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So how are you doing with Assignment #1, teaching your children how to be pleasant and effective in getting your attention? I hope you’ve been practicing and finding some success. That’s not to say that after a short while you can expect that you’re going to have children who do this perfectly! It takes time, and lots of it. Let’s do some troubleshooting in case you’ve hit a rough spot.
If you’re having trouble, ask yourself some questions. Is it possible that you didn’t give your kids enough instruction on the front end of what you’re doing? Recall that you coach your kiddos on how this thing looks, and then you continue to coach them as they’re trying to do it. Let me remind you that you don’t get to be angry or frustrated during the process. If you were the boss at work and you had a new employee learning a new skill, you would patiently teach them. (If you got angry at their limitations, you would quickly find that their performance gets even worse – that is not effective teaching. Do YOU do better when you are learning something new if the person teaching you gets mad and is harsh, smart aleck, or condescending?)
If you’re trying to practice Assignment #1, and it’s not going well, my guess is that you have slipped out of a ‘training’ mindset. If you find yourself having an attitude of anger and frustration toward your kids, move your mindset back to coaching and teaching mode.
Another common pitfall, in fact probably the single greatest pitfall to your success, is inconsistency. This is tough when you have multiple kids, or frankly, if your children aren’t under your care for most of the day, like in school or day care. If you work outside the home, or work from home, it’s going to be more challenging to be consistent. And I’ll tell you from personal experience that the more kids you have, the more challenging it is to devote the time required to develop good habits of behavior (yours and theirs!) As we add more children to the family, it’s easy to slip into letting things go that need to be addressed, or assigning the older child to ‘parent’ the younger. Can I just tell you that children parenting children is a bad idea? Older siblings might be helpful as temporary babysitters and playmates, but they are not good substitutes for the maturity and wisdom of a parent!
As it relates to consistency, speaking of your kids’ behavior overall, if you hear from their teacher, day care provider, or others where they spend large amounts of time that they are well behaved and do what they are instructed to do, but you don’t see that in your home, then you have made some good progress in training them – you’re just probably inconsistent in your responses at home. It’s more likely that someone caring for your child in a setting with lots of other children is more consistent in reinforcing proper behavior than you are – they have to be or they wouldn’t survive! They also probably respond promptly to issues and do so without drama (yelling) or emotional manipulation – two biggies we parents sometimes employ.
This should give you hope! It means that your children can in fact learn to behave in a particular way! You have some control over the situation! If it’s merely the luck of the draw, and some parents luck out and get ‘good’ kids, but you weren’t so lucky, then you’re sunk! (My husband always wonders how you determine if a kiddo is a ‘good’ one – do you thump them on the head like checking the sound of a ripe melon to determine if you’re the lucky winner of a ‘good’ one?)
Sadly this is a pervasive idea among parents – that some parents just get good kids who behave well and others aren’t so lucky. I’ll agree that some kids are more naturally bent toward pleasant attitudes and behaviors than others, but I won’t agree that everyone else is left to just accept as their destiny the bad behavior of their children. I can tell you that often people would comment with wonder about the pleasant behavior of my kids while they were growing up. The fact that there were seven of them made it even more incredible to some onlookers. Frequently people assumed we just lucked out seven times and got ‘good’ ones. The truth of the matter was that we spent an enormous amount of effort and attention in teaching our children to be pleasant to be around.
Sadly we don’t often want to hear that something is attainable – if it takes sacrifice and hard work on our part because that means the outcome depends on us! We readily recognize that an accomplished athlete or musician practices their skills; trains and trains, then in the same sentence turn right around and relegate mannerly, sweet children to the luck of the draw.
The biggest problem in beginning any new habit is always consistency! Teach your children what you want them to do – in this case you are working on teaching them to politely, calmly and effectively get your attention. Do it often. Set aside a few minutes to deliberately act it out in practice. It might require that you adjust your schedule and commitments to be able to spend more time working on this. Here’s where your family goals are vital. If a family goal is to have a peaceful, pleasant atmosphere in your home, then you might not be able to do everything in your day that you would like to do. You might have to limit outside activities for the kids or for you – even good things! It’s not forever; it’s for a season while your children are young. If you have lots of young children, then your season of focusing on their character and behavior might be long. The other things that you feel are important to do might need to take a back seat to forming the habits of your family. The question you have to answer is whether a peaceful, enjoyable family life is what you want, and then decide if you are willing to work for it.
In the same way that some of us work diligently and willingly make sacrifices to get or remain out of debt, surely we can devote the same efforts to training our children!
Don’t give up. Keep working! You can do it!
Assignment #2 coming up.
Copyright (c) 2018 Beverly Parrish