How Do We Teach our Children Responsible Behavior
Note: This post is part of an ongoing series on the war that is being waged against families and
family values---and what we can do to strengthen and protect ours.I teach a Sunday
School class on strengthening the family and parenting skills. The lesson manual is
terrific, the points "right on" and the suggestions doable. Each week, usually Fridays,
I am including some of the information from that class.
Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
"If you want responsible
children give them
responsibilities and part
of the responsibility is
they have to make the choice. . ."
from Family Answers DVD
It is not hard to be an example --the most important thing is to be a GOOD example!
There have been many "scientific" teaching methods put forth through the years but the one important, consistent, no-fail method is to teach as Jesus Christ taught. Our Lord and Savior taught by example. He taught ---
- forgiveness by forgiving
- compassion by being compassionate and
- devotion by giving of Himself.
Parents cannot be hypocrites. Our children will remember our examples more than anything else we do or say.
Many parents are afraid to ask their children to do chores or make behavior changes, fearing the child will say no or resent or reject them for asking. Many parents don't have the courage to be "in control." (which is different than "controlling.")
Consider this: Fear of being disliked should not be a problem for parents. The parent's responsibility is to be just that --- the parent --- not a friend or peer.
Children are constantly learning and little children want to help. We must take the time to show them how and to let them, even when we know it will take more time.
We must also make sure we are very clear in our directions. Take the time to make sure they understand what you want. To see one of my (poor) examples go to:
Teaching children to perform simple actions are stepping stones to the behavior expected of them as adults. Even though it takes effort for parents to help their children become cooperative, helpful and responsible individuals, making that effort can prevent many problems as they mature.
1. Children that are old enough to pick up a toy to play with are old enough to be shown how to put it away.
2. Clearly explain and show what you want the child to do.
2. You will probably have to show and tell them several times before they get the idea.
3. It is very important that you take the time to be consistent in your teaching and expectations --- and the follow through.
Consider this: Our children want our attention, they seek our attention --- and will do what is necessary to gain our attention. Think about the percentage of time we recognize their good behavior compared to the their unacceptable behavior. Is it disproportionate?
4. After a request has been completed show appreciation and positive feedback. Tell how what they did benefited you and others.
5. When you express appreciation be specific --- say I appreciate what you did (filling in the act) NOT just I appreciate you. Do you see the difference?
6. Gradually increase the complexity of their chore, or the type of chore , as they progress.
Consider this: Do we like to be told what to do? Or be told to "do it right now!" Are children any different? Orders usually provoke resistance and/or alternatives like "I'll do it later."
Children cooperate more readily when they can choose between two acceptable alternatives. When children are allowed to make a choice, it helps them take responsibility.
We tried to give our children a 10 minute notice or warning before it was time to quit (or start) something. That helped a lot.
7. Make sure the choices you offer are acceptable to you.
example 1: "I would like you to pick up your clothes before you go out to play this afternoon. Would you like to pick them up now before the bus comes, or as soon as you come home from school?"
example 2: If you were to say "You can mow the lawn now, or you can forget about using the car tomorrow night," the child may choose to leave the car and go with friends instead. The child gets what he wants and the lawn remains unmowed, an unacceptable outcome to you. It is better to say, "You can mow the lawn today, or you can clean the garage for me so I'll have time to mow the lawn" --- where both options are agreeable to you and the child has a choice.
8. Make sure the choices you offer are limited enough to be understood and not overwhelming or subject to a choice that would not be acceptable to you.
example:"Would you like to wear this or this (holding up two items)" rather than going to the closet and saying "What would you like to wear?"
For more examples click on http://thecreativecheapskate.blogspot.com/2011/09/kids-and-art-of-giving-them-control.html
9. Use the word "When" not "If." Consider the difference.
example: "We will go for ice cream (fill in the above words) you finish cleaning your room."
WHEN is the result -- IF is a bribe.
10. Choices should not involve punishment: "You can mow the lawn now, or you are grounded for a month." This statement offers no real choice ("you must do as I say or I will punish you") and instead of teaching, will provoke feelings of resentment.
Consider this: from the Family Answers DVD -- Discipline helps a child learn --- Punishment helps a parent who has been hurt (or angry) feel better.
Be Prepared for. . .
kids that are not eager to go along with new changes that require them to behave responsibly. You may hear "That's not fair," "why do I have to do this?" "Other parents don't make their kids do that," etc. Don't be manipulated by such comments.
And Prepare to . . .
be consistent in the matter of choices, and the necessity of repeating the choices several times. When the know you really mean it they will finally comply.
It is important you do all of this without becoming defensive or angry. Do not argue.
If your child wants to debate the matter you can acknowledge his or her comments with a brief statement such as "That may be true" ... and then restate the choice. Again, you may to repeat this but that is okay. You are the parent. Do not let your children manipulate you.
Consider this: When they start realizing that you mean what you say --- your life, and theirs, will get a lot easier.
And, Finally the Possibility Exists that . . .
your child refuses to comply when given choices. Then, you the parent need to impose a consequence that logically relates to the misbehavior. Proper consequences make sense (even when they don't like them) and will help them learn responsible behavior.
If a consequence is disproportionate or unrelated to the offense, it may seem unreasonable, arbitrary and excessive, provoking the child to feel angry, resentful and rebellious.
If you realize the consequence you imposed is not in keeping with the offense should you
...just let it slide without saying anything? or
...apologize to your child, saying it was too extreme and reissue a more reasonable one?
What does the first one "say" to your child? Does it come across as "empty threats"?
What are the benefits of your child hearing that you also make mistakes and are willing to apologize and take steps to correct them?
"If parents do not discipline their children and teach them to obey, society may discipline them in a way neither the parents nor the children will like. Without discipline and obedience in the home, the unity of the family collapses. Greater peace and happiness will come to your family as you lovingly teach your children to obey the commandments of God and the rules of home and society." (from the lesson manual)
Dave and I tried hard not to have double standards --- we didn't see R-rated movies or engage in other inappropriate activities that society would have us believe are acceptable for grown-ups. We let our children know where we were going and when to expect us home --- and we called when our plans changed. We had the same respect for them as we expected from them.
Participate, as much as possible, in activities with your children, whether working or playing together. This allows opportunity for teaching and examples that the children can then incorporate in their lives.
These Things I Wish for You...
by Lee Pitts
Teaching children to be responsible does not have to that complicated. Simply, the three most important ways we can teach are:
Watch for Part 4: Applying Consequences