Raising Responsible and Respectable Children
If anybody says that parenting is easy, they must not have kids! As a parent of three wonderful children, I have found that each one needs to be parented differently. One child needs to be held often, one needs opportunities to talk, and the other thrives on quality time. One is strong willed, another is a people pleaser, and the other is just busy! I’ve read many books, listened to several books on tape, and watched my fair share of DVD’s about different approaches to parenting; but a few things consistently resurface as important strategies when raising responsible and respectable children. These strategies work, because they’re not about the children, they’re about you – the parent. The first thing to do is write down the areas that you want to work on with your child. Speaking disrespectfully, hitting, potty training, walking off while you are talking, and homework issues are just a few of the problem areas you may be facing. Pick one thing to work on at a time, so as not to overwhelm yourself. I’ll use resistance to come in from outside as an example for this article. Once you’ve picked your battle, put your boxing gloves on and follow the guidelines below.
Remain Calm: One of the easiest parenting mistakes is allowing yourself to get upset. Once you are angry, you have given your child control and now need a parent to calm you down. The best way to have control is to remain calm; so take a deep breath, take a timeout for yourself if needed, then return to your child and talk calmly and respectfully to him/her – when you are both ready. Show your child that s/he deserves that respect. Demonstration is an important parenting tool; so if you scream at your child, chances are s/he’ll scream back. If you treat him/her with respect, that respect will be returned. Get down on your child’s level, or take seats next to each other to talk about the issue at hand.
Determine the Consequence: Each problem you face with your child(ren) will require different consequences. While you are calm, determine what an appropriate consequence will be for the problem area you are facing. Make sure the consequence is understandable to the child, that you are able to follow through on the consequence, and that the child will want to avoid that consequence. If you child is refusing to come in from outside “If you don’t come in right now, you can’t play outside for the rest of the week.” It sounds like a horrible threat; but is that one that you really want to follow through on? Instead, find a consequence that is easy to live with. “I’m going to go inside and set a timer for two minutes. If you are not inside by the time the timer goes off, you will not be able to play outside the rest of the evening.” The timer will put a specific amount of time that s/he has to respond and will hold you accountable for following through on your consequence.
Offer a Choice: By giving your child a choice, s/he is taking the responsibility for the discipline received.
“If you come inside in the next two minutes, you will have time to come back outside and play with your friends. If you choose not to come inside by the time the two minute timer goes off, you will not get to go back outside.”
Use the if/then sequence with all of the choices you give so that the consequences are well understood. Children learn the if/then series very early on in life, so this works for very young children as well as older children. For a younger child, for example, might work better with “inside, then snack.”
Consistency: You must stick with the above plan over time, or else it will not work. Does your child know that you will follow through on the consequence? If there a chance that you won’t, then it might be worth not doing what mom or dad is asking. All of the above points are invalid and ineffective if consistency with follow through is absent. If necessary, find another person to hold you accountable to ensure follow through of consequences.
Once children learn that you mean what you say, you will begin to earn more respect; and you will notice your child(ren) becoming more responsible. Just be prepared that it might get worse before it gets better. Children will push the limits until they know where the line has been drawn. So remember: Calm, Consequence, Choice, Consistency. The reward will be worth the effort!