Parenting is not only a big job but probably the most important one you will ever undertake; unfortunately, you have probably received little in the way of child rearing education, plus you have a very small time fame to complete your task.
So who is in charge of your family; is it you or your child? Many parents are so concerned about being their child’s friend, not wounding their feelings, making sure they are happy and successful, that they fail in their most important role: being a parent.
Dr. Kevin Leman in his book, Have a New Kid by Friday, says, “Today’s children need guidance. They need responsibility. They need accountability. They need to be taught there are consequences for their actions (or for their inactions). Otherwise their lives will run amok.”
Dr. Lehman focuses on the key objectives of parenting – developing appropriate attitudes, proper behavior, and strong character. But how do you effect change in your child? Dr. Leman suggests, the key to effective change in your child is accomplished by you changing; you must change your attitude and your actions, be consistent, and follow-through.
Attitude is the entrée into a child’s head and heart; how she thinks about herself – how she views herself and what happens to her – speaks loudly through her behavior. What is your child’s attitude to your requests? Do you experience the following negative responses: rolling the eyes, talking back, stubbornness, whining, why me, being a know-it-all, or simply ignoring you. How do you generally handle a negative response? Do you use physical force, raise your voice, get angry, make threats? Remember, children do not learn much from what you say; it’s how you act that has impact.
If you want to see change in your child’s attitude, you have to first change yourself. If you yell and get angry, do not be surprised to see your children do the same. If you give others the silent treatment, do not be surprised if your child silently ignores you. You may be asking, how does Dr. Lehman suggest I change my attitude so my child will change her attitude? One example – Lets say you make a simple request: “Please clean up your lunch dishes.” “I’m busy right now,” your child responds as she continues to watch television. How do you respond? What if you changed your attitude and remained calm. What if you just walked away and expected her to do it? No reminders, no raised voice, no threats. But what if she doesn’t do it? The important thing is for you to remain calm, remain in charge, and let a consequence do the teaching. Real life consequences are simple enough. Maybe in this situation you have her brother do the job and pay him out of your daughter’s allowance. Or you do it and pay yourself out of her allowance. Or you wait for your daughter to make a request and answer, “I don’t feel like it,” and walk away. No explanation. Wait for a teaching moment to calmly explain your actions. After all, if your daughter will not respect your requests, why should you respect hers?
Character is caught from the actions of those you grow up with; it is also learned through life lessons. Is your child respectful of you and others? Does she have polite phone manners? Does she tell the truth? Does she care about being on time? Is she kind and giving? One of the secrets to building strong character in your child is for parents to learn how to respond rather than react. Parents are good at shooting themselves in the foot; our emotions get in the way, quickly pushing us to speak or act without thinking. Let reality be the teacher. If your child does not respect your requests, don’t rescue them from the natural consequences of failed responsibility. Keep this simple rule in mind: B doesn’t happen until A is completed. If you have asked your child to do something and it is not completed, you do not go on to the next event – no matter what that event is. The most important thing is that you use action instead of words and you keep the ball of responsibility in their court. There is no reminding, threatening, or warnings. Say it once and walk away.
What are your goals for your child 10, 15, 20 years from now? What do you want her work ethic to look like? How do you want her to view herself? What type of relationships do you want her to develop with others? If you want your child to be kind, teach her to be kind now. If you want your child to be responsible, teach her to be responsible now.
You as a parent hold all of the cards; you have the money, the house, the food, the power. Children have nothing accept what you give them. In order for your children to be responsible, healthy, independent thinkers you need to start guiding them through your actions now. But your actions will not speak clearly without developing a strong connection; that connection must be built on mutual respect, unconditional love, and the manner in which you treat them. Give them age- appropriate choices with decision making power, give them opportunities to act responsibly, talk with your child by inviting them to share their thoughts, support them when they fail, create experiences where they learn to respect themselves.
Sometimes you can try too hard to be too good of a parent; what your child really needs from you is to create a home which is a place of love, mutual respect, and accountability for actions. Remember, it’s all about the ABCs: Attitude, Behavior, Character. As the parent, respond don’t react; say it once and walk away; never threaten, get angry, or give warnings; always follow through with a teaching moment, letting life’s reality do the teaching; keep the ball of responsibility in the child’s court; never move to event B until A is completed; be 100 percent consistent with your behavior.
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