This is the second post in a series of three posts on how parents can teach respect - "PARENTS TEACH RESPECT BY TRAINING".
"Train a child in the way they should go and when they are old, they will not turn from it."
Proverbs 22. 6
This old proverb reminds us of the importance and need of training our children and gives assurance of a positive outcome.
To speak of 'training' children is regarded by some with disgust. We train dogs and we train plants, and we also train teachers and nurses, actors and astronauts. "Train" just means to teach or equip, so this post's title could read "PARENTS TEACH RESPECT BY TEACHING AND EQUIPPING THEIR CHILDREN"
The responsibility for this task is ours - parents.
One way we can teach respect is through training our children to have ~
1. GOOD HABITS
Training children in good habits is like laying down tracks for a train to travel along. The track must be solidly put down and lead to a known destination - so when the train bounces around on the tracks at speed, the train or child can reliably get to the destination. There are many good habits which a child can be trained to have - attention or concentration, truthfulness, application, self control, unselfishness and politeness, thinking, imagination, perfect execution, remembering, obedience.... I intend to write on some over the next months.
I will use the habit of concentration to illustrate some methods of training a good habit.
It is best to work with the real situation, as it happens, rather than attempting to manipulate an artificial set up situation.
As with the training of many good habits, the training of concentration can begin at a very young age. When a baby holds a toy at some point they let go and drop it. Here's the opportunity - pick it up and in loving tones show the toy to the baby, arousing their curiosity to look again at the toy while you play a games moving the toy up and down, or sing a song. These few extra moments that the baby looks at the toy, are the start of baby learning to concentrate.
An older child may be doing the dishes or tidying up the toys and loosing their concentration on the job. To get them back on track we can, again, play a game. Count the number of cups, plates, forks/pick up all the blue toys (their favourite colour) first, then the wooden ones/pick up the biggest things first, down to the smallest/carefully wipe up all the glass things first, then the crockery and lastly the metal things.
The older the child the more complicated the categories can become- first, wipe up everything that goes in or near your mouth/put the oldest toys away carefully first/put away all the toys but keep the toys you play most often with to put away last- so you can get at them easily...
The key points or methods used in training concentration are -
~ a happy and positive attitude from the parent
~ making the job into a game
~ connecting it to something you know they are interested in
~ keep working at it
You will have more success in training a habit if you just stick to dealing with one habit at a time.
"Sow an act, reap a habit;
Sow a habit, reap a character;
Sow a character, reap a destiny" Thomas a Kempis.
Habits established in young lives, do amount significantly in determining what a person will become.
A second way we can teach respect through training our children is by -
2. CORRECTING DISRESPECTFUL TALK
If you work at forming good habits in your child's life when they are young, there will be less work to do in the area of disrespectful talk later on.
Children can talk disrespectfully boldly to a parent's or adult's face. They can also use the behind your back method which the facial expressions giveaway. A less perceived practice of disrespectful talk is when a child speaks in damaging ways about themself to themself.
Here are 3 courses of action which may be of help.
1. Divert the child's attention.
As mums we often can sense when things such as disrespectful words are about to come out. Before they are said, do something that diverts the child's attention - give them something else to think about. Get them to check the letterbox for mail/ send them outside for a run around the garden (I used this one often when my boys were little - doing a physical thing worked well)/open the fridge and announce what's for dinner/turn on some music ...
2. Practice the opposite.
Each day make time to have conversations with your child that are respectful. Speak in loving ways using respectful words praising them. Tell them how you love them in specific terms. Tell them about particular things you admire them for - for example - not giving up when they were tired, smiling and staying relaxed when you know they had hurt themselves, the way they always give the dog a cuddle and attention, their preparedness to not copy and follow the pathetic examples of kids who bully others.....
To hear you speak in this way pleases them, and fills their mind with good. After a week, move the conversation with the child onto a new level, where your loving words and praise is aimed not only at the child but also at another family member. This practice over a couple of weeks to a month, will break the old habit of disrespectful talk, replacing it with respectful words because their mind is filled with examples of how to speak loving words of praise. (You are shifted the child's thinking, like shifting a train to run on a new track) I personally think this method could be a positive help if used in families where a member suffers with depression.
3. Cut out sources of disrespectful talk.
This could be the TV, TV or computer cartoons and games, movies, books... The amount of damage that these can do is immense. You may not be able to to remove people who talk disrespectfully, but you may be able to minimize access while you're in the training weeks.
Remember this training or retraining needs everyday attention and takes up to a month - just like learning to eat or walk or a musical instrument. So keep at it!
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ Children speaking disrespectfully is a common problem. Spend a moment now and look back over this post and decide how you will handle the next occasion when there is disrespectful talk in your family.