a tight ship.

I’m gonna brag on my kids for a minute…
As one might imagine, we get some attention when we go out as a family. There are a lot of smiles, several points, and a few oohs & aahs. There is also the unfortunately common, “How many kids? You’re crazy!” Chris has to address those people by himself, because those interactions shut down my brain.
My proudest moments, though, come when someone stops us to compliment the big boys on their behavior. They are polite and considerate. They open doors. They pick up dropped items. They look out for the babies in such a tender manner, it makes a grown man weep (even if that grown man is their dad and a weeper by nature).
I know that every child is different. I know it simply by looking at my own. But I also know that expectations have a lot to do with behavior, too. We expect a lot of our children, and we don’t apologize for it. We run a very tight ship at our house. So tight, in fact, that people occasionally try to intervene during a time of discipline.
“Ames was playing with that toy first; that’s why he tried to get it back.”

or

“Avery’s just being a boy. Don’t be too hard on him.”

or

“Lucas only interrupted because we was so excited to tell me about his school project.”

We usually deflect those conversations with a smile and a comment about “teaching moments.” I won’t get into types of parenting and discipline in this post, but I do want to share two concepts that often run through my head while Chris & I learn how to parent our growing family.
Kids are like puppy dogs. We don’t try to complicate things. When it comes to the basics, we don’t allow things like personality and human nature and willpower to get in the way. Our children will learn to do what is best for them. They will learn this by repetition. Our boys will always be expected to wait until everyone is finished before they get up from the dinner table. They will never wonder if it’s okay to watch TV or play video games without asking first. They feed off of structure and routine, and they thrive off of positive reinforcement. Like puppies. It sounds harsh, but it’s not. It works for us.
Kids will rise to the occasion. One of our boys is notorious for performing a task sloppily, in order to bring someone to his rescue. Shoe laces are a particular nemesis. We used to bend down and tie them quickly for him, after he showed us his own poor attempt. Now? We simply wait. It takes patience, and often extra minutes built into the schedule so we’re not late somewhere. But we will all wait until he ties his own shoes and ties them well. And we will encourage him through it. The same goes for making beds, or walking a little brother inside from the car. Our boys like to be challenged and taught and groomed for the future.
If you’ve ever met my kids, you will know without a doubt that they are not suffering from either of these parenting strategies. They are colorful, creative, and quick-witted. They know when it’s okay to let loose and get wild. They know when it’s time to straighten up and fly right. They’re learning how to think critically and how to (respectfully) challenge authority when something doesn’t add up.
A quick note about toddlers: I only knew the big boys at arm’s length when they were super young, but I am currently learning how to handle the “terribles” with my own little man. Everyone has a different opinion about which year is the hardest. I think they’re all wonderful, and they’re all challenging.

Every day, Ames learns something new and flexes his muscles a bit harder. We encourage him to develop his own sense of self & personality, while helping him learn his place in the family. When it’s time for a nap, it’s time for a nap. I know when he’s tired, even better than he does. It will not always be so, but right now parents know best. Thanks to this little “mobile time-out” Chris invented, Ames knows when he’s messed up right then and there. He sits down, puts his hands on his knees, and takes a few deep breaths. He puts his finger over his lips when he’s ready to re-engage his wild world. He’s able to work through whatever emotions he’s experiencing, and he’s able to process with Momma or Da-Da. It’s so beautiful to watch. And handy, too… how do you think we taught him how to leave his fun hats on?!

Feel free to share your stories and tips. We’ve got kids at every stage at this point. We’re always up for learning something new!

14 thoughts on “a tight ship.”

  1. Rachel-I’ve been reading your blog for a little while and I just wanted to tell you that I have been so blessed by it! I love what you said today about running a tight ship. We feel the same way with our family and in this world it’s nice to see other mommas with the same view point!

  2. The women you come into these boys lives (a long time from now) are very very lucky. Not many boys will have such great manners and morals. This is exactly how my parents raised my sister and I. And this is also how my husband and I plan on raising Stella!

    Bravo mama!

  3. hey there, great post!
    i’m a big fan of discipline and I don’t think it makes kids rigid and lacking creativity and personality *if done right* and I think you’re totally marching to that drum and I LOVE IT.

    curious about that mobile time out though… don’t think I fully understood what it is but I’d love to hear more if you could better explain it.

    I have a 15 month old and I’m wondering when you started this time out thing… we’re at a cross roads where we’re not sure what she understands and what she doesn’t so discipline is tough.

    thanks for posting :D

  4. i am certainly going to take away from this. we are currently struggling with our four year old & the two year old sees & responds in similar ways as he sees big brother act. i love your mobile time out idea. going to try it on the little one & go from there

  5. I’d love to hear more about your mobile time out strategy! I’m about to start time outs with my 21-month-old (very short ones), but usually they’re needed when we’re out in public. So this sounds perfect!

