Colby’s Attitude Change

When our children are around 12-18 months old we train them to obey cheerfully by teaching them to make a sweet face, even when they don’t feel like it.  I caught this in action with Colby after a long day at Dollywood and thought it was humorous.

Colby fussingI snapped this picture of Colby mid-fuss while he was waiting for a very late lunch then told him to make his sweet face.Colby semi-sweet face

This was the result, snapped a second later (the camera didn’t even have time to focus, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

One of our instructions on proper sweet face etiquette is to “fix your eyebrows”.  I showed him the above picture on the screen of my camera and asked him to fix his eyebrows.Colby sweet faceTah Duh!  Colby’s sweet face, even though he is still tired and hungry he is capable of the self control to present himself sweetly to the world.

Michelle posted a great series of photos of her child going from a grumpy face to a sweet face and included how she taught him to change his attitude.

Sorry not Wordless, but required a little explaination. Head on over to 5 minutes for mom for some real WW posts or look at some of mine.

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19 Responses to Colby’s Attitude Change
  1. JenT
    May 27, 2009 | 8:07 am

    Well, I found you on the quiverfull digest. I had to come see your page. I like it already. I think we’ll try the silk scarf dying. I’ll have to get some first. It looks like a fun thing to do and I have a lot that like to play dress-up. I also have 9 children, we homeschool, and I think mine are about the same ages as yours. 11 down to 9 1/2 months. You mentioned Dollywood. Are you in East TN or MO? Or are there some in other states? I forget. We’re in East TN. In fact my husband is working right now in Pigeon Forge. Come visit me:


    Raising Olives Reply:

    Lisa – Children are undervalued and underestimated routinely in our society.
    JenT – We live in East TN and yes our children must be close to the same ages.
    Watching the “sweet” faces is hysterical. We have some of those pictures too, where the smile is there, but the eyes are frowning. Thanks all!



  2. Cardamoms Pod
    May 27, 2009 | 9:25 am

    How true! It’s amazing how much fussing melts away simply by using self-control to change their facial expression. Great pictures! Your blog just gets better and better, Kimberly!


  3. Lisa
    May 27, 2009 | 9:38 am

    A sweet face indeed! Our culture has come to expect way too little of our children, and that is just not giving them the credit they deserve. Colby is clearly able to find his ability to cope with an uncomfortable circumstance with a little encouragement from a wise and loving mother. What a sense of personal strenght he must get from this! All too often I see parents giving in to their children’s whims at the first sign of emotional distress. It’s nice to see and read your discription of this moment. Colby provided an adorable visual aid as well:)


  4. MomStarr
    May 27, 2009 | 9:40 am

    We have tried the “make a sweet face” talk too. It is hard not to giggle when they turn their frown into a ….well…somewhat of a smile. The smile is usually “fake” but we continue to encourage them to try harder! I really should try to get this on camera.


  5. Tiaras & Tantrums
    May 27, 2009 | 9:47 am

    too cut e- lucky it is so easy to make them smile!!


  6. Angela
    May 27, 2009 | 11:01 am

    I too am trying this one with mine. They are doing much better, but a few still struggle with it. I have noticed a drastic differance in the way they do their chores and everything, sence we started this lil idea. 🙂
    Your kids are so cute gurl. Send them all my love, from Mrs. Angel. Huggs!


  7. Cynthia
    May 27, 2009 | 3:08 pm

    Hi Kimberly-
    Way to go, Colby! This is a lesson I learned from watching you with your children while you were still in Kingsport, that teaching our children to choose to “be sweet” is a basic step in learning self-discipline. Thanks for being such a great example!


  8. Jami
    August 5, 2009 | 10:19 pm

    I am going to use this! We always say “fix your face”. But “put on your sweet face” sure sounds more fun…and loving! Thanks!


  9. Gabi
    June 7, 2010 | 11:58 am

    Hi Kimberly,

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and I’m very encouraged by it!! You and your family are such a great example!!
    I found your blog through a blog-friend in Hungary. (I’m Hungarian also.)

    One question about asking the little ones to put their happy faces on…
    Can you write it down HOW you do that. Like practicly how does it happen? What do you tell him? Does he get a spanking if he won’t do it right away? What do you tell him, why is it important that he has a good attitude and a happy face?

    Thank you so much for you input!



    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Gabi. The process of teaching the kiddos to change their attitude (or put on a happy face) is a slow one. It probably warrants a post of it’s own, but I’ll try to give you a quick synopsis here.

    It begins when they are little, maybe around 9 months old or so, but I’m sure it varies with each child. When the child is fussy and their is nothing wrong, we simply say, “Baby, put on a happy face.” and we demonstrate by smiling a huge smile right into their little face. Sometimes we will say, “No grumpy faces, that is not sweet.”

    It doesn’t take long until they will mimic us. The faces we get are hysterical, because often the baby is still ‘fussing’, but they have a fake smile on their face.

    That is the basic training, then as they get better at it, we will give them more specific instructions until their ‘happy face’ really is a happy face and not a grimace. For Colby we would tell him to fix his eyebrows because they would still be grumpy. Others may need different instructions.

    I don’t know that we’ve ever spanked a child for not putting on a happy face.

    The reason that we require a good attitude is that God requires a good attitude.

    “Rejoice in the Lord always.”
    “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
    “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
    “Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.”
    “Rejoice in the LORD and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!”
    “I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”
    “Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”

    Obeying God while we stomp our feet and complain about it is not true obedience. It is NOT submitting our will to God’s will. This is also true when it comes to children obeying their parents. In our house the children know that they should obey quickly, cheerfully and completely. Anything less is not true obedience.


