How To Treat Children The Way You Would Like To Be Treated

The key to a good relationship, whether it’s between two adults or a parent and a child, is to treat the other person the way you would like to be treated. And that’s what this article is all about: treat your children the way you like to be treated and your relationship with them won’t go far wrong.

As you skim through the article, you’ll find that the same messages keep reappearing. These messages are the secret of successful parenting, but they could apply to any relationship. Here they are:

Be available

Christopher Green is a busy man, but if I was always so busy that my wife never saw me, and when she did I told her I was way too busy to stop and talk, she may, quite rightly, start to feel as if she must be the least important person in my life.

Treat Children

Children don’t need ‘quality time’; they need a parent who is available to sit, listen, do things together and marvel at what they see.

Point 1: More than anything, children need you to be available.

Routine and structure

Everyone loves surprises, but if every day when you woke up you had no idea what was going to happen it would be very unsettling. Chaos makes us all feel as if we’ve got no control over the situation. Like adults, children are happiest when they know what’s coming next.

Point 2: Children are happiest when they have a structured routine.

Consistent limits and rules

As I drive to the hospital I pass through three speed zones. I know each legal limit and the level of tolerance before I am booked. I cope because I know the stated limits and levels of tolerance. I would be very confused if either of these changed from day to day. Children may protest our limits but at least they know we care enough to care what they do.

Unpredictability causes confusion, anger and emotional insecurity.

Point 3: Children are at their most secure when they know the rules and how far they can push these limits.

Flexibility and compromise

I don’t cope well with rigid-minded people who insist that everything is done by the book. They quote council by-laws, can’t compromise and never shift an inch.

I come up against schools who will only allow important medication to be given at 12:45pm because this is the one and only time they hand out tablets. But the child I care for falls apart without their 11am dose.

Here is another example. The rules state that the bus is designed to carry six people and the operator sees no difference between six sumos or six child-gymnasts. Adults with an almost autistic-like inflexibility need their rules, but a successful relationship won’t work without compromise.

Parents need to adjust the rules to fit the individual situation: children sleep in their own beds, but during a thunderstorm everyone can sleep together; children must tidy away the dinner dishes, but tonight there is so much homework they can be excused.

Point 4: Rules and consistency are important for children, but there must be room for flexibility and compromise.

Choice and freedom

I wake up in the morning and am about to get dressed. ‘Just wait a minute,’ says my wife. ‘Today you will wear a blue shirt, cream trousers and a red tie. For lunch you will have a gherkin and ham roll with a skim-milk cappuccino.’

‘Hey, you wait a minute I think. ‘Don’t I have some say in my own life?’

A two-year-old can’t cope with choice but a school-age child needs some freedom to decide their own destiny. Controlling parents create unhappy children who can’t make a decision.

Point 5: School-age children respond best to choice.

Communicate clearly

Sometimes I enter a shop where the assistant doesn’t bother to look up before asking coldly what I want. It seems as if my presence is an annoyance and they have no interest in me, the customer. Rude adults are immensely annoying; I like to be greeted with eye contact, interest and civility.

If you wish a child to respond, address them with interest and enthusiasm.

Point 6: To gain a child’s attention, look them directly in the eye, talk simply and speak as though you mean it. Show them you’re interested.

Ask, don’t nag.

Christopher Green hates being nagged. ‘Have you done that yet? Why not? When will you do it? What’s keeping you?’ The more I am nagged, the more obstinate and angry I become.

If you want compliant children tell them what you wish them to do, encourage action, monitor results, and then get off their backs.

Point 7: Children switch off and go deaf when parents nag.

Reward good behavior

The rock concert has been spectacular and you wish it would never end. As the last note fades the audience spring to their feet and shriek their appreciation. The band responds to this show of enthusiasm and plays two more numbers.

The audience rewarded the band for their good playing. The band rewarded the audience for their enthusiasm. This was a win-win situation. If we had wanted the band to pack up and go home, we would have kept quiet.

With our children we mould their behavior by ensuring the right (not the wrong) actions pay off.

Point 8: Encourage good behavior by rewarding the good. Discourage bad behavior by preventing any pay-off for the bad.

Subtle rewards are the best

How do you know that things are going well in your adult relationship? Does your partner give you a pound or a star? Of course not. We know that things are on track because we sense the positive vibrations between us. This subtle feedback is the main way we mould human beings of all ages.

