We are so excited to welcome our guest writer, Lucy Kesler. She and her husband are the owners and inn-keepers at the Olde Buffalo Inn. Here at Cheeky Bums Blog, we want to bring back the timeless parenting principles that are so often shoved aside in our fast-paced world. We believe that it is absolutely necessary to pull on the wisdom of those who have walked this road before us, and we are so glad that Lucy is joining us and is, in her writing, bringing us back to the TRUE meaning of being an active parent…
I am standing in line at the grocery store. The child in the cart in front of me is whining, yelling for a candy bar and kicking and hitting his mother…over and over… and over. My gaze drifts over to the next lane where another mother stands with a child who is well mannered and respectful, even as I see the child eying (and asking for) the candy that is so delightfully arranged right at his eye level.
Why the difference?
Is the difference in the children, or in how they are being parented?
As a mother and grandmother, I know that the difference lies in HOW the child is being parented. I know that the well mannered child is not that way by accident or because they were born that way, but because the parents have spent time and tears in actively parenting them.
What I’m going to talk about are timeless principles of raising children that were true 30+ years ago when I was raising my kids, and they are still true today, in 2012. I have a ring-side seat watching not just my children parent in this way, but in lots of Moms and Dads who are choosing to actively parent their children.
Actively parenting children has become a lost art in our culture. I define it as an art because it requires patience, skill and determination on the part of the parents and because it does not ‘just happen’. It requires love and perseverance to parent your child both at home and in the grocery store. Because kids will test if you mean what you say and if you mean you always expect certain behavior.
As a culture we have seen reality TV shows, like “The Nanny” becoming popular because parents have traded parenting for friendship with their children. They have traded appropriate attitudes and behavior for “I don’t want to crush their little hearts and personalities” and endless excuses regarding learning disabilities.
Conscientious parenting does not require you to quit your full-time job to fulfill your duties of parenting and it is not your child’s personality that is the issue. And it’s not as simple as a spanking that will change your child’s chronic behavior. At the foundation of EVERYTHING you do when interacting and parenting is the knowledge that ‘you are training them how function.’
These little footie-jammied-monsters have never been people before. They don’t know how to tie their shoes, let alone that their emotions don’t have to rule them. They don’t know they shouldn’t yell in restaurants or in the grocery store. They don’t know they shouldn’t run away from you when you are yelling their name. They honestly don’t know. When you allow them to do the things they shouldn’t, (and get frustrated and burnt out in the process) you have to remember…..you are the one training them how to function.
By not addressing these things, you are telling your child ‘this is the appropriate behavior, and this is how I expect and want you to function’. You are not parenting them….you are confusing them. You train them to behave how they shouldn’t…then yell at them for behaving that way. As my son puts it, “you have rewarded the wrong behavior.”
So how do you turn this around and begin rewarding the correct behavior?
Parenting really is simple in philosophy. It really is. But please do not confuse the word “simple” with the word “easy.” Parenting, to be honest, is absolutely the hardest “simple” thing to do in function. I say simple in function because by staying focused, intentional, and consistent (terribly hard and tiresome things to do, I know!) you will shape, mold, and train your kids to ‘parent themselves’ because the correct behavior has become ingrained in them. Although the consistency and repetitiveness can be overwhelming and monotonous to the point of insanity at times, in the long run, it is much easier to have ‘good kids’ than ‘out of control kids.’
Here are a few tips (this isn’t exhaustive mind you, just a good starting place) on how to be a dynamic parent, and have ‘good kids’… – Remember, regardless of how they are behaving (good or bad) how YOU respond is training them. You want to reward the behavior you approve of and that you want to continue.
You MUST be consistent in correcting inappropriate attitude- just because they are doing the ‘right’ thing doesn’t mean they can have a snotty or rebellious attitude while obeying. You always correct attitude first. If your kids do something wrong, make them re-do it correctly…over and over again until they choose to not whine about it.
As an example, let’s use running when you’ve told them they need to walk. Make them go back to where they started and walk as initially instructed. If they whine about it then instruct them to stop whining.
If they don’t stop whining then they get punished. Then they have to stop whining.
If they don’t stop whining, they get punished again.
Then they have to stop whining. If they don’t stop whining, they get punished (again and again and again—you cannot lose on this—you are the parent—and you MUST remain as calm as possible; how can you teach your kid to watch their attitude if you can’t control yours?).
Once your child stops whining, then they walk as initially instructed. After all of this repetition and instruction, once they complete the task always thank them for doing it correctly, thank them for correcting their attitude, then tell them that you had to learn how to do it too, and that you understand that it’s hard.
Let them know what you expect, especially in new situations. Explain that in a restaurant/church/funeral home/hospital…wherever… they are to behave in this manner __________(fill in the blank here with what is appropriate). And even in familiar situations, remind them before you enter what you expect and what the consequences will be for disobedience. And then, most importantly, follow through with what you have said (see above!).
You have to be the one who ‘lays down the law’ and at the same time be their biggest coach. It’s like cheering someone at the gym who is lifting a huge weight. When you can see your kids fighting their own emotions, trying to choose to calm down say ‘there ya go, you’re doing it! Good job!’ Once they choose to actually calm down and get the right attitude they don’t need the ‘judge’ they need the ‘coach’.
Remember, you are learning too. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Make every situation a win…. even if (when!) you mess up. Trust me, I was not (and am not) the perfect Mom, but you can be honest with your kids. If you are out of line because you’re tired or frustrated use yourself as an example. Once you’ve calmed down, talk to your kids and say, ‘Was I being grumpy? Did I do the right thing or did I mess up? What should I have done? I’m sorry, I’m learning too’—- it’s not wrong to apologize to your kids…. It’s wrong to never apologize. If you can turn your failures and mistakes into a teachable moment, then it helps to mend the wounds you caused when you were the culprit, and it fosters trust and respect between you and your kids.
Make a game of it when you can. I’ve seen families play “what if” at their dinner table, where they make a game out of what the kids should do in a given situation. Example: ‘Kids, if mama is on the phone and someone spills their drink, should you yell for mama or clean it up?’….or ‘Kids, if mama is on the phone and a candle spills over and catches the carpet on fire, should you yell for mama or try to put the fire out?’….. These types of games, as simple (and often tedious!) as they are, require an answer that develops their critical thinking, judgment, and appropriate behavior skills. These kinds of situations don’t differ because of “personality” or “learning disabilities.” Every child needs them and benefits from them.
Enjoy parenting. I feel like point this deserves another page of instructions, but I will rely on you to know how to do this, in the moments when it comes. Don’t miss them!