    Lynn Reply:

    Hello Kimberly-I’ve recently discovered your blog and am thoroughly enjoying reading about your lifestyle, although it’s very different from what I’m used to. I like seeing alternative ways to manage life, taking it in and thinking about it and searching the scriptures myself to formulate my own opinion (whether I end up agreeing with you or not it makes for a good exercise!) I appreciate you sharing your life with all of us to give a different perspective and view of the world.

    I’ve seen this technique in action by others and am not so sure about it although I agree with the intentions. While none of us want to have those whiny, demanding, disobedient children I also don’t want a robot who forces a happy face while stewing inside (my interpretation of what I’ve seen when others use this w/their teenagers.) Is there something you’re teaching to help the children “smile on the inside” as well so this isn’t just a surface (literally!) behavior while they’re stuffing their real feelings unproductively?

    I also don’t want my child to think it’s not ok to express unhappiness. Is there a line in your family for this? i.e. is it ok to express unhappiness if you’re sick or your best friend hurt your feelings or your brother broke your favorite toy? Otherwise it seems as if one may be teaching children to stuff their true feelings about things & pretend things are ok. I know you said above for a baby that if you “know everything is ok” you start insisting on the happy face but how are you sure? Until children have a decent grasp of language to express themselves appropriately, how do you know there isn’t something legitimately wrong (sometimes my toddler has had fussy moments and the next day ends up being sick so you realize an illness was coming on and making her cranky) and then you’re pushing the happy face because they aren’t to be disobedient? Please let me know if you’ve done other posts on this as I’d be curious to hear more about how this works in your family! I have one toddler and maybe have not seen enough yet in terms of parenting to understand how well this might work. Thanks so much!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Hi Lynn,

    I’m sorry that this isn’t more clear. Training our children to have a ‘sweet face’ does not mean they are not allowed to fuss. This is simply one aspect of training them to be obedient and deals with fussing that comes when things don’t go the way they want them to go. (i.e. Child is playing and mommy says, “Please pick up your toys.” or “It’s time to go home.” and child begins to fuss or cry.) I ‘know’ that there is nothing wrong with my young child because the fussing was initiated by being told to do something (or not do something) that they don’t want (or do want) to do.

    You wondered if we help them express their unhappiness. Yes, along with these instructions we often role play how they can express in words what they are feeling. Rather than screaming and crying when a sibling takes a toy away or when it’s time to leave the playground, we help them express their feelings or requests with calm words. “Mom I’m disappointed that it’s already time to leave.” or “Brother, will you please give me back my ball.”

    Controlling emotions/anger when things don’t go our way is a basic part of functioning in society. A child who can not control his anger may only cry and fuss, an adult or teen who is unable to control anger may make destructive decisions and/or harm others.


    Lynn Reply:

    Thank so you much for explaining further! That makes more sense. I like the role playing approach as I don’t want my child growing up to behave like the “spoiled brat” that we see too often today. This is our first child though & we’re seeing glimpses of the “terrible twos” and quite frankly are sometimes at a loss as to how to handle it. I appreciate you sharing your wisdom and experience for others to learn from it!


  10. Jeanne
    July 19, 2010 | 12:01 am

    “Fix your eyebrows” I love it!! That is so cute! What a wonderful idea. I will start this tomorrow! Just found your blog — and I’ve already made the homemade laundry soap — it’s working great! 🙂 Thanks for sharing such great, practical ideas.



  11. Liz
    July 21, 2010 | 5:03 pm

    That really is a sweet face! I’m inspired to try it with my two (3 1/2 and 11 months)….so much more loving than what I normally say to them!



  12. Suzanne
    February 14, 2013 | 12:56 pm

    Hi Kimberly,
    We, too, taught our children at a young age to smile when asked. We were tired of seeing other children ruin a group picture because of their sour face. Once we saw how easy it was for them to correct themselves, we required more than just a smile, but an actual happy attitude.

    A few years later 2 more of our daughters needed trained on it. We had let it go too long and they were 2 and 4 years old. It took about 3 days to convince them we were done seeing the grumpy face and their continual nasty attitudes went away completely. Soon after that they both got asked to model for a toy catalog. They were tired, bored and unimpressed with the other children they were working with, but when I asked them “Where’s your sunshine” (our code for a great attitude) they smiled naturally and happily and looked like they were loving it! They told me later they weren’t, but at least they had a good attitude and a pleasant look…”loving it” not required.


  13. Mrs L
    February 14, 2013 | 3:23 pm

    I am a new reader and I’ve been making my way through your blog posts- it has been a real blessing so far!
    This post is so adorable, the cutest photos!!
    – and something I have only done with my older children (around 18 months?) in the past. I’m off to start experimenting with my 10 month old! We do say ‘smile smile!!’ (grinning at him) and teach him to sign ‘please’ at the high chair when he is waiting for food crankily, but I’d never really thought of extending it to the rest of his fussing.


  14. mellissa
    February 19, 2013 | 11:23 am

    Hi Kim, I’ll say it again, I love your blog! I have a lot to learn from you & this post is not an exception. However, I’m wondering about how to distinct between teaching an actual heart change vs. just “putting on a happy face”. I am afraid that if I try to implement this idea that my children will feel pressured to act happy while there is inner turmoil and one of my goals in parenting is that my children know they can come to me with all their emotions so I can help point them to The Father to change their heart. Do you have any advice on how to do this at an early age? I don’t want to “accidently” just train my children to be people pleasers ( who don’t have a real heart that is filled with joy and security in the Lord. I feel that addressing emotions is a part of changing the heart, as God allows us to fuss too. But, how do I set a reasonable boundary while teaching the heart and encouraging cheerfulness? Thanks for considering my question!


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