Thursday, August 10, 2006

I'm going to tell you a secret that could change the world!

Ok. It won't change the world. I only speak/write/read two languages, and lots of countries censor the internet so loads of people won't, or won't be able to read this post.

It's about parents screwing up. Again.

There are TWO simple things that you can do to screw up your kids for life.


One is to either not employ the word NO, or to rescind a NO due to whining or temper tantrums.

The second is to not establish a routine or to not stick to a routine.

That's it.

Here's how to do it. Not having routines, not saying and meaning no and being a wuss about sticking to the routines will get you a child that will walk all over you - and probably one that will, in future, do same to co-workers, friends, colleagues and employees.

If you, the parent, who is charged with the care and nurture of this little baby, cannot establish and stick to a routine, you will have put into motion the means by which you will screw up your kid.

READ ON. I'll tell you about three specific routines you should - no MUST - employ if you want to have well-raised kids.

Routines must be established at the earliest and I mean right away.

Children need LOTS of sleep, even though they will tell you they don't. The more fatigued they are, the more frenetic they become and the more they protest bed. Just because they say they're not tired doesn't mean you let them run around screaming until midnight. That makes them spoiled and you a pushover.

When your baby is two to three months old, usually, they begin sleeping through the night. THIS is the time to establish the sleeping routine.

Babies will need to eat once in the early evening and probably once more just prior to midnight. The routine is this: last awake feeding is around 7:00 p.m. This is the foundation hour and this is going to always be the foundation hour until they're about 12 years old.

Last semi-awake feeding is 11:00 p.m.. This is the time that will eventually be eliminated and in most cases can be by the time the babe is six months old. this is also a foundation hour for later, as this last, later feeding will leave an imprint. When your kid is an adult, 11:00 will be a natural time for them to sleep.

If you're feeding your child any later than that or if they're a year old and still getting up at night, you are allowing your child to control the routine. More about this later.

Establish the bedtime routine immediately and only deviate from it when absolutely necessary. By the way, there is NOTHING on TV that makes deviating from bedtime necessary. NEVER let a child stay up for a TV program. Everything's available on the net or on DVD. Bedtime is WAY more important.

My girls were required - and there was NO negotiating - to be in bed by 7:00 p.m., every night. Period. Until the end of sixth grade (they would have been around 11 or 12 years old), bedtime was 7:00 and there was no discussion.

In grade 7, they were allowed to stay up until 8; grade 8, 8:30; grade 9, 9:00. In tenth grade, the bedtime routine was so firmly established that even when it was necessary for them to stay up for homework or after school activities, they were tired and really wanting to go to bed by 10:00.

Establishing this routine has a future benefit. If your kid is naturally tired and wanting bed by 10:00 p.m., they're not going to be whining about staying out till midnight on school nights - or any night for that matter.

Now I'm saying go to bed. I did not say go to sleep. People fall asleep at different rates. One of my girls is asleep before head is on pillow. One reads for three or four minutes; the other reads perhaps for 1/2 an hour. I'm fine with that. They're in bed at the routine time and are thus forced to extend the routine by finding something quiet to occupy themselves until the fall asleep. Reading is a great choice.


No. Kids need routines they can depend on and the need ADULTS they can DEPEND ON. If your child figures out not only can you not be depended on, but that you will alter the routine at a whim, guess what? The child now runs the show.

There are several reasons for a regular bed time:
1: kids need sleep
2: parents need adult time
3: kids must absolutely understand that they may not intrude on adult time.
4: kids need a dependable, never changing routine
5: kids need the opportunity to build on established routines
6: success at school, life and with friendships depends on solid foundations in childhood
7: development of solid foundations for the child is the responsibility of YOU, the adult.

So now you've established a regular bedtime that you will not alter unless there is a very good reason. And because you will not waiver on bedtime, you have also established that you are not a pushover. If you say it, you mean it.

This is the second key concept. If your kids get to understand that by applying the right pressure (whining, whinging, tantrums) you will cave, believe me, they will capitalise on it and sometime down the road, you'll have a 15 year old stealing your car and another kid smoking up in his/her bedroom because they know that, with enough of the right pressure, you will cave.

