Should Every Child Get a Trophy?

Source: leighsportsvillage.co.uk

After learning from the best (the Babywise series), I’ve always been of the assumption that not every child should get a trophy. But after living with this first-hand, I’ve started to question my assumption.

I’m sure we’ve all seen or heard of it. Today’s sporting events just aren’t like they used to be. When kids are involved, either the games aren’t scored or every child is given a trophy, no matter how well they do. Yet for as long as I can remember, I’ve held the belief that this idea of every child getting a trophy isn’t good for our kids. When our kids put in great effort and work hard, they should be rewarded. I don’t believe a child should be rewarded for putting in minimal effort or for just showing up. This is how our world seems to be operating these days. It seems as if everyone is afraid to tarnish our children’s fragile egos.

I also believe that by giving every child a trophy, it completely robs the trophy of any value. It makes the trophy practically worthless. Plus, it’s possible that kids will lose all motivation to do well. Kids are smart. If they realize that the kid sitting on the sidelines will earn the same recognition as the child who works hard, then what good is it to work hard?

Now, if we are doing our job as parents, we should teach our kids that the reward is in doing a good job. In the case of sports, when you take one for the team and run harder than anybody else, your efforts will get noticed. But what about these trophies?

Let me back up a minute and explain why I bring this up. My kids have started flag football this season, and with William being more cerebral than athletic, this is our first real foray into kids’ sports. Well, today was the big kickoff event for the season. After William’s coach explained the rules of the game, he mentioned to us all that we might see other coaches handing out medals but that he wouldn’t be. The organization encourages coaches to hand out one medal after every game, which I assume would go to the kid who played his hardest. Well, our coach has decided to do it differently. Rather than handing them out after every game, he said he would hold onto them, and at the end of the season, we would have a celebration where every child would receive a medal.

After watching the kids practice and play, there’s a part of me that can see why he does this. There are some kids (like the coaches’ kids) who are clearly more experienced and talented than the rest of them. William, who was doing math problems in his head on the way there, would be outrun by one or two of those kids any day of the week. But my issue with trophies and medals has nothing to do with experience or talent. It has to do with effort.

If a child shows great determination and comes running onto the field and scores five touchdowns, then perhaps his effort should be rewarded. If a child shows great improvement in an area where he has struggled previously, then he should probably receive a medal. And I like the idea of kids getting recognized for their effort on the day of the game, and when nobody else is being recognized. Being rewarded by a coach (someone other than mom or dad) like this, on a day when only he is being recognized, would certainly bring a smile to William’s face. I’m not sure his smile would be as big when he receives the medal at the same time as all the other kids.

But then again, the mama bear in me does want to protect William’s self esteem. What if he’s staring off into space doing math problems in his head while the receiver runs right by him? What if he’s just not as capable as the other kids? What if his sensory issues get in the way of his ability to play?

What do you think? Should every child get a trophy?

Entitlement: Self-Sacrifice

In January, I wrote a post called “Entitlement.” It seems to have struck a nerve for some of you. The blog was pretty active that day. I can see why. Entitlement is one of those ugly characteristics that we want to avoid instilling in our children. At the same time, it’s difficult to avoid, as evidenced by an entire generation that has been labeled as entitled.

Today, we’ll discuss all that we as mothers sacrifice and how it may lead to entitlement in our children.

They say that motherhood is the ultimate in self-sacrifice. In pregnancy, we give our bodies. In the newborn phase, we give up sleep and pretty much all semblance of free time. In the toddler phase, we give up the freedom to sit and relax (as we chase them around the house), not to mention the freedom to use the bathroom alone. In the preschool phase, we don’t have to give as much physically, but then the reality sets in that we need to start preparing our kids for school. As they grow older, we give less, but we still sacrifice adult time, date nights (that don’t cost an arm and a leg in babysitter fees), and everything else that won’t see the light of day until our kids can stay home by themselves. Plus, we’re still responsible for our kids’ physical and moral development.

There’s a funny thing about self-sacrificing mothers. There are many moms who say that their children give their lives a purpose. They feel needed and they like it. These are the moms who will sacrifice everything for their children, and many of them are self-righteous about it. They give the impression that working moms or moms who have activities outside the home are not fulfilling their duties as moms. Many of them go so far as to criticize those of us who sleep train or have our children sleep in their own beds.

Despite how self-righteous they may be about it, it’s usually these self-sacrificing mothers who end up with entitled children. These kids have been given the world for their entire lives. Then they get to a certain age and start to expect that they’ll be given the world. They act entitled. Why wouldn’t they? It’s what they’ve been taught to do. Interesting how that works, isn’t it?

Realizing that this is the case, it’s important to stop every now and then and examine how our parenting methods may be creating entitled children. In what ways do we sacrifice as mothers? What areas of sacrifice can we give up? Where can we depend on our kids more? What more can we require of them as they grow up? What do we give them that they feel entitled to?

Here are some ideas to think about:

1) Insist that your crawling baby or toddler wait outside the bathroom for you. It’s okay if he fusses for a few minutes.

2) Don’t pick up your baby or toddler every time she cries. Shush her until she stops whining or crying, and only then pick her up.

3) Set aside time for your spouse every night (couch time) and insist that your child not interrupt you.

4) Find a time in the day where your child is awake but you have some alone time. Teach your child that when he sees you reading the paper and drinking coffee, he is to leave mommy alone.

5) Make sure your kids earn every privilege.

6) Track the time your kids spend on devices (computer, iPad, video games, TV), and make it clear that it’s a privilege, not a right.

7) Require chores, no matter how much homework or piano practice she has. Even from an early age, kids can start helping out around the house.

8) If your child starts acting entitled to a certain privilege, take it away. Only give it back when he seems grateful for the privilege.

Keep an eye on all that you sacrifice for your kids. Make sure that you sacrifice less and less as the child grows. Have him do more for himself as he ages and make sure he knows you don’t live your life catering to his every whim.

Logical Consequence Grab Bag: Say Please!

Source: ladcblog.org

In our everyday parenting, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with the perfect logical consequence. We always want to strike the balance between teaching a lesson without being too harsh. Having our children say “please” and “thank you” is so important, yet it can be so difficult to ensure they do it consistently.

What can we do to encourage our kids to say “please” and “thank you”? First, be sure to explain the importance of being polite. Explain that we are not put on this Earth to serve their every desire. And expressing thanks is the first step toward instilling a heart of gratitude in our kids.

When our kids forget, there’s a great way to handle it. If your child is asking something from you, never give it to him unless he says “please.” This can be anything from a meal that you are expected to provide no matter what or a special treat. If he asks without saying “please” tell him no, and that he can come back to you in 5 or 10 minutes when he’s ready to ask appropriately. He’ll probably ask again right away. Simply walk away knowing you have told him what you require.

With an older child, you might leave it at that. Make note of the time on the clock and don’t allow the child to come back until 5 or 10 minutes have passed. For a younger child, set a timer. Set it for a solid 5 or 10 minutes so he gets a true sense for how long that is.

This is much more powerful than simply reminding our kids and having them ask again right away. As with all consequences, the “pain” of the consequence must equal the weight of the infraction. If the child says “please” and “thank you” 90% of the time and forgets once or twice, a verbal reminder with no wait might be sufficient. If it’s a consistent problem, a longer wait might be more effective. Always gauge the effectiveness of the consequence by the child’s behavior. If it works, great. If not, try again with a more “painful” consequence.

How To Praise Smart Kids

Source: uci.edu

On Monday, I discussed the idea that parenting influences a child’s brain development and that potentially, Babywise parents have an easier time at this because we naturally tend toward establishing structure, self-control, and sleep. But just because we set our kids up for success doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing. In fact, parents of smarter kids often have a more difficult go at parenting.

But if there’s one thing you need to learn when parenting a smart child, it’s how to offer praise. Praise is important. It encourages our children. It motivates them. It builds their self-esteem. But there’s a right way to praise and a wrong way to praise.

It comes down to this: don’t praise a child for qualities that are beyond his control. Even when you’re amazed by your child’s memory or his early abilities in math or reading, bite your tongue whenever you’re tempted to say, “You’re so smart,” or “You have an amazing memory.”

For praise to hold any weight, it must speak to the child’s effort. Better than praising characteristics, praise his actions. It should sound like this:

• You worked so hard on that puzzle.
• I like how you persevered on that task. Sticking with something when it gets hard is so important.
• I see you chose a more difficult book to read. Nice!
• Your homework tonight was tough. I like that you never got discouraged.
The reason this type of praise is important for smart kids in particular is that life typically comes easy for these kids. They can very easily skate through life. They often don’t have to try hard or learn the meaning of the word perseverance. It’s nice that life will be easy for them, but no child (or adult) will get very far if they never learn the value of hard work.
This idea has been studied and tested. In 2007, Po Bronson wrote an article in New York Magazine about how not to talk to our kids. The article’s subtitle is “the inverse power of praise.” In the article, he discusses the importance of praising a child’s hard work over his innate intelligence:

For the past ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team at Columbia (she’s now at Stanford) studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work—a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders—paints the picture most clearly.

Dweck sent four female research assistants into New York fifth-grade classrooms. The researchers would take a single child out of the classroom for a nonverbal IQ test consisting of a series of puzzles—puzzles easy enough that all the children would do fairly well. Once the child finished the test, the researchers told each student his score, then gave him a single line of praise. Randomly divided into groups, some were praised for their intelligence. They were told, “You must be smart at this.” Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”

Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out.

So you can see how praise plays a pivotal role in a child’s determination to succeed. No matter how smart, a child can still fail in school if he refuses to do his homework or push himself with the work gets tough. The ability to persevere and work diligently is very possibly more important than innate intelligence.

Are Babywise Kids Smarter?

Source: whizbit.com

It’s been a long-held belief that IQ is a static thing. A person tests at a certain IQ level and maintains that level for the rest of their lives. Many say IQ is genetic, and there’s not much we can do to influence it.

I’ve been reading a bit about brain training lately, and I’m convinced that IQ is not a static measure of intelligence. Our brains are living, breathing organs that grow over time. Our brains have the ability to adapt and reorganize neural pathways and even build brand new ones. These neural pathways form the basis of our cognitive skills. And our cognitive abilities, quantified by IQ tests, measure our ability to not only hold knowledge, but also to process information. So because the brain is always adapting and building, our cognitive skills, and our IQ, never stay the same. The brain’s ability to adapt and grow is called neuroplasticity. When our brains are characterized by plasticity, they are by definition malleable, elastic, flexible, and pliable.

I can personally attest to this idea of neuroplasticity. In college, I could almost feel my brain growing. I learned so much in such a short period of time. I was surrounded by people who were educating themselves and professors who were experts in their fields. I was challenged intellectually like never before (or since). And not only was I taking in and storing information, I was learning the skills to study and process information.

So if our brains are so malleable, it seems entirely possible that parenting plays a huge role in the development of a child’s brain. And if that’s the case, is it possible that Babywise kids are smarter?

Babywise Moms are Typically Type A

We Babywise moms are typically type A personalities. We like things to be in their place, and we think nothing of making the effort to actively teach our children. From what I see on message boards and in my “real life” Babywise friends, we actively engage with our children, read to them religiously, think critically about what we should be reading to them, engage their imaginations, teach them basic academics before they enter school, and supplement school if we see that it’s lacking. I know of no Babywise mom who thinks it’s okay to plop her child in front of the TV and think nothing of the child’s cognitive development.

We Teach Self-Control

Another reason I think Babywise kids might be smarter is that they’ve been taught self-control. If I had to choose between teaching my child early reading skills or teaching self-control before Kindergarten, self-control would be it. If a child has no self-control, he’s not going to be able to sit and learn. His mind and body will be so busy doing other things, things guided by his impulsive brain, that his learning ability will be diminished. So much of early learning is about form and structure. Teaching a child to work diligently is immensely valuable. The habits of learning form the foundation of all future learning. And since Babywise kids are raised on a routine and are taught the benefits of structure, they are much more likely to work diligently than the child who is left to his own devices.

