Find out why simply telling your kids what to do and how to approach situations won’t cut it.
"You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over." -Richard Branson
When raising a family, regardless of parenting styles, one of the most important principles for most is to ensure that your children are independent and self-assured when they grow up. We can enforce as many rules as we would like but I've learned that children learn by example. Talking to them is good but it needs to be followed up by action. We are blessed with twp boys (16 and 9 years old) who each have completely different personalities. One has always seemed shy to us while the other seemed to be very outspoken. There is a delicate balance of aggressive and passive behavior that needs to be learned while growing up. That is learning to be assertive. Before I dive in to what we did with our children, here are a couple of situations that helped us see what we were doing right.
The Shy Child
I remember listening to my oldest son moderate a group call with friends when suddenly there seemed to be conflict. A part of me wanted to jump to his rescue and tell him how to handle it but something told me to just listen. My son at his leisure enjoys playing video games online with his friends, specifically, Minecraft. What I did not know was that numerous players have turned this game into a business venture.
At some point, my son decided to look into this, created a team to work with to eventually launch his business. What is Minecraft? It is a video game originally developed by Mojang also known as founder Markus "Notch" Persson. Minecraft is considered a "sandbox" game. This means that players can pretty much have a full run of the game without specific goals, objectives or a plot. Instead, players are allowed to freely build whatever they want to using blocks they mine from the ground in the game. Imagine a virtual Legos and you will see a clear picture. The kicker is that at night/in the dark on the game, all kinds of monsters are out to get the players and sometimes destroy everything they built.
So going back to my son's conflict…My son created a set of rules for the group to follow, especially when recording YouTube videos. One of these rules was no profanity. One of the members proceeded to break this rule and refused to step back. To my surprise, I heard him say the following: "There are specific rules we agreed on. In order to play fairly we have to follow them. If you do not like the rules, you can leave." The other player continued on a rant. Shortly after I heard my son say abruptly, "I do not appreciate your language. Since you cannot work with the rules, goodbye."
To bring things in perspective, at first glance, our oldest son appears to be very shy. We are complimented on his politeness and manners including how he appears to genuinely care about others. Never being able to witness him in conflict, we wondered what that would be like. We wondered if he would be a pushover because of all the rules we placed on him. We wondered if he would put aside his every need for others. Worst of all, we were so afraid of him becoming a follower. Imagine my relief when I heard this conversation. Its funny what children learn when left to their own devices. Managing this game made a difference. As his proud mom, I had tears of joy. Of course, I got caught listening in! Oops! But it gave me the chance to acknowledge him and tell him how proud I was of how he handled the situation. It was that day I realized that all of the talks and example he saw did sink in.
The Outspoken Child
Our youngest on the other hand, appears to be outspoken. He also loves to play Minecraft. I was outspoken as a child and it got me into a lot of trouble. At one point, we were afraid that we would receive complaints about him being rude, hurting people's feelings and not being a well behaved child overall. He appeared to watch the moves of his brother and strategize when it came down to different situations at least when it came down to playing video games. His demeanor was such that if you ever offended him, he would let you know right away but he would be the first person to defend you if needed.
You never know how your children really act unless you can spy on them or someone tells you. One day we received a call from his school letting us know that he was in a fight. Our first thought was that he was the aggressor. What we found out was that he was the mediator! There were two kids fighting and he decided to jump in the middle to stop the fight. He talked to one to calm him down while a teacher took hold of the other one. Needless to say, the purpose of the call was to tell us about the incident and ensure us that he was fine. That was a proud day for us. We finally saw the results of our efforts.
But this is not the end. The journey continues as our children are still growing. I can only share what we've done and hope that it helps you. Here are 3 things I did with my children that may help you with your kids.
1. Walk the walk
I've learned that, as parents, we must be ready to walk the talk. What do I mean? Our children learn a lot by watching us and if they see us avoiding confrontation and sort of following along with the crowd, they will do the same thing! On the other hand, watching you swear and flip off another driver is not recommended. They must witness you being assertive, not angrily confronting someone.
For example, the family is dining out and the waiter gets your order wrong. Don't say it's ok. Act fast and let the waiter know right away. The waiter can't do anything for you if you proceed to eat the meal first and then complain later. Be straightforward. Your children will definitely see the value in speaking up.
2. Questioning: I ask them questions every day
I ask my kids all kinds of questions daily because I want to know if they have faced any challenges. Once I can have insight into their day I can help them get clear about whatever mistakes they've made so that they can learn to deal with similar situations in the future. Some questions I've asked are:
- Did anything happen today that made you laugh today?
- What is one thing you learned today?
- Did anybody help you today? How did they help you?
- Did you help somebody today? How did you help them?
- Were you bored anytime today? What made you get bored?
- Tell me one cool things that happened today.
- Did something weird happen today or did anyone say anything weird? Tell me about it.
- Did you get upset with anyone? Did anyone get upset with you?
3. Let them speak for themselves
Don't become the over protective parent. I know all too well the urge to jump in and defend my children. I've realized that jumping in would defeat the purpose. They must learn so that they may build confidence and acquire problem solving skills. An added benefit is that they will learn boundaries: when to say yes and when to say no.
Talking with your children will help lead their way. Do you have any other suggestions? Share your thoughts in the comments!
©Carline Bejin-Dye and Your Tango, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carline Bejin-Dye and Your Tango with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.