Giving silent approval

When our children start misbehaving and we do not do or say anything, we are giving our silent approval. We are also likely to see the misbehavior continue and escalate. At this point we will probably wish we would have intervened earlier!

I witnessed a 10-year-old girl teasing and taunting her younger sister while playing a board game. Their dad was also playing the game but didn’t say anything. The older girl’s teasing continued until someone else finally stepped in and told her it really wasn’t ok to tease her sister like that.

When we notice bullying behavior in our children, it is important that we let them know that this needs to stop. Our children need our guidance in learning to be respectful of others.

Teaching moral behavior

We’d like our children to be kind, respectful and fair to others. However, those behaviors don’t occur naturally so how do parents encourage acting ethically?

Michelle Borba discusses this issue in her book Building Moral Intelligence: The Seven Essential Virtues that Teach Kids to Do the Right Thing. She discusses each virtue along with ideas for how parents can help their children to develop each virtue. The seven virtues defined in the book are:

“1. Empathy is the core moral emotion that allows your child to understand how other people feel.

2. Conscience is a strong inner voice that helps your child decide right from wrong and stay on the marl path, zapping her with a dose of guilt whenever she strays.

3. Self-control helps your child restrain his impulses and think before he acts so that he behaves right and is less likely to make rash choices with potentially dangerous outcomes.

4. Respect encourages your child to treat others with consideration because she regards them as worthy.

5. Kindness helps your child show his concern about the welfare and feelings of others.

6. Tolerance helps your child appreciate different qualities in others, stay open to new perspectives and beliefs, and respect others regardless of differences in race, gender, appearance, culture, beliefs, abilities, or sexual orientation.

7. Fairness leads your child to treat others in a righteous, impartial, and just way so that she will be more likely to play by the rules, take turns and share, and listen openly to all sides before judging.”

This book is a terrific resource for ideas on how to encourage these virtues in your children.

Scaring kids into behaving

One Mom wrote that her 4-year-old daughter did not want to leave Chuck E. Cheese’s when it was time to go. She solved the problem by telling her daughter “That’s fine. The hobos will come and take you away.” Her daughter immediately got her shoes on!

While scaring our kids may work in the short term, in the long term the consequences aren’t so desirable. What are they learning? We are teaching them that what we say may or may not be true. We are also showing that they can’t always count on us to protect them. Are these really the messages we want our kids to be hearing?

Learn better ways to handle situations like this in the Priceless Parenting online parenting class!

Exhausted mom feels like maid

One mom described her frustration with coming home from work to a house where her three teens had left a mess. Although the kids were home all day due to summer vacation, they didn’t manage to pick up after themselves. Seeing their stuff lying around the house, she wanted to scream “Do you think I’m the maid?” To add fuel to her fury, her kids told her that she’s always in a bad mood.

She reported feeling like she hates them right now. She also revealed how rotten it felt to say those words and wondered if she were being too demanding or expecting too much.

Her expectations were quite reasonable; however, she hadn’t found a way to get her kids to do their share around the house. In situations like this, it can be helpful to list out all the tasks that need to be done to keep your family going (including things like going to work to earn money, paying bills, providing rides). Next, sit down with your kids at a time when everyone is calm and discuss how to divide up these tasks.

It is perfectly realistic to expect teens to do more house work in the summer when they have free time. Giving teens responsibility for things like planning and preparing a dinner will help them learn important life skills while also contributing to the family.

For more ideas on handling chores, see Lesson 6 of the Priceless Parenting online parenting class.

Understanding tween/teen girls

Raising a daughter through her tween/teen years can be a lot like white water rafting down a mountain river – periods of relative calm followed by some rough waters! As in rafting, it can be very helpful to have a guide who understands the territory and can describe what’s coming up plus point out potential dangerous areas.

As a school psychologist for many years, Dr. JoAnn Deak provides this type of guidance in her book Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters. Deak has counseled many girls and their parents through the challenges of growing up. Parents will be able to relate to the poignant, real-life stories she uses to demonstrate her points.

Whether it’s the very real need for 5th – 6th grade girls to have a best friend or the problems with girls who always try to please everyone, this book is a wonderful resource for parents of girls.

School mornings: calm not chaotic

Do you ever find yourself rushing around in the morning desperately trying to get your kids off to school? Feeling rushed and hassled first thing in the morning is not a good way to start a day! Unfortunately many parents and children report this is exactly how they feel in the mornings.

How can we change our behavior so that mornings feel calm instead of chaotic? It can help to take a step back and look at what needs to get done in the mornings and how we want to interact with our children.

Adding Stress by Nagging and Ordering

One thing that adds to morning stress is when parents feel they need to give their kids lots of orders to get them out the door on time:
  • "Eat your breakfast."
  • "Brush your teeth."
  • "Get dressed right now!"
  • "Remember to bring your clarinet."
Whenever we order our kids to do something, we are setting ourselves up for a possible power struggle. We are also sending the unspoken message "You're not smart enough to think of this for yourself so I'm telling you what to do." This is not quite the message we want to be sending!

(read the rest of the article at Priceless Parenting)

Lots of words = lots of attention

When we respond to our children’s misbehavior using lots of words, we are giving them a lot of attention. This may be negative attention but any attention will encourage a behavior to continue. So it’s a good idea to limit the words we use.

For example, one dad described a situation where his daughter was begging him to buy a stuffed bear at the store. He had already told her he wouldn’t buy it for her and then she started in with “oh p-l-l-le-e-e-e-e-a-s-s-e Daddy, I’ll be really good the rest of the day if I can just have it.” Instead of launching into an explanation of why he wasn’t buying it, he just responded “What was my answer?”

Short responses to behaviors like whining and begging will help extinguish those behaviors. The more attention we pay to a behavior, the more likely we are to see that behavior. Save your words for the good behavior!

How do you make your kids feel?

A Dad wrote me that he is working on treating his children with more respect. He mentioned that this quote helps him remember the importance of treating his children well:

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -- Maya Angelou

When we show respect to our children, we make them feel appreciated and loved. We also model how to treat others with respect.

Think back to your last interaction with your children. How do you think they felt afterwards? How did you feel? If we want to build warm, loving relationships with our children, paying attention to these feelings is essential.

Modeling responsibility

One mom’s two daughters are taking summer school. When the bus brings them home, it drops off five kids at an old, vacant school. Parents are supposed to pick their kids up at 12:30 but sometimes the bus drops them off early. Often this mom is the first one to arrive to pick up her daughters. However, instead of leaving the other young children alone at the school, she waits around until all of them are picked up.

One day her daughters were complaining that they were hungry and wanted to go home. She calmly explained that they would not be leaving until all the children had been picked up because it wasn’t safe to leave them there alone.

This mom is teaching her kids an important lesson about being responsible for not only one’s self but also others. When we act with this level of integrity, our children learn about the values we hold most dearly.

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