but there is so much I can provide for them by working. I could go on and on about the advantages and disadvantages of working outside the home, but ultimately, I had to accept that I could not change my situation. I had to find advantages to having a career, and I had to praise God for helping me realize what a great mother I could be to my children—not despite the fact that I work but because of it.

In future posts I will share with you the decisions we have made about childcare, routine and discipline from a working mom’s viewpoint—all with a Babywise twist.

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Bethany is a wife and working mother of two young children. Married 8 years to her supportive husband, Lee, Bethany says that without Babywise her life would be impossibly chaotic. Babywise has helped her children, 2 ½ year-old Kai and 11 month-old Caitlin, become happy, healthy, well-rested and obedient. Despite her busy full-time job as a neonatal pharmacist at a fast-paced children’s hospital, Bethany loves to write about her family’s adventures on a family blog, and she has recently started a healthy-living blog called Babysteps to Organic Living.

Where’s the discipline?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you may be wondering why I haven’t discussed discipline or correction ideas. Until now, most of my posts have been about the theoretical fundamentals that make up the Ezzo parenting series.

So why has it taken me so long to discuss discipline and correction methods? Well, aside from the fact that I don’t post as often as I’d like to, true followers of the Ezzo principles must have the basics under their belts before they can correct their children in good conscience.

Train yourself first
If you are new to the Ezzos or are starting with older children, you may have skipped straight to the discipline chapters in the books. I know I did! I felt like I needed to get my son’s behaviors in line and I needed to do it ASAP. I figured all the rest could wait until later.

But it doesn’t work that way. If you believe in the Ezzos’ teachings, you must work on yourself first. You need to change your habits. You need to change your perception of your child’s misbehaviors. You need to formulate a plan.

Prevention is key
You may have clued into the fact that the Ezzo principles are all about prevention. All of the work you put into your parenting and your marriage will prevent misbehavior from your child. Before learning about the Ezzos, our life looked something like this: 80% frustration, 15% discipline (mostly in the form of yelling, threatening and repeating) and 5% prevention. Today, it looks like this: 90% prevention, 9% discipline and 1% frustration. (I think even the most perfect parents get frustrated with their children at some point.)

Fundamentals
To recap my earlier posts, here is how you go about preventing misbehavior:

  • Put your marriage first. Do couch time, go out on dates, and make time for yourselves.
  • Make sure your child knows he is not the center of the universe. See my posts on child-centered parenting.
  • Create and follow a schedule. Do this even if your child is in school six hours a day.
  • Do non-conflict training. Make sure your child knows what is expected of him and don’t confuse him. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t allow yourself to become a threatening, repeating parent. It happens to the best of us, so make a conscious effort to avoid it.
  • Make sure you have your child’s attention when you are talking and especially when you are giving an instruction. Getting eye contact and having him say “yes, mommy” are crucial.
  • And most of all, love, encourage and praise your child.

Follow the tags on the right or do a search to review my posts on these principles.

Maintain your roles in marriage

In my next few posts, I will discuss in greater detail the problems I first described in my post on child-centered parenting. Here I will describe the first problem with child-centered parenting: your roles as husband and wife change to mom and dad. In my previous post, I said:

“Child-centered parenting redefines the husband-wife relationship. You and your spouse are no longer husband and wife. You are mom and dad. And as mom and dad, you are less accountable to each other and yourselves. You are solely accountable to your child.”

Perfect in your child’s eyes
As parents, we are perfect in our child’s eyes. We maintain this perfection for many years. This parental perfection is so important to a child that you can probably remember the exact day you realized your parents weren’t perfect. Believing you are perfect in your child’s eyes makes your roles as mother and father more appealing than your roles as husband and wife. When you are accountable only to your child, you are perfect. When you are accountable to your spouse and yourself, you cannot deny your own imperfections.

Children make us feel needed
Unlike any other role in our lives, our roles as mom and dad allow us to feel needed. Our children give us purpose. Even at the height of our careers, we might not have felt as needed as we feel with our children. Your child depends on you for his health and safety. And when you allow it, as many attachment-parenting types do, your child depends on you for his own comfort. When you don’t teach your child to be independent, you feel more needed than ever. In fact, some moms encourage their children to need them even when they show signs of independence. Many moms thrive on this need to be needed which makes it easier to adopt the role of mom in favor of that of wife.

Cultural perceptions of motherhood and fatherhood
These days, it’s often more acceptable to prioritize our parenting roles over our husband and wife roles. Our culture says that we can do anything as long as it’s what we deem best for the child. Our culture says that our spouses are fully formed adults who can take care of themselves. Our children need us most, so we will take on that motherhood or fatherhood role with gusto, no matter the effects on our other relationships.

Allowing the child to come between you
Put yourself in the shoes of attachment parent types who spend all day literally attached to their children. When dad comes home and wants a hug and a kiss, he is rejected since mom has nothing left to give. She has given all of her attention and energy to the child and wants nothing more than to be left alone once the child is asleep. Also consider the “family bed”. When dad has a busy day of work ahead and cannot sleep with a child’s foot in his ribs, he often finds a new place to sleep. The “family bed” then becomes the “mom and child bed”. These are just two examples of many that separate husband and wife in the name of parenting.

