April 06, 2007

Getting Children to Adjust Their Behavior #3

"Help! I can't do this without you!"

Ok, we are ready for the third of these articles about getting children to decide to act in appropriate ways and to choose to adjust their behavior to suit your expectations for them. Now let’s remember that as parents we are never in control of our children’s behavior. They are!

With that understanding we then must view any change we attempt to make in their behavior to be a process of teaching children to choose the behavior we deem to be desirable. Their change in behavior will be the result of our efforts to lead them to appropriate and approved choices.

Now, please do not misinterpret what I am saying here. I do believe that parents have the right to ask for children to simply be obedient and do what their parents ask them to do. However, obedience also must be taught. Children can learn to simply obey their parents but obedience is dangerous because it does not teach children what to do when there is no one there to make their decisions for them and tell them what to do!

So here we go with the third reason to give children for them to use in choosing to adjust their behavior to match with our expectations.

HELP - "I can't do this without your help!" Many times a simple request for help will work wonders as a limit upon a child's behavior. Think about it . . . when you ask your kid for help you are sending very important messages.

First, you are saying, "You are a very capable person. Look, I'm giving you an important task to do!" So many people have gotten a much distorted view of the term self-esteem. If you have read or listened to much of the Parenting with Dignity material you have most likely noticed that I very rarely use the term and there is a sound reason for this… I do not use it because of the many distorted and varied definitions that so many parents have of self-esteem!

That being said, I honestly believe that almost nothing will allow a child to hold a wonderful opinion of themselves than being treated like they are valued people! Asking for help says that loud and clear to a child!

When I was a child my father took me out in the hay field and he told me that he needed my help. I always reflect back on that day as a pivotal day for me. My dad needed my help. I don believe that I had ever felt so important or valued. Dad had a way with words. I will never forget what he said that day, “Kid, you are the brains on this job! I need you to think!” It was pretty nasty work but I eagerly attacked it because it was a sign that my contribution was important! Give that feeling to your children.

Next, you are saying, "You are a trusted person because this job requires that I trust you." Give your children a job and then let them do it. Buck Minor, the cowboy on our ranch, did this repeatedly with me as I grew up. He would give me a job to do and then he would leave and let me do it. Sometimes I would make a mess or leave part of the job uncompleted. He would not come unglued or angry. He would just give me a pointer, let me know that he really needed me to do the job and then let me try again.

I can tell you that I draw on that confidence I was taugh as a child by having people like my Dad and Buck let me know that they needed me. I believe that there are so many children in today’s culture who have never been told that they are needed. Telling them that you need themj and actually treating them like they are needed are really two very different things.

Then, you are saying, "I need you, and my life would be extremely difficult without you and therefore I have come to you, of all the people I know, to ask for help." Asking a child for help confirms for them that in your family, everyone has value. Letting children know that their family needs them will be a springboard for the rest of their life.

Give your children this feeling of being a valued part of the family often. Giving children tasks to do can be just work if it is presented that way. However, if a job is presented as something that needs ot be done and the child might be the only one who can do it well the job can be fulfilling and it confirm self-worth!

Finally, you are saying, "A family is a place where we all participate simply because we need each other!" Don't be surprised if your child starts to turn to you in times of stress and need soon after you have modeled that behavior for him or her. Treating them like valued people in a tight and mutually dependant family will build trust in the child to share difficult times with you.

If you want your child to trust you, it is necessary to trust them first. Trust s a mutual event! Going to your children and telling them that you need them is a great first step in showing that you trust them.

Let your children know that you need their help. Do not be surprised if you find that you actually do! Most parents who experience difficulties in getting children to do jobs around the home suffer from a lack of trus in their children to do the job!

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