If your child is continuously combative and disrespectful to you, imagine that same child at the age of 17 driving off in a car. If you do not reign in behaviors from early ages, you are dooming your child’s future and you are destined for a troubled relationship. Would you let your child eat bad foods, drink poisonous substances, or play with dangerous toys? Allowing out-of-control behaviors is toxic to the family and the child.
Always Testing Limits
Children are always testing their boundaries; a parent’s job is to define those limits clearly within the family structure. As a parent, you must be confident, kind and committed to what’s acceptable regardless of a child’s emotional reaction.
Know that crying is not a death sentence, it’s a growing experience. Discipline and accountability are key elements in raising well-balanced, well-adjusted children. If you allow unruly behavior at any age, your kids will assume it’s acceptable. Remember you’re not their friend, you’re their parent and you need to mentor them.
Three Ways …
Here are a few recommendations:
1. Develop family rules and be consistent in adhering to them. For instance, children should have chores around the house appropriate to their age. They should keep their rooms tidy and help with meals, cleanup, etc. When they do these tasks, offer positive reinforcements, such as saying, “I’m so fortunate to have such a thoughtful child who did all the dinner chores tonight without even being asked…Thank you.”
On the other hand, if they fail to perform the requested activities, you need to activate consequences. Be firm without raising your voice. If they misbehave at the dinner table or with their siblings, they lose privileges such as play dates, no TV, no games, no phone. Depending on the severity of the infraction, they may be confined to their room for a period to think about what they’ve done.
Consider a young adult who got fired from his job. Did he understand what would happen when he got caught with drugs on the drug test? It is important to teach children accountability: If you do something wrong, there are penalties. It’s okay if they learn to use an excuse with their peers for avoiding bad choices such as “My Dad will kill me if I do that.”
2. Teach respectfulness and kindness. Help your child recognize feelings of gratitude. With young children, reinforce positive moments. For instance, if one child shares a toy with another, say aloud how happy and grateful the receiving child appears so it becomes a teachable moment.
Create a gratitude jar. Ask your child to write one thing they are grateful for each week and put the comment in a beautifully decorated jar. At the end of the month, spend time together as a family reviewing the entries. Words and notes of thanks should also be encouraged and can help children explore feelings of gratitude further.
When your child exhibits positive behaviors, take time to give a compliment.
Make volunteering part of your life by donating family time to help a charitable organization. Use such an opportunity to bring awareness about others who are less fortunate.
When Countess Stella Andrassy was growing up in a privileged household in her native Sweden, every Christmas her parents made sure that she and her siblings visited several homeless shelters to distribute gifts before they were permitted to enjoy their own holiday gifts. “It gave me greater appreciation for all that I had,” the Countess once shared with me. There are few things comparable to the feeling one experiences by helping someone else. Selflessness and kindness are important lessons so children aren’t always thinking about just themselves. You can help them expand their awareness so they’ll learn to enjoy doing things for others.
3. Be conscientious about setting a good example. Walk the walk by exhibiting values and integrity. Let them catch you doing the right stuff. For example, a cash machine delivers $120 when you requested $100. Exemplify the behavior you want to encourage by giving back the $20 in front of your children. Hold the door open for others so that you teach them respect and awareness.
Let children witness you taking care of yourself and dealing with life’s challenges in constructive ways. Show them how to relax with what is. Instead of focusing on problems, withdraw from any immediate dramas and pause for a time out to be able to see a clearer, more productive solution.
More than likely, you have all the basics for your survival. You may want more or are improving yourself but in this very moment, you’re okay. Let your children know that they’re okay. Create a sense of safety and security for your child full of love and support. In this parental environment, children thrive and grow to be valuable adults who contribute to a better world!
Give Yourself a Break
If you’re having difficulty getting centered yourself, try my free audio at 3MinutestoDestress.com. By taking a brief mental pause, you will refresh your mind and body. It will help you think more clearly, feel more energized, function more effectively, and ultimately reduce stress so that you’ll be more present and available for your children! ###
Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach and author of the best-selling book, Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. CLICK HERE for a free consultation with Peggy, or visit her website at PeggySealfon.com.