Babywise Week: Benefits of Babywise in Older Children

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It’s Babywise Week! Today, we’re featuring a post from Valerie, our fearless leader. Valerie blogs at Chronicles of a Babywise Mom. I honestly think that Babywise would not be what it is today without Valerie. There are certainly plenty of groups and contact moms out there who help Babywise parents, but Valerie’s blog is a huge blessing. She blogs so dutifully, reaches people across the globe, and covers every topic we could ever need in applying the Babywise principles in our homes.

I first met Valerie online when my youngest (now 6.5) was a few weeks old. It turned out that we both had an older boy around the same age. I believe my oldest William is just 6 or so months older than Brayden. Well, I immediately felt an affinity with Val since we seemed to have the oldest kids in our group, and Babywise hadn’t quite hit the Internet in ways that it has since.

Like Valerie, I started my blog in response to many moms looking for support with Babywise. She was the real trailblazer, but I started my blog in 2009, more than five years ago!

But I digress. In today’s post, Valerie talks about the effects of Babywise in older children. I can certainly attest to the claims she makes that Babywise does nothing to harm our kids. In fact, it prepares them for a life of responsibility, respect, diligence, and more. If there’s one caveat to these statements, it’s that it’s not really Babywise that has prepared our older kids. Babywise is great for babies. But so many moms forget to keep reading the series. Babywise sets us off on the right foot, but Toddlerwise, Preschoolwise, and Childwise are really where the hard work starts to pay off. So if you haven’t kept up with your reading, so do now!

In her post, Valerie offers a great description of what’s going on with each of her kids. They’re an inspiration! Here’s what I love most in what she says:

There are so many little things that really have all struck me as common sense when I have read them in the Babywise books that we have implemented that have helped my children grow so far into the delightful people they are. They amaze me each day. I am excited to see them grow and see all they will become. They are equipped with tools to do what they need to do and I have no doubt they will continue to amaze me in the future.

I agree!



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.

Do We Need to Earn Our Kids’ Respect?


There is a funny thing about respect. Many teachers, parents, and other authority figures feel that we need to earn our kids’ respect. But is that true? Can we only expect respect from our kids if we earn it? Do we need to prove that we deserve their respect or can we simply expect it?

The Ezzos teach us that parenting is all about respect. Kids need to respect authority figures simply because they are authority figures. If you stand in a leadership position, respect should come along with the role. In fact, if you’re simply older than a child, you should expect respect.

I’ve been known to say that my home is not a democracy. My children do not have the same decision-making power that my husband and I have. They are children, and we are adults. Yes, we are all human and we all deserve respect, but there is a very clear, intentional imbalance of power. We are the authority figures, and we make the decisions, with their needs in mind, of course.

Now, this is not to say that we can abuse respect. In fact, if we stand in a position of authority, we need to model the behaviors that we expect of our children.

The leader of our Growing Kids God’s Way class once said that if we expect respect from our children we need to be RESPECTABLE. To be respectable means that we are able to command respect. If we don’t act respectable, we can command respect, but we might only get it superficially. Our kids may show us respect externally, but they may not believe that we deserve it.

Ultimately, while our position of authority as parents means that kids should show us respect, we must still act respectable. We should show them that we deserve their respect. But in the end, we can simply command respect because we are their parents and we are the primary authority figures in their lives.

When Nobody Is Watching…


I just saw an inspiring post on the CFH Babywise and Beyond Facebook page that says this:

“Teach your children to have integrity…to do the right thing even when no one is watching.”

I love this thought. And I love the idea that the Ezzos teach us to instill integrity into our children. When we teach them the moral reason behind the behavior we expect (beginning no later than age 3), they are more likely to internalize these behaviors. And when they internalize these behaviors and the moral reasons behind them, they are more likely to act appropriately even when nobody is watching.

I see this in my own children. When we’re in a restaurant and I take the time to explain that other people want to enjoy their meal and not be disturbed by children, they sit up straight and look around at the people around us. It’s very different from the times that I tell them to act in a certain way just because I expect it. When they know there’s a reason that goes beyond my expectations, they are much more likely to comply.

This comment from the CFH page also serves as a warning to legalistic parents. If “because I said so” is a common theme in your home, you may get different behaviors when no one is watching. If mom and dad aren’t around to serve as an external reinforcer because the child has no internal motivations, the child may act as he pleases.

