We all wish to raise ethical, loving children. Some of our kids are active, others are shy, still others learn to manipulate rather than being straight-forward. Kids who learn to manipulate in youth carry those patterns into adulthood. So now is the time to teach your child healthy relationship skills. Here are some tips to rein in your child and to help him or her grow with an emphasis on healthy relationships not pathological control, anger and manipulation.
1. Establish Ground Rules
Establish ground rules in your home and in your family relationships. Be clear about the kind of family you are and how you expect your children to treat those within and outside of your family. “We treat others with respect.” “We do not mock or make fun of others.” “We stand up for kids who are mistreated.”
2. Model Compassion
Emphasize caring, compassion and giving. Manipulative children can be self-centered, raise your children to care about the needs and feelings of others. You also want to model love for your child. Might your child be angry because she is not getting enough of you, your love and focused attention?
3. Teach Respect
Keep in mind that teaching your child respect for others is one of the best gifts you can give him.
4. Establish Boundaries
When your child pushes the boundaries – and you need to say NO, mean it. Be prepared to put up with the tantrum that’s about to ensue – and stand your ground like a mature adult. This may take a few trials. Practice will help you get the hang of it.
Perhaps, you’re going to have to endure a few tantrums before he gets the message. Explain to your child (when he’s not in the midst of a tantrum) that his behavior is not acceptable and will not get him what he wants. Give examples of alternate words and behaviors. Most of all, remain calm. The midst of the tantrum is not the best time to teach. Model, teach and collaborate on better choices when your kids are calm.
Be firm yet loving. Clear boundaries and consistent responses on your part not only inspire behavior better, they also create safety and security for kids and teens.
Remember, if you give in you are fostering inappropriate behavior. A selfish, self-centered or cruel child is not who you are aiming to raise.
5. Give Your Time, Not Toys
Stop buying toys and taking trips to the mall for a while. Give your child love and the gift of your time. There is nothing your child wants more than you. Make dates with your child, play sports, paint, draw, sing, make music; hey, just hang out a little, without your cell phone on.
6. Model Healthy Behavior
Model the behavior you want your child to exhibit. Using bad words, calling your child names or having a fit yourself is the wrong direction.
7. Avoid Benign Neglect
Sometimes, we let our children rule the roost because we feel guilty about saying no to them. Other times we parent our children with “benign neglect” by choosing our own needs, interests and work over our children’s needs. If you are choosing work or workouts over your child own up to your contribution to their behavior.
Raising a loving child, most of all, is about being present and available, so step up to the plate and be there. You’ll feel great!
Lynne Kenney, Psy.D., is a mother of two, a practicing pediatric psychologist (15 years) in Scottsdale, AZ, and the creator of The Family Coach Method. She has advanced fellowship training in forensic psychology and developmental pediatric psychology from Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School and Harbor-UCLA/UCLA Medical School. Dr. Kenney is currently a featured expert in Parents magazine and Working Mother magazine. Since 2006, she has co-produced three television shows and six DVDs with Baby First TV, and hosted the Baby First TV show “Baby Basics.” Dr. Kenney is a recognized “mom social media expert,” a featured contributor on Twittermoms.com and the host of The Family Coach Solution Studio on BlogTalk Radio. Her Better Living Content has appeared on ABC, the Montel Williams Show, and various child/family websites (including Ladies Home Journal and Better Homes and Gardens ). Dr. Kenney is a sought-after speaker nationally, and a respected consultant to The International Nanny Association and The National Head Start Association, for whom she was National Ambassador, 2007. Her book, The Family Coach Method, will be published in October 2009! Read more about Dr. Kenney at www.lynnekenney.com.