Children know they are doing well by the way we look at them, the twinkle in our eyes, our tone of voice, our level of interest and the gentle reassuring touch as we brush by.

Point 9: Soft, subtle encouragement is the most powerful way to boost behavior.

Notice the good

In my wish to be a domesticated dad, I go out to get the shopping. But when I return home it’s all complaints: ‘Could you not have got a larger loaf? Didn’t they have redder apples? Why choose the dented can of dog food? Were there no straight bananas?’ I busted myself but it seems everything is wrong. Soon I think, ‘What’s the point in bothering.

Children often get this treatment from their parents. They set the table with great care: ‘You’ve got the knives and forks the wrong way around.’ They clean the dishes: ‘There’s egg on that plate. They vacuum the lounge; ‘You missed a bit. When humans work hard and others only notice their faults and not the effort, it’s a sure way to discourage and dishearten.

Point 10: Let children know when you are pleased. Change the focus from only seeing the bad. Catch them being good.

Confrontation causes resentment

When the first officer of the Titanic sees an iceberg ahead it is no time to ask nicely, Td appreciate it if you could turn a little to the left. He must issue a firm order. But when we are steaming in clear waters, humans are more receptive when asked rather than told.

We don’t like being steamrollered and bullied: ‘Just shut up and do it’; ‘Do it or I’ll hit you!’ This heavy form of discipline would bring out the worst in any of us. I would resent this confrontation and feel angry, drag my feet and wonder how I could get even.

As parents hammer their child into shape the young one thinks, ‘Damn you, Dad! I’ll make it harder for you next time.’ Force and confrontation may get action, but often at a price.

Point 11: Confrontation and bullying lead to opposition and resentment.

Calm, not escalation

Let’s imagine you are flying from Melbourne to Sydney when the engine falls off the plane. The confident pilot would transmit calm:

‘This is Captain Smith speaking. I have to inform you that the port engine has just become disengaged. Don’t worry, the crew will soon be through the cabin serving complimentary drinks followed by a hot meal, and then we’ll attempt a crash landing in Sydney.’ The example has a bit of author’s licence, but the message is clear: a calm attitude spreads calm.

Even the sweetest child can be intensely irritating, but successful parents don’t escalate by adding heat to an already overheated situation. They communicate in a calm voice, repeat their request like a broken gramophone record and move away before they lose their cool.

Point 12: If parents can keep calm, children are easier to control.

Cool off and regain control

Your German shepherd guard dog has an attitude problem. In the park he starts a skirmish with a psychopathic sheepdog. As the hair flies, do you issue polite instructions such as ‘Sit, Frit’, or ‘Lassie, heel’?

When we are in the midst of a dogfight, the first priority is to separate and reduce the heat. Once calm is re-established, rules and discipline can return.

Point 13: When a child’s behavior has escalated over the top, this is not a time for rational reasoning. The first priority is to cool down the situation and regain control.

Forgive and move on

I do something really foolish. I know I have been silly and I apologize. But my words are not accepted. I apologize again and I ask what I can do to make up, but the door is slammed in my face. Now I feel intensely angry and am damned if I will say sorry again. Communication is now blocked and we have moved poles apart in our relationship.

Treat Children

Children don’t want to be at war with their parents, but often they are left with no other option. Be a peace maker. If at first your efforts are not accepted, keep offering the olive branch. Children eventually grasp the leaves and come back in close.

Point 14: After anger or punishment, forgive fast and start afresh with a clean slate.

Don’t stir up the animals life is full of frustrations, but we will go mad if we rise to every annoyance. When working in the lions’ cage do you take a stick and poke them in the backside or do you tread gently and avoid trouble?

Some parents nitpick and escalate every trivial event. They are incapable of letting an unimportant behavior pass. I spend hours every week trying to encourage parents to back off, but often I am wasting my breath. We don’t want to let our children get away with murder, but it isn¡¯t clever to stir up the animals over every imperfection.

Point 15: Let the unimportant things pass.

Filed Under: Family & Relationships


About the Author: Roberta Southworth is a psychiatrist by profession. She likes to help out people by writing informative tips on how people can to solve their family and relationship issues. She is currently staying in Ireland. She has 5 years of couple counseling experience.

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