Parents truly are their children’s first and best teachers. When it comes to dealing with children’s behavior, sometimes the job seems bigger than we would like it to be. Every day our children can behave in ways that frustrate, embarrass, and confound us. Some of the behaviors they display are just related to being a child. Other behaviors, however, are related to our habits and responses to them.
Some parents are really confused about what kind of behavior is cute, what is normal, and what is inappropriate. Parents may spend a lot of time explaining, bargaining, and convincing their child to understand why to behave, in the end missing an opportunity to teach the desired actions. Some parents, even if they want to do something about misbehavior, don’t know what to do, or are reluctant to anger or disappoint a child. Parents need to recognize what, when, and how to teach children the skills they want them to have. Children can learn to behave and it is our responsibility to teach them these skills.
How do you want your child to behave when he is 10, 14, or even 18? Those behaviors need to be taught now, when your child is young. When my children were growing up, it was important to me that they speak politely at the dining table. In fact, it was important that they came to the dining table! Even if they chose not to eat, which they could, we all sat down together at mealtime. As adults, I wanted them to have the skills to be appropriate and comfortable in many environments. Some of these skills were, asking politely, thanking appropriately, speaking graciously, and helping to serve and clean. It would have been silly of me to expect this behavior without implementing some teaching strategies and supportive relationships to accomplish them. These are basic manners, which all children need to develop in order to be successful in the world outside of their family environment. It is not very helpful to allow children too much flexibility at home and then expect good behavior when they are away from home.