Babywise Kids Get Lots of Sleep

Does anyone disagree that sleep affects the brain’s ability to process information? We all know how we feel when we haven’t had enough sleep. Unless we’re loaded up on coffee, we’re in a fog all day. This very idea is addressed in Growing Kids God’s Way:

“Children who have established healthy sleep habits are optimally awake and optimally alert to interact with their environment. Having observed a generation of these children now, we see some common threads among the school-age population. In classroom settings, I have consistently found these children to be more self-assured, happier, less demanding, more sociable, inspired, and motivated. They have longer attention spans and become faster learners because they are more adaptable. Mediocrity among this population is rare, while excellence is common,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 253).

I love that the Ezzos describe these children as happier and more social. It’s not all about academics, folks. I don’t think the Ezzos would encourage us to give our kids 5 hours of homework every night for the sake of getting ahead. No amount of academic advancement is worth the risk of creating undue stress. In fact, when we push our kids too far too fast, we run the risk of burning them out. A child who’s burned out at age 10 may be academically ahead, but will it serve them well in the future? Will they even want to go to college? This says nothing of the effects on a child’s character when he believes he’s smarter than all of his peers.

It’s all about balance and priorities. And I think the Ezzos have it right in teaching Babywise moms to give our kids the skills and foundation to effectively learn. But they also place a huge priority on developing our kids’ moral foundation. In fact, they may even say that this moral foundation is more important than any skills that enable them to learn. But the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

If you are a Babywise mom, you can walk away from this post knowing that you’re giving your child the skills he needs to succeed in school. And not only can you trust that you’ve prepared him for school, but you can also trust that you’ve instilled important values that will serve him well in school and beyond.

Make Time for Your Relationship

Source: yourneighborhoodtoystore.org

Based on the title of this post, you may be thinking that I’m going to talk about making time for your relationship with your spouse. I wholeheartedly believe you need to make time for your marriage, but that’s not what this post is about. Today, I’m talking about making time for your relationship with your child.

You may be asking yourself why you would need to make time for your child. You probably spend all day every day with them, if you’re a stay-at-home mom. Even if you work outside the home, you still have plenty of evening and weekend time together.

But you know how easily life gets in the way. We’re all so busy with school, work, life, and whatever other activity might be filling our thoughts and actions. When our kids are in school, we rarely have much time with our kids. By the time they get home from school, there’s not much free time between homework, dinner, bath/shower, and bed. Busy, busy, busy. Even if you are home with your kids all day, you may be present physically, but are you really there for your children mentally and emotionally? You may be thinking about the next meal, any nap problems you’re struggling with, or what you are doing to train the child in first-time obedience. Even when we’re at home, the busyness of life takes over.

So it’s important to take time for your relationship with your child. The interesting thing about this is that when we build a relationship with our children, we give them motivation to do the things we want or need them to do. Perhaps that nap problem you’re struggling with is really your child’s attempt to spend more time with you or to get more attention from you. And I speak from experience when I say that our children are much more likely to obey when we have a healthy, loving relationship with them.

I once heard of a story that told of a family who left a busy life in New York and traded it for a more peaceful existence. Their primary reason? They noticed their son had stopped trying to please them. For whatever reason, he had lost a connection with his parents and no longer felt the need to do as they asked. I don’t know about you, but this idea frightens me. Parenting is nothing without that innate desire in the child to please us. And if we don’t take the time to build or maintain a relationship with our children, they may lose that desire.

This goes beyond simple nap struggles and obedience training. This strikes to the core of all that we aim to do with our children. We all hope that our children will grow up holding the same values that we hold ourselves. We all have high hopes for our children. We hope that they will grow to be adults guided by honesty, integrity, persistence, grace, love, and any other positive character trait you can think of. But if we have no relationship with our children, how far will we get with this?

As you think about making time for your relationship, think of it as another activity to schedule into your day. It can be something as simple as one-on-one reading time or a family game night. The only thing you must be sure of is to be present throughout the entire activity. Look in your child’s eyes. Live, love, and laugh together.

