Are you a well-behaved parent? We are all so concerned about our children’s behavior, yet so often we act like jerks to our kids. We lose our patience with them, yell at them, tell them what to do without saying “please” or “thank you,” change the TV channel without asking, tell them to move when we want to sit somewhere and expect them to have cleanliness and discipline skills we do not have ourselves.
If you are not liking your children’s behavior, maybe it is time to take a look in the mirror. Children do not do what we say, they do what we do. Here are seven steps to becoming a well-behaved parent:
- Grow up. Being a grown-up is about more than age and more than an attitude. We must be more mature than our children are, so they have someone to be inspired by, to look up and model themselves after. Get to know yourself and your immature habits so you can most benefit the little people you are raising.
- Watch your tone of voice.If you speak down to your children or yell at them, they will speak that same way to you. They will get in trouble for speaking to you this way, while you get away with it because you are the parent. This unfairness creates anger and confusion in your children, who will then act it out on you and others. Talk to your children with love and respect. You can discipline them and still be respectful. When you are calm and understanding, you help them to understand themselves and their behavior better.
- Don’t throw tantrums.If you lose emotional control on a consistent basis when things do not go your way, you are teaching your children to handle themselves in that same way. If you are annoyed with your children’s response to a setback in life, look at yourself and consider whether they learned this from you. Having a tantrum, playing the victim or any type of childish emotional noise creates angst in your children. If you have a setback and are upset, express your disappointments from a place of mindfulness and truth. This teaches your children that there is a bigger picture and a way to stay calm through challenge.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Children are growing, and they are not going to be perfect or exactly what you think and want them to be. If you ride them on what you consider to be their “flaws,” they will learn to not like themselves and feel they are not good enough. Be flexible. Understand that they are little people and need to learn and grow into their own people. Embrace their differences.
- Avoid passive-aggressive actions.Joking down is a cut down and humiliates and damages the self-esteem of your children. When they show that your sarcasm hurt them and you say you were “just joking,” you humiliate them even more for being sensitive and human. The best way to tease is to tease them with love and affection, not about their personal idiosyncrasies. Play with them in loving and positive ways. It is much more fun.
- Stop complaining.If you are complaining and whining all the time about life, you fill your household and children with negative energy. You also teach your children to complain. They will get in trouble for complaining while you continue, and they will learn that the world is a negative and unfair place. Keep things positive. See the bigger picture. Find a way to see the positive in each situation and model this for your children.
7. Give up laziness.If you are sitting around watching TV, sleeping and not helping with household chores, but demanding that your children do what you won’t, you teach them to rebel and to be lazy and entitled. Hard work is an essential ingredient in being an adult. As their parent and role model, you need to be an active participant in the family “business” of keeping things happy, clean, organized and put together. This way, you teach your children that hard work and participation are essential for success in any area of life.
We cannot expect our kids to raise themselves or to “know better” than to take on our negative qualities. We become what we are around, and this is even truer for your children, as their brains are developing all the way up to age 25. You have to be what you want them to become. Be a well-behaved parent and you will have well-behaved children.
Sherrie Campbell, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist with more than two decades of clinical training experience providing counseling and psychotherapy services to residents of Southern California. For more information, visit sherriecampbellphd.com and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “Success Equations: A Path to Living an Emotionally Wealthy Life” is her second book and is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers.