Raising Responsible Kids: A Series

Responsible-kidsHomework battles, bedtime battles, morning battles, sibling arguing…  It seems like there’s no end to the battles the average family faces, and ours is no exception.  Mornings are always stressful with trying to get the kids out the door to the bus without losing my marbles, and lately homework has become a serious issue.  In a nutshell, we need a system.

When my first child was a baby, I read every parenting book that came down the pike.  I was obsessed.  Now that my kids are older, and our parenting issues have evolved from how to get them to sleep through the night to how to get the homework turned in on time, it’s time to go back to my reference books.  In other words, I NEEDZ HALP!

I had a great role model as a child.  My parents were loving and kind, but always in charge.  I don’t know why I struggle so with my own parenting skills, but it seems that I often resort to anger and sarcasm before I am obeyed.  I know that I need to implement consequences before it gets to that point, but too often I find myself at a loss for a reasonable consequence and so the downward spiral begins.  It’s gotten worse over the past few weeks, and sometimes I feel like giving up.  But no more.  I have tools now.  I have a plan.  And that, I’m learning, is half the battle.

The first book I read was Parenting With Love And Logic by Foster Kline and Jim Kay.  And now I’m reading an old favorite, John Rosemond’s New Parent Power! I read this book about 10 years ago and thought highly of the advice, but at the time my kids weren’t really ready for it.  Both focus on allowing kids to fail and learn from their mistakes while they are young and the stakes aren’t so high, in hopes that when they get older and decisions become more weighty, they will know how to make wise choices.  They differ a bit in the implementation, but I’m finding helpful advice in each.

I’m also reading Grace Based Parenting but I haven’t gotten very far in it yet.  And of course I’m open to your suggestions!

Last weekend I was lamenting with several other bloggers how few blogs discuss issues dealing with older children.  We were asking each other why that is, and we all came to the conclusion that we feel totally inadequate to give advice as we are in the trenches ourselves.  Never one to shy away from a challenge, I thought I’d do a series of posts on what I’m doing to try to get our family into more of a productive and positive routine.

First, I must caution you against using any one book as your manual. I like to read different perspectives, then I take what I like and leave the rest.  I like the basic premise behind Love and Logic (logical consequences vs discipline/anger), but some of the examples are too harsh for my tastes and for my kids’ personalities.  I also like the basic premise behind Parent Power (the parents’ relationship, not the kids, should take top priority) but I don’t necessarily agree with all the points he makes either.  So far Grace Based Parenting is heavy on philosophy and not so much on practical takeaway, but that may change as I read further.

Every family is different, and every child is different, so I can’t stress enough how important it is to read everything with discernment and make it work for you.

I’m developing a system based on the following principles:

1. logical consequences vs discipline and anger

2. choices vs commands

3. questions vs lectures

4. no nagging

5. no idle threats

6. no yelling

You see, when you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices rather than resorting to nagging, yelling, idle threats, and unrelated punishments, you put the responsibility for their actions on their shoulders.  Too often parents make their kids’ problems their problems.  Then the parents get angry and the kids learn nothing.  More on this in subsequent posts.

By giving them choices rather than commands, they don’t have the option to disobey.  The key is to give only choices that you can live with, and then to be willing to follow through.  More on this in subsequent posts.

Asking questions instead of lecturing encourages kids to think for themselves and be discerning.  You guessed it, more on this in subsequent posts.  🙂

In the next few posts, I’ll explain some of the new systems we have in place and how we’re getting the kids to pick up their toys, get to the bus on time, help out around the house, and get their homework done without drama.

See all posts in this Raising Responsible Kids series.

Disclaimer: I am by NO MEANS a parenting expert of any sort.  I am just sharing some things I’m learning as I navigate the muddy waters of motherhood.  I figure, if they work for me, they may work for someone else.  Good luck!

Disclosure: All links to books are Amazon affiliate links.

