Regarding parenting, I’ve never been a big fan of the “do as I say, not as I do” approach. Our kids see us as role models – for good or for ill. If we have a positive relationship with our kids, we can leverage this and influence them as a positive role model. Rather than lecturing kids, in many cases, I think “actions speak louder than words” and we should be careful to “practice what we preach.”
So, model the behaviors that you would like to see in your child. Want your child to work on his manners? Be sure that you are setting a good example. For instance, when your child asks you, “Could you hand me that ball?” you might remind him to say, “Could you please hand me that ball?” The question is, when you ask your child for something, do you say “please” and “thank you” to him? If you are doing this, in essence, you are consistently reminding your child to use good manners and showing him how.
Here’s another scenario. Does your child often lose her temper? Are you trying to help her improve her anger management? Now, the big questions – do you often lose your temper? Do you lose your temper in response to her losing her temper? If so, how do you expect your child to learn to manage her anger when you are not managing your own?
When you are getting frustrated and angry, these can be great modeling moments. After all, unless you are Zen master, your kids will get under your skin from time to time. When your child does, you can say something like, “Yikes! I’m getting really frustrated and angry right now. I don’t want to say anything mean or start raising my voice, so I think I’m going to walk around and cool off. Then I’ll come back in about 5 minutes and help you finish organizing your toys.” Then that’s exactly what you do. When you come back, you can say, “Wow. I feel much better now that I’ve cooled off. Let’s finish organizing these and then do something fun.”
Rather than always trying to lecture your child to give pointers on appropriate behavior, just remember that your most powerful teaching tool is your own actions and behavior. This can work for you or against you. By being aware of this, self-monitoring, and setting positive examples, you can really help your child learning lessons that they will internalize and carry with them wherever they go.