Milestones and Behavior

A recent shot of Lucas. If only he were always so peaceful.

There’s a new phenomenon going on in my home right now. I haven’t read about this in any parenting book, but I have heard other moms mention it. There’s something about kids hitting a certain age or particular milestone that sends their behavior completely off-kilter.

Lucas has been 5.5 for 13 days now, and I’ll tell you, it’s been 13 days of defiance, disobedience, attitude, and pretty much any other behavior problem you can think of. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I did the math and realized that he had hit his half birthday. We were doing all kinds of timeouts, logical consequences, pulling our hair out (William included), and more.

I explained this phenomenon to my husband, and he wondered why a half birthday would do it. But I’ve seen it mentioned on the Babywise message board. And it’s not that Lucas is aware of this milestone. It’s just a little change in his development that perhaps has him a little confused.

I think many parents see this phenomenon much earlier in their kids’ lives. Typically, age two and three present big challenges. But for us, with Lucas at least, two and three were a breeze. I’ve always considered it 10% luck, 20% personality, and 70% training. I started training him in the Babywise principles from day one. My blanket time success story was one of our shining moments.

As odd as this sounds, I think part of the reason Lucas was so easy was that William was so difficult. I don’t think anybody who knows William would call him easy-going or laid back. A friend recently described him as intense, and that’s him in a nutshell. He’s intense in everything he does, and he’s been like this from the minute he was born. I remember being in the hospital wondering if it was okay that I went to sleep, considering my newborn was lying in his bassinet bright eyed and bushy tailed! Sleepy newborn? What’s that? Even his entrance into this world was intense since my water broke before I had a single contraction. And then it was 11 hours of painful, intense labor. We had colic, developmental delays, you name it!

When I was pregnant with Lucas, I “told him” that he had to pay me back for all the terror that William caused. The obedient thing that he is, he listened. :) Kidding aside, I think Lucas subconsciously recognized that William was a lot to handle. And he let William do his thing. He let him direct their play. They rarely fought ever because Lucas was so appeasing. You may have noticed that I rarely discuss sibling rivalry. Plus, whenever we were out, Lucas was his brother’s watchdog. He always made sure he was coming, even if I was walking at my own pace and William was lagging behind.

When I step back and examine their behaviors, William is much easier to manage now. I’ve noticed a change in him just in the past few months. I don’t know if it’s his occupational therapy, homeschooling, maturity, or what, but something is working for him. Perhaps Lucas noticed that things were a little too quiet, so he decided to fill the void. Not only has he been testing the limits lately, but he’s stopped letting William get his way. Sadly, they fight a lot more now.

I’ve also noticed a few other changes in Lucas’ development. For one, he’s been stuttering lately. I don’t think of it as a problem, but as a developmental speed bump. My niece has struggled with stuttering over the years, and my sister noticed that it’s just one of those things that goes along with their growth. It comes and goes. I can also tell that Lucas’ brain is moving too fast for his mouth. He knows what he wants to say. It just takes a little while for it to come out.

Lucas has also shown big progress academically. Because we homeschool, I see this with my own two eyes. His reading is coming along so well, and he’s at the point now where he reads the words he sees around him. When I read to him at bed time, he’ll point out a few words he recognizes. And he was watching TV the other day, and simply said to himself “fox.” He read the network logo.

What am I to do about all of this? Recognizing the problem and its cause helps immensely. But it still doesn’t get to the root of the issue. If I weren’t a Babywise mom, I might call it a phase and wait it out. But since I know better, I’m going to train this disobedience right out of him! It means my husband and I need to buckle down and tackle it head on. Consistency is the name of the game these days. We can no longer be lax with our schedule, room time, couch time, etc. We will also be looking for logical consequences that “hurt” a little more than a timeout would, because after your sixth timeout of the day, they start to lose their effectiveness! And thank goodness he still naps!

Wish us luck!

 

Babywise Week: Is Obedience Ever an Option?

Source: return2learn.org

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

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

 

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

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

Not giving instructions with authority

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

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

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

Front-loading consequences

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

Repeating

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

Threatening

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

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

Parenting from the hip

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

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

Bribing

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

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

Negotiating

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

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

Have no doubt: obedience requires submission.

