“How do I get my kids to behave?”
Ever asked yourself this question? I have…probably a million times! Maybe your kids won’t behave for you, or maybe they won’t behave for other people, or maybe they just don’t behave…PERIOD!
So, I’ve decided to write this post because I am a perfect parent. Yep, you heard me correctly. I have got it all together. My children ALWAYS do what I ask the first time I ask, they behave perfectly in public places, and they NEVER EVER talk back!
HA!! If only that were really true!
No, I’m writing this post because I think you might be really frustrated with your kid and maybe frustrated with yourself as a parent, but MAYBE you will feel better about your kids when you realize, “Hey! I’m not the only one! Who knew?”
Teaching my children to behave is a never ending life long quest. The more kids I have, the more dynamics come in to play, and the more I have to get creative. If I really look back in time, though, I see how far we have come, and I can smile, because we HAVE made progress! I’m not sure, though, who’s the better person, them or me, because in the end, we’re all teaching each other. Parenting is not a position as much as it is a time to learn, and I my children are the best professors I have ever had!! Let me share just one of the many lessons my little ‘professors’ taught me 3 years ago.
My son was 2. He was (and still is) very active and very smart. Going grocery shopping with him was very much like Mission Impossible. It was HIS mission to make my trip absolutely IMPOSSIBLE! One day, I thought I was pretty smart and brought legos. By allowing him to have his legos in the cart, I just knew I could get my shopping done in peace while he played. Not only, did my idea not work AT ALL, but then while I was checking out, to my HORROR, he started chucking the legos at the sweet lady at the register! She was trying to scan my groceries while also ducking to avoid losing an eye. I was trying to stop him while also trying to pay and get out of there AS FAST AS POSSIBLE!! When we got to the car, I buckled him in his carseat, I told him how naughty he was and said ,“How could you embarrass me like that?”
He was only 2!
He was just mad that I took the legos away and was screaming in the backseat. I was ignoring the tantrum while trying to drive when I was suddenly hit by a hot wheels car in the back of the head.
I pulled over, grabbed anything I could find in the backseat that could be used as ammo and started to drive again. Not 60 seconds later, I felt a shoe hit me in the back of the head!
Ever had one of those moments as a parent? Lesson learned: DO NOT take legos to the store, DO NOT keep hot wheels in the back seat, but most importantly DO NOT expect a 2 yr old to patiently endure a long shopping trip!
See! I told you I wasn’t perfect. That was only one of hundreds of ‘teaching moments’ I’ve had as a mother and I have plenty still ahead of me. If I could share 5 things that I have learned so far that have helped, it would be the following:
Be Clear. Make sure your child knows the family rules, make sure they know how to behave and act. If they are too young to understand, they are probably too young to be held accountable. My 18 mo. old does not understand how to share yet, or how to clean up all of his messes, but my 4, 6, and 10 year old do! The point is, make sure they KNOW what is expected and PREPARE them ahead of time for new scenarios (like eating at a restaurant, or going grocery shopping, or going to the doctor) For example, if you’re going to the doctor, prepare them by saying, “We are going to the doctor. When we go to the doctor, we sit in the waiting room like this…we play quietly with the toys like this….we use our inside voices like this…” Have them show you and repeat back what you said so you are CLEAR.
Here’s a fun way to make sure you and your kids are CLEAR on what is expected. Give them silly examples. You could say, “When we’re at the doctor’s office, do we run around like this…?” and start running around your living room like a mad woman, or “Do we do jumping jacks like this?” Let them demonstrate good and bad examples. It’s fun for them, and makes it very clear how they should and should NOT act. When I was a preschool teacher, the kids loved it when I played this game with them.
Be a TEACHER, not a PREACHER. Personally, when I think of a teacher, I think of someone who leads by example, someone who shows people what to do. When I think of a preacher, I think of someone who’s really good at telling people what to do. I call it ‘parenting from the couch.’ I can tell my kids what to do all I want, but they really only end up doing what I teach them to do by my example. If I holler all the time, so do my kids. If I spend my money on impulse buys, so do my kids. If I eat junk food, or pick my nose, or gossip, or criticize others, guess what? SO. DO. MY. KIDS. It stinks, really, because it means I have to act the same way I want them to act. The old phrase, “DO as I say, and not as I do” just doesn’t work. Every imperfection I have is magnified 10x as a parent. Once again, lots of opportunities to learn and grow, right? So…if you want your kid to be polite, then be polite. If you want them to be respectful, then be respectful. It’s a heck of a lot easier said, than done! Who is your child more likely to obey? You, hollering orders from the couch, or you working with them and showing them how to do it? Parenting takes work. I know, I don’t like to hear it either, but we all know it’s true!
Be Consistent. Oh, how I am still working on this! My husband is a lot better at being consistent than I am. I’m such space cadet mom, that half the time, I don’t remember what I say to my kids, but they do! So, if I tell them they can’t play with friends till their chores are done, I had better keep to my word, because otherwise, they run right over the top of me! Set a standard and stick to it! It’s hard but worth it. Kids need to know where the boundaries are to feel secure. If they feel like the boundaries are always changing, then it’s confusing and they will always try and push you past your limits. Trust me… I know!
Be present. We live in an era where distractions are the norm. Smart phones, tablets, tv, and a million other things are always pulling us in every direction. It’s easy to not ‘be present’ even though we are standing right in front of our kids. If you’re driving, be present in that moment and DRIVE. Put away the phone. If you’re at your kids soccer game, be present, and be their favorite cheerleader. Live in the moment. Stop saying, “Just a sec.” and say, “Let’s do this right now!” (I’m saying this mostly to myself right now cuz I definitely need the pep talk!) My kids are always saying, “Come on MOM! You promised us you were going to…” while I am trying to finish something….always. My ten yr old talks a million miles a minute and it’s easy for me to tune her out because I have a million other things to think about or do. But then she says, “Mom, are you even LISTENING to me??” and I realize, in that moment,that I’m not as good at multitasking as I thought. Be present. Live in the NOW.
Be Kind. Think of the people in your life who are great examples of kindness. It’s easy to get upset and even yell at children who are not behaving. I never forget the look on my children’s faces when I am unkind. It stabs me to the core. I am their ultimate example. If they don’t learn kindness from me, who will they learn it from? If you’ve had a bad day, and you feel like a horrible parent, don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong, give a hug or shed some tears with your children. When they see that you are willing to admit you’re not perfect, they will be more patient with their own imperfections. I’ve had many night where I have knelt with my kids to pray and sobbed because I was so sorry for being such a grumpy mom. They are ALWAYS quick to forgive. Remember, parenting is not a a position but a time to learn. Learn as much as you can from them. They can be wonderful teachers. Christ once said,
“Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4)
I strive to be a good parent, I hope to be a great parent, but I just pray I’m humble enough to always be a teachable parent.
Good luck in your parenting. Remember, you’re not the only one, and “this too shall pass.”
Enjoy it while you can!