    Love the idea of a tight ship. Go you!

  6. Love this post! I have a 13 month old and your blog has really be an inspiration to me. I would love to hear more about disciplining a toddler and the mobile time out. My son is a little young for it now, but I am sure our day is coming ;)

  7. Rachael, thanks for this post! I will be one who attests to the fact that your kids are funny, well-adjusted, and I love hearing stories about them! I’ve seen the “mobile time-out” in action and we’ve started including it in our discipline strategy with Cooper. For those asking, I know Rachael will talk more about it, but the biggest thing that makes it work for us is that there’s no “time out chair” involved, so you can do it whenever and wherever you need to. It teaches your kids to take a time out when they need one, whether you’re by the “naughty chair” or not. Cooper’s almost two and a half and responds really well to it.

    Our parenting philosophy is that our job is to create a great adult, not a great kid. Anyone through a variety of means can turn out a well-behaved child. But to produce a well-adjusted, compassionate, service-minded adult is a bit more of a challenge. That’s our goal. So when we talk about table manners, we talk about respecting others. And when we correct, we’re specific (i.e. “we don’t hit in anger”). I’m big on having age-appropriate expectations, so I don’t expect Cooper to understand every word or concept at this point, and I don’t punish him for being two. :) But I do want him to grow up familiar with this language, so that when it is age-appropriate, he never has to wonder what we expect from him.

  8. Step-monsters are always bitches, and the rules usually apply to the “other” kids. Expectations are always lightened for their own kids.

  9. Thanks for the feedback and stories!

    Regarding the mobile time-out: Basically, it just involves us stopping wherever we are and telling Ames to sit down on his bottom. He puts his hands on his knees until he can be quiet. When he calms down, we ask him if he’s ready to do _______ (whatever we were doing). Sometimes, he nods his head and puts his finger over his lips and stands up. Sometimes, he says no and starts wailing again and we have to wait longer. I know every kid is different… but for us, it’s been really effective! We started it around the time the girls were born, I think. At first, we sat down with him and showed him how to put his hands on his knees, take deep breaths, and put his finger over his lips. It sort of evolved from there.

    @Anonymous – Yikes! Not sure what you’re referencing here… Maybe you didn’t read my post? Or maybe you don’t read my blog? Regardless, it seems like you’ve been affected by one of us at some point. But I can assure you, I’m doing my best to change the face of the step-monster industry!

  10. You all do such a fantastic job with your children. I’ve honestly never met such thoughtful and respectful boys. It’s encouraging to me as a mama of boys.

    We do the “deep breath” thing too! And it totally works. With the little guy (who is just entering toddlerhood) I’m going to try the mobile time-out… that is clever!

  11. I sent you this as an email a while back. Don’t know if you got it, but I know this would be a nice time to reiterate the message.

    Hello,

    After reading your blog for numerous months, I have officially come to a conclusion.  You have taken my previous perceptions of “step-mothers” and turned them completely upside down.  When I was 11 years old my father remarried a woman who was very much the type of step-mother you read about in the children’s “fairy tales.”  She was always very cruel to me, and sought out opportunities to make me feel “less than”.   She had three children of her own from her previous marriage.  She allowed her children to make my life a living hell and verbally bash my father (without repercussions) This was my daddy! The best man in the entire world! Meanwhile I learned later on that she had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And, I only relatively recently (think the past 10 years) really understood what that meant.  She was a sick woman and she did a real number on my self-esteem.   I have not seen or spoken to this woman or her family since 2003 when they divorced.  Even now (at age 28) I am still a victim to the mind games she played with me. 

    Anyway, what I’m saying is that you have single handedly changed the connotation of the word “step-mother” in my mind.  Now, I’ll have you know, I am very set in my ways.  It takes a LOT to sway me.  This experience with my step-mother had a lifelong impact on me and how I see myself. However, I learned from you that “step-mother” is not a “bad word” or another word for “b**ch my dad married” HA!  I wanted to tell you personally the impact that your love for Lucas and Avery has had on my heart.  I now have a different perspective on the “step-mother” thing.  I see that it didn’t have to be the way it turned out with me.  I wish my experience had been different, but I am reassured by the next best thing; witnessing the genuine love of a true “step-mother”

    Thanks,

    M

  12. @M – Thank you again for your encouragement! I did receive your email, shed a few tears, read it aloud to Chris (several times), and believe I wrote you back! It is nice to see it public, though, after a potentially unnerving comment like the one above. You are so kind!

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