Inventions, Creations, Experiments

How We Parent – Just Because You Asked

Have I told you about the time Finn drew a picture of a gun at school and got in heaps of trouble? Or the time he slugged the judge’s daughter?

How about the notes I get that say: “Drew and T— got into a pencil duel. Please sign and return this Responsibility slip?” Or, “Mrs. Glamore, are you aware that Porter is supposed to be learning multiplication facts? He made a 42 on his last test and a 50 on the one before that.”


Well, I thought you should know these things before you put too much stock in what I say. Somewhere along the way some of you have decided that I know a bit about parenting, and when I mentioned that Porter was making coffee and Finn was frying bacon and making eggs even more of you went bonkers and demanded to know my secrets to discipline and self-reliance.

It’s lot to pack into a post, so I decided to tackle parenting and discipline in one, and teaching kids to be self reliant into another.

If you have follow up questions, please leave them in the comments, and I’ll be doing something different. In the past I’ve tried to answer comments individually by emailing the commenter. For these posts I’ll answer the questions in the comments so everyone can have the benefit of my hard-won wisdom for what it’s worth.

I think there are three reasons I raise kids the way I do:

(Obviously, Bill and I parent together, but it’s exhausting to write “Bill and I think” every time, so I’m just going to write about me.)

1. I am basically selfish and want as much time as possible to read, write, cook, and drink gimlets and have adult conversation.

2. My mother never did things for us– she was all about teaching us how to do them, and I guess it rubbed off. Plus, I never enjoyed playing Candyland. I encouraged our babysitters to do that with my kids. Once the kids are old enough to play card games like Spit and Gin, then things get fun, in my opinion. You may be different and have the ability to play Hi Ho Cherry-O with those tiny little damn plastic cherries and not lose your mind, and if so, you are a far better parent than I am.

3. We’ve been forced to ask more of the boys at an earlier age because of my health problems. (Specifically, I spent a year undergoing interferon treatment for Hepatitis C, and had a major spine surgery in 2004 that required a full year of recovery. The debilitating treatment and my weak back have meant that I have simply been unable to do some things for the kids.)

Not everyone is like us. Some parents enjoy doing things for their children even when the kids are capable, and there’s nothing wrong with that. My experience has been that my children are happiest when they have clear boundaries, and their boundaries expand as they learn more and demonstrate their trustworthiness.

  • Leslie wanted to know what parenting books I’d recommend. Lordy, there are billions out there. Bill and I have stuck with John Rosemond’s books and modified his suggestions as needed. His Parent Power! was recommended by a friend who’s a fabulous mom, and it’s been my go-to for years. I don’t do everything he says, but I really admire Rosemond’s common sense approach, and it has worked for our family. One of my favorite parts is where he tells you what to do with the kid who asks questions non-stop ALL DAY LONG. The fact that Porter is still alive is directly attributable to Rosemind’s sage advice.
  • Rosemond gives seminars around the country and Bill and I attended one ages ago, and that was especially valuable. I think it’s essential that you and your spouse be on the same parenting page, so whatever style you adopt, you need to support and reinforce one another and know what the basic rules are.
  • Recently we both read Family Building: The Five Fundamentals of Effective Parenting and it was an effective kick in the butt. We realized we’d been letting the boys slide on some things and that Bill wasn’t backing me up as effectively as he could. Rosemond also has books specific to the terrible twos (which may not hit until your kid is three), dealing with homework issues (but alas, he provides no strategy for the parent to escape playing multiplication fact Bingo, a torturous game invented by third-grade teachers), and making teens act like humans (jury still out on this book).
  • Boundaries with Kids has been a good supplement. (I love all the books about building Boundaries with anyone making your life difficult.)
  • I’ve also been asked whether there are books aimed directly at boys that I would recommend. I’ve tried a couple, but never finished any. I know boys are exuberant and wild at heart, and we shouldn’t stifle their emotions, and so forth. I’ve enjoyed Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Raising the Next Generation of Men, or at least the portions I’ve read, especially where the author notes that during adolescence a boy is “crazed with madness.” Amen.
  • It would not be unfair to use the words “hardass” or “cold-turkey” in describing my parenting style. I used the cry it out method (Ferber’s book) for getting the boys to sleep through the night, and have had sound sleepers ever since. When the boys turned one, they got a birthday cake and I replaced the bottle with a sippy cup- cold turkey. Drew’s addiction to his pacifier made me fear heroin was in his future. When he was eighteen months old, the pacifier fairy took all his pacifiers away and brought him a battery operated toy train.
  • We didn’t co-sleep, because Bill and I have tons of fun in the bed alone. Now that we’re positive the boys can sleep in their own beds, Drew reads in bed with me at night, and Porter cuddles with me in the morning.
  • The “bite-the bullet” approach has worked for us. It doesn’t work for everyone. If you can’t stomach the momentary (or two day!) unpleasantness in order to achieve the greater good, my parenting style is probably not for you.
  • I don’t threaten. I warn, then punish. Tantrums, whining, or being sassy would be good examples of this. Just because I’m Porter’s mom doesn’t mean I’m obligated to listen to him complain about perceived injustices while I’m fixing dinner. I give one warning, and only one, and then send the offender to his room.
  • Same approach if I ask a child to do something. If it’s not done, I give one warning, and then impose the punishment. Really, you only have to do that a couple of times before your kids learn to listen to what you say, do it, and then get on with their activities.
  • How it sounds:

