Credit card parenting is when you don’t train now and have to train and pay interest later. This is great for mothers of toddlers and preschoolers.
My 1 year old is just not as obedient as his older siblings. There. I said it.
And… I blame myself.
Much of the “prime training time” for him I was so pregnant I wanted to crawl in a hole.
Due to the layout of our home and the fact I had 3 other kids meant that previous choices for discipline were much harder to carry out. I went from giving a consequence and keeping it to explaining and lecturing which, we know, means nothing to a 1-year-old.
As I pondered on this I realized… I’ve been taking part in Credit Card Parenting.
The joys of credit cards. They are like fake monopoly money.
You give nothing but plastic, you get something of value in return.
It’s like magic.
Until the bill comes and you have to pay for what you bought plus interest.
In this book I came across an interesting concept about how parenting can relate to using credit cards. This type of parenting puts off the hard yards of training until the future and it’s called credit card parenting.
“You’ll still pay the price of training in the future, but with compound interest.”
Avoiding training our kids to do things we know they need to do doesn’t work. Ask me how I know. We’ll still have to deal with it later, but it will be much more challenging.
It will be more work, more hassle, and you’ll come up against a stronger will.
Areas We All Want to Avoid Teaching
You’re not alone. I’m not alone. Sometimes, for whatever reason, we like to put off training. Maybe we’re pregnant and exhausted and can’t do it.
Perhaps we’re in survival mode and it’s all we can do to keep up with the basics.
This is okay. This is fine. The key is – when we’re able – to start creating and holding our boundaries now to save ourselves effort and frustration later.
They will be childish and this is okay because they are little people who are learning. That said, the sooner we begin teaching them about our expectations and consequences, the sooner they learn to make better choices.
Things I’ve been doing lately that don’t fly:
- giving a “look” instead of a consequence
- delaying the consequence until I’ve forgotten about it (write it down if you are in public and need to refer to it later)
- lecturing and telling the over and over again to stop instead of removing them from a situation (the reason Helpful Phrases are so effective is they combat this problem)
- ignoring a lot of whining and backtalk thinking it’ll go away if I don’t respond (this works in some situations but exacerbates the issue in others)
How to “train now” so I don’t pay “frustration interest” later:
- take 5 minutes to go over the basic consequences for misbehavior in our home and let them sink in
- remind my kids of my expectations (this is what you should do over and over again) so we are all on top of our game
- quit threatening over and over again to do something that I am not prepared to do immediately
- take time in the hard moment to just do what needs to be done
I already use helpful phrases in our days, but I want to focus on this more as a way to prepare, get obedience, then put out a consequence if necessary.
I can still feel the humiliation from the local Italian restaurant. Most of my children were quiet, respectful, and obedient.
One – the one I’ve been too lazy to discipline well in recent months – was demanding his food, throwing down what he didn’t want, and generally causing a scene.
It was like everything faded into the background except my demanding child and the realization that I needed to take action.
In fact, it’s good when we have these moments. We aren’t perfect people we are reasonable people. We have seasons in our home life and sometimes we need to give ourselves grace and sometimes we need to give ourselves a kick in the pants.
Things that no longer fly:
- allowing kids to get up and down from the table at will
- letting the bring toys to the table (this causes a lot of fighting)
- whining, complaining, or insults about food they neither prepared nor purchased
- using even a twinge of an attitude when speaking to other family members
- have one steady consequence for mealtime shenanigans
- repeat myself at the beginning of meals to deliver my expectations
- immediately correct (and as them to try again) rude behavior
Some methods, such as baby led weaning, have the baby eating from your plate from 6 months. We didn’t do this and lived in puree heaven (or hell as the case may be) for a while but by around 13 months all my kids were eating the dinners I cooked.
After some time to adapt, all was well. Having your toddlers eat what you eat is both easy and convenient. It’s a lot harder to get a 3 year old to like beef stroganoff than a 1 year old.
If you have kids close together in age, they are likely pretty self-sufficient. My kids won’t ask me for water if they can drag a bar stool four feet to the kitchen sink and get it themselves.
Of course we don’t want to ask our children to do things that are not age appropriate. That said, I believe we’re far more likely to underestimate our children’s ability to do things on their own.
Things that kids can do on their own:
- pick up their toys (here’s how to rotate toys)
- do a simple routine (I use printable routine cards they can follow)
- take their plates, spoons, bowls, cups, etc. to the dishwasher or sink (even toddlers can do chores on their own)
- wait quietly in their rooms until you allow them to come out
- brush their teeth (though you may need to help)
- set the table
- buckle themselves into their car seat
And on and on.
It may not seem such a big deal now, but in 5 years you may regret not having taught your child to be more proactive in meeting their own needs in a healthy and appropriate way.
Healthy sleep habits
No one likes talking about baby sleep. But do you know what everyone (including baby) really hates? Utter exhaustion. Unless you have angel babies who sleep from Day One (they do exist) you’re going to have to teach your child healthy sleep habits.
You can get up 2,456 times a night for two years (or more if you have more babies) but you’ll still eventually have to knuckle down and help little one learn to sleep securely on their own.
Here are a few ways to do that:
- putting baby to sleep in their crib awake but drowsy
- read all about the newborn sleep schedule
- teach your baby to wake up at the same time each morning
- stop doing the biggest thing that backfires
- get proper wind down routines
Ultimately, our goal is to train our children in the ways they should go. We won’t do it perfectly and it will take time. 18+ years to be exact.
Without expecting perfection and without guilting and shaming ourselves, we must do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.
This way, instead of waiting until problems are very out of hand and more difficult to manage later, we can head the off at the pass. Live off the rewards program instead of paying interest.