I’m reminded of a family I babysat for when I was a teenager. This family made the rounds through all the babysitters I knew (me, my sister, my neighbor, etc.). Honestly, nobody wanted to babysit for this family because the two little girls were little hellions. One time when I was babysitting them, I was chasing after one girl while the other dumped the whole jar of fish food into the fish tank. They were about 4 and 6 years old, so they were old enough to know better.

My babysitter friends and I concluded that they acted like this because they were so stifled by their super strict parents. One minute of freedom away from the parents, and they were a disaster. The parents were so strict that they required the girls to wear headbands (spiky ones!) to bed. It’s clear to me that these girls had no internal motivation to behave; they certainly weren’t internalizing the behaviors their parents insisted upon.

I hired a babysitter recently, and I’m thankful she said my boys were sweet. In fact, I’ve never had a nanny or sitter complain about my boys’ behaviors, even despite William’s sensory issues. I think my boys understand why I expect them to behave in a certain way, and they comply even when I’m not around.

So the next time you have a chance, try to spy on your child. Does he play nicely? Do his imaginary friends share and treat each other with respect? Does he watch over his baby sibling? See if he has internalized the moral integrity you expect. See how he behaves when no one is watching.

How High (or Low) Are Your Standards?


Where do you set the bar when it comes to your children and their behavior? How well did your kids fare during Thanksgiving dinner? Were you proud of them or did you walk away vowing to make some changes?

Deciding where to set the bar is an important exercise for any parent to undergo. Deciding on an intellectual (not gut) level what attitudes and behaviors are acceptable is the first step in parenting. You might even go so far as to write down acceptable behaviors and any future goals you have in mind for your child.

If you decide that you want your child to express gratitude to friends through acts of service, you might get him started on household chores when he’s 2. By the time he’s 8, he’ll then freely offer to unload the dishwasher when he sees that you’ve had a hard day.

By the same token, maybe you just want your kid to be a kid. You’re fine if he spends every free minute simply playing.

Personally, I probably stand between these two extremes. I have a friend who mentioned to me that her child offered to unload the dishwasher at a friend’s house. I was amazed. But then I’m also conflicted because I place a very high premium on imaginative play and think it’s so important to my kids’ developing minds and intellect. So while I do have my children do chores, I also let them play quite a bit.

This post is inspired by a recent comment I received from a stranger. Or rather, I should say that my children received this comment. It was Veterans Day, and my veteran and I took the kids out to a fairly upscale restaurant. There were other families there who were taking advantage of the partially free meal, and I won’t say I didn’t notice their kids’ behavior or the huge presence of mobile devices. At one table near us, there were two boys about Lucas’ age (5) and they each had their own iPad. As soon as they lost interest in the iPad, their behavior spun out of control, clearly unacceptable for this kind of restaurant.

Whenever we eat out, I explain to my boys that there are many other people in the restaurant who are paying good money for their meal, and they do not have the freedom of ruining that meal for those people. They must respect this fact every time we go out. Apparently, this has hit home because as a group of older people walked out of the restaurant, one of them leaned over our table and commended my children on their good behavior.

Of course, this puts a smile on my face. But my thoughts at the time bring me back to the point of this post. As this woman complimented their behavior, I felt some relief and pride, but I was also rolling my eyes a little. The fact of the matter is, at the exact moment that she complimented their behavior, we were frustrated with their manners. We didn’t see well-behaved kids. We saw kids who were eating green beans with their hands.

I realize that it’s important to step back a minute and realize that yes, they were sitting still, yes, they were sitting quietly, and yes, they were eating their vegetables without complaint. But at the same time, I cannot let go of the relatively high standards I have for my kids. I can recognize their good behavior and compliment them on it, but that doesn’t mean I should lower my expectations. If anything, their good behavior tells me that my methods are working!

So if you have high standards for your child, it’s a good idea to step back sometimes and appreciate their behavior. If you have relatively low standards, you’ll either be comfortable with the behavior you get while in public or you might even vow to raise the bar just a bit. Wherever you stand, be sure you have chosen where to set the bar. Don’t fall into an accidental parenting trap and just let the bar lie where it may.

Excuses excuses


How many times have you heard another parent make excuses for their children’s behavior? How often do YOU make excuses for your child’s behavior?