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

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

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

 


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

Managing authority

Source: goodenoughmother.com

How well do you manage your authority over your children? Do other people think you’re too strict? Too permissive? Do you bribe or threaten your way out of bad behavior?

“Let’s face it, authority has been a struggle for humankind from Cain and Abel to Bonnie and Clyde. Children struggle with it from birth, and as we grow older, the struggles just grow,” (On Becoming Childwise).

Despite our struggles with authority, we cannot parent our children without it. We cannot teach them the ways of the world without it. We cannot coexist peacefully without it. How we handle authority sets the tone for our parenting.

“Everybody has an idea for handling authority: diversion, persuasion, surrender, bribery, pleading,” (On Becoming Childwise).

We must be strong enough to take a position of authority even when other people think we are too strict.

“For many people, authority has taken on a derogatory flavor. We almost feel like we have to apologize when we use it. … [But] authority is a necessary positive. Until man can order his own affairs, until he ceases to prey on his brothers, he will need someone to maintain order. This is critical for children. The proper use of authority, whether it be parental leadership in the home or civic government, is not restraint, but liberation,” (On Becoming Childwise).

This idea that authority brings freedom and comfort echoes what I said in my last post about the cadre in French parenting.

Despite this clear need for authority, we must be sure to find the right balance:

“The parent who controls too little and the parent who controls too much both reflect misconceptions and false antagonism that have misguided today’s parents. Though both approaches are attempts to produce conscientious, responsible children, they are extremes which apply improper use of authority,” (On Becoming Childwise).

We should take a step back and decide where our authority lies in the spectrum.

“Sadly, many parents live at one of these unwise poles. The over-authoritarian parent may employ highly punitive and sometimes abusive practices which come with strict rules and heavy-handed punishment. The problem here is not the exercise of authority, as some believe, but the excessive and wrongful use of authority,” (On Becoming Childwise).

Every time we exert authority over our children, we should question our reason for doing so. Yes, authority is required, but it should be used to protect the health, safety and morality of our children. If it is used for our own convenience or ego, the authority has been abused.

This line between healthy and abusive authority can be easily blurred. Holding a young child’s hand while crossing the street is a clear use of healthy authority. Making that same child sit in the shopping cart at the grocery store may be an unnecessary use of authority. Perhaps the child is responsible enough to handle the freedom of not sitting in the cart. And at the far end of the extreme, using our authority to require a child spend his Saturday mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, folding the laundry, pulling weeds and fetching us a glass of water is an abuse of authority.

Make sure every use of your authority is done in the name of helping the child become a better person. If it doesn’t promote health, safety or morality, let your authority relax and let the child be a child. 

Achieving first-time obedience

In my last post, I described what first-time obedience looks like. Now we’ll get into the details of how you can help your child obey the first time. It’s not easy but so worth it!

Lay the groundwork. It’s all about your tone.
Before you start requiring first-time obedience, you need to ensure your own attitude is in the right place. For those of you unsure of your ability to command authority, reach down within yourself and find your courage. Do not fear your child. Do not let him make the choices for the family. If you have read one or two of the Ezzo books, you are no stranger to the idea that the marriage takes priority in the family. Your child is a welcome member of the family but is not the center of it. Let that attitude carry you through your daily interactions with your child.

Some of you may have a strong handle on your authority but might take it too far. Don’t expect that he will disobey or he will. Don’t think that having authority over your child means that he’ll comply with unreasonable expectations when he’s tired and hungry. Don’t equate authority with anger and power. We want wise parenting, not power parenting.

If you have found the right attitude, you are likely at a place where you want to set your child up to succeed but will maintain a matter-of-fact tone if he doesn’t. When your child disobeys, you don’t accept it or get angry. You say to him, “Oops, I see you’ve made the wrong choice. Too bad. Here is what your consequence will be.”

Be consistent!

One of the most important things you need to require of yourself is consistency. If you want first-time obedience from your child, you must be 100% consistent. If you slip, he will too. But if you require it, he will meet your expectation. Your child will only rise to the expectation you set for him. Set the bar high but keep in mind you need to do the work to help him get there.

