There are three ways to use the new PKR:
Or mix and match! Have fun as you get the information you need!
Children today think they are pretty special. No wonder! Parents concentrate on building the child’s self-esteem. We say, “Good job!” even if the job was pretty awful. We are exquisitely concerned about the child’s feelings.
When I was growing up things were very different. My parents did not hesitate to tell me, “We are ashamed of you! You hit the baby! Go to your room until we say you can come out!” When I was sprung they might say, “Shame on you! You are five years older than your sister. You should know better! Don’t ever do that again.”
And I didn’t. Were my feelings hurt? Of course! There is nothing worse than realizing both your parents are ashamed of you. And for something YOU DID. What to do now? You figure out that hitting babies (or anybody smaller than you) is bad and you make darned sure you never do it again.
My parents often said something else to me that in retrospect sounds pretty elitist but it reinforced my efforts to be good. It went something like this: “Our family is a good family. Your grandfather, as well as your mother and father, graduated from college. The WHOLE FAMILY expects you to behave.” Wow, a pretty heavy trip! But it got me thinking. I was not the only person in the universe. Other people were connected to me and expected me to behave.
Eventually I figured out that behaving well came with a reward. Your parents and family were proud of you. Ditto doing well at school. The teachers gave you good grades and said they were proud of you.
How you feel about yourself is important because you have to feel both valued and competent in order to be in a space where you can thrive and learn and develop into a pretty decent human being. But there is another very important measure. What do other people think of you?
Character, a word we don’t hear as much as we used to, can be understood as a measure of what other people think of you. Do other people trust you? Do they know you tell the truth and do not cheat? