Dr. Valerie Allen
Licensed School Psychologist ~ Certified Case Manager
Ladies and Gentlemen: How to Grow Them at Home
Every new birth gives hope for a kinder, gentler world. A child is not born angry, hostile, abusive, or violent; nor is he born loving, caring, kind, or considerate. Children gradually learn to become the way they are. As they interact with their environment and significant people it in, they are pushed, pulled, molded, and shaped by life experiences.
This is wonderful news, because it allows us many opportunities to be a positive influence on children. We have the knowledge, strategies, and motivation to help children fulfill their potential, become a positive force in society, and a joy to be with.
Here are ten things you can do to help children become kind, considerate, and thoughtful human beings.
- Lower the Boom! Speak to each other in a quiet tone of voice. Avoid calling to your child from one room to another. Find her, make eye contact, and speak softly. Regulate the background noise from television, radio, and other audio/visual equipment; allow only one A/V or e-device on in each room.
- Use the Magic Words. Set an example by asking, not demanding, your child to do things. Don’t forget, Please, Thank You, Excuse Me, and other nice words you learned from Grandma. They’ re still important!
- Have Hands On Contact. We all need hugs, the more the better. Younger children enjoy cuddling and being held on your lap. Older kids may respond better to a high five or secret handshake. Teenagers may tolerate a pat on the back or a “bear hug.” Don’t force physical displays of affection if a child is resistant.
- Speak Respectfully. Teach your child to speak to each person they meet, have eye contact, and use their name. Children should address adults in a respectful manner, using Mr., Mrs., Ms. or other appropriate title.
- Offer Acceptance and Belonging. Home should be a safe and loving place, where we find comfort and support. Make your child feel needed and wanted by acknowledging her inner qualities, such as honesty, dependability, or trustworthiness. Each child should feel they enjoy a unique and significant place within the family unit.
- Expect the Best. Assume your child will succeed and do well; look at misdeeds or failures as the exception. Focus on typical behaviors, that is, they usually have good grades in school, are home on time, and remember to do their chores, rather than dwelling on things that did not go well or pointing out how disappointed you are in them.
- Show Respect. Treat your children with fairness and honesty. Ask their opinion and follow their advice when possible. Avoid dictating to them; give them an opportunity to make choices whenever possible. Never lie to a child, no mater how difficult the truth may seem. Do not violate their confidence by teasing or belittling them. Only in the most extreme situations should you intrude on their privacy by going through their personal belongings or reading their letters, journals, or email.
- Problem Solving. When your child gets into trouble, use it as an opportunity to talk about problem solving skills. Give him a chance to explain the situation. Discuss the behavior and the reasoning which led up to it. Without accusation, take him step by step through the incident and explore his emotions, problem solving skills, alternative behaviors, and the consequences. The main focus should be his actions, how he dealt with the issue, not on the incident.
- Be Patient. It is an eternal truth that children act their age. They are learning how to live life. It is during these formative years we are most instrumental in redirecting their behavior into adaptive and positive channels. Children make many mistakes, many times. It is important we share our moral and social values with them and lovingly tolerate their deviations without condemnation. Criticize the deed, not the doer.
- Be As You Want Them to Be. Children learn by example. They will respond to stress, frustration, and anger in one of two ways: externalizing or internalizing. Externalizing behaviors are abusive tactics such as yelling, crying, teasing, name calling, temper tantrums, and aggression. Internalizing behaviors include withdrawal, isolation, pouting, and being silent. Teach your child how to react positively when life is unfair, things don’t go his way, or he is disappointed. Children are often a mirror of the adults around them.
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Dr. Valerie Allen is a child psychologist in private practice. She presents seminars for parents and professionals in the field of child development and has published two children’s books, “Summer School for Smarties” and “Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends.” Oh yes, she has also raised six children!