Do you ever find yourself dissatisfied with your child’s behaviour?
I don’t mean when they have a temper tantrum or something. I mean generally dissatisfied.
Like wondering why one of your kids is always the last – at everything. Always the last to get out of the car, the last to get into the car, the last to do anything.
Why one of your kids is reasonably responsive and responsible and the other one doesn’t seem to make an effort.
I’m describing the younger of my two girls here.
She’s sweet and kind and gentle and caring. But she’s also slow. She gives up too quickly and lacks perseverance.
She’s not overly confident in herself.
I know it’s not just my daughter. I see similar traits in members of other people’s families too. Maybe you have one at your place.
If they’re like this as children, how will they cope when they go out into the world?Where will they discover the inner strength we all need to get through the bumps and knocks of life?
How can we help them find their inner resilience?
And then I remembered something.
Behaviour Elicits Behaviour
I once read about a man and his wife who had kids. Their youngest son was somewhat like my daughter.
At the time their son was a teenager, and one word used to describe him was ‘incompetent’.
If he was carrying something, he dropped it. If he was walking, he’d stumble over his own feet.
He was uncoordinated, inept and useless. Bumbling through life and bumping into anything and everything.
And his parents had no idea what to do.
They were concerned about their son but wondered how they could change him.
Yelling and getting angry wasn’t going to help. Loading him up with responsibilities didn’t seem like a good idea.
And yet they couldn’t go on the way they were. Something had to change.
His father was a very perceptive man and one day he realised something. He noticed that both he and his wife expected their son’s bumbling behaviour.
He wondered, “What if our interactions reinforce this behaviour because we expect incompetence?”
What would happen, wondered the father, if they changed this expectation?
What if they started interacting with their son as though he was confident and capable?
Change Others by Changing Yourself
The man and his wife agreed to start behaving differently. They started treating their son as though he was clever and efficient.
They started treating him as though they expected him to achieve just as much as his siblings.
And it had a huge impact.
By treating their son as a competent, capable person he became a competent capable person.
He stopped bumping into things and bumbling about. He became responsible and proficient and confident.
He developed into the person he was always capable of being. Just because his parents came to expect more from him.
Change Your Mind To Change Your Kids
You can use this technique too, although it’s not always easy.
It’s hard to change your mindset – the man and his wife found it very challenging in the beginning.
But it’s simple and effective, and doesn’t result in fighting and resentment.
All that’s needed is for you to change your expectations. Because changing expectations changes our behaviour, and that in turn changes our kids.
Here’s an example.
My kids – like most kids – leave the cups and plates lying around.
Sometimes they put them on the bench, but often they leave them where they finished eating or drinking.
So there are cups and plates around the house. I’ve told my kids, “We don’t have a maid” and “Mummy is not a maid – see, no black dress and white apron!”
I’ve asked, pleaded and ranted and raved. All to no avail. You’ve tried it too.
But when I expect different behaviour, I say different things.
When I expect my kids to be self-sufficient and responsible, and I see plates and things around the place, I’ll say something like, “I know you’ll put those where they belong”.
This is not a reprimand – they haven’t done anything wrong.
It’s not even a reminder. It’s a statement. It’s supporting them to do the right thing, rather than badgering, cajoling or sweet-talking them.
It demonstrates I have trust in their ability. And that changes everything.
Believe They’ll Achieve
When you despair of your kids, and start wondering how they’re ever going to become mature, responsible adults, put your Believer’s Hat on.
Dream a little. Decide you’re going to raise kids to succeed.
Imagine your kids are the responsible, competent, reliable people you want them to be.
Imagine how you’d behave towards them.
Imagine how different things would be.Hang on to that image and run with it. Adopt those behaviours as your own.
Start treating your kids as the people you want them to become.
And pretty soon your dreams will come true.
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