Each one of us wants our kids to be responsible, healthy and smart. Nobody wants an irresponsible, rebellious and unhealthy child. We expect the best in our children every single time and it’s natural for us to feel that way.
But for some reason or the other, it seems that we fail at the task and are often compelled to use force to get our children to behave.
If you’re sick and tired of having to use force to make your child meet your expectations, don’t despair. You can still bring the situation under control and instill a sense of responsibility and resilience in your child.
And the secret to that lies in how you behave with your child.
Children only learn through modeling. They model their parents, peers, and teachers.
During most of early childhood, they model their parents and other authority figures. As they go through the adolescent phases of life, they learn to model their peers.
And if you’re thinking of raising a child who’s happy, responsible and non-rebellious (even during the adolescent years); the responsibility lies completely with you.
With that said, here are the 5 behavior modeling secrets to raising happy and responsible kids…
1. Be the leader
As a parent, you are the leader and the child is the follower. The child naturally follows and does whatever you do.
You have to make sure that you don’t demand your respect (like how bad leaders do). Rather, you have to attract respect of your children naturally through your words and actions (like how good leaders operate).
One secret to effective leadership is to be the one that reacts the least. If you are giving into your child’s whims and fancies whenever he/she throws a tantrum, the child learns to know that he will get whatever he wants when he does something like that.
Raising a child is not easy. There will be moments when you will lose your self-control. The key is to make sure that you don’t lose it in front of your child when it does happen.
Do not lose control and give in when he/she throws a tantrum. Stay non-reactive even when the child is yelling at the top of his voice.
As you do it over and over again, the child will learn that tantrums don’t work and the only way to get what he/she wants is by doing what you expect them to do.
2. Maintain healthy relationships
Children learn how to behave with others by seeing how their parents behave with each other and other people.
If you want your child to maintain healthy relationships with their peers and other people, make sure that you have a healthy relationship with your spouse and other people that you meet.
If you don’t want your child to swear, make sure that you are not swearing to your spouse, kids or other people (even if it’s for fun).
Maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse and friends. Treat them with respect and your children will naturally learn to treat his/her peers with respect.
3. Eat smart
Food plays a far more important role in regulating self-control and behavior than most people ever realize. There is a dearth in the number of studies about food, emotional control and thinking (2).
But if you want proof on how food plays a role in regulating behavior, try this one simple experiment:
Keep your work files in front of you. Make sure that the work project you are working on is moderately difficult or challenging.
Eat a whole packet of chips (or some other junk food) and try focusing on the task at hand.
And on another day, eat a whole fresh apple or a boiled egg and try to focus on your work. You’ll feel a lot different and your ability to focus will also be enhanced.
Cultivating healthy eating habits aids in regulating self-control in a lot of subtle ways that cannot be easily studied (i.e. scientifically). But they are essential.
Make sure that you offer your children whole and healthy foods and feed them that. They may throw tantrums at first. But don’t give in. Eventually, you’ll have instilled a habit in them which will help them for many years to come.
While eating, make sure that the entire family dines together at all times (or most times). Families that dine together have a greater bond than those that dine individually.
Make sure that both you and your spouse are back in time for dinner and that both of you have dinner and breakfast together with your children.
And lastly, ensure that no TV, cellphones or newspaper or some other distraction is around when you’re dining.
4. Eliminate/Reduce the TV, Toys and Games
While it’s easy to immediately turn on the TV and binge eat a packet of crisps once you’re home, it does not teach healthy habits to your child. Eliminate the unnecessary TV and create a schedule around which you and your spouse watch TV.
Keep a schedule for your kids as well and don’t allow them to watch as they please. Letting them watch whatever they want whenever they want does a lot of harm in the long-run.
Kids are exposed to advertisements on a continuous basis and they’ll only demand and want more. TV watching is also likely to affect your child’s focus and concentration.
So make sure that your children are only allowed to watch Television when their schedule permits them to do so even if it’s for educational purposes (Ex – Discovery, Nat Geo). The same applies for games and computers.
If you want your children to be happy, responsible and successful in the future, make sure that you imbibe in them the quality to delay gratification by not letting them indulge in TV or any other form of entertainment until they do what is necessary ( Ex – study a lesson or complete their homework).
5. Positively reinforce your child while offering unconditional love and support
Teach your child to value work and not grades.
Some kids learn quickly and there are other kids that take time. Kids who learn quickly are able to score better grades than kids who don’t.
And this makes it easy for people to tag children with terms such as genius, dumb, stupid and so on. Many teachers, parents and other adults make this mistake.
No kid is dumb or smart. Grades cannot and will not dictate their level of ability.
What matters is whether or not they are doing the work that is necessary. Teach your kid to value work.
A dumb kid that studies for 1 hour daily is better than the smart kid who only studies one day before the exam. The smart kid may indeed score better grades despite of studying just one day before the exam but it doesn’t mean he/she’s better.
Never use tags such as dumb, stupid or genius on your kids. Rather, provide them with the support they need to show up and do the work.
In the long-run, as many struggling adults often find out, the adult that wins is the one with a solid and consistent work ethic. And if you want your child to be a successful adult, make sure that you are reinforcing in him/her that the process is far greater than the outcome by valuing his/her work ethic.
- Mischel 1989 Science, Delay of Gratification – http://pages.uoregon.edu/harbaugh/Readings/UGBE/Mischel%201989%20Science,%20Delay%20of%20Gratification.pdf
- Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function, UCLA study shows – http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/changing-gut-bacteria-through-245617.aspx