After saying farewell to President Obama, one of the best parenting examples I could have ever wanted, I, like many others am dealing with the inauguration of President Trump. I am optimistic that the enormous responsibility the new President assumes will move his mind to important issues, and that he will consider the well-being of our nation in all the decisions he makes.
Regardless of how the the new President handles his position, many parents are asking what strategies might keep their children focused on kindness, inclusiveness, and generosity. Here are 8 simple tips:
- Make your home an island of sanity. Be fair, be supportive, and listen. Show your children what respect looks like by respecting them and yourself. Set the bar high and call them out when their behavior dips below it. Create a cocoon where they are accepted and loved for their compliance. Praise them for simple behaviors like when they wipe their shoes at the door, or share something with their sibling. That security will envelop them, and will give them strength of character when they venture into the world.
- Teach your kids to leave a trail of people behind them who have only nice things to say. Lead by example. We just came through the nastiest election in history, and if your kids don’t learn to navigate the world from you, they’re probably not gonna get it anywhere else. Model empathy and respect for others. What you do matters.
- Say this to your children a million times: YOU are the only person whose behavior you can control. Many times kids are frustrated by people who are mean to them, who disobey the rules, or tell lies. Explain that we (our family) is not like that. Use those people as examples of what not to do and praise your child for being able to identify those flaws. Make good behavior one of “our” family values, and use expressions like “Maybe that’s OK in their family, but our family doesn’t work like that.
- Serve others, and ask your children to participate. Several studies support the notion that doing regular chores or service to the community has numerous developmental benefits – and it doesn’t hurt to have a little help around the house! Teach gratitude and service. Show them that they are more fortunate than others. Let your kids see you help a stranger, and show them that they owe something for their comfort. Encourage your kids to pick up a piece of trash and put it in a nearby bin.
- Stay involved. Monitor the progress of their homework. It’s a struggle, we know, but “executive skills” (organization of time) will pay off when they enter the job market. Teach them how to use their planners and check them every once in a while. Encourage them to ask for help. Be their teammate, not their boss. Consider doing your work (or just reading) side by side. If need be, minimize the distractions – outlaw TV and other non-homework related electronics. Great conversations often arise in these periods of parallel study and silence.
- Allow your kids to struggle and even fail. This is one of the hardest challenges of parenting. Everybody makes mistakes…teach them to learn from theirs. As W. E. Hickson said: “If at first you don’t succeed… try try again.” This is how we all grow.
- Say NO when you need to. Adversity is something we all encounter every day. The sooner we can teach our children to deal with it, the better they will perform in the big bad world. Teach your children how to get you to say yes without whining or crying. Be strong.
- Make sure they have time to get bored. For children, play is work. When they’re left to ponder, their imaginations kick in. Limit their electronics during free time and don’t feel the need to entertain them. “Go bang your head against the wall until you think of something to do.” Might be a good response to “I’m bored.” It worked for my mother.
I trust these will be helpful. They actually apply no matter who the President is… because, as you know, Parenting is not a democracy.
Enjoy your children and lead them in the direction you would like them to go.
Happy New Year.