Raising Respectful Kids
- Monday, June 18, 2007
Show your kids how to solve problems. If any of your kids are age 7 or older, teach them problem solving skills so they can resist urge to act rudely when confronted with frustrating situations. First, have them stop to calm down for a few moments. Second, have them think of as many possible solutions to the problem as they can. Third, decide which solution (or combination of solutions) will work best. Come up with an action plan and encourage them to try the plan. Evaluate the outcome and make any adjustments that are necessary if the problem wasn’t solved the first time. If you’re in a rush and can’t work through all these steps with your kids, do “problem solving on the go.” First, make an empathetic comment that shows you understand the problem your kids are facing and care about how it’s affecting them (for example, “Honey, I know it’s hard to stop playing when you’re having so much fun.”) Then work with your kids to answer the question: “What’s a good idea for how we can handle this?”. Let your kids suggest possible solutions, and contribute some yourself if they get stuck. Avoid arguments if some of their solutions are unreasonable. Simply stay calm and focused on finding a solution together.
Motivate your kids to be enthusiastic about respectful behavior. Help your kids understand that respectful behavior always turns out better than disrespectful behavior. Show them that acting respectfully can actually be fun and lead to privileges they can enjoy. Instead of focusing on the wrong behavior that you want your kids to stop doing, focus on the right behavior that you want them to start doing. Realize that if you emphasize what your kids do wrong, they’ll think of themselves as people who are expected to act rudely, and continue to do so. But if you emphasize what they do right, they’ll be inspired to act respectfully more often. Show your kids the connection between the respect they demonstrate and the privileges they earn. Help them understand that everything you and your spouse give them beyond their basic needs is a privilege, and that when they’re disrespectful, they lose privileges, but when they act respectfully, they gain privileges. Occasionally give your kids a surprise extra reward (such as a trip to an ice cream parlor) to recognize especially respectful behavior.
Pour on positive attention. Know that each of your kids wants as much positive attention from you as you can give. Every time your kids make respectful choices, speak encouraging words to them (such as, “Right after I asked you to get ready for bed, you zipped up the stairs right away! Great job; I’m proud of you!”) and reach out with warm, physical touch (like hugging them or gently squeezing their shoulders). Identify specific respectful behaviors you’d like to see increase, watch carefully for when your kids demonstrate those behaviors, catch them in the act, and reward the respectful behavior with focused positive attention. Try to give each of your kids at least five positive attention rewards every day.
Jumpstart your efforts with a behavioral contract. If one of your kids is stuck in a rut of disrespectful behavior, use a behavioral contract (a detailed agreement that connects a certain positive behavior with a specified reward) to give him or her a boost. Specify the behavior you want to increase, focusing on just one behavior at a time. Explain why this behavior is important to your family and to God, and how the contract will work. Develop a reward menu that spells out what privileges your child can earn through good behavior (ask him or her to suggest some privileges he or she would like). Discuss how the rewards will be earned, and write up the contract. Then evaluate how the contract works in actual practice, and make any adjustments that need to made. When you think your son or daughter has improved sufficiently and made respectful behavior an established habit, phase out the contract.
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