What is the best way to teach a child? Do you wish your kids showed more kindness? Do you want them to have good manners? Model behavior you WANT to see!
It’s amazing the way children take in your every word and action and spit it back out to you in mirror form. If you don’t want to see your ugly side, make sure you don’t model it to your kids!
I can remember a time when my daughter was just a toddler and we were dropping her off at daycare. She jumped down and saw a piece of grass on the floor that someone tracked in the entryway and said, just look at this big mess. It was a piece of GRASS! But I realized at that moment that she was parroting her very critical mother. I have tried from that day to curb my critical nature, but it seems to come so naturally to me.
Our every move is of paramount importance to the children we are influencing. And we are influencing them whether we want to or realize it or not. Children learn what they live.
I know there have been many times I have seen or heard a child act a certain way and thought to myself, man, that was ugly…and they got that from me. It’s not a good feeling, but it teaches us how we can be better. Don’t the kids we serve deserve for us to learn from them? Don’t they all deserve a great place to be? I sure think they do!
Teaching good behavior
Let’s take some time to think about what we want for the kids in our lives. Positive self-esteem, confidence, acceptance of others and ourselves, kindness, empathy, and joy. To me, those are at the top of the list. How can we help the children we touch to have those qualities?
How to teach kindness and empathy
Modeling! If we are constantly being hard on ourselves and those around us, do you think the children in our lives will be forgiving and full of grace? I have learned this the hard way, they won’t. We have to model behavior that lets kids feel good about themselves and others.
I can show our children how to feel confident and sure of themselves by being confident and sure of myself. We can also build them up and show them how great we think they are. Every child has great qualities and deserves to have those qualities shining.
They deserve to know they are special for their gifts and to know they have value. We can say it all day long, but if they don’t see us showing it to ourselves as well, they get the message they are not good enough somehow. We must model being kind to ourselves.
They also need to see us believing in them. There are so many ways we think we are helping that are actually harming our child’s self-esteem. You might be surprised what you think you’re doing to help is actually not. I found out the hard way.
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How to Model Behavior You Want to See in Kids
If we are short-tempered and impatient, our kids will be hard-pressed to be accepting of other people’s faults. If we raise our children to be empathetic and think about how their actions make other people feel, we will end up with kind and empathetic adults. I want to model behavior like this.
When I talk to my children about a bad behavior choice they have made, I ask them how they would feel if so and so hit them or took their toy. They usually will admit they wouldn’t like it. I ask them to look at the person’s face they hurt and tell me how they think they feel. Usually, they realize the person is upset and say something like not happy or sad.
If we take the time to show kids the consequences of their actions instead of reacting to them, we can make a lot more progress in molding great adults. My goal with my children is to send them out into the world to spread more good and make it a better place.
Sometimes when you are in a room full of cranky toddlers, it might seem impossible to model behavior, but I promise you if you do, you will see results in less time than you might think. They are looking to you to set the tone, always. Don’t join in their chaos, be the calm.
People in general only know how they themselves are feeling. It’s hard to know what someone else feels like unless they tell you or you experience what they experience. Since that’s nearly impossible, we need to think about how the way we are acting might make other people feel. As a child, I did not have a natural empathy for others and my behavior reflected it. I was selfish!
Social learning theory
I look back now and wonder how anyone could stand me. Why did my husband marry me? Why didn’t my family throw me out? I am blessed that they didn’t give up on me and gave me time to grow up. My husband’s unwavering unconditional love of me was one of the biggest factors in me realizing I needed to change and making me able to make changes.
I am not perfectly nice all the time. Of course, I am not perfect in any way, but I have grown up a lot and changed a lot of patterns of only being able to see myself and my own feelings. I try to take those lessons and pass them onto my kids to help them make changes BEFORE they have so many regrets.
Click here to read more about social learning theory.
Reinforcing good behavior
I try to model the behavior I want such as kindness, empathy, and patience which is the hardest one of all. People always say, you must be so patient to work with little kids, and I always answer that the kids taught it to me. They bless me with their presence here. I love being with them. I love learning from them and with them.
If you see your children doing something you think is ugly, take a minute to think of where that behavior came from? Is there something in you that you are seeing in that mirror that you need to change? I know I can always find something I could do better. Let the kids teach you how to be a better you!
Click here to see more about positive discipline that works! Click here to find out how food could be affecting your child’s behavior. And click here to find out how routines and structure can help you manage children’s behavior. There are so many things you can do to improve your day.
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