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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Teaching Our Children Some Real Respect

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In parenting classes I've taught over the years I've been impressed by how concerned parents are about raising children who show genuine respect toward them and others.

When I taught my Positive Parenting class to ex-offenders, many of whom have felt "dissed" by society, they strongly expressed that same concern. And even though many of their parents had abused them with the harshest punishments imaginable, most staunchly defended the practice of "butt-whipping", believing it was the only way to "teach children some real respect".

But do all of our attempts to teach respect disrespectfully or violently just teach fear, instil anger and ultimately promote more violence?

Children, someone has wryly noted, are a lot like people. They aren't dumb, they're just short and inexperienced, and it is our duty to teach them what they need to know to become successful adults. Generally the same things that work with taller and older people are also the things that work best with shorter, less mature people.

In the real world we know that we teach best by use of careful and repeated explanation and lots of good demonstration over time, along with appropriate and respectfully administered consequences when offenses occur.

So I often ask parents, "When our children misbehave, are they simply defying us or might they often be imitating us?' Can we successfully teach patience impatiently, teach kindness unkindly or teach self control when we are ourselves are out of control? In other words, most good behaviors children learn they learn by loving elders who demonstrate and teach these qualities on a a consistent basis.

In each parenting class we begin by listing some of those good traits we want our children to take with them throughout their lives, long after we have any direct control of their choices. Then after highlighting such qualities as respect, courtesy, kindness, unselfishness, good work ethic, concern for others, picking up after themselves, being able to manage their anger, etc., I ask "How many of these qualities can we instil in our children by harsh lectures or beating?" and "How consistently are we demonstrating these traits ourselves?"

Of course parents can't be perfect, and the good news is that we don't have to be in order to be good role models. The secret is to recognizing when we fail and not being afraid to apologize when we miss the mark.

Which becomes another one of those good traits we teach by example.

Here's a link to another post on child discipline.

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