At the end of parenting presentation many parents ask me why their child can be an angel for others, yet less than perfect for them.
It’s so frustrating!!
I can relate to this entirely.
I remember my primary school-aged children having very poor table manners at home, yet after sleep-overs and visits with friends we were always complimented for having children with beautiful manners.
“They showed my kids a thing or two about manners,” was the comment we received.
I also recall when one of my daughters, aged thirteen, barely had a civil word for anyone who lived under the same roof as her. Yet following a weekend staying at a friend’s house, the supervising parents remarked how communicative she was with them.
“How do you do get such a lovely teenager?” her friend's parent asked.
“Send her to you!” was my reply!
So why do kids behave well for others and save their worst behaviour for their parents?
It’s simple really.....because you love them.
It’s hard to be good all the time. When we are fully accepted by others we tend to show them our true selves warts n’all.
The same theory applies with all relationships, including dating.
When you first start dating you put huge energy into making good impressions. Most people dress well; are punctual; and present their best possible face.
When the relationship becomes stable most people loosen up. They don’t always dress to impress; often turn up late and are not fussed about presenting their best possible face all the time. In short, familiarity breeds contentness, and even a little contempt.
The same happens with kids. They become so relaxed with their parents that they will show their worst side to them.
They’ll be very polite to their teacher, barely speaking out of turn in class yet can be downright rude and overbearing at home.
They’ll be friendly to peers at school but painful for siblings at home.
It’s important that kids know how to behave
We’d all love our kids to behave appropriately all the time, but the reality is they won’t. Most kids have L plates when it comes to learning how to fit in and behave around others. They make mistakes, yet they are always on a path to improvement.......or should be.
It’s important that they know how to behave. That means parents teach their kids a whole bunch or manners; they teach them right from wrong so they know the difference; and also they teach them how to behave well in a variety of social situations so that when they are outside the house and around others, they know how to behave in public.
Sometimes kids are worse in public than at home. This happens with toddlers who are really on a huge learning curve. It’s easier to teach them in the confined, organised environment at home. When they are in public spaces such as supermarkets they are so much harder to control!!
Here are three ways to teach kids of all ages to behave well:
1. Model: Yes, they need to see adults and significant others such as parents behave well, behave generously and use appropriate manners (cos’they will speak like you in public). When you have kids, as a parent you are a walking, talking social studies (as in how to be social, generous and pleasant to others) lesson.
2. Explicitly teach & coach: Tell kids what to say in different social situations and also let them know how their behaviour (good and bad) impacts on others. Be upfront yet respectful with your messages.
3. Create junior versions of social situations: Sporting codes create junior versions of their games so kids can learn the basics without being overwhelmed by adult rules. The same applies to kids. Once a week set up your mealtimes like a restaurant so kids learn how to behave in a restaurant situation.
It’s the job of parents to teach kids to be social and to respect others. The frustrating thing is that so often it’s other parents and adults who see the direct results of all our good work.
Then again, you do get to bask momentarily in the glow of positive comments from teachers, other parents and friends about your kids’ good behaviour. But then again, it’s their choice to behave well (or badly) so children really should take most of the credit for behaving well!
Ah, the joys and frustrations of parenting. No wonder raising kids makes us better people.
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