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38 thoughts on “Raising Responsible Kids: A Series

  1. Love this. I’ve read very few parenting books but have soaked up what I can from different sources. I agree with your principles and look forward to this series. As I was watching Parenthood last night, once again I was completely freaked out by parenting a teenager and think a lot of the work is done well before then.

    1. That’s EXACTLY the premise of the Love and Logic book. He starts with a story of his son, choosing NOT to go to a party where his friend was driving, and that very night his friend drove off a cliff (drunk) and killed himself and those in the car. SCARY. We need to teach our kids to make wise choices before the stakes get that high.

  2. Having consequences at the ready is definitely one of my challenges. Timeout just doesn’t cut it with an 8 year old. 😉 We’ve had her write sentences a couple of times, for some major issues, but the little stuff is harder to deal with effectively. I’m looking forward to reading more.

  3. I think this is a great idea. One of the things I love about blogging is the feeling of being “in the trenches” with other parents. Most of my friends are not at the same stage of parenting as I am and often I feel all alone in what I’m going through. Plus, who couldn’t use some great advice.

  4. This is great! What perfect timing. I was just pulling out the old ‘Positive Discipline’ book to rethink my strategy as a parent. I like your philosophies and look forward to reading more!

  5. I’m really looking forward to this series! As a first-time parent with one child, sometimes I feel like I’m totally winging it. But, then Tommy (3 1/2) looks at me and says “you’re not my friend”, and I know I must be doing something right! Ha! Lisa Whelchel wrote a good book called Creative Correction. I think I read it when I was pregnant (neurotic much?), so I would like to read again.

    1. Yeah, see that’s what I did. I read them all before I needed them. And then promptly forgot most of it. 🙂

  6. I am loving the idea of this! It is true that there are no blogs that talk about the school age kids, or the ones that go to school outside the home at least. I have often wondered how other parents do it, and reading the comments on the coming posts will be wonderful! Such a great idea Jo-Lynne!!

  7. Looking forward to your words of wisdom 🙂

    Definitely with you on not making idle threats!

    Worst one I heard last week was a mother to her small child – “Stay right beside me or a horrible man will come and take you away, and Santa won’t bring you any Christmas presents”……the child promptly wandered off……

  8. My daughter isn’t old enough yet, but I plan on keeping a copy of this series to look back on when she is! Thanks!

  9. Crazy. I just posted about the importance of laying down the rules first and then connecting later and how much it helps in parenting and teaching. Then I came over here to see your post. Like minds.

    Your Number 5: No Idle Threats is another post to come for me. I’m working on that big time.

    And I agree, we were so well behaved and orderly for my parents, too. I struggle with finding a way to have my kids behave just as well as I did when I was a child.

  10. I love this :
    “when you allow them to experience the natural consequences of their choices rather than resorting to nagging, yelling, idle threats, and unrelated punishments, you put the responsibility for their actions on their shoulders. Too often parents make their kids’ problems their problems. Then the parents get angry and the kids learn nothing.” This also allows (if we let it) for more communication about the consequences, which usually teach both parent and child. Or maybe that’s just in my case. 🙂

    When my oldest was a preschooler and the youngest was a toddler, a friend gave me one of the best pieces of advice EVER as I was disciplining of my charming kiddos in the middle of a Mom & Me Playgroup! She said, “Always remember you are raising adults, not children.” Changes perspective doesn’t it?

    I also agree with the lack of information out there and the reason being we’re all somewhat inadequate or whatever…Hubs and I have always said that when the kids find out we don’t know what we’re doing (parenting-wise) we’re in big trouble. But you know what, God is always faithful to give us the knowledge and wisdom we need for each season…and my how fast the seasons change!

    Good post…can’t wait for the next one!

  11. Looking forward to reading more! I hate that I sometimes resort to idle threats. And by sometimes I mean most of the time. (Seems like always, really.)