There are many factors (personality, age, birth order, etc.) that affect who our children are and who they will become. But for many parents, it’s often easy to blame those factors when their children are showing undesirable behavior or attitudes.

What’s important to realize is that those many factors may explain the attitude or behavior you’re seeing, but they don’t excuse it. Help your child overcome any limitations that limit his character.

Here are a few of those factors that are often used as excuses:


We all have inborn personality traits. Until I saw it in my own kids, who are so very different from each other, I didn’t fully comprehend how much of our personality is inborn versus how much is developed over time. Don’t use your child’s personality as an excuse for rudeness, disrespect, lack of self-control or any other undesirable trait.

Stop yourself when you hear phrases like, “Oh, he’s all boy,” or “She’s just quiet.” Accept these traits, but also work with your child to help them overcome them when the need arises.

“‘But she’s shy,’ blurted a mother apologetically. While shyness itself is not morally right or wrong, it does have moral facets. Shyness is not an acceptable excuse for disrespect. It cannot be used as a legitimate excuse for disrespect, because temperamental strengths and weaknesses do not exempt a child from right moral responses. If someone says hi to your child, the correct response should be, at least, hi,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 101).

If you find yourself confronted with a situation that your child handles poorly because of a personality trait, simply smile at the person involved and say, “I’m sorry; we are working on this.” And then when you get home, teach your child how to speak politely, gain self control, or whatever trait it is that you’re working on.

Ages and stages

There’s no doubt that our children’s ages affect who they are. And they go through developmental phases that define their personality for a time. Just as you would with personality traits, don’t use the child’s age as an excuse for poor attitude or behavior.

It’s pretty obvious that you would work with a two-year-old to limit tantrums, especially in public and in response to a friend. But it may not be as obvious to work with older children. Understand that other phases are just as important. What would you do if:

  • Your 5-year-old suddenly starts fighting with his siblings?
  • Your 7-year-old starts whispering and telling secrets with friends, as he gains independence from mom and dad?
  • Your 10-year-old walks around with a haughty attitude and inflated ego as peers lavish attention?
  • Your 13-year-old challenges your authority, arguing that her friends’ parents aren’t so strict?

No matter what the developmental phase, our children will change over time and will quite likely pick up some undesirable habits. Don’t blame the age and expect that it will go away. Quite possibly, ignoring the issue will make it worse!

“Sibling conflict is not simply a phase that children go through. It is a moral problem that desperately needs correcting. Although sibling conflict is frustrating for any parent to observe, it is possible to carry out the first principle between siblings, but it will take consistent hard work,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 105).

Birth order

In The Birth Order Book, Kevin Leman lays out the personality traits that we all gain based on our position in the family. First-borns are often perfectionists and take on leadership roles with siblings. They often insist on order and routine. Middle children often take on a peacekeeper status. The babies of the family often become the family comedian.

Again, while it’s important to understand how birth order affects our personalities, we cannot use it to excuse attitude and behavior. You might see birth order differences come out in the way the children speak to each other:

First born: “You can’t do it that way. It has to be this way. You’re doing it all wrong!”

Middle child: “Why can’t you guys just get along?”

Youngest: “I want to do it my way. You’re being mean to me. I’m going to go tell mom.”

In response to such remarks, the Ezzos say:

“Your children should never speak rudely to each other. Evil intended remarks such as, ‘I don’t love you,’ ‘You’re ugly,’ or threats like ‘I’m going to tell,’ are unacceptable. Keep watch! Training children to restrain their unkind speech is one of the most overlooked areas in parenting,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 107).

It’s not just luck

Understand that children don’t behave well and act morally through dumb luck. It takes parental training and resolve.

“Morally trained children know how to respect property, age, and peers. Such children are a joy to be around, because they are complete, equipped with moral reason. They are not the product of chance or genetics. People will mistakenly say to these parents, ‘You’re so lucky to have children like that.’ But it’s not luck, it’s the result of consistent, persistent, parental training. These children’s actions demonstrate humility of heart, which is what real character training is all about,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 109).

Parenting: It’s all about attitude


Your attitude as a parent is what defines the type of parent you are. Attitude is also one of the key components of any child trained in first-time obedience. It’s important to understand that both the parent’s and child’s attitudes must be in the right place.

