|”Why Can’t They Just Behave?” And Other Silly Questions Parents Ask|
|By Laurie Prusso|
|Parents truly are their children’s first and best teachers. When it comes to dealing with children’s behavior, sometimes the job seems bigger than we would like it to be. Every day our children can behave in ways that frustrate, embarrass, and confound us. Some of the behaviors they display are just related to being a child. Other behaviors, however, are related to our habits and responses to them.
Some parents are really confused about what kind of behavior is cute, what is normal, and what is inappropriate. Parents may spend a lot of time explaining, bargaining, and convincing their child to understand why to behave, in the end missing an opportunity to teach the desired actions. Some parents, even if they want to do something about misbehavior, don’t know what to do, or are reluctant to anger or disappoint a child. Parents need to recognize what, when, and how to teach children the skills they want them to have. Children can learn to behave and it is our responsibility to teach them these skills.
Other desired behaviors may include things like getting homework done and turned in on time, taking care of things, and being responsible for something else. These things won’t just happen. We can have an expectation and then have a big gap between the expectation and the child’s ability to live up to it. Sometimes that gap is the missing teaching and learning that needs to occur. Fortunately, there are some effective ways to teach and support your child’s learning about behavior.
It might be fun for you to create a list of the characteristics you would like your child to have when he is ready to move away to attend college. Make a long list first, and then try to narrow it down to 10 or 12 of the most important qualities. You can begin to teach and provide practice for those attributes and characteristics now when your child is young.
The Four E’s of Parenting – Example, Education: Explicit and Implicit, Experience, Encouragement
The Four E’s sometimes overlap, but that is fitting, as this provides reinforcement and fortification for your child’s learning. For example, you will soon see that when you respond kindly and patiently to a child’s ridiculous request for banana splits for dinner, you are setting a good example and providing encouragement. You may also be teaching something about nutrition and appropriate limit setting. Or, if you decide that banana splits represent at least 3 of the food groups, you are demonstrating how to be flexible, fun, and collaborative. Life is like that. It matters more how you do something, than what you do.
Check yourself to see if the example you are setting is the one you want to set. Do you behave in ways that you want your child to behave? Do you speak to your child and to others the way you want to hear your child speak? If you want your child to be kind and patient, are you kind and patient? Do you complain? Procrastinate? Swear? Yell? If you do, it is likely that your child will too. When you speak to and about your spouse, are you respectful, loving, and kind? Your child will learn how to talk to you and to others by the way you speak to and about others. Your child will absorb your mannerisms and habits like a sponge and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Be the kind of person you want your child to become. Example is the most powerful tool you have.
Putting It Into Practice:
Now consider some ways that you can really teach the idea or skill to your child. Is there a game you could play? Is it something done everyday in your home, and you just need to allow your child to get involved with some pointers and some practice? Dusting is one such skill. Other household chores are also easily taught in a fun and cooperative way.
Think about how and when your child will practice this new knowledge and turn it into learning. We haven’t really learned something until we use it! Get ready to encourage, support, laugh, and guide. Keeping our long-term goals in mind will help us relax and enjoy the process.
How to Make a Bed, and Other Important Life Skills
When it comes to behavior, our children are counting on us to know what to do. If we want them to be kind, when they pick up a block to throw at another child, we tell them firmly and clearly to put it down, and we follow through by walking toward them to remove the block. Then if desired, use the Four E’s to teach about kindness, impulse control, feelings, and more! What a wonderful way to show your child that you love him and to help him be successful in the world.