My husband and I read to our boys (separately) every night. And while I treasure this time with them, I’m often not giving them my full attention. We do it at the end of a long day when I’m often motivated to turn out the light and close the door.

We just had family game night again recently, and now that my boys are getting older, it was a lot of fun! Lucas struggled with losing, so we need to work on that. But all four of us were very engaged in the games and spending time together. The other benefit of family game night is that it allows me to give my husband a chance to make time for his relationship with the kids, something I’m not sure he’d do with much excitement otherwise. With a simple pronouncement by me that we’re having a family game night, he joins in and builds his relationship with our boys. So when you think about scheduling time for your relationship with your kids, see if there’s a way to schedule time for your husband and children to build their relationship. It’s always best to do this without being super obvious about it.

Let the idea of this post sit with you for a few days. Mull it over and give honest thought to how much time or work your relationship with your child might need. Have some impromptu one-on-one time in the morning, reading a book or playing a game, and see how it affects your day. See if your child acts more obediently or whether you have an easier day overall. You will have your proof that it works. Then you can schedule your daily reading time, weekly game night, or any other activity that helps to build your relationship.

 

Logical Consequences Grab Bag: Apologies

Source: mylot.com

In our everyday parenting, it can sometimes be difficult to come up with the perfect logical consequence. We always want to strike the balance between teaching a lesson without being too harsh. Over the next few days, in posts with a similar title, I’ll offer a few ideas of logical consequences for common misbehaviors.

What do we do when our kids offer insincere apologies? You know the type. You ask a child to apologize to you for some misbehavior, and rather than look you in the eye and offer a heartfelt apology, he averts his eyes and mumbles the word “sorry.” Sometimes it’s so imperceptible that you’re not sure he even said it. What do you do when this happens? We all know that every form of discipline is done in an effort to teach. Discipline is all about heart training. If we don’t teach them a lesson or reach their hearts, we haven’t done our job.

So what’s the consequence that will reach their hearts? The next time your child apologizes to you, require that he ask for forgiveness. Require him to look in your eye (or the eye of the offended party) and say “sorry” as if he means it. Then have him ask for forgiveness.

It’s too easy for a child to utter a mindless, insincere apology, especially when he doesn’t want to take ownership of whatever it was he did wrong. Nor does he want to put his guilt into the hands of someone else. But these are exactly the reasons why we need to require it. Make no mistake: asking another person to forgive you is a very powerful thing. It tips the scales and requires the offender to give up all power over the situation and put it in the hands of the other person.

My kids took a little while to get used to saying it – and to not confuse the asking of forgiveness with the act of giving it. But it has been a complete game-changer in our house. Whenever a child goes into timeout, or otherwise hurts someone, we require not only an apology but a request for forgiveness. William, in particular, has a tough time with it because he knows how powerful it is to ask someone else to assuage your guilt.

In my house, my kids are required to also say what they are sorry for. So it all goes something like this: “I’m sorry for breaking apart your Lego guy, Lucas. Will you forgive me?” I usually have to coach them through it, which is fine. The other benefit of this trick is that it makes the offended party much more likely to forgive. Lucas is always quick to say “I forgive you” whenever his brother asks for it.

Recently, Lucas hurt William pretty bad, and while Lucas was trying to sort out what he had done, I sent him into the bathroom for a timeout. When he was done and had apologized to ME (he hurt my son), he was required to apologize to William and ask for his forgiveness. William was very quick to forgive Lucas (even though he had a red mark on his cheek), and they then hugged each other. It was a very sweet, loving moment between my boys. If I had allowed an insincere apology, there’s no way they would have reached this moment of forgiveness.

Discourage Procrastination

Source: procrastinus.com

On Monday, I discussed the importance of modeling positive behaviors for our children. If we want them to act or think a certain way, we need to do so ourselves. One area where this proves fruitful is with procrastination. This, clearly, is something we want to discourage in our children.

Procrastination is a learned trait. It’s also a selfish trait. When we procrastinate, we think that the fun things we want to do are more important than the things that are required to keep a healthy, harmonious home. We may lounge on the couch reading a trashy novel while the dishes pile up in the kitchen. Or we may get sucked into the Internet, spending a little too much time on mindless activities and social media platforms.

