Having a set of core values helps foster a cohesive family unit. It's important to clarify how to act according to these values.
What does it look like when you're being respectful? Based on that value, multiple expectations can be set up. For example, respect looks like treating the home with respect. So, the expectation might be to keep a clean room.
When kids are old enough to participate in these decisions, they're better able to take ownership of the values and expectations of the household.
If they can set expectations themselves, they're better able to accept the consequences if they do not meet these expectations.
Children benefit from having structure. Though they may resist it at first, setting up family expectations is a valuable piece of the foundation in a household. The best way to do this is by discussing how you want your values to inform the way your home works.
What does the value of safety look like to you? What do you need to feel safe? Perhaps things such as curfew, driving rules, or treating siblings nicely come into place. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can think of.
You can discuss these ideas as new situations present themselves.
Expectations are most effective when they're achievable. When kids are repeatedly successful, they gain more confidence and pride in themselves. That doesn't mean expectations need to be low. Having reasonably high expectations is not a bad thing. They teach your kids that you believe they're able to meet your standards.
You can expect them to go to science tutoring when you need it, but you don't have to push them to be an astronaut by the time they are nine-years-old.
When children don't have consistent and reliable guidance from their parents, they're more likely to seek out their peers for leadership. This can create a rift between you and your kids and make it more difficult to implement expectations in the future.
Values and expectations are the compass of the family. They help everyone get on the same page about how the family runs. They inform the directions the family takes, and they help sustain closeness as the family evolves.
Expectations let children know what is and is not acceptable. They also teach valuable lessons that kids will carry with them into adulthood.
As children grow older, they begin exploring their own identity. This can lead to a bit of distance between you and your child. This can be hurtful. You have worked so hard and you may sometimes feel unappreciated. Some parents try to connect with their kids by becoming lenient and acting more like a friend than a parent.
Though kids may respond well to this, it actually doesn't benefit them in the long run. A lack of structure can lead your kids off track. As a parent, you're responsible for your kid's safety, health, and future. This can seem like a daunting task, but it is possible after you have implemented your values and expectations for your family.
Acting according to your values means setting clear boundaries.
Your kids will test the limits as they try to gain more independence. Having your boundaries in mind as they grow in new directions can help you remain calm and consistent through a tumultuous time.
Follow these strategies to effectively implement boundaries:
When children don't meet the family expectations, it's time to uphold your values, your boundaries, and your authority. When your kids are testing the limits and begin talking back to you, do your best not to take it personally. If your child is frustrated with you, he may lash out in disrespectful ways. Do your best to keep your cool in these heated situations.
Even though your children are unpredictable and emotional, you can still maintain stability for them by remaining consistent. When you remain calm, your kids will pick up on this. Though they may be going through a difficult time, they will apply what they learn from you to their future situations.
You're the first source of knowledge for your kids. It is your job to prepare them for success in the real world. Part of this process means teaching your kids that there are consequences for all of our actions.
You may see your child be friendly to someone and then make a friend. This is a teachable moment where you can show your child that when you are kind and respectful, good things happen. Valuable teachable moments also come about when children do not meet expectations.
If your child fails a test, you can implement consequences.
Consequences are most impactful when they have a direct relation to the action.
For example, it might not make sense to make your child do the dishes every day for failing a test. Instead, it may be more appropriate to limit free time and increase study time.
This is a good time to teach your child another valuable lesson: we must take responsibility for our actions.
Holding your kids accountable for their actions will teach them to own up to their mistakes in the future. It's helpful to talk through the reasoning behind these consequences so your child understands why she is expected to meet expectations, and what happens when expectations are not met.
This prepares kids for the real world, where consequences can be much worse than getting a bad grade in class for not studying.
Addressing your child when she doesn't meet expectations will help her be more successful in the future, even when she doesn't like the consequences. It's valuable to teach your children about real world consequences. We often jump to the negative when we think of the effects of our actions. However, many of our actions have really positive effects.
Provide specific praise when your child does something successful. You don't have to praise him every time he makes his bed, as that is an expectation. However, you could express genuine appreciation when he takes initiative and cleans the whole house so that you don't have to. Being considerate like this benefits your child in the real world.
Giving rewards for positive behavior is more effective than punishment. It feels good to get praise. Happy brain chemicals such as dopamine are released when we receive praise. Our reward center lights up. This leads to a desire to continue doing good things.
The need for kids to receive praise doesn't mean that you need to overly compliment or coddle them. You don't need to give praise every day (unless your kid is on a real winning-streak). In fact, giving praise constantly makes it less valuable. Your child may begin to expect praise.
You don't need to give praise every day, and you don't need to wait six months between each time you express appreciation for your child's behavior. Instead, give praise when it's appropriate.
This type of encouragement is motivating and will help your child believe in his capabilities.
The praise you give should be intentional and specific.
For example, instead of saying, "You got an A, good job." You can say, "Wow, I see that you worked very hard to achieve this. You asked for help and you persevered through the obstacles. You have a strong work ethic."