Before working on first-time obedience training, mom and dad must work on their own attitudes. Establishing authority and requiring respect must form the basis of all parenting.

“Teaching children to respect and honor their parents is basic to teaching them how to show respect for others. It starts with the parents,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 92).

There are three important parenting attitude types to consider:

  • Threatening, repeating parent
  • Permissive parent
  • Authoritarian parent

The threatening, repeating parent
Beware of the threatening, repeating parent syndrome. This represents the antithesis of first-time obedience. As you can imagine, threatening and repeating parents do everything but require a high standard of obedience. The threatening, repeating parent yells at the child to get his attention, repeats himself at every turn and spouts empty threats. These parents flip-flop between letting behaviors go and yelling when they get to be too much.

The permissive parent
Permissive parents are guided by laziness and fear. They tend to let their children do as they please because they are fearful of damaging the child’s self-esteem, fearful of the child’s inability to obey, fearful of losing their child’s friendship, fearful of imposing boundaries, fearful of being as strict as their own parents were. Many permissive parenting households are run very democratically with the child’s opinions being weighted just as highly as the parents’ (if not more so). In permissive parenting circles, the word “obey” is considered a four-letter word.

The authoritarian parent
Authoritarian parents are guided by the principles, “Do a I say, not as I do,” “Because I said so,” and “Children are to be seen and not heard.” Authority and obedience are the name of the game. There’s nothing wrong with authority and obedience, but the authoritarian parent takes it to the extreme and refuses to understand that love and encouragement are just as important. Legalism, not balance, guide the authoritarian parent. These parents stick to the letter of the law no matter what. The child’s needs and desires aren’t considered. These parents also fail to realize that you cannot treat a teenager like a toddler. The relationship falls apart (if it was ever there to begin with), and the teenager rebels and wants nothing to do with his parents.

Find the balance
If you follow the Ezzos’ teachings, you will command respect like the authoritarian parent, but you will also choose your battles like the permissive parent. You will have the strength to warn your children of discipline, but you won’t spout empty threats like the threatening, repeating parent. Like the permissive parent, you will consider your relationship and self-esteem, but you won’t let fear guide your parenting. Like the authoritarian parent, you will teach your children to respect your word, but you will also be fair when your child respectfully disagrees.

All this week, I’ll discuss this idea a bit more so you can make sure you are finding the right balance in your parenting attitude.

Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience. New eBook!

Have you always wanted to teach your children first-time obedience but you’ve never been sure where to begin? Let my new eBook, Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedienceteach you how.

I am very proud to announce the release of my new eBook! Several months ago, I realized that it might help parents to have one easy-to-read, digital source for advice on teaching first-time obedience. After many hours and late nights, it’s now a reality!

After reading through my own posts on the topic of first-time obedience, I decided that there were several holes in my teaching that needed to be filled. So I am excited to offer this eBook, which covers just about every idea I’ve had about training children in first-time obedience. The 112-page eBook serves as a great complement to the Parent Wise books from Gary and Anne Marie Ezzo.

In Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience, you’ll learn how to:

  • Rid your home of tantrums, whining, complaining and negotiating
  • Train your children to be respectful and obedient
  • Create peace and harmony in your home so you can enjoy your children again
  • Work on obedience while they’re young and the stakes are low
  • Reduce the stress that comes with parenting young children
  • Achieve a balanced life of love and learning with your children

Gary Ezzo himself has endorsed the eBook:

One of the most important parenting tasks is helping children learn to obey. This eBook offers practical advice for parents in the throes of obedience training and is high on my recommended reading list. ~ Gary Ezzo

Get your copy of Live in Harmony with First-Time Obedience while it’s on sale! Until January 9, 2012, it will be available for just $6.99! That’s 30% off the original price!

Click on the graphic below to learn more about the eBook and to download a sample of the eBook. Have a look before you buy.

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Character foundations: respect, honor and honesty

I flipped open my Growing Kids God’s Way workbook just now and came upon a passage I had previously highlighted. I’ve been thinking a lot about my children’s character lately, so it’s fitting that the book opened to this page. Here’s the quote:

“The quality of your character and that of your children is best exemplified by the presence or absence of three attributes: respect, honor and honesty. … Respect, honor and honesty are critical fibers in the moral fabric of our being. To respect our fellow man is to honor him, and to honor him is to live honestly before him. The parent’s job is to take the intangible concepts of respect, honor and honesty and make them tangible—to take their abstract meanings and make them concrete. They must show their children what moral truth looks like,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 90-91).

