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The right approach

ALL parents want to raise children with character. The last thing we want is to raise a child who has a negative attitude and bad habits. To cultivate good behaviour in children, parents must pay attention to their daily interactions.

Children do precisely what is expected of them. But this requires consistent teaching on the adult’s part. If they are expected to be polite at mealtimes, they need to be reminded at all times of their behaviour.

In many families, children are allowed to run around during mealtimes. It will thus be difficult to get them to sit still when there are guests for dinner. Children may find it difficult to keep up with the demands adults make on them. Unwittingly, we might be raising children to be inconsistent in their behaviour, if we are not consistent in our teachings.

Some children pick up certain behavioural patterns very quickly.

They know that if they were to scream or shout loud or long enough, their parents will give in. By doing so, the parent is encouraging her child to use this tactic to gain attention and get what she wants.

Parenting experts find that consistent teachings and realistic expectations of children’s behaviour can help.

Children like the idea that they can succeed in meeting their parents’ expectations and feel they are part of the team.

Parents must first identify the cause of children’s misbehaviour, so that they can apply various techniques of coping with negative behaviour and reinforcing positive behaviour.

Here are some everyday situations that parents may encounter with their young children:

1. It is seven in the morning and you want to hit the road for work. Your four-year-old son refuses to get dressed as told; he expects you to coax him and play games with him. He runs off for you to catch him. Instead of chasing after him, you should remain where you are and wait for him to turn back and look at you. Tell him that you are going to get ready while waiting for him. When he is ready to get dressed, he can seek your assistance.

2. Your child is upset that you said “No” to his request for ice cream before dinner. You do not have to explain at length the reason why he cannot have ice cream before dinner. You can remind him that he can request for ice cream after dinner. Keep your word when your child remembers your rules.

3. When your children refuse to pick up their toys or belongings, you can pick them up but put the toys away where your children are unlikely to find them. Next time when they look for them, you may want to remind them that they should keep their own toys to avoid losing them. With older children, discuss ways they can be responsible for their own things. For example, if they lose their pencil case, they may have to use their allowance to buy a new one. As much as possible, let your children take ownership of their belongings. They can earn their allowance by doing chores.

4. Parents tend to find too many faults with their young children. Consider each situation carefully before intervening. If your child is trying hard to do something on his own, allow him time to finish first before stepping in to offer help. Use positive words to encourage him instead of put-downs. Tell your child “I understand how you feel.” Or “You have worked at the task. I am sure with more practice, you will be able to complete it all by yourself.”

5. Consider your demands carefully before conveying them to your children. Are they reasonable or would it be too difficult for him to carry out? Children of different ages respond according to their maturity and level of understanding. Young children are more willing to work when they encounter success. Tasks that are too challenging can put them off and cause them to feel frustrated. They may require time to practise before they are good at a task.

Children learn better when parents can help them identify the problems they are facing.

Instead of punishment and rewards, parents can sit down with their children to learn ways to control their anger, and teach them how to handle success and failures. There is no better time to pick up these tools than when they are young. Once they have mastered them, they can take responsibility for their actions and make their own decisions.


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