“Finn, if you hit Drew again it will be one dollar.” “POW!”

“Finn, bring me a dollar immediately.”

  • How it doesn’t sound:

“Porter, quit whining.”

“But I’m huuuungry and I’m gonna die if I don’t eat!”

“I’m going to send you to your room if you don’t stop whining!”

“I can’t help it. My empty stomach is making me do it.”

“I’m not going to tell you again…” etc etc.

  • Chores are a different matter. The list of morning and evening chores is in the kitchen and each boys’ room. Failure to do a chore results in immediate consequences. Our most common punishments are loss of computer /tv time or a fine. (This year when we increased the boys’ chore load, we had to actually give them 30 minutes of tv or computer time per day so we’d have a privilege to take away when they screwed up.) The first week everyone missed their tv time; now it’s a rare occasion when it happens.
  • The chores have made everything run more smoothly. We don’t rotate chores because I don’t want any fussing over whose turn it is. Drew ALWAYS feeds the dog. If the table isn’t set, it’s Porter’s ass.
  • Even though they must do their chores, we thank them every now and again to let them know their efforts are appreciated, just like I thank Bill when he does something he’d do anyway, like changing a light bulb, or when he thanks me for making dinner.
  • I try very hard not to bribe my kids. I’ve made it a point, for example, not to say, “If you behave while we’re in the store, I’ll get you some Skittles.” I’ve emphasized that I expect them to be good. Good behavior is the default. When they were younger, we had to leave the store plenty of times because someone was acting up, and that someone would be punished when we got home.
  • On the flip side, I try to catch them doing good things and reward those with anything from kind words (“Finn, that was sweet of you to teach Drew the Green Day song on the drums”) to something tangible (“Everyone was so well-behaved in the waiting room that we’re getting ice cream!)
  • I’m a huge fan of kitchen timers for keeping track of tv time, punishment time, or “your room must be clean in ten minutes, and I’m setting this timer and I’ll check it when it goes off.” The timer takes the burden off me and puts it on the kids to spring into action.
  • When the kids were a lot younger we used timeout for simple infractions. One time when a child who shall remain nameless did something awful, we took everything out of his room except his bed, and let him earn back a toy every day that he stayed out of trouble at school and at home.
  • We’ve also taken away a boy’s privilege of dressing himself for a week after another serious infraction. He wasn’t allowed to wear his much beloved necklace made of frayed embroidery thread. Problem solved.
  • There’s a wise woman who’s raised three children I turn to for advice in when to punish and how much if I’m not sure. We don’t punish the boys by making them miss a game, for example, because that would punish the team for their mistake. We wouldn’t make them wear Mickey Mouse ears to school, because that would be humiliating.
  • Bill thought this one up: he’s had the boys write “Maturity Pages” before. It’s a page long essay about what maturity means, and for serious problems he’ll assign 3 handwritten pages, for example.

