One of the easiest ways to help children learn responsibility, make good choices about their bodies, and pave the way to a successful transition/transfer is using the power of example. Kids learn far more from the examples we set than from the words and lectures we give them. The concept of example is so simple yet so powerful once we know how to use it properly.
Along similar lines: if we want respectful, responsible kids who are pleasant to be around, then that’s how we need to be. We can never ask more of our kids than what we are willing to give of ourselves.
This includes not only how we treat them but also how we allow them to treat us. So if we allow our kids to be disrespectful to us, then they are learning by our example to allow others to treat them badly. And they are not learning from our example how to set healthy boundaries with others.
Many loving parents spend a lot of time concerned with: “How can I make my child happy? How can I make sure my child has a high self-image? How can I do more for my child?” Such parents often live in a child- centered universe where the atmosphere in the home becomes polluted by the entitled little kings and queens of the estate.
Entitled children are often unpleasant to be around. Well, aren’t we all at times?! Yes, but we should certainly be pleasant most of the time and we have a right to expect that from others including our children. And when children are routinely unpleasant, many parents wonder what they can do to make their children more pleasant…how can they “happy the kid up?”
When children are unpleasant to be around, many parents resort to demands focused on the child’s behavior. So what comes out of the parents’ mouth is something like, “Stop it” or “Quit that” or “Shape up” or whatever. If only it were that simple but you know better. Here’s where setting an example comes in.
Setting the example means that in a loving way we take good care of ourselves. We talk about ourselves (not how bad the child is behaving) and we focus on what’s good for us. We show that we feel good for our children when they succeed and make wise decisions. And we respond lovingly but firmly when they make bad decisions. Our message is always: “Sweetheart, I love you no matter what but I won’t allow you to treat me badly.” When we set that type of example, the child grows and, in a healthy way, focuses on what’s good for him or her. They become more immune to peer pressure and less likely to tolerate unwise relationships.
Here’s an example: If things aren’t going well, after a brief exploration of the situation (keeping in mind that all children have a right to protest until it slides into downright obnoxiousness), a fed-up parent might say, “Stop it!”
But it’s so much more effective to set the example and take good care of yourself by lovingly saying something like: “Honey, I’m not feeling very good about the way you’re behaving right now. I can understand why you’re frustrated but your whining and complaining about checking your glucose level is hurting my ears. Why don’t you go hang out in your bedroom for a little while. Feel free to come back as soon as you can talk nicely.”
You might be thinking: “What?! Are you saying that I should dismiss my children from my area simply because they are not being pleasant to be around?!!!”
We are. And so will your child’s first spouse if that behavior doesn’t change. Isn’t it better for children to learn that life lesson from loving parents?