With this in mind, I looked at the house rules I have displayed on my white board to see if they help accomplish this goal. I have had these rules on my board for quite a while and considered revising them simply because my kids are older, but ultimately I decided to leave them as they are. This tells me that these rules—founded on the basis of respect, honor and honesty—are constants in our lives. Following is a list of house rules you might consider as you expect these character traits in your children.

  • Obey mommy and daddy; say “yes, mommy” and “yes, daddy”
  • Be true in all things; never tell a lie
  • Always use nice words; nasty attitudes are never tolerated
  • Be polite; say “please” and “thank you”
  • Answer when spoken to; say “hello” and “goodbye”
  • Respect and obey adults; make eye contact and respond kindly

As I was writing this, I started to wonder what the real difference is between respect and honor. According to Microsoft Word, the words are synonymous. Yet, there is a wise quote from a 19-year-old girl in the GKGW workbook that distinguishes the two:

“I can never remember a time in my life when I was not required to show all those in positions of authority respect. It is second-nature for me to do so, although it is hard sometimes to respect a person who is in authority over you because of a lack of integrity in their personal life. It helped when my parents explained the difference between respecting the person and respecting the position. I can always respect a position of authority out of a sense of duty. When I respect someone in authority because of the way they conduct their life, I am honoring them out of a sense of devotion. Understanding the difference between ‘duty’ and ‘devotion’ helps me always respect authority figures,” (Growing Kids God’s Way, p. 91).

I think of respect as being action-oriented while honor is more of an attitude or belief. While our children are young, we ought to expect actions that reflect respect. With such a foundation then, they are well equipped to develop a sense of honor for those things they have been taught to respect.

How well does your parenting teach your children to show respect, honor and honesty?

Tuesday Triumphs: Character development

Just last week, a parent who frequently volunteers in William’s classroom complimented me on his character. She said, “William is such a confident child, but he’s sweet and kind-hearted, not arrogant.” Her implication was that confidence often brings out arrogance and that William proves that the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Her comment made me smile, of course, but more than that, it made me wonder what it is that makes him this way. There’s no doubt that he is confident. And he is a very sweet child.

When I think of his confidence in school, I immediately feel validation for our decision to delay Kindergarten. His birthday is just two weeks before our state’s cut-off date, so no matter which way we went, he was going to be either the oldest or the youngest. There was no middle ground. His first year of pre-K, he was the youngest. His immaturity was blatant. His second year of pre-K (same school, same teachers), he was one of the oldest, and his teachers (and I) were amazed by what a different child he was. The confidence and maturity he gained made all the difference.

But aside from his age compared to his classmates, I knew there was more, especially since he is in a mixed-age class right now. I know that I would never accept arrogance from my child, but how exactly did that translate in a way that an outsider would notice? What I couldn’t figure out was whether this is just his personality or whether I did something as a parent to encourage this in his character. Then I picked up my copy of Childwise, and the first page I turned to gave me my answer:

“Certainly a child is born with a particular temperament on which personality is built. However, these do not excuse a child from appropriate character training. The combination of virtues instilled in a child’s heart must be the same [no matter his inborn temperament].

Character, in fact, is not about a person’s temperament or personality. It is the quality of a person’s personality and the moral restraint or encouragement of his temperament. It is the outward reflection of the inner person. Our character reflects our morality and our morality defines our character. They are inseparable,” (pg. 89-90).

To be honest, I have never consciously worked on William’s character. I remember once finding a list of character qualities and wanting to incorporate them into our daily routine, but it never really happened. What I think happened is that by implementing the Ezzos’ parenting philosophies, building his character became a natural by-product of all of the other work we had been doing.

The book makes it clear that we are to teach our children to respect authority, respect property, treat others with kindness and encourage service to others. By spelling out the character traits we should instill in our children, the Ezzos have validated all of the traits that I have always wanted in my boys. And not only do they spell it out, they give me a road map to achieving it.

Ultimately, what this shows me is that the relatively minor details of my parenting—like developing a schedule, defining a discipline plan and working towards first-time obedience—are all part of a much bigger effort in character development. I’m happy to see that it’s all working as I had hoped.