The beginning of the end
If you consider that it’s more pleasing to be mom and dad rather than husband and wife—and that our culture promotes this ideal—then you must consider that this can be the beginning of the end for the marriage. If you devote all of your attention and energy to your children, you have little left for your spouse.

All relationships, especially marriages, must be maintained. Like a garden, they must be tended and cared for or else they will die. By prioritizing mom and dad roles over husband and wife roles, child-centered parenting can be the beginning of the end for the marriage.

The child rules
If you consider that the child replaces the husband as the mother’s primary focus, you realize how the child then becomes the head of the household. As redundant as this sounds, by putting the child at the center of the family, you continue to put the child at the center of the family. Child-centered parenting builds upon itself.

All of the problems of child-centered parenting, which I will continue to discuss in future posts, are interconnected. These problems not only harm the child but they allow child-centered parenting to build upon itself to the detriment of the marriage. It becomes a vicious cycle—with very high stakes.

If you do nothing else in your parenting, make your marriage a priority. Allow your child to be a welcome member of the family rather than putting him at the center of it.

Child-centered parenting

Think back to the day your child was born. When the doctor or midwife placed your newborn on your chest, you immediately felt a love like you’d never felt before. In that same instant, your life changed forever. You now spend very little time alone. Spontaneous trips to the movie theater are a thing of the past. You enjoy going to the park, the zoo and even fast food play places. You see life through your child’s eyes. You may have even quit your job to stay home with your child. You do anything and everything for your child. Before you know it, you have built your life around your child.

Yes, this is completely natural and very common in our world. But is it best for your child? The Ezzos say no. This is what the Ezzos call child-centered parenting.

“Often parents leave their first love, each other, and focus extensively on their children. Although this may be done in the name of good parenting, it is the first step to the break-up of family relationships. This leads to the second threat to successful parenting: the belief that children are the center of the family universe, rather than welcome members of it…. Instead of integrating the child into the family where he learns the basic give and takes of life, they elevate the child above the family,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

The marriage is priority #1
So if your child isn’t your first priority, what is? Your marriage. See my posts on the marriage priority and couch time for more on this.

You may be thinking, what exactly is so wrong with putting my child at the center? He’s a toddler or young child and requires a significant amount of care. All of my time is spent caring for my child, so even if I didn’t want to put my child at the center, it’s somewhat unavoidable. Yes, this is true in your day-to-day life, but your belief system must be built on the foundation that the family, not the child, is your focus. If you’re not convinced, consider these (enormously important!) problems of child-centered parenting:

Husband and wife become dad and mom
Child-centered parenting redefines the husband-wife relationship. You and your spouse are no longer husband and wife. You are mom and dad. And as mom and dad, you are less accountable to each other and yourselves. You are solely accountable to your child.

“In marriage, neither man nor woman can lose themselves. Marriage forces revelation. We are revealed for what we are…. We are less revealed in parenting, thus less honest about who we are. Attempting to avoid the truth about ourselves, we conveniently find, in the name of fatherhood and motherhood, a more pleasing image, so some think. Whenever we pull away from marriage, no matter how noble the goal, we leave our accountability,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Self-reliance precedes self-control
Child-centered parenting creates within the child a false sense of self-reliance. The child becomes wise in his own eyes. He believes he is ready for freedoms before he has developed self-control or a level of responsibility that indicates he is ready for those freedoms.

“Child centered parenting reverses the natural process of moral development… The child becomes, in his thinking, self-sufficient prior to the establishment of self-control. This happens because the [child-centered parenting] philosophy grants freedoms beyond the child’s ability to manage those freedoms. Self-reliance apart from self-discipline is a destructive influence on young children,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Relationships become a means to an end
Child-centered parenting creates a child who develops relationships only for what they offer. This fosters independence of the family rather than interdependence.

“Where there is no relationship investment, there is no reason for family loyalty. Other people (parents, siblings and peers) matter only to the extent that advantages are gained by maintaining relationships. What the child can get out of relationships, rather than what he can give, forms the basis of his loyalty,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Selfishness takes precedence over morality
Child-centered parenting fosters innate selfishness and other sins and reduces the significance of morality. The child often feels he is above morality.

“Child-centered parenting magnifies the natural conflict between the natural way of the child and his need for moral conformity. With child-centered parenting, the [moral] standard is perceived to be the problem rather than the faulty [child-centered parenting] philosophy,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

Worship is turned on its head
Child-centered parenting comes close to idolatry with children becoming little gods who their parents worship.

“Child-centered parenting, for some, comes perilously close to idolatry. When a child’s happiness is a greater goal than his holiness, when his psychological health is elevated above moral health, and when the child, not God, becomes the center of the family universe, a subtle form of idolatry is created. Children become little gods who have parents worshiping their creation and not their Creator,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th ed., p. 35).

While it’s so easy to put our children at the center of our universe, this is one of the most important principles of good parenting. Keep these issues in mind when developing your parenting beliefs. If you want a child who values others more than himself, avoid child-centered parenting.

This is a very philosophical post. Look to my next post for practical ideas on how child-centered parenting can play out in day-to-day life.

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 in Childwise (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