DO NOT CAVE under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. If you say it, do NOT unsay it.

OK. Here's an example of how to apply the NO CAVE rule. In this scenario, your 10 year old wants to ride the neighbour's motorcycle around the neighbourhood - and the kid doesn't want to wear a helmet. If your kid knows without a shadow of a doubt that you mean what you say, and that no means "no-damn way-and-don't-ask-me-again," then you're going to have about a one minute conversation with that kid. It will go like this:

He/she asks "Can I go ride the motorcycle and no I'm not wearing a helmet;" you say NO; they start to negotiate; you give them the "Don't ask me again, I already said no" look. End of conversation. Employ at all reasonable points.

The next routine you establish is the getting out of bed routine. Most young kids get up early The rule is that they may not come out of their rooms until a certain hour. If that's six a.m. in your house, fine. Just stick to six a.m.

If they come out before the established hour, march them back into their room, tell them in no uncertain terms "STAY IN HERE UNTIL SIX A.M," close the door and go back to bed - or wherever you were.

Do NOT negotiate, yell, or talk through the door. You say your piece once and only once. If they come out again, repeat the above process. Do not say one word beyond "STAY IN HERE UNTIL SIX."

Your goal is to implant in your child's mind that you are the boss, that what you say goes, that there will be no negotiation and whining will not get them anything.

The next routine is the "must be up and dressed by" rule. Doesn't matter what time it is. If your family must be up, dressed, fed and out the door by 7:30 then set your "must be up by" time to what works and STICK TO IT. This includes weekends! Why? Because these routines are invaluable for creating stability and dependability in your child and also for establishing that what you say goes, all the time, no negotiation.

One more: "What's on your plate is what is for dinner." You don't have to eat but don't come back later because this is dinner and dinner time is now.

You want picky, unhealthy kids? Let them tell you what to make and when. Want picky, unhealthy, bossy, spoiled kids? Cave

You want healthy kids who eat and don't complain? Stick to the "What is on your plate is dinner," rule. Start when they're young. Kids should be breastfed until they're at least six months old but after that, they can gnaw on well-cooked broccoli and mashed up sweet potatoes - or whatever else everyone is eating, providing it has been made safe for them to consume.

Chips and Crisps are NOT food. Neither are DingDongs, Coke or pretty much anything processed. If it comes in a box or a plastic bottle, it isn't food. Such things should only be consumed rarely because they make you stupid, unhealthy and fat. Period.

Oh. And be an example. If you don't eat well, you'll be fat and unhealthy and so will your kids.

A note on 'punishment;'



DO NOT HIT YOUR CHILD. Employ time out but do not hit your child.

I guarantee that if you follow these concepts they will save you a world of grief.

Early establishment of routine gives your child a HUGE, beneficial foundation for their future. They will be able to cope in school - because school is all routine. Children who don't have established routines STRUGGLE in school and are often tarred with the ADHD brush (this condition is actually very rare!) If your child has no properly established routines before they get to school age, how do you expect them to cope!?

Routines are the bedrock of coping in school.

Secondly, you will have established yourself as the indisputable authority figure. Your child must understand that when you say no, you mean no and nothing they do is going to alter your no.

CAUTION. There is a concept called occasional reinforcement. Reinforcement is a very strong motivator. Occasional reinforcement is even more motivating.

In my example of putting a child back in their room if they're out too early is an example of reinforcement. You do and say exactly the same thing - no more, no less - each time. Reinforcement.

Occasional reinforcement, however, is where, occasionally, you don't put the child back in their room. That occasion will stick with your kid and will cause whining and tantrums. If you've done it once, you MIGHT do it again and that is the gamble that every child will take. Possibility is a very strong motivator for all humans - and kids, although occasionaly they may not seem it, are humans too.

If you allow it once and then you give in once, you're lost. Occasional reinforcement (allowing/giving in) lets your child know that you can be had. NEVER do it.

I'm sure all this sounds really harsh. It isn't harsh at all. You're not a dictator. You're a parent who I hope has your child's best interests and future at heart. Your goal is - or certainly should be - is to give your child the most solid foundation you can.

I have followed these concepts through raising three daughters. My eldest has just finished her first degree, a degree that over the last three years has required her to be at school sometimes for 20 hours at a time - while she held a job! Her routines are well established and she was able to develop her own routines to cope with the rigours of school. She is on the Dean's Honour Role and she has had a semi-full time job for the whole time she's been in school. She has had a job in her field for a year, and has been offered a full-time position with that international company on graduation - next week.

My second child has been travelling in Europe since last September and for the last 5 months, worked as an Au Pair (nanny) to four girls in Scotland. Her routines are so well established that she was able to easily create similar routines in that household - routines the children had never had, but which totally simplified their and their parents' lives.

One month into her job in Scotland, this daughter called me and told me that she totally understood why I had done things the way I did and that she had put those techniques into practice with this family. She made a huge impression on the family and caused a positive shift in their lives by placing some expectations and routines.

This daughter also graduated on the honour role from high school and is entering university with scholarships in the fall. (Update: this kid is living in New York after finishing her University degree DEBT-FREE because she had the discipline to sleep well, go to class, schedule her study and also work her job).

My youngest has just returned from a six-week work exchange program through the Canadian Government. She has been easily able to adapt to her new job - which is in another province - a french-speaking province - and her new situation because she has foundational routines - regular bed times, regular up times, being on time for work and having respect for persons in authority. She came home with several commendations both from her job and from her host family. (Update: this kid is in year two of a four-year criminology degree and will also exit school with no debt thanks to two PT jobs. She maintains a 3.5 GPA and she also manages to travel quite often. Habits are good.)

I have had moments of rebellion from my girls, to be sure. But they have been short-lived because my girls know that under no circumstances will I bend. Once I make a decision on how it's going to be, that's how it is. They know that there is nothing they can do to change my mind.

Here's an example of how much I won't bend. Once, one of my daughters went to a house party at the home of a family we knew from her school. She was to stay there until 11:00 p.m. and the was to take the bus with three friends to her girlfriend's house, where she had permission to spend the night.

Around midnight , we got a call from the sister of one of those friends, asking if we knew where the girls were, as they had not turned up at their destination. My initial reaction was intense fear!

The sister had heard the girls were in a local walking park (large park of over 80 acres), which is closed at night. My spouse and I went to one end of this park and the sister who'd called went to the other. We did not find the girls. Upon arriving home, however, my daughter called. It was 1:00 a.m. I asked her where she was, and she said at her friends, where she'd been since 11:00 p.m.


We went immediately to pick her up, which she protested very loudly; however we did not bend. In fact we didn't say anything beyond "Get in the car."

Once home, I had my daughter sit down at the kitchen table where I told her she was staying until she came clean on her whereabouts. She would not, so she spent the night - all 8 hours of it - sitting at - and occasionally sleeping on - the kitchen table. She finally came clean at 8:00 a.m the next morning. She never pulled anything like that again because she knew we'd find out, that she'd be punished and that - worse thing - she'd look really stupid in front of her friends because we weren't about to protect her from her own choices.

One final technique and this one is also critical. There will be times when the decisions you make will be the wrong decisions. You will screw up.


Be humble. Be human. Be an adult your child can trust.

You are not a dictator. You are a loving parent. You have rules and routines not to restrict your kids but to free them from spinning about in oblivion. Kids may misbehave but they're doing it to find out where the limits are and IF YOU'RE THERE and paying attention to them.

Do what you say you're going to do.
Stick to your guns, maintain the routines
Say sorry when you're wrong.
Start this when your child is an infant and you will eliminate 90% of the trauma and heartache that so many parents experience.

It is THAT easy. Guaranteed.

More on routines at these places, and please note, they are here for information only. I do not endorse or even necessarily agree with everything in them. OK?
ADD Centres of America: Good article on routines
Wholesome Baby
Parent Resource Network (SD)
Raising Children Network
Suite 101

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