Believe in your EXAMPLE. You don’t have to be a saint, but it’s important to realize that your child is watching everything you do and is going to reflect the behavior you teach… whether consciously or subconsciously. Carry within yourself the expectation that you are behaving in the manner you’d like your child to behave and, even when it’s hard to stay calm or be polite, push yourself to do the right thing and take comfort in the fact that you’re setting a wonderful example for your child.
Believe in your AUTHORITY. Do not sacrifice your common sense because your emotions would rather say yes instead of no. Your children count on you to guide them, and when you uphold your values while being fair and honest, they ultimately love and respect you for it. Rules are the arms in which your children can embrace themselves. By following your rules, your children know they are “good,” and therefore feel comfortable in your presence. Remember 5/5/20 – for five minutes they’ll hate you. In five days they will have forgotten and in twenty years they’ll thank you.
Believe in the DECISIONS YOU’VE ALREADY MADE. Be frugal with exceptions. You decided that bedtime is eight o’clock, and you made that decision for a good reason (your sanity) – so stick with it. It’s easier to lighten up than it is to tighten up. Establish family policy, and start with rules that are reasonable, understandable, and easy to obey (like we wipe our feet when we come in the house). Explain why you’ve made each rule, so that your children understand the logic behind your leadership. When they’ve earned your flexibility, be flexible.
Believe in POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. When it’s deserved, surprise your child with praise. “I like the way you’re sharing with your sister.” “I really like it when you help me with the groceries.” “Thank you for taking your dishes to the sink.” It’s as much about being a cheerleader as about being a cop. Remember, every rule you create is a rule you have to enforce and too many rules make life very complicated. If you can teach your child to seek praise, rather than punishment it makes life much easier around the house.
Believe in your SELF. This one is a biggie. You are the boss. You are the “pack leader.” In order to maintain comfort for all concerned, you need to lead with confidence. I like to think of it this way:
If you were to get into a cab and ask the driver to take you to the airport, and that driver were to say “OK – I think I know how to get there.” you would have two reactions: First, you’d be a nervous wreck because the driver should know how to get there and next, you’d lose respect for this person for not knowing the basics of their job!
Your children are passengers in your cab. You are far better informed about everything than they are. To extend the cab metaphor, they don’t even know how to drive and they certainly don’t know their way around town! Even if you’re a little unsure, you need to make them think you know what you’re doing so that they can relax and enjoy the ride. Anxious children act out. Your life experience is your qualification.
Ultimately being a parent is about being a teacher. Our basic job as parents is to create “good citizens,” To do so, we have to find ways to illustrate citizenship as often as we can. Encourage your children to help you do the right thing. “Could you please take the shopping cart back?” “Let’s put that piece of trash in the can.” Explain why it’s important to wait in line. Talk about how it feels to give a gift. Explain the Golden Rule; How would you feel if someone did that to you? These simple questions create opportunities for us to teach every day.
As the father of four grown children, I have learned that these classically kind lessons sink in (which surprised me). Be an optimist – it’s amazing how far good intentions can go when we hand them to our children.
Richard Greenberg is a happily married father of four and the author of “Raising Children That Other People Like to be Around”. A native of Los Angeles, Richard graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in English in 1976 and married his childhood sweetheart JoAnn, shortly thereafter. Richard is an observer and an efficiency expert who devoted more than thirty years of effort and expertise to the entertainment industry (as a post-production executive, editor and writer/producer). Richard is a patented inventor, published songwriter and popular public speaker. You can read more of Richard’s parenting tips, tools, and triumphs on his blog, Common Sense Dad and follow him on Facebook or Twitter.