Okay, that’s all I have now, and I’ve focused more on discipline for older kids. Honestly, we don’t have to do it a lot, as the boys have discovered that we mean what we say. I’ll answer questions in the comments. If this is completely adverse to your way of parenting, please don’t flame. Respectful disagreement is okay, but it’s unlikely I’ll be changing my method at this late date, although I’m always open to new ideas that fit in with our philosophy.

Remember– all kids are different, so your child might be VERY LUCKY that I am not his parent!



Here we are outside Evelyn’s Chocolates in NYC recently. Thanks to Kayren for sending us there. The almond crunch was to die for.


I’m posting this as part of Works For Me Wednesday over at Rocks in My Dryer. Thanks, Shannon!


  • Lynda

    No questions, just respect. Oh, wait, wait, I know – how do you deal with the times when a major fight is happening/brewing or something bad has happened (eg something has been broken), the kids are blaming each other and you just have no way of getting to the bottom of who was at fault? I feel bad punishing both but they can both be pretty convincing when they try!

    Lynda’s last blog post..Was that the weekend?

  • Kelly

    I think your methods sound so sensible. I’m dealing with two 2.5-year-olds, so I’ll have to wait a few years before I can put your methods to work, but I certainly plan to emulate your style.

    Now if you can give some advice on how to deal with whiny, unruly toddler twins who like to fight over EVERYthing, that would be great.

    Kelly’s last blog post..That Mom

  • Joy East of theKingdom

    I love your parenting style.

    So many parents forget their role is to equip their children to be productive, responsible, citizens. They are so busy trying to be the “buddy” that they don’t teach children what they really need to know about life…you have to rely on yourself!

    My son has ADD and we’ve found Lisa Whelchel’s (Yes…that IS Blair from 80’s t.v.’s “Facts of Life”) “Creative Correction” very helpful. It challenged us to think out of the box on restrictions, especially as he and the other children have gotten older.

    Thanks for all the insight!

    PS…What color are your nails today?

  • Headless Mom

    I’m with you! The hardest part is warning and enforcing. I tend to give 1-2 extra chances (usually because I’m doing something that I don’t want to stop, like blogging?!). And you’re right, the more I warn and enforce, the better the behavior. I also love the Boundaries With Kids book (even taught the series at church,) and would recommend it to anyone. I go back to it to get new tips as they get older.

    Headless Mom’s last blog post..Back to Life, Back to Reality

  • Rachel

    Wait, you were in NYC with your whole cute family? Damn. I have got to stay more current with my blog-stalking because I live an hour from there and we could have had coffee and commiserated about the imminent start of triathlon season!!

    Rachel’s last blog post..Making the connection

  • Toni-EvinNRobsMom

    Thank you for your post. I must say that we have similar parenting techniques. Now I haven’t gotten to the point where either of my boys is getting up & making their own breakfast, but I am right there with you as far as discipline. I have just recently adopted a chart of homework-chores-computer time, because I was just damn tired of being bugged EVERY night with “can I go on the computer?” as soon as they saw me. Anyway, thank you again, and it’s nice to know that I’m not the only “hard-assed” Mom out there! :o)

  • Russ

    Excellent post! I have an almost two year old, so I’m not doing the hard core punishments yet. I believe, and it sounds like you do too, that you have to get them early. So we are teaching Mr. B that he gets his instructions (don’t go into the road, or we go inside) and as soon as he breaks them, we go inside. He won’t go into the road now. Simple concept, hard to stay disciplined. I’ve already started him on chores like emptying the dishwasher, I “help” him. IE he hands me the dishes. Great idea and I’m looking forward to the next post.

    Russ’s last blog post..A New Week by Russ

  • Leslie

    Wonderful advice. Very much rooted in common sense – I made my husband read this one. We are expecting our first child (a boy) in March and agree about your approach to raising kids. Lately I’ve been concerned about how you raise kind and considerate gentlemen – I bet this works and I can do this! Thank you!

  • Laura

    Thank you for the great advice on how to become a better parent! Rosemond writes so many books …. I don’t know where to start. Can you recommend 2-4 of his books to get me started? My girls are almost 3 (who is heavy into terrible twos) and almost 1 (I’m trying to anticipate future parenting issues with her).

  • Hillary

    OK, i’ve stopped lurking here. I love your blog, and really enjoyed this post. Single mom of a lively and smart 8 year old, so your hints/techniques/humor is often helpful. Keep up the good work!

    I have found a book I like for raising boys, it is called “The Good Son” by Michael Gurian. He is one of the experts who has done a lot of research on the male brain, and finally wrote a parenting primer for raising boys. It is my bible for seeing if I am on track, and if we are headed in a good direction. He is not too far off from what you do, you’ll be glad to know.

    If you ever have the opportunity to head out to the Northwest, i will be glad to head you in the direction of good boy activities, and more importantly, good eats!

    OH – one last thing. My son and i will be taking a driving trip cross country this summer. I turn 50, and we will do a 50 day voyage. Any tips on managing the boy in the car and out?

    Hillary H.

  • Anne Glamore

    @ Lynda: When they’re both fighting, I DO send both to rooms and set timer for 10 minutes or so. That’s just the easiest for me.

    @ Kelly – yeah, that’s the nature of toddler twins. Take pictures of the fighting, especially if there’s blood. I promise you’ll laugh later.

    @ Joy – Lisa also wrote a column in Today’s Christian Woman mag for a while that I really enjoyed. I bet her book is good. My nails are freshly I’m Not Really A Waitress!

    @ Rachel- yep, he’s gearing up for Memphis in May and is doing Alcatraz in June.

    @ Laura- definitely start with Parent Power. It has the whole philosophy and contains some on the 2s.

    @ Hillary: I guess you know my stance on videos, and we don’t break it for car trips! So we do music and books on tape, and plenty of healthy snacks. Let him choose some places to go and tell YOU about them – read up on them before you visit and he’ll be much more interested. Have fun!

    Here goes seeing how my color coding experiment went…

  • Rachel

    I definitely agree with your philosphy on discipline, although sometimes I get sidetracked and just start screaming like a crazy woman. My 8 and 3 year olds are constantly fighting over nothing. One of their recent ones involved my 3 year old wanting to help my 8 year old clean her room. I mean, seriously? I don’t get it.

  • Sommer

    I read this post twice and then sent it to a few other moms. We’re all teachers. If more moms parented like you then there would probably be less problems in this World and more accountability and respect. Your style is “old school” and I mean that in the best way possible. When I was younger if I didn’t listen at the store or threw a fit…out the door we went. If I misbehaved at Grandma the williow switch came out and that only happened one time! It’s that I’ll say it once and only once mentality. Thanks for sharing.

    Sommer’s last blog post..Help others and win prizes!!!!

  • Leslie

    Thanks Anne, that’s exactly the information I was looking for. Some great ideas and looking forward to checking out the books. Thanks again!

  • Amy

    Some great tips here. We also have a similar style – though it’s changing and shifting some as my kids are getting older. I’m loving some recent stuff I’ve been reading/listening to about a “Love & Logic” series as it applies to teens. Lots of great ideas about how to get kids to think for themselves. Another great idea from this book is the idea of creating an environment where kids have ample opportunity to make mistakes. That’s where the learning takes place. Too many times we as parents rescue our kids. I’d rather them make some mistakes now and learn how to think and rely on their own judgement then make some scary/stupid mistakes as older teens/young adults when the cost of the mistake is much higher.

  • Emma

    Coming out of lurkerdom here!
    I am pretty impressed with your parenting tips although I parent totally differently I still feel I can pick up some advice on the discipline, that is starting to be a problem in this house with my 10 year old. And wow to you for getting your kids to sleep through the night – I am such a softie about that. We cosleep with my 12 month old and I am starting to need my space back – I have 3 girls 1, 5 and 10.

