April 2, 2008

Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Dr. Kevin Leman's  new book, Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change your Child’s Attitude, Behavior, and Character in 5 Days, (Revell, 2008).

Angry words yelled at you. Doors slammed in your face.  Eyes rolled. The silent treatment. Temper tantrums in public. Fighting with siblings at home. Sound familiar?

If your kids regularly embarrass and frustrate you with their disrespect and rebellion, you may think you’re fighting a losing battle with them. But you can win their respect – and quickly, too – without a futile power struggle.

Here’s how you can change your kids’ attitude, behavior, and character for the better within just a few days:

Consider what needs to change. Observe what’s going on in your household, and reflect on what areas in your relationships with your kids bother you. Think and pray about how you’d like things to change. Then set specific goals, decide to work toward them, and expect to succeed. 

Change yourself first. Recognize that you’re an important role model for your kids. They follow your example often. So if they’re demonstrating attitudes, behaviors, and character traits that you don’t like, you need to take an honest look at your own life to determine if you’re setting an unhealthy example for them. Do you yell when you’re angry or break the promises you make? If so, your kids are learning to do the same. Once you identify problems in your own life, ask God to help you overcome them and do the work you need to do to break bad habits and start good ones. Also take a hard look at your attitude toward your kids, and how your behavior toward them reflects that attitude. Think and pray about what changes you need to make in how you relate to your children so you can enjoy a mutually respectful and trusting relationship with them.

Expect the best. Your kids will either rise or sink to the level of expectations you set for them. Understand that if you expect them to misbehave, they will. Start communicating higher expectations to your kids. Let them know that you believe they’re capable of better attitudes and behaviors, and that you expect them to develop strong character. Communicate your high expectations clearly to them. When you expect the best, you’ll get it.

Ask key questions. Whenever one of your kids does something that bothers you, ask yourself: “Why is he or she doing what this? What’s the purpose?”, “How do I, as the parent, feel in this situation?” and “Is this a mountain (something that will matter in the long run) or a molehill (a situation that will either take care of itself or that is a small concern in the grand scheme of what you’re trying to accomplish in your child’s life). Keep in mind that all kids will sometimes fail, make mistakes, or say or do something embarrassing. Rather than dwelling on those incidents, focus on how your kids develop character in the long run. Correct bothersome behavior and move on with the bigger picture in mind.

Let reality be the teacher. Don’t rescue your kids from the consequences of their failure to take responsibility for what they should do. Instead, allow them to experience the natural consequences so they’ll learn to be more responsible the next time.