Simply put, we expect for our kids to behave well. (I read a lot of parenting books to make sure that our expectations are age appropriate.) Different things are important to different families and our kids know what is important to us…and respect is a big one. We try to treat people the way that we want to be treated. Behaving in an appropriate way is simply respecting those around you. I’m more surprised when they don’t act in appropriate manners than when they do…because they have the capacity to make good choices.
We also expect for our kids to act up on occasion…because they’re human. They usually do that at home. ☺ They also tend to act up when they’re especially hungry, emotional, tired and such – normal human triggers for less than personal best behavior. We try to minimize those situation, but they happen…that’s life.
Ultimately, the kids understand that we expect for them to be their personal best…not perfect. They “get” it. For example, during the last school year a teacher told Michael, “Your mom is going to be so upset with you…” because he had forgotten a homework assignment at school. “No, she won’t. My mom only cares if I do my best.” (Thankfully, he just shared with us what he thought in his head…not what he said!) He was right though…
On our ride home, we asked the boys what helped them to behave when they didn’t especially feel like it. Michael simply answered, “I know that there will be consequences for my behavior.” Sean agreed. One thing that we have taught the boys (since they were old enough to understand) is that they get to choose their actions, but there are consequences (good or bad) for their choices. That looks different for each child, because they have such different temperaments. One son is very soft hearted and easy to discipline while the other is more defiant – he wants to know what the “consequence” is before he makes a decision whether or not he wants to obey us (?!) For the latter, I keep him guessing! Time-outs (when they were really young) and losing (related to the offense) privileges or things have worked to date. Knock on wood ☺
In any event, those are the main “secrets” that have worked for us. I could go on and elaborate about the importance of male examples that are worthy of imitation (my husband rocks!); exposing kids to a variety of experiences so that they know how to act in different situations; and consistently providing opportunities for their energy to be released. (Boys tend to need to run and play on a regular – if not daily – basis. If they weren’t getting that time, then I would expect them to be bouncing off the walls!) I’ll stop at these tips though.
If you happen to see one (or both!) of my sons acting up though, don’t be surprised. They are human…they have their moments. These principles are more about overall behavior. I don’t want to set up unrealistic expectations about my sons (or any other boys), so please take these “secrets” with a grain of salt. Every child is different and constantly changing. It takes time to figure out what works for each kid…but it is so worth it.
One last note…as parents we have to be careful not to expect more of our kids than they are able to live up to. If a child has special needs or is on certain medications, then expectations need to be modified. (i.e. There are a couple of months each year that my 6 year-old son Sean is on this certain asthma medication that makes him a bit hyper/bouncing off the walls AND he can’t go outside to run around and play because of all of the allergens in the air that triggers the asthma. While I don’t expect for him to be totally crazy and out of control, he does get a lot more leeway during those months.) Also, while I have worked with hundreds of kids of all ages on a volunteer basis, I’m not an “expert”. This is simply what has worked with my two sons, who are currently 6 and 9. I’ll keep you posted if this stops working when they hit the tween/teen years!
Also, if you have any thoughts or tips, I would love to hear them…