One of the most rewarding gifts of parenting is watching your son and/or daughter become the individual he or she is meant to be. Parents are responsible for helping them to become assertive, responsible, self-sufficient, and independent individuals. It’s equally important that children learn to be respectful, thoughtful, compassionate, patient, tolerant and considerate of others.
Raising children with those responsibilities in mind is no easy task. It takes commitment, patience and growing through the challenges along with them. The good news about raising children is that parents are given dozens and dozens of opportunities to ‘get it right’ in teaching life lessons. The following are foundational pillars to help build the character of integrity in children.
- Parents are the role model for their children. The most influential way to teach children that which you want them to learn, is by becoming the person you want them to emulate. Even when parents aren’t intending on “teaching” something, children pick up on unspoken messages. Parents are human and they sometimes loose their temper. Use those times as relationship repair moments. After you’ve calmed down, own your misbehavior, apologize for blowing up and then talk about the issue of concern. It’s what you do and how you handle yourself after you’ve messed up, that relationship repair lessons are learned.
- Respect – The Parenting Golden Rule: “Treat your child as you would like to be treated if you were in the same position.” Consider what your child is going through when physically punished, in a time out or being scolded in front of their friends. Parents sometimes get lost in a power struggle and feel they need to get the upper hand. That’s faulty thinking. You ARE the parent. Give yourself a few minutes to step back in to your parental role within integrity.
- Making sense of meanness – Hurt people hurt people. Instead of vilifying or retaliating against people who have offended your child, help them to understand what they’re feeling first, and then to consider what the other might be going through. Maybe they’re reacting to an injustice done to them that has nothing to do with you. Maybe you’ve offended them or caught them off guard (and they’re acting poorly). Can your child “become the bigger person,” make sense of his own feelings, and deal with the mean behavior after the other person has calmed down?
- When your child is upset; stop, take a time out and process the moment – No Knee jerk reaction. Instead of telling your child to apologize, or stop the misbehavior, help them to process and make sense of why they did what they did. What happened to you that you felt the need to hit? What’s going on that you felt the need to steal? Help them understand what’s happening within themselves. After they have calmed down and figured out what their acting out behavior was about, then you can discuss consequences for their action, and come up with more appropriate ways of resolving conflict.
- Don’t take something away unless you can replace it with the corrective response. In other words, don’t tell another person they’ve got to change their attitude – unless you talk with them about the attitude you’d like them to have. Why is it important to you? And why do you want it for them? Help them come up with the “fix” that will repair the relationship.
- You can’t hold a grudge against a person unless you’ve talked with them first. Many times people hold grudges against another – and the other has no clue why that person is upset with them. They can’t read your mind. So in order to be able to hold a grudge, your child needs to use the “I Message” skill of communication and let the other person know why they’re upset and what they’re needing from the other to repair the rift.