We all want to be the parent our children can look up to. We want them to have fond memories of their childhood while learning valuable life lessons they will teach their own children. At the same time our children have numerous other influences in their life. The internet, cell phones, friends, teachers, coaches all have a say in the way our children see the world. While parents try to pick healthy people to be around their children sometimes we do not have a say in the matter. So how can you ensure that the choices your child makes are ones that are in his or her best interests? How do you respond when your child makes a choice you disagree with? In the face of conflict and disappointment it is a parent’s responsibility to dig deep and get stronger. You can still have a close relationship with your child while maintaining high expectations for behavior and performance. Here is how:
- Model the values you want them to embody. Kids shouldn’t only behave to please us. When we constantly criticize and discipline, they learn to do what they are told. Parents who lead by example, and demonstrate behaviors such as empathy and self-control end up with self-confident children who want to behave.
- Highlight the behaviors you want to promote – address needs rather than focusing on misbehavior, children learn faster when they are redirected instead of punished (“You can jump rope outside”), Set limits and give directions, not restrictions and orders. (“I understand you feel hurt. Let’s use your words instead of your hands to tell your friend what you feel”)
- Be consistent – If you replace the word strong with consistent you can get a clearer picture of what you message you are sending your child. Being consistent can mean expecting them to eating their vegetables, having a consistent bedtime, or consistently following through with rewards and consequences. Predictability and consistency will benefit children by providing a continuous positive message of respect and inclusion.
- Encourage autonomy – Being a parent is a full-time job that requires repetition and consistency. For children need to learn how to make the right choices, offer to help with decisions, but allow them to make their own. Draw a hard line against dangers such as inappropriate internet sites and underage drinking. Then encourage pro-social behaviors including using their manners and volunteerism.
- Respect their intellect. Friends can be an increasingly strong influence as children grow older. Your child is taking in new information every day from a multitude of sources. They will choose to emulate choices you may not agree with. Whatever the decision it is their choice to proceed, and they need to be held accountable good or bad.
- Give them a sense of purpose – Teach your child responsibility by participating in family chores. Make family events and meals a time for sharing and supporting each other. Stress the importance of completing schoolwork and studying for tests. Expectations help increase our self-worth.