While I’m no expert, my years of teaching have taught me a think or two about the right way (and the wrong way) to go about raising a well behaved child.
Before you go any further, let me just say that my children are far from perfect (otherwise this post would be titled “How To Raise A Perfect Child”). My eight year old can be prone to whining when she doesn’t get her way and I’ve also been privy to the occasional eye-roll. My four year old, well she’s four so what can I say. While I’m thankful the tantrums are behind us, she could be in the running for “Most Overdramatic Actress” Oscar when she doesn’t get her way. Why do you think I wrote why mommy drinks wine! However, even though they have their moments, overall they are pretty well behaved kids.
I truly believe that if I hadn’t been a teacher before I had kids, things could have turned out much differently. I have to thank the parents of every child who every walked through my classroom door. You have taught me by example the right way (and sometimes the wrong way) to parent and they were all very productive lessons! Here’s what I’ve learned through the years about raising a well-behaved child.
Discipline Is Important
Let me repeat…discipline is important and not only that, you need to start young! I realize it’s hard when they’re little and there’s no way around the fact that three year olds are going to have tantrums. However, they need to know that saying “No” to mommy or daddy is never acceptable. Usually a softly and incredulous “Did you just say no to mommy?” stops them right in their tracks. Lucky for me, my girls HATE time out and if they think things are even heading in that direction, things turn around quickly. I’m a big believer in time out but if that doesn’t always work for your child, you can see some of my other discipline tips here.
Don’t Give In
Don’t allow your child to make demands. Let me rephrase that…your child is going to make demands but whatever you do, don’t give into them! I realize that sometimes you pick your battles and if your child wants to dress like a homeless princess to go to the grocery store, it’s probably okay to give in. However, you can’t make a habit of it or your child will quickly learn how easily you cave. Unless you want the demands to get worse, don’t give in!
One example that comes to mind happened back when I was a newbie teacher. I had a very high-energy student (teacher code for challenging…which is also teacher code for “This kid drives me crazy!”). I already sensed that there were few rules at home but got a true glimpse of it when his father came to pick him up one day. As they were leaving, Little Adam (not his real name) slammed his bookbag down in the hallway and demanded that his dad carry it…yes, demanded.
If it were me, I would have just played bookbag chicken and kept walking! His dad did ask him several times to pick it up but Adam just flat-out ignored him. Finally, his dad just picked it up and carried it for him. If it only happened that once, I’d let it slide…we all have those days where it’s just not worth it. However, throughout the year it was pretty easy to pick up on the fact that Adam always got what he wanted and if he didn’t, watch out!
Without fail, the children in my class that were the best behaved and most respectful were the ones whose parents were firm and had high expectations. These were expectations for good manners, following rules, respecting others and so much more! Firm doesn’t mean they were overly tough…these parents were some of the most loving I’d seen. Being firm just meant that they expected appropriate behavior from their child and if necessary, there were consequences when those expectations weren’t met. Remember, you are the parent and it is not your job to be their best friend. Your little ones are going to get mad at you many times over the years but you can count on the fact that it’ll be short-lived.
Communicate With Your Child’s Teacher
If your child’s teacher tells you that there are discipline issues, please believe that he or she is legitimately trying to help. One year I had a child who constantly disrupted the class from start to finish. When parent-teacher conferences rolled around, I tried to explain the issues to his father and the answer was “He’s just SO smart that he has all these ideas in his head and has to get them out”. Yes, he seriously said that! I’m not sure how that explains the time the class was working quietly and this child stood up, walked over to the next table and then loudly started singing/yelling “Who let the dogs out”?
One the other hand, I had another little girl who was very sweet but she also was a bit of a chatty Cathy. It wasn’t a major problem but she had a hard time finishing her work because of it. I sent a short note home asking her parents to talk to her about it and dad called requesting a conference. When I explained that I didn’t think it was serious enough for that, he said that he wanted his daughter to know that if she gets a note home, mommy or daddy would be meeting with the teacher about it. We had our conference while she sat worrying in the hallway. I don’t know about you but in my book, that’s good parenting!
Okay, I know this became a controversial topic last year but I honestly have no idea why. I tell my girls constantly how proud I am of them. If I’m going to correct the behaviors I don’t like, why wouldn’t I point out the behavior that I do like so we’re not just focused on the negative? When we go out and about for the day or just have a good trip to the grocery store, I tell the girls how much I appreciate their good behavior (only if it applies, of course). Children need that positive reinforcement even more so than the negative and I personally believe that it helps them grow into confident young adults.
Again, I have to thank the parents of all the well behaved children I’ve ever taught. I watched you closely and you taught me a lot! Without you, things could have turned out much differently…