Using positive action as a teachable moment leads to more positive actions from your kids. When paired with natural consequences for negative actions, your child will have a better idea of how his actions affect his world and the world of those around him.
Having conversations in these moments is valuable. You can think through your child's behavior with her. It may even give you a better understanding of why she behaved the way she did.
Have the difficult conversation.
If your child failed a test, you may have noticed that he had hardly studied. The instinct is to say, "Well, you need to study more." That's probably true. However, having a conversation about this could broaden your understanding of a larger issue.
Maybe his math class is really hard to understand and he feels embarrassed. Fear of failure often leads to less effort. Children are afraid of trying something and failing anyway.
Instead, they can put forth little effort and say, "Well, I failed that test because I didn't study, not because I'm not smart."
Once you're able to have a conversation about this issue, you can have a better idea of how to proceed.
Instead of punishing your child, you can teach him what to do when he needs help. Require that he meet with his teacher once a week or get him a tutor.
Punishing a behavior that a child doesn't know how to fix can lead to confusion and resentment instead of progress.
Remaining firm but fair requires clear expectations and boundaries.
Natural consequences are implemented because that's how the real world operates. Similarly, outstanding behavior merits positive praise and acknowledgement.
Having a conversation about the consequences at hand can teach both you and your child something new. It can even lead to a better understanding of the needs of your child.
Life is in a constant flow of success and failure, of happiness and disappointment. This is the nature of life. It is uncomfortable and difficult, but going through difficulty builds resilience. If you find that your child has made a mistake, you may want to comfort them and solve the problem for them.
Let your child hold the tension.
This will continue to help them take responsibility for their actions. When they're able to feel the feelings that go along with making the mistake, they'll be able to evaluate their values and learn what it feels like when they are or are not acting in accordance with those values.
When you come in to save the day when something goes wrong, your child will begin to think that he can't solve problems without you. This could lead to feelings of helplessness and doubt in the future.
When you let your child have ownership of the mistake, you teach them that you know they can handle it.
Let your child fail safely.
When your child is about to make a mistake that you know will cause harm, it's valuable to step in sooner rather than later. Kids don't have fully-developed frontal lobes in their brains. This means they're not fully able to think through the consequences of their actions. Sometimes you need to point this out to them and have a conversation.
You can give guidance when your child asks for help. Part of making mistakes means learning how to ask for help. If your child reaches out for help, you can guide him in the right direction. In fact, these can be valuable moments of communication and understanding.
You don't need to give more help than your boundaries permit. However, when it's appropriate you can provide assistance.
If your child makes a mistake, it means she was trying to make a decision for herself and her own individuality. That's a good thing! When you make all of the decisions for your child, she won't feel comfortable to navigate failure and learn from it.
When failure comes in the real world, she'll feel helpless and lost rather than well-equipped to handle any difficulties.
If you can teach your child to grow through mistakes at an early age, she will know the coping skills she needs to handle anything in the future.
Looking for solutions to problems happens in the midst of problems. You don't need to leave your child out in the wild alone, but you don't need to hold her hand, either. You can find a happy medium and be a source of wisdom while your child is gaining her own wisdom.
Going through trials and tribulations builds character and compassion. By experiencing failure, your child can better connect with the authentic human experience.
Though you don't need to coddle your children through their mistakes, you also do not have to give up on them. If you give up on your child, he will likely sense this negativity and respond adversely to it.
It can be disappointing and frustrating when kids don't meet the expectations you've set out for them based on your values. When the same mistake is repeated over and over again, you may begin to lose hope. It's natural to begin thinking of your child in a less positive light.
For example, if your child continuously does poorly in school, you may begin to think of him as a poor student. It may be true that your child struggles frequently. However, when you begin to think of him as a bad student, he will see himself that way, too.
Treating him like he's going to fail or have another bad semester will often be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Treating your child as though he has already failed is not likely to lead to success.
There was once a study done at a school where teachers were given two different groups of students:
The study found that teachers treated these groups of students differently. Teachers treated these students according to their beliefs about how successful these students were going to be.
As a result, the previously high-performing students in Group A began having behavioral issues and doing poorly in school. The previously less-successful students began performing better in school and earning better grades.
As you can see from the study, making assumptions about the potential of children causes their behavior to change.
Even though they are not specifically told, "You're not well-behaved," children will pick up on the ways that you treat them according to this belief. Over time, they'll begin believing this themselves and will begin to act out even more.
For your best results, use these strategies to show support:
Children are observant and curious. They're capable of learning great new things everyday, and they do. When they sense what you feel about them, they're more likely to perform according to your predictions.
Let your child explore new things and learn as they go.
Perhaps your child has a large interest in soccer. Despite his love of the sport, he may trip over the ball in every game. Instead of encouraging him to give up, show him that you believe in his ability to develop greater skills in something he is dedicated to.
Instead of shaming him when he doesn't make that game-winning goal, you can instead encourage him to keep practicing. This will show him that you believe him. It will motivate him to continue making an effort.