Get your “yes, mommy” and eye contact
I cannot stress enough how important it is to have your child respond to the call of his name with a “yes, mommy” and eye contact. Before you give any task, especially one that he won’t want to do, you need to get his attention and know that he is listening. Maintaining eye contact while you give the instruction is key. Refer back to these posts for more.

Don’t repeat yourself
One sure-fire way to not get first-time obedience is to repeat yourself. How can he achieve first-time obedience if you’ve already given your instruction 5 times? Give him your instruction clearly and while maintaining eye contact and you have no excuse to repeat yourself. You know he has heard you loud and clear.

So what do you do if your child doesn’t respond after you’ve given your one instruction? Wait. Don’t wait 20 minutes, but do give him a chance to comply. If he still doesn’t respond, don’t say another word. Simply take him by the hand and physically help him complete the task. If you’ve asked him to put his Legos away and he ignores you, take his hand and bring him over to the Legos. Then take his hands in your own and start picking them up together. Be sure to do this with a very calm demeanor or he will strongly resist you.

After you have completed the task together, explain to him that you had to help him this time and that next time, you want him to obey you the first time you ask him to do something. After you have given it a few days of helping him obey you, move on to expecting him to obey you on his own. If he chooses not to, then you move on to your consequence.

Decide ahead of time what your consequences will be
Spend some time with your spouse thinking through your child’s most troublesome behaviors. Then decide on a logical or natural consequence for each of those behaviors. Write them down and post them in the kitchen so you can refer to them often. Perhaps picking up his toys is where he struggles the most. You might decide to take those toys away for a day. Let the punishment fit the crime, and make sure your consequences are ones that you can follow through on, even at your own weakest moments.

The key here is that you plan ahead so that when you’re faced with disobedience, you’re not scrambling to come up with a consequence. You want to respond swiftly, especially as you’re just beginning. Refer to my post on intentional parenting for more.

Do non-conflict training
Whether he’s 2 or 12, take the time to explain to him your new standard of obedience. He needs to know that you are changing the rules of the game and that you will be giving consequences the first time he disobeys. Clearly explain to him that you expect him to respond to your instructions the first time you give them. Be specific. Tell him that if he runs away from you at the park, you will go home the first time. Tell him that if he speaks to you with disrespect just one time, he will lose his TV privileges. Remind him often, several times a day every day.

Follow through
This is where you make or break the deal. You can do all of the work I describe above, but if you don’t follow through when your child disobeys the first time, all of your work will be for nothing. Not only will it have been a waste of time, but now your child won’t believe you when you say you will require first-time obedience. If your child disobeys just one time, issue the consequence, no questions asked. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t repeat yourself. Don’t threaten. Don’t get angry. Keep a calm demeanor and follow through.

Now, don’t kick yourself if you slip once or twice. You are both acquiring a new skill, but do make it a priority. Even set aside a few days when you can stay home and work on it.

Set your child up for success
You want your child to achieve first-time obedience, right? So set him up to succeed. Don’t start your work on first-time obedience by asking your 4-year-old to mow the lawn. Take baby steps. Start by giving him a task you know he’ll do willingly. If he does it the first time, praise him! Expect that he will succeed. Make it so that he wants to give you first-time obedience. Then once he is doing well with simple tasks, move on to more difficult ones.

Be fair
You cannot expect your child to give you first-time obedience if you haven’t done all your work first. You can’t issue a consequence the first time if you haven’t told him what you expect. For all he knows, you’ll repeat yourself 20 times like you usually do. And consider context. Don’t start expecting first-time obedience when your fuse is short and your child is tired and hungry.

Require a happy heart

I started this post by asking you to work on your own attitude, and I’ll end by saying you need to ensure your child has the right attitude as well. A big component of first-time obedience is doing it with an attitude of submission. You might want to spend a week or two working on the mechanics of first-time obedience before you move on to changing his attitude. But once you are ready to do so, explain to him at a time of non-conflict, what you expect of him. Then if he gives you first-time obedience but sulks off after complying or whines about doing the task, start requiring him to respond with a happy heart. One of the best ways to do so is requiring him to do the task over with a better attitude. If he needs a few minutes in isolation to find his happy heart, let him go to his room and then come back to you when he’s ready to comply with a better attitude.

This was a long post full of weighty ideas. Refer back to it often. Good luck!

Say what you mean. Mean what you say.

Trite as they may be, these eight simple words have great power to change your relationship with your child. They are particularly effective for parents who lack consistency. But they are words that every parent should remember. The underlying principle is that you clearly communicate to your child what you expect of him and follow through on every word you say. If you live by these simple words, your child will respect your parental authority.

“Never give a command unless you intend for it to be obeyed. Therefore, when giving instructions, be sure to say exactly what you mean and mean precisely what you say,” (p. 126, Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition).

Say what you mean
Applying these first four words to your parenting will be an exercise in self-control. You will say what you mean and nothing more. Many parents fall into one of two categories: yes parents and no parents. The yes parents allow their children to do what they want, frequently responding with a “yes” to their requests. The no parents prefer to restrict their children’s freedoms and will often impulsively answer with a “no”. With either group, we see that it’s easy to spout out an answer without truly thinking through the child’s request or our own response.

Make a commitment to think through every single word you say to your child. Stop before you speak. Silently count to three if it helps. It won’t hurt him if you cannot answer right away. You may even want to tell him you will think about it and get back to him later. Take the time, make a rational decision, and say what you mean. This act alone will fill you with resolve. You will be able to follow through much more consistently when you know you have given thought to what you have said to your child.

If you don’t say what you mean, your child will know it. While you need to consider context in every situation, 98% of the time, you should not change your mind after giving an instruction. Your opportunity to change your mind is before you say anything to the child. If you change your mind constantly or allow your spouse (or the child) to talk you out of a command already given, he will learn that your words are meaningless.

By not allowing yourself to change your mind, you will take those four little words (“say what you mean”) very seriously. If you commit to following through on every word you say, you will quickly realize that there is nothing worse than having to follow through on an instruction you regret giving in the first place.

Mean what you say
This is the second component of consistent parenting. By meaning what you say, you follow through. You take your own words seriously. You discourage your spouse from allowing a freedom you previously said no to. Or if you previously decided to allow your child an unexpected freedom, you don’t take it away just because common sense suddenly got the better of you.

“There is no better way to teach a child not to obey than to give him instructions that you have no intention of enforcing. A child quickly learns the habit of disregarding his parents’ instruction. This habit may become so strong and contempt for instruction so confirmed, that all threats will go unheeded,” (p. 126, Growing Kids God’s Way, 5th edition).

Not meaning what you say could look like this:

  • You let your child ride his bike in the street after you told him to stay on the sidewalk. You think, what’s the harm just this one time?
  • It’s 20 minutes past your child’s bedtime and you ask him if he wants to go to bed.
  • You don’t buy your child a cupcake after you previously agreed to the idea. Earlier you thought, why not? Now you think, no way.
  • You allow your toddler to climb the stairs by himself after your spouse has told him not to.
  • You tell your school-age child he is responsible for remembering his lunch and then bring it to him when he forgets.

When we don’t follow through, we cause confusion in the mind of the child. This confusion leads to pleading, negotiating and other verbal freedoms that your child will exhibit because he thinks he can change your mind. What’s worse, your child will begin to disrespect you for your lack of resolve.

Our children simply want to know what we expect of them. They want to know what the rules of the game are so they can play fairly. Lay out those rules for them clearly and consistently and they will comply.

The good news is that your child will have no problem with this principle. The onus with this one lies squarely on the parents’ shoulders. The bad news is that it is difficult to apply with 100% consistency. “Usually it is only mom and dad who struggle with it, because it calls parents to consistency. Children will rise to whatever level of parental resolve is present,” (p. 120-121, On Becoming Childwise).

Continually remind yourself of the importance of this principle. The more practice you get, the easier it will be. If your child tends to ignore you or whines and negotiates when you give an answer or instruction, start applying just this principle. This alone will change the way your child views your parental authority. Give it your all, and you will see results in a few short days.