  12. I’d recommend Have a New Kid by Friday (Kevin Lehman). It’s not the end all be all, but it’s solid advice for those who can’t get out of the rut. There are so many blogs out there by moms with toddlers who are constantly dishing out parenting advice – personally that drives me crazy. The older my kids get (oldest is middle school) the harder parenting gets.

    1. You know, I read one of his books once — How to Make Your Kids Mind Without Losing Yours ?? Is that him? I wonder where that went.

  13. Great job, Jo-Lynne!! So glad you’re choosing to tackle these tough discipline issues. And you are so right–deal with those issues early and you won’t have to worry about it (too much) when they’re older.

    You think there’s no blogging going on for people with kids your kids ages! . . . mine are even older! Guess I have to dole out the advice myself. 😉

  14. I’m really looking forward to this series! Right now I’m reading a book called Playful Parenting which has got some great ideas. I’ll post about it soon. I’ve read several of the books you’ve mentioned, and I’ve got a wishlist of parenting books about a mile long. My son is only 2.5, but oh man, this is a rough age sometimes. I know you’ll be addressing older kids, but I’m still looking forward to what you’ve got to say!

  15. Looking forward to it! Can’t wait to get back later tonight to see what other commenters have already had to say. Have heard about Love & Logic, LOVE John Rosemond and have recently been turned on to 1-2-3 Magic. We have a 6 and 8 (and a half!) year old so this is perfect timing for our family.

  16. My three children are the same ages as yours, so I am dealing with the same struggles you mentioned. I am really looking forward to this series.

    How do you and your husband stay on the same page with everything? I find that it can be difficult.

    1. That’s hard. We usually are on the same page, but I’m a few steps ahead with our new techniques. He’s reading the first book still, and it will take him ages to get through it. We had our second family meeting last night, and those are key for getting everyone on the same page. We struggle to always have a consequence to use; I think once we get that down, it will be easier. We sometimes revert to old habits, him more than me, but I think it’s b/c I’m thinking about it so much right now so I’m more “in the zone.” 🙂

  17. i thoroughly enjoy your blog. it ranks as on of my fave online finds in 2009! i have a food question, if i cannot seem to find lard from grass fed pigs, is regular lard any better than other shortening? it would seem to me, it would be an improvement over crisco and other industrial subsitutes for fat but i am really curious if you can give me a “real answer” instead of my gut instinct.

  18. You have 3 kids, I would guess you deserve some extra grace. I mean after all – it’s THREE personalities, JL!! Good heavens, that’s a lot to comprehend without losing your mind…errrrrrr cool.

    When my son was younger he had nothing he really cared about as far as punishment goes. It was sooooo frustrating. He could have cared less if he slept on a mattress in an empty room and had no tv for months. He’d make himself happy with a stick in the yard. It was insane.

    Now that he’s older the xbox is our culprit and also our consequence. We have a rule that he can play ONE hour a day (which is still a LOT but he does not watch TV) and anything over an hour he owes us $1 per minute. I’ll tell ya whatttt……he paid us $17 ONE time. ONCE. He wasn’t about to let that happen again.

    We still have a long ways to go – – but, I gave up yelling last year for Lent (I know – talk about nutz! — and I yelled on the 2nd day in — at my PURSE of all things, sigh – I had a rough go of it at first) and that seemed to kind of/sort of cure me from yelling. I don’t know that I even yell once a month anymore – but there was a tiiiiiime where I was OL YELLER.

  19. I highly recommend Boundaries with Kids, by Drs. Cloud and Townsend. Very practical.
    I am looking forward to this series, because I am so right there with you on so much of what you’re describing!

    1. I was just going to recommend this book. Just read it last year & think it is a *must read* for every parent! I haven’t implemented it very well so far- empathy is hard sometimes when your kids are testing the boundaries!

