I’m not bragging, but I regularly get compliments on how well-behaved our two kids are. They’re not perfect, but they really do a good job. So, I got to thinking, how did that happen? What would I tell someone who asked “How can I do that?” I don’t think it’s all that hard, but it definitely isn’t an accident.
Right out of the gate – No two kids are alike, and I don’t for one second think that parenting habits have a one-size-fits-all answer. Maybe there are some concepts that are universal, like consistency, but your approach has to be fluid and evolutional. What’s below has worked for our family, so far. I have no delusions that the current path won’t need revisiting and revision as our family changes.
First thing, as mentioned above, is consistency. When kids get confused, they eventually either just decide to not listen to anyone, or develop anxiety. If you worked in a job with two or more supervisors, all telling you different things, you’d lose it pretty quickly. And who would blame you? Jeff says to wear a blue top and when you show up, Karen rakes you over the coals for it not being red. How many years of that situation before you blow your top? Your kids experience the same frustration when they get conflicting direction. Dad says you can watch another episode and ten minutes later, Mom is asking why you haven’t taken a shower. How many times does your kid have to deal with contradiction on a daily basis? Sure, its part of life, but they have plenty time for learning about dealing with confusion without their guardians adding fuel to the fire in the place where they’re supposed to be able to relax, in the space where they’re supposed to let their guard down. Everyone needs a rock that they can anchor themselves to. A constant. You should be that rock for your kids.
I get some sideways looks sometimes when I mention that I look at raising kids the same way as I do training a new puppy. It makes at least some sense, after some explanation that this mostly has to do with consistency. We’re ultimately looking to guide behavior through the creation of habits. Habits seem to be developed more readily when they’re reinforced with positive rewards versus negative one. We do this with puppies by giving them treats when they do the thing that we asked them to do. The pup sits, they get the treat. You are doing both yourself and that pup a big disservice if the pup gets the treat without sitting. Why would he do what you asked, if he gets the treat anyway? The same line of thinking has to be applied to kids, and having one person derail that process (intentionally, or not) is disastrous.
We can make these mistakes with the best of intentions. What we think is helping our kids live their best life, can be driving a wedge into the family unit that can be very difficult to work through. Teamwork makes the dream work. This is where it’s massively important to have an open, serious conversation with the people who will be a part of your kids life about your expectation(s) as a parent(s). If the goal is X number of servings of vegetables a day, that needs to be expressed, and everyone who might be part of that goal needs to be on-board with that. One bad actor can cause some serious issues when it comes to consistency, and folks, I need for you to remember something when it comes to raising your children. It’s not about you. Do the right thing for the kid, whether you or they like it or not.
Again, put yourself in the kid’s shoes. Think about the inconsistencies and contradictions that a kid can go through in a day from what could easily be a dozen different directions. It has to be maddening, and I can’t blame them for either shutting down or acting out.
Part 2, soon. Communication.