A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the misconception that Babywise is just a sleep training strategy. The truth is that the -wise series (starting with On Becoming Babywise but carrying through to Toddlerwise, Preschoolwise, Childwise, and even Teenwise) is about far more than sleep. It’s about being good stewards of our children – focusing on the long term goal (a well-adjusted, respectful, personally responsible and morally upright adult) and applying strategies for dealing with normal kid stuff that ultimately work toward achieving the long term goal.
On Becoming Preschoolwise is full of these strategies. Sure, it’s full of some other confusing and totally unhelpful illustrations (ahem, the whole “Land of Good Reason” storyline) but that’s what brings me here, condensing the book into a few important take away points. Skip the fluff and get down to the parts that are actually helpful. You’re welcome.
Highlight #1: The Interrupt Courtesy
You can read more on my post here, but the Interrupt Courtesy is a way for your child to communicate to you that they have something to tell you without interrupting the conversation you’re in the middle of. It’s simple and it works. Everyone should do this.
Highlight #2: Self Control is a Base Virtue
Self-Control is one of the most important skills we must teach our kids if we want them to develop into morally upright adults. Why? Because self-control is a base virtue: the other virtues (patience, goodness, respect, faith, kindness, morality, etc.) cannot exist without it.
“Self-control influences kindness, gentleness, proper speech, the ability to control negative emotions, focusing skills, sitting skills, and many other behaviors. Each of these has a corollary impact on learning. When you train your child to a right moral response, you simultaneously train him in self-control.” (pg 38)
Acknowledging this truth impacts the way we view typical kid behaviors like tantrums and whining or even things like controlling the volume of their voice inside. Viewing the Interrupt Courtesy through this lens, the purpose is not simply to stop an annoying habit but also to teach (and expect) the level of self-control required to wait patiently to speak until someone is done talking. Children who develop high levels of self-control will then be able to apply the skill to morally relevant areas like obedience, learning to hold their tongue, telling the truth, showing respect to elders, controlling their temper, and being invariably kind.
Highlight #3: The Choice Addiction
In many instances, offering two choices to a child is an effective way to steer them away from the ten thousand other options. I do this all the time with my kids’ clothing. Do you want to wear this or that narrows their choices down to two acceptable options and generally keeps the peace while getting ready in the morning. Choices are not bad.
But sometimes children can get addicted to choices. This is what Preschoolwise calls being “wise in their own eyes.” When children are wise in their own eyes, they feel as though they can and should be making all the decisions.
How do you know if your child is addicted to choice?
“Parents can know if their child is addicted to choice by simply observing what happens when all choices are taken away…A child who is addicted to choice cannot emotionally cope in life when no choice is available to him. ” (pgs 74, 75)
Here’s what happens: You start off offering choices to your child for things that don’t matter (do you want the red cup or the blue cup? Do you want to wear a t-shirt or a tank top?). Over time, your child gets so accustomed to having the final say that they cannot deal when no choice is given (for example, you need to wear a sweatshirt, we’re having eggs for breakfast or it’s time for bed now). The false sense of empowerment leads the child to resist any instruction that doesn’t allow them to call the shots. The way to fix this addiction to choice is to remove choices for a period of time – until they can learn to cope with you making decisions.
Recently I noticed this happening with my 2 year old. I had been giving him a choice of which t-shirt he wanted to wear for a few months, but there were a few instances in a row where I had to choose for whatever reason (church, a family photo, etc.) and he reacted with a complete melt down. This exposed his addiction to choice. I have since taken away the option for him to choose what he wears in the morning and things are going much smoother. In a few weeks or months, I will let him start choosing again.
Highlight #4: What and Where Questions
This is a simple technique for encouraging obedience. When a child is not doing what you have asked them to do, instead of repeating your instructions, ask the child questions that force them to verbalize what they should be doing.
So instead of: I told you to clean your room!
Say: Where should you be right now? What should you be doing?
This overcomes the tendency for children to tune out your repeated instructions and to take ownership over what is expected of them.
Highlight #5: Factors of Learning
A quick google search of “Kindergarten readiness” brings up checklists of things your child should know prior to going into kindergarten: things like recognizing their name or counting to ten. Those might be good things to know, but what most affects academic success is not actually knowledge based. Instead, parents should be focusing on:
SLEEP: Children require adequate sleep in order for their brains to best function. Research confirms that.
ATTENTION SPAN & FOCUSING SKILLS: The tendency is for kids this age is often to hop from toy to toy or to have an expectation that a parent (or an electronic device) entertain them. Some parenting experts (ahem, John Rosemond, who I otherwise love) think children learn best through freedom to explore in unstructured environments. These all have a negative effect on attention span and focusing skills because the child only learns when they are randomly interested. They are not being prepared for the structured learning that happens in school. The way to combat this is with a structured daily routine set by the parent that includes activities like Independent Playtime and Silent Reading Time.
Highlight #6: Laws of Correction
On Becoming Preschoolwise approaches correction and discipline much better than the prior four books in the –wise series, in my opinion. It first teaches parents to make the distinction between childishness and defiance – and to correct the child accordingly.
As an example, yesterday my two year old took an egg out of the chicken coop and threw it on the ground – presumably to see if it would break (it did). Throwing the egg was unacceptable both because it wasted and egg and because it created a mess for me to clean up, but Abel acted in childishness, not in defiance. He did not know at the time that throwing the egg was something he should not do. I corrected him, but did not discipline him. I told him he was not allowed to open the nesting box again.
An hour later, I noticed a chicken was out of the coop and realized that Abel had disobeyed my instruction and opened the nesting box. Unlike the first egg incident, this time he acted in defiance because he knew he was not allowed to open the box. The second time he was disciplined.
A child can also act in defiance the first time they do something (when they haven’t been told specifically not to do that thing) if their motive is malicious. In the egg example, if my 2 year old had taken the egg the first time and pelted my 4 year old in the head with it instead of throwing it on the ground, his motive clearly would have been to harm her and the act would have been in defiance.
This section also covers how to teach humility – apologizing and asking for forgiveness (and the distinction between the two).
On Becoming Babywise is clearly the most popular book in the -wise series, and it has helped countless parents get their child on a healthy sleeping and eating schedule. Unfortunately, I think a lot of parents stop there and fail to continue on in the series. This really is a shame, because while sleeping and eating lay the foundation for a well-adjusted child, the steps parents take to actively guide their child into becoming a good and responsible adult carry far more weight. On Becoming Preschoolwise offers plenty of excellent parenting concepts and strategies and is a great resource to come back to each time another child enters the stage.