Almost everyone can relate to the horror of being in a restaurant or grocery store with a child who has decided to captivate the attention of all who are willing to watch as he or she holds a parent hostage to a temper tantrum or similar display of undesirable behavior. Some have been the parent, some have been the audience, most of us have been both.
As the mother of five children and the wife of one firefighter, I have learned some valuable lessons in regards to raising kids: Lessons for the toddler, the teenager and most importantly, the apprehensive parent.
Training kids in the area of social etiquette is one of the greatest gifts we will ever give, to both them and to ourselves. The key is the word train. Don’t misunderstand the word, it’s not meant to be unkind, but training is a word used by God and involves education and practice, something we do with everything from police officers to pets.
Children misbehave because they aren’t aware of the expectations for their behavior prior to arriving at any given function. For the parent, it becomes more like a game of pinball where they continue to flip at the bad behavior hoping it will somehow miraculously create good behavior – news flash… it doesn’t work.
Training kids, at home, about how to behave in a restaurant or grocery store has been the salve to the wound of public humiliation. All of these opportunities for training are turned into some kind of an enjoyable game that keeps the attention of the child and a sense of humor for the parent.
The grocery store game we play is called ‘cart hands’ and, after explaining the game, requires no more than a planned walk through the house where the child is allowed to roam freely. When the words ‘cart hands’ are said, the child pretends to grab the side of a cart and walks with the parent.
Practicing this several times with praise for a job well done, followed by a practice run at the grocery store, when the parent is not in a hurry or feeling frustrated, is the right time to give it a whirl. Keep it short, keep it fun and then praise the behavior you want to see repeated. My own personal saying is ‘Don’t Feed the Weed’, meaning never reward behavior you don’t want to see repeated. Praise, smile at them, and make them proud to show you how well they can behave.
Children know us by our fruit, which means, if you tell a child “if you don’t behave we’re going home” you had better be prepared to follow through. Threatening to do something without following through shows them that they’re in control.
Playing these games of good behavior since our kids were small has made it easier to garner their respect and attention as we train them to be polite teenagers.
Smile, have fun, enjoy these days and one day your children will thank you for showing them the right way to go.
Look for next months article: Amazing teens!