No matter our vice, the idea is that we aren’t doing what we should be doing. We are putting pleasures ahead of work or personal growth. Our priorities are off.

While modeling the opposite of procrastination is important, it’s also important to encourage it in our children. Before they run off to play, stop for a minute to see what work needs to be done. I make this a habit in my home. Before I allow my kids any kind of pleasure, I have them look around to see what needs to be cleaned up. Before they are allowed to play on a device, they must make sure all of their school work is done and that all toys are put away. Before we read in bed at night, we take a minute to make sure their rooms are clean.

I also try to put this behavior on my children’s shoulders instead of owning it for them. If they ask to play on the iPad, I ask them to show me that they are ready to do so. I don’t specifically list all of the things that need to be done. A simple reminder is all that’s needed, and they’ll go off and take care of it.

If we can discourage our children of procrastination when they’re young, it will serve them well far into the future. I remember in college, I had classmates who would pull all-nighters before a test or to get a paper written. I never understood it. I dutifully got my work done ahead of time, and I’m sure my grades were better off because of it.

The power of not procrastinating is that you never have to feel guilty when indulging in something pleasurable. It’s never fun to hang out on Facebook when dishes are piled up. But if the house is clean and all other work has been done, then our pleasures are that much more pleasant! The same holds true with our children, so start today to teach them so!

Entitlement

Source: shine.yahoo.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set an Example

Source: followbarbsbliss.blogspot.com

Have you given thought to how you’d like your kids to behave, think, and believe? What qualities are important to you? Maybe you like a spotless house. Maybe you imagine your kids sitting around reading classic literature. Maybe you believe that they are piano prodigies. Whatever your ideals, do you make it a point to display these characteristics yourself?

I’ve been reading Charlotte Mason’s books lately. Charlotte Mason was an educator in the 1800s whose teachings have become a homeschooling philosophy. She teaches that children learn best from “living books” or stories that tell a tale about the subject. Dry textbooks written by many people are the antithesis to her beliefs.

One thing that Charlotte Mason emphasizes is that parents must display the characteristics they wish of their children. If we want our children to clean up their toys, we must clean up our own belongings. If we want them to read, we need to read. If we want them to play piano, we need to either play ourselves or be sure they have scheduled time to learn and practice.

The point is that we cannot expect these behaviors from our children if we don’t model them ourselves. This goes for everything from putting toys away to always telling the truth. The perfect Ezzo example is when someone calls the house and the parent doesn’t want to talk to that person, he or she will say, “Tell them I’m not home.” It’s a simple white lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless.

So many parents lose themselves in their children’s misbehaviors. They think that one more sticker chart or timeout method will be the cure-all to all of the child’s problems. There is no quick fix in parenting. I know a couple of parents who seem to really have their act together, and the characteristic I see most in them is that they run a tight ship. They have high expectations of their kids, yet the parents themselves are not hypocrites. The parents’ things are put away. Papers are filed. Books are stacked neatly on the shelf. Beds are made. An effort is made to educate themselves, and so on. It’s clear to me that these parents are able to run a tight ship because they live the ideals they expect from their children.

I remember when I first started this blog back in early 2009, I barely touched on discipline tactics. I even have a post called, “Where’s the Discipline?” If there’s one thing the Ezzos have taught me it’s that discipline doesn’t cure what ails us. There is a much larger foundation that must be laid before we can even think about disciplining our children. Once we set the stage for a harmonious household and model all of the behaviors we expect of our children, half the battle has been won.

I see this in my own children. If I’m messy, they’re messy. If I yell, they yell. They’re little mirrors or parrots, reflecting my behaviors right back at me. By the same token, if I work hard, they work hard. If I read, they read. If I have a clean house, they will keep their rooms clean. It’s so subconscious, but so powerful. We all adopt the behaviors and attitudes we see at home. We inherited a set of values from our parents, and in the same way, we are passing along values to our children, whether we choose to do so or not. So make it a point to live your best life and consciously model the behaviors and beliefs you wish to pass along to your children.