For this article, I invite you to be open-minded and practice compassion as the main ingredient for what we refer to as discipline.
We can’t argue that being a parent is hard work. If we look at this from a compassionate lens though, being a child is hard work too!
As a child, you’ve got little to no experience in this new thing called life, your body and mind are ever-growing at rapid speeds, and demands from busy schedules are challenging. Last but not least, most if not all decisions are already made for children by their parents. As parents we want to know how to get our children to behave well and be respectful.
These are five lessons you should practice and express to your child frequently:
Lesson #1: My child, your goals are important too.
What if your children could measure their own progress and hold themselves accountable instead of having others do it for them?
We live in a competitive world of constant comparison.
Teach your child self-awareness at a young age.
The road to a successful and fulfilling life is about polishing your own strengths and becoming a better version of who you were yesterday.
It’s not about comparing yourself to someone else’s achievements. While we do need role models and inspiration, surpassing another person’s growth is just a byproduct of the main goal: transcending your own personal development.
When we focus too heavily on the other person’s achievements, we often get stuck in the comparison phase.
By having your child set realistic goals that he or she can monitor and meet, you are giving him a feeling of control and empowerment that he won’t get by comparing himself to someone else.
Now that is powerful.
Lesson #2: My child, not everything has to taste good.
Now, I might get a little pushback for this point. The reality is that so many parents struggle with feeding their children healthy foods that they enjoy.
Here is the key: food can taste great sometimes and offer very little nutrients. Other times it won’t taste as good as its nutritional value. Both of these concepts need to be taught to young children.
Food is something that so many of us have or will struggle with at some point in our lives. If you can teach your child that food is fuel for our bodies and not just a source of pleasure, entertainment, or distraction then they won’t have to wrestle the issue later on in life. Food isn’t the enemy but our choices around what we eat, can be.
“But my child won’t touch anything green! Or, he will only eat in front of the television.” Your child will only make the choices he or she is given depending on the manner that they are presented to him.
I encourage you to work on that with your child. Teach them to read nutrition labels! Get silly with them! Transform yourselves into “dinosaurs” that eat spinach or romaine that day. Make veggie insects with peas and carrots. Have a healthy food eating competition and make it fun.
If you can get your child to understand that taste isn’t the only determining factor when eating, then you are setting the tone for getting him or her to change their view on other behaviors as well.
Life isn’t always about making decisions that feel or taste great in that moment. There has to be a balance between what feels good and what is right for us. The stronger your can emulate this for your child with your own teachings and decisions; the stronger your child’s character will stand against the temptations of the world. There is no limit to what your child wants to learn and what he or she can learn!
See the bigger picture?
Lesson #3: My child, your contribution to the home is needed and appreciated.
As children get older, we want to teach them how to be capable and independent human beings. Implementing new chores and rules can become a power struggle if we don’t take the right approach. Since fighting with your child is never fun for either party, the key is to keep your cool if you are met with resistance.
Adding new responsibilities to your child’s routine won’t be easy at first so be patient. Instead of offering the option of completing chores, expect it from your child with a loving approach. Leave out any accusations, blame statements or even a disappointed tone of voice.
As adults, we still need some form of motivation to get us through a huge load of dishes. So we can expect the same from a young child who is just learning the meaning of responsibility. Reward your child with your undivided attention or a favorite activity. Remember that rewarding is not that same as bribery. Teach them that their work is appreciated and needed in the home. Show them that he or she is an integral part the team.
Lesson #4: My child, your voice counts in our family’s decisions.
Your child wants to love you, be loved, and feel needed.
The more your children are involved in the rule making process, the more likely they are to adhere to them.
The more you involve your child in family decisions, the stronger his sense of belonging will be for being included.
Do it! Have family meetings, write stuff down with them, have them draw their ideas, and ask for their opinions about things. You’re not losing power by asking for their input. By showing your child that you value their input, you are teaching them to think critically and communicate their feelings. You can also safely teach them how to take no for an answer should you disagree with their position. You might be surprised at how quickly your child will be able to make very logical points and this is a good thing!
To a child, being right doesn’t matter so much as long as he or she is given an opportunity to be heard.
Be strategic about what choices you offer but do offer options when possible.
Lesson #5: My child, you can teach me things too.
Children are honest beings. In fact, many a time they will actually mirror our very own behaviors and stop us in our tracks. There is a very humbling feeling that comes with accepting our mistakes and owning them in front of a child. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable will open up the portal of bonding and communication with your child. It allows them to see that they add richness to our lives by loving us even though we are not perfect.
How many times have we yelled out “Don’t you raise your voice at me!”
Oh, the irony!
So your child has challenged you. Now challenge yourself.
Tell your child you are sorry when you make a mistake and mean it. Challenge yourself to look at your flaws and see how you can work on them to strengthen your relationship.
Involve your child in the solution. This shows that you that you are willing to learn from them just as they are willing to learn from you.
Vulnerability is the key to love and human connection. Allow yourself to be vulnerable by opening up to your child and all the rest will follow. And remember that while it takes more patience, it’s much easier to lift a young spirit than it is to repair a broken one.