Some time back, CNN ’s website had an article about parents who cannot control their children. The author said his children would not act out, up or otherwise be a terror in public. The CNN website included an image of a child fairly bouncing around a commercial airplane.
Sometimes children who behave like wild animals in public have real medical reasons for this. Children with ADD, autism and other problems that affect cognition simply may not be able to behave the way we’d like them to. But other children certainly can behave in public.
There is a way to get well-behaved children in public. It’s called respect.
My children know how to act when we are in public, not because I demand their respect, but because:
I respect them.
I keep my word.
I hug them daily.
They know when I say something I mean it. I do not threaten and then fail to carry out the threat. If I say I’m going to do it, I do it.
I expect the same of them. If they tell me they are going to do something, they better do it.
By doing this, I earn their respect. In turn they want my respect. That matters to them more than they really believe.
This does not mean my kids are under an iron fist control. They can and do go wild. They know when and where this is permissible and that time and place is not in public.
Another way I earn their respect, which translates directly into proper behavior in public, is going to surprise a lot of people. My kids challenge me. They contradict me. They are known to argue with me. Some people would not tolerate this. I not only tolerate this, but I sometimes encourage it because when my kids can get better of me, they are using cognitive abilities and critical thinking skills that will put them ABOVE the average college freshman when it’s time to enter those hallowed halls of education.
In order to get away with coming back at me, they know they HAVE to be thinking just as hard as they can. As I tell them, if you can’t finish it, best not start it.
Whether they are right or wrong in what they say is far less important than their reasoning. If they have a definite chain of logic and can reason their way through it, I accept what they say. If they are wrong, I ask them to rethink as I point out the errors. I never criticize them or their efforts. Rather, I praise them for thinking so well.
As they have learned they can argue with me rationally and I won’t get mad – indeed I like it – they think even harder next time. When I praise their efforts especially when they outsmarted me, they try redouble their efforts to do it again.
If they slack off in their thinking efforts, I don’t hold back. They don’t slack off much.
I always am proud of them. I tell them I am proud of their work first and proud of them as my children secondly. This may sound as though I have it backward, but I don’t. By praising the work, I am teaching my children they CAN. When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, they will look back just like The Little Engine That Could and they will succeed.
When I praise them as a person, I merely build their ego. Feeling good about your abilities will always get you farther than feeling good about yourself.
The point is my kids would rather achieve something by outsmarting me and that good and me be proud of that than to manage to outsmart me in being difficult to deal with. That makes me incredibly proud of them because they are being all they can be.
And with each effort, my respect and pride in my children grows. As respect and pride grows, so grow the attributes of a model citizen and patriot I want to see in my children. Make no mistake! They are not automatons. They can, will and do think for themselves. They already have opinions opposed to mine, opinions they can articulate very well.
But, they work hard to earn my respect and in turn, I work hard to be worthy of their respect. That I get well-behaved children, respectful and helpful children is a bonus I indeed counted on.