Every responsible human being has acquired certain virtues useful in getting along with others. Topping the list are kindness, being responsible, friendliness, charity, honesty, trustworthiness, compassion and respect for others. All are reasonable and desirable tools for successful living. Thinking that the acquisition of these traits can be left to chance would be a big mistake.
The positive virtues mentioned above are not inherent; they must be nurtured, modeled and expected. How does a parent do this? I heard the following statement once: “Responsible parents are their children’s teachers. The parents lead and the children, as students, follow. Fun times are welcome; have fun along the way, but never at the expense of needed leadership”. This is quite a serious statement, but its message is bang on. I like to rephrase this message to sound more like this: “Responsible parents who care deeply about their children and society, love to have fun, act silly, participate in enjoyable family activities together and have an undeniable set of virtues that they not only state are important, but also model and allow their children to practice.”
If parents want to raise respectful, compassionate, friendly, charitable, trustworthy, and kind children then they must consistently, in as many ways possible, state the values or virtues they feel are important to them, model these virtues and provide opportunities for their children to practice using them.
For example, when a parent says, “We cooperate and do our part because we are a team”, they are stating a virtue. When a parents says, “We always go to the door to say hello when guests arrive”, they are also stating a virtue.
When a parent offers to help someone they are modelling a virtue. When a parent gets frustrated but utters, “Ärgh, there must be a way!” and then continues to work on the task until the desired outcome is achieved, they are also modelling a virtue.
When parents take their children to help pack food baskets at a homeless shelter they are allowing their children to practice the virtues they talk about and model. When parents tell their children that they will be the ones to answer the door to welcome the guests this evening they are also giving their children an opportunity to practice the virtues that they have spoken of and modeled.
Ask yourself and take time to reflect on the following questions:
What virtues do my partner and I value and expect in our family?
How do we model these virtues to our children?
How do we help our children practice these virtues?
If asked, would our children be able to state at least 3 virtues that we value?
Following this reflection, your answers will be your guide as to the next step to take.
The holidays are coming up, and although many parents look forward to having their children home from school, they also find that after a few days it isn’t so easy having the kids underfoot all the time. The children are all excited about Christmas, they start fighting more often, and when they’re not doing that they complain to their parents that they are bored.
The Christmas holidays are one of those odd times that combine a lot of fun with a lot of stress. It isn’t easy having the children right on top of you again, especially when they’re all pumped up about the presents they’re going to get and can’t seem to leave one another alone. Here are a few ideas for maintaining sanity during these both enjoyable and difficult times.
1. Help Kids Plan or Structure One Part of Their Day
With school-aged kids, help them plan or structure part of each day, then let them figure out what they are going to do to entertain themselves for the rest of that day. Do not fall into the trap of seeing yourself as the resident entertainment committee! You might help Emily by allowing her to have a friend over to eat dinner, watch a video and then sleep overnight. The rest of the day your daughter decides for herself what she’ll do. Or you might take Ryan out to lunch and then to a movie, but the rest of the day he entertains himself.
2. Be Clear About the Rules From the Start
Make the above rules clear as soon as the holiday starts, so when the kids come up to you and say, “There’s nothing to do, ” you can reply, “You and I will be going out at 4, but in the meantime I’m sure you can think of something.” Above all, don’t keep making suggestion after suggestion after suggestion, only to have your child shoot down each idea as soon as it’s out of your mouth. Making a lot of suggestions to your children for what they can do implies that you are responsible for their keeping busy and feeling entertained.
3. Plan Lots of One-on-One Fun
Plan lots of activities one on one with your children. Just you and one child- no spouse or siblings. Not only does this eliminate the fighting, it offers the opportunity for real closeness and bonding. Most parents find that it’s a lot easier to have fun when it’s just you and one child, rather than the whole family together. Kids love having a parent all to themselves, and under these circumstances each child is usually much easier to get along with.
Want a simple solution for those times when your kids DO act up, whine, throw a tantrum, argue with their sibling or just plain misbehave?
If I asked you, “What is the main purpose of a parent?” I’d probably get the following responses:
1) To be their child’s guide in life
2) To love their child unconditionally
3) To teach their child good values
4) To protect their child
5) To offer their child support through life
Although all of the above are important and offer a beautiful image of what a loving parent/child relationship can look like, I would like to suggest that the REAL goal of any parent should be to teach their child to become their own parent.
We need a new generation of kids – ones who rely on themselves, who avoid emotional letdowns, who know they have skills and the ability to use them and who lead happy and fulfilled lives without needing to consult their parent (You) forever.
How can we accomplish this? There are some specific ways that I teach, however the most powerful way is to allow our children to make choices based on how each choice makes them feel and how their choice will make others feel.
From as early on as possible, probably starting at around 3-4 years old, teach your child that when they make a choice – any choice at all – they should ask themselves two things:
a) What are the consequences of this choice?
b) Will this choice I’m making now bring happiness to me and/or those around me?
I used to have a very large poster hanging on the wall in my classroom that read: If you make a choice you must be willing to accept the consequence of that choice.
I referred to this poster over and over again and it became one of our class mantras. The children became very conscious when they were about to make a choice and therefore behaviours and classroom dynamics were incredible. In addition to this, children began feeling better about themselves and more confident. Even the students who came in with a “bad kid” legacy changed. They began to see that they were in control of their lives, that they had a choice and that good choices led to positive outcomes for themselves and the others around them.
When teaching your child how to consciously make a good choice, state the choices then say,
“Think about the choice you are about to make. How does your body FEEL inside? Is it one of comfort or discomfort?”
I tell children that most people feel these sensations in their heart/chest area or in their stomach. Making this a concrete/feeling experience is the perfect way to help kids understand the concept as well as get them to connect to their inner voice more often.
Train them to say to themselves, “If I make this choice, what happens?” If their body sends a message of comfort, that’s the right choice. If their body sends a message of discomfort, then it’s probably not the appropriate choice.
Kids really tune into this and it makes sense to them when you put it this way. The added benefit of this is that you’re teaching your child to stop and tune into themselves – what an invaluable and forever giving gift you’ll be giving!
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