When my children were growing up I used to tell them, “I love you unconditionally… but I want other people to like you, too!” I wanted to raise them to be adults who worked hard, got along well with others, showed respect and behaved with courtesy to everyone. The question was, what does a parent need to do to instill those qualities in their children?
Here are a few things that come to mind as I think back over raising my smart, strong-willed, hilarious and, at times, exasperating children:
First and foremost, be the example!
When you are in the throes of parenting – whether you’re in the toddler or teen stages – it can seem at times as though your children don’t hear a word you say, and if they do, they disagree passionately. But don’t be discouraged; they are learning important life skills when you discipline yourself to set a good example. They will notice if you apologize when you lose your temper and if you take responsibility for your own mistakes. They will see if you have a good work ethic and do your best without constantly complaining. BE the kind of person you want your children to grow up to be.
Enlist the support of other adults.
These are tricky times to be raising children. Parents are walking on eggshells, feeling as though one wrong move will bring some sort of backlash. But, as they say, it takes a village to raise a child. Children who have other positive adults involved in their lives often learn great lessons from them as well as their own parents. Maybe your kid has told you about some great wisdom they learned from a grandparent, teacher or friend and it took monumental self-discipline for you to resist the urge to say, “I’ve been saying that your whole life!” Just be glad they finally heard it!
I made sure to support their teachers in their efforts to train and educate my children. Extended family members can be invaluable influences, especially if you can agree on the values you wish to teach your children. Establishing rapport with the other significant adults in your children’s lives will help you form a strong “village” for them.
Encourage kids when they demonstrate good values or manners.
There are so many controversial topics that drown out the simpler qualities that will help your children grow into people that can successfully navigate relationships, excel at their jobs and gain self-respect. However, it is still relevant and important for a child to grow up with habits like looking others in the eye when speaking, listening politely, using good table manners, and putting away their phones or other electronics long enough to carry on a conversation or attend to a responsibility.
For small children, simple encouragements like, “I am glad you are chewing with your mouth closed,” will encourage repeated good manners. As they grow up a bit more, “I enjoy the time we have without phones at the dinner table because it’s so interesting to talk with you.”
Today, the use of electronics is an area that highlights the importance of your own self-discipline. When your child needs your attention, do you put your phone down? How you answer that question says a lot about how your child will perceive what you value most.
Thank them when they contribute.
Work is part of a successful life and strong self-esteem. Parenting expert, Dr. Kevin Leman, suggests replacing the words “Good job” with “Thank you” when your child does a chore or helps in some way. It can take years for a child to become proficient at tasks and they might not do a good job at first. But they will be more willing to keep learning if they know you appreciate their contribution. It helps a child to know they are a valuable part of the family and as they grow up they will be confident that they have something of value to offer the workplace and the world.
No two children are alike, and we hope to raise each one as a one-of-a-kind individual, but some of the “common courtesies” are important for them all. If we model the behaviors we value, we, as parents, have the joy of seeing our children grow up to be self-disciplined, confident adults who are able to maintain happy, healthy relationships with people who like them as much as we do.
Thanks, Liz, for sharing a parent’s point of view on an important topic!
What is your best parenting tip? We would love to hear from you in the Comments below!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.