  20. JL, I spend a lot of time thinking on this issue b/c we have 4 kids, and 3 of them are older teens. We have a tight family and good kids. They’re strong-willed but obedient. Yet I run up against the whole “attachment parenting” mentality so often, I give up trying to talk about teaching kids independence. And I feel that our culture has a “there is no tolerable risk” attitude with children. So, when you talk about allowing kids to suffer the consequences of their actions, our society really doesn’t like that. Parents don’t do that. They try to absorb all the shock for their kids, for YEARS, and then the kids don’t function well outside the home. Sigh. I’ll enjoy your posts about this. Maybe I should blog about it some too.

    1. Yep, it’s unfortunate. I think it’s creating a generation of spoiled, entitled children. I refuse. I love the philosophy of Love & Logic b/c it allows the parent to be more of a mentor than a disciplinarian.

  21. I’m also coming back to using resources (such as reading books or internet articles, talking with friends who are parents, etc.) Seems like I did that a lot when my kids were babies & toddlers but after my firstborn turned 4 or so, not so much.

    I described my efforts a bit in a 2-part blog post called Keeping Your Sanity While Raising Sane Children (part I, part 2).

    Recently, I just finished a book called “Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers“. In the beginning, it seemed to be talking about the same thing over & over so much that I almost decided to stop reading it. I liked the basic idea, though, so I kept going. I am so glad that I did! The second half was awesome. I would recommend it to anyone raising kids right now, whether they are 1 year old or 15 years old.

  22. Can’t wait to hear more on this. I’ve read Love and Logic and Grace Based Parenting and liked them both. I need to re-read GBP because I read it when my oldest (now almost 7) was an infant. Three kids later I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of it.

  23. Sigh, I knew this was going to happen. After stating I hadn’t yelled in a while I knew I would be tested (oh but did that stop my arse?? nooo cuz I’m not that smart, sigh). So I yelled today – TWICE (and it’s only 1:40 here). Once at my son (who has the day off from school and could not help himself but to make annoying noises—-oyyyyyyyyyy—screeeecchhhh). And then? I yelled at my computer. Loud yell.

  24. Thanks for starting this series. I hope one of the columns in on the responsibilities of the parent. As a single father for the past eight years of a now 13 and 11 year-old, I can empathize with all of the above. I can say, almost without exception, that the (unfortunately many) times I have resorted to yelling, was because I was/am not holding up my end of the bargain time-wise.

    For example, if I do not allow enough time to make lunches, get my things organized for the day, stop working at my computer far enough in advance, and that clock ticks quickly towards departure deadline, my voice raises pushing the children in tones that actually should be self-directed. I was not prepared but it is easier to blame someone else. Oooops. While it would be ideal for us to believe that our children would have this built in sense of time-management, it has taken me all many years to teach and learn my responsibility. Kind of hard to teach the value of being on time if I am always late.

    Your comment on teaching consequences is spot on. Expand it to helping the kids understand how their responsibilities in the scenario, (in this example) how long each item takes, and what needs to be done to be ready on time. If you do, it will lead to the potential of family teamwork, and that beautiful day, when they come to you and say, “I’m ready, what can I help you do?” It will come.

    I hope you do write on a generation of spoiled, entitled children, and expand it to the parents’ (non)actions. Is it the child’s fault that they run amok in restaurants or is it the group of parents who selfishly do not want to give up their “precious” social time with their peers who do not have the guts to get up and truly leave the restaurant or the supermarket check-out line. You think kids don’t know when they can get away with more? They watch us and know when we won’t come through with idle threats.


  25. Great idea, Jo-Lynne!

    I really like how you emphasized that it’s important for parents to not use any one book as a manual. That is such an important point! It’s best to take the good and leave the bad when reading parenting books…or any books, for that matter.

    I can’t say that I have a favorite parenting book. I’ve read quite a few, but have been disappointed by almost all of them.

  26. Love this. I want to link to this series. Is it possible you could start a list of the posts at the end of this one with links so that when it is all over everything will be in one spot?

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