This is not my favorite of the Wise series. A lot of it is too theoretical for me (I’m a fan of keeping parenting SIMPLE) and frankly, some of what they say I don’t agree with. Still, it does offer some good, practical tips. This was my second time reading On Becoming Toddlerwise but I still feel like I got a few things out of it.
Perhaps the overarching concept of the book is what Ezzo calls “the funnel factor.” He uses the imagery of a funnel to show how freedoms increase as a child ages. Older children are capable of handling more freedoms than younger children. When children are given freedoms they are too young for (what they call “parenting outside the funnel”), there is developmental confusion and children often react by being naughty or out of control.
Although I happen to think the funnel is a poor illustration for this, I do think it’s a good concept to keep in the back of your mind. If you see that your child is acting completely out of control, perhaps the first consideration should be if you have given them too many freedoms too early.
Other good concepts include:
Couch time: This is basically a structured time of day when you and your spouse sit down and talk to each other WHILE the kids are awake. The idea is to teach your children that your marriage comes first. More details on it here. We don’t do couch time regularly – mostly just on the weekends – but I think it’s something we need to start making a daily practice. Perhaps I’ll do that and write a blog about how it goes!
Over-scheduling: Toddlerwise clearly cautions against over-scheduling children with activities outside the home. Lots of activities are not only totally unnecessary for the development of a toddler but they often lead to burn out – of both the mom and the toddler. This totally validates my aversion to story time at the library and mommy and me classes of any kind.
Principles of Instruction: I think these principles form an excellent basis for acquiring obedience.
- When you speak to your child, expect a response. For example, when I ask Abel to do something, I should expect that he reply with a “yes mama” to convey to me that he heard me.
- With toddlers, parents should be giving instructions, not suggestions. This means you say “It’s time to eat dinner now” instead of “Would you like to eat dinner?” or even “It’s time for dinner, okay?” You’re the parent – you don’t need to ask your toddler if it’s okay that you eat dinner.
- Discipline should be consistent.
- Require eye contact when giving instruction. This is something I’m a big stickler on. I sometimes have to repeat “Abel, look at me” multiple times or physically turn his face to look at me when I’m telling him something, but it’s worth it. A child that isn’t looking at you likely isn’t listening to you either.
The last tip I’d include in the list of “best of” Toddlerwise is the one to rearrange bedtime so books are read on the couch or common area instead of in bed. I just wrote about that concept last week and you can read it here. Makes a huge difference!
There were a few other good points discussed, but I was surprised to find a few areas in which I disagreed with the author. First, I found the chapter on structuring your child’s day to be completely overboard. The example they use has the day structured to such an extreme that I think they overshot the point. Yes, kids like structure. But everything in moderation – structure should be balanced with lots of time for kids to just be kids – and that’s coming from someone who is pretty hyperscheduled herself!
Then in the chapter “The Land of Good Reason” (which was totally over my head, by the way) Ezzo makes a point that I just could not be in more disagreement with. He says,
“Obedience for this age-group means that a child complies with your instructions at least sixty percent of the time. Do not misunderstand this point, we are not saying sixty percent compliance is acceptable but rather you are working toward total compliance sixty percent of the time” (pg 94).
Okay… I am definitely misunderstanding the point. He is saying that 60% compliance is not acceptable but it is the goal? How is that possible? Where does he even get the 60% figure? Did he just pull that percentage out of a hat or is there some sort of complicated formula that explains it? I could be missing something here, but to me it seems obvious that if a parent sets their expectations at only 60% obedience, that’s all they’re going to get. In our home, we expect our children to obey. Not 60% of the time, 100% of the time. Anything less is unacceptable. Ezzo goes on to heed this warning:
“If the bar is set too high too early, it will only lead to frustration for you and the child” (pg 95).
I’ll admit I’m only 3.5 years into parenting here, but it’s been my experience that children only rise to the bar you set, so if I expect them to disobey 40% of the time, they most certainly will, and THAT is what would be frustrating.
All in all, I like On Becoming Toddlerwise, but also think it’s an unnecessary book in the wise series. A lot of it is “fluff” and some of the best concepts have either already been covered in prior books in series or are part of On Becoming Childwise. If you’re Gary Ezzo’s #1 fan, go ahead and give it a read, but otherwise I’d just as soon leave it sitting there on the bookshelf collecting dust.