  • Amanda

    I don’t have (or want) kids, but I have a HUGE soft spot for good parents. I think the most important theme in your style is the CONSISTENCY of it. That is what kids need the most so that they have a clear idea of what is allowed and what isn’t, otherwise they end up confused about why the got in trouble this time even though yesterday they didn’t.

    But what do I know? I don’t have kids. Haha. LOVE I’m Not Really A Waitress!! Pretty much the best color out there.

    Amanda’s last blog post..Maybe I’ll Have Chocolate For Dinner

  • Traci

    Great thoughts Anne. I must also fall into the hardass category as I do many of the same things.
    My kids learned the hard way that if they don’t pick up the things I tell them to pick up – I will do it for them, but there will be a Hefty bag in my other hand. 😉

    Traci’s last blog post..Patting myself on the back…

  • alala

    Yep, what you’ve described is pretty much what I would do if I weren’t… well, me. I get moody, tired, hormonal or busy, and that really affects how I react to things. Consistency has always been the hardest thing for me. So I’m still as impressed as I ever was with your mom-fu.

    alala’s last blog post..socially inept

  • Owlhaven

    I read this twice also, which is saying a lot for me! Good stuff. I parent in a very similar way ….well, we cosleep instead of Ferber. …but the rest sounds very similar to life at our house! Anyway, hooray for another parent with a spine!

    Mary, mom to many

    Owlhaven’s last blog post..Bloggy Giveaway Carnival

  • Mishka

    I am not a parent but this is pretty much how I would do it…I think kids are coddled too much sometimes and my friends who are teachers have told me horror stories about not only the students but the parents they have to deal with….I am going to be emailing this to a few friends. I know they will like it.

    Mishka’s last blog post..Adventures in Drying

  • Edi

    As I was reading your post I got to thinking about our Rosemond book – and lo and behold that is what you mentioned.

    Though we don’t agree with every word of it – the premise is great. Train your kids to do what they can do. And kids are happier doing “real stuff”.

    Edi’s last blog post..Mendu Vada – Lentil Fritters

  • Emily

    LOVED reading this! Let’s me know that my husband and I believe in this “old-fashioned” parenting!!

    Someone commented that she has twin 2 1/2 year olds and can’t start yet … I have twin 1 1/2 year olds and we already implement several of these methods including one warning, then punishment. (of course for their punishment, I might just remove them the room that we’re in for two minutes). And many people have already commented on how well our girls behave already.

    Thanks for writing about this!

  • anonymous

    What would you suggest if your husband is not around much, and you beg him for help with certain sons who have no respect for you, and then when he does come home, he decides to discipline them in his own way and expels you from the room and doesn’t tell you what he is doing?

    (Oddly–or maybe not oddly–the girls are no problem whatsoever.)

  • Anne Glamore

    @ Traci: I use the phrase “trash or treasure” a lot as I hold up junk that is sitting on my kitchen counter with one hand and a garbage bag in the other!

    @ Anonymous: First I’d try getting him on board with whatever parenting method you use. (For example, reading Rosemond.) I also think parenting should be done by both parents if it’s a two-parent home, so the kids can see that the 2 of you reinforce each other, not contradict each other. Perhaps you can make this point to him in a non-threatening way and see if his tactics change.
    If he doesn’t go for either of these, I’d suggest marriage counseling. I’m a big fan.

  • Jill

    Great advice! I also have sons and am constantly looking for good parenting ideas. One commenter mentioned “Creative Corrections” and I agree – it’s a great resource for correction suggestions.

    I struggle with my older son’s natural tendency to pester his younger brother and it bordering on bullying/abuse. Being new to your blog, I don’t know if you’ve mentioned this before?


    Jill’s last blog post..This One Made Me Think

  • Elliott

    Great site, and thanks to BloggingZoom for sending me your way!

    I laughed my way through your list as I can either see how my mom was, or how my wife is now with parenting.

    We, my wife and I, are experiencing the hardass approach to whining right now with our three year old.

    Thank you for your candor and humor in parenting that I have read so far, I’ll be sending my wife and her friends on over as well.

    Elliott’s last blog post..Walkin Tub Research and Accessible Home Designs