This will be a valuable skill later in life when difficulties arise. Instead of retreating while approaching hurdles, your child will learn to approach them with courage. With willingness to work through struggle, anything is possible.
As children grow and evolve, their optimism will grow in proportion to your belief in their success.
Though it isn't always easy to maintain a positive spirit in times of difficulty, an effort must be made to move forward with hope.
When you believe in the potential of your child, he will, too. This positive thinking benefits gratitude. And, gratitude increases positive thinking. There is no replacement for a strong daily practice of gratitude.
Practice gratitude each day - both alone and with your family. Practice gratitude every day. Just 15 minutes of gratitude each day has many benefits that grow from your heart, to the heart of your family, and on to your community.
Our society tends towards the negative. Things are frequently inconvenient or disappointing. That is not the lens through which you want to see your world, however. Instead, make a conscious effort to increase your gratitude skills.
Extensive research has shown many benefits of gratitude. Gratitude increases feelings of connectedness and peace. Not only will the bond of your family grow stronger, but each member of the family will benefit as well.
Consider these benefits of gratitude:
It's one thing to think about and appreciate the idea of gratitude. It's a different thing entirely to put that gratitude into action. You may want to be grateful, but are not sure how.
You can start by noticing positive aspects of your day. At the end of each day, ask yourself, "What was my favorite thing about this day?"
Start small and work your way up to paying more attention to gratitude. When you're able to express gratitude in a meaningful way, you'll reap all of the benefits of a consistent gratitude practice.
By practicing gratitude as a family, you can teach your children to be grateful independently.
Here are some ways you can practice gratitude as a family:
By spending time in gratitude, you'll feel a peace with the present moment that is hard to achieve any other way. When you can accept and be grateful for what you have in the moment, you'll feel at ease with your family.
Emotional intelligence is defined as "the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically."
This skill is one that is carefully crafted. Teaching this skill is not easy - it requires allowing vulnerability and truth.
If your child is the smartest person in the room but has a hard time relating to people emotionally, he is less likely to move forward than an emotionally intelligent person. The ability to connect with others in a vulnerable and authentic way is a carefully crafted skill that your child will learn from you.
Daniel Goleman is one of the key innovators in the research on emotional intelligence. He has written a number of books on the topic. In them, he outlines the five key elements of emotional intelligence.
Five key elements of emotional intelligence:
Teaching emotional intelligence may be the most valuable thing you can pass on to your child. However, it can also be the most difficult because it requires you to get vulnerable and honest in front of your child to an appropriate extent. Though it may sound cheesy, talking about feelings cannot be replaced with any other activity.
The ability to identify feelings starts early and it starts with you. You can begin teaching your child about feelings at a young age by expressing your own feelings.
For example, you can say, "When you don't follow my directions about crossing the street, I feel scared that you'll get hurt by a car." By showing your child that you're scared and hurt instead of strictly reprimanding him, the experience will teach him more about safety.
Pausing to identify your emotions is a difficult task. It's especially difficult in front of children. They look up to us and we often feel pressure to be the perfect parents they deserve. No parents are perfect.
The biggest thing children deserve is authenticity and truth from their parents. Grown-ups who can admit their human-ness are teaching a valuable lesson in honesty.
Communicating your feelings teaches your kids to communicate their feelings, too. Instead of acting out of anger, having a conversation about it is much more productive. Talking through feelings and getting to a place of understanding teaches healthy habits.
Trust is built when you allow your children to confide in you. When they're young, they are experiencing new emotions at every turn. Uncharted territory can be challenging to navigate. If you can listen without judgment, your child will feel more secure and willing to be honest.
When people can communicate their feelings instead of blowing up in rage or acting passive aggressive, they are more likely to get through their difficulty in a reasonable time frame.
From the first hangnail to the first heartbreak, each hurdle that life brings requires more resilience and emotional understanding. Having conversations about these hurdles promotes emotional growth and understanding of self.
When you're going through your own exploration of emotions, you can share what the process is like with your child. When difficulties arise in your child's life, you don't need to swoop in to save the day. Instead, sit with your child and encourage him to dive into his emotions with curiosity.
Instead of running from emotions, show your children how to cope with and feel through life's many emotions.
It's not always easy to let emotions flow through and out of us. Instead, the instinct is usually to try to hold it together and feign stability. Rather than covering up authentic emotions, teach your kids to feel and cope with these emotions in healthy ways.
When children don't know how to feel emotions, they often turn to other sources for a mental escape and relief. There are many coping skills online that are available for all personality types. When you're first introducing coping skills to your child, try them together and see what works.
Try these fun and effective coping skill activities:
There's no perfect way to parent.
Having children means embracing the unpredictability of life. When you have principles to help guide the way you raise your kids and build your family, you're better able to stay consistent throughout the ebbs and flows of life.
Your family will grow with each passing year. Just as your kids will experience growing pains as they grow taller, your family will go through growing pains as you learn new lessons together. With every endeavor comes missteps, wrong turns, and entirely wrong directions.
To help you stay consistent with your parenting, I have put together a FREE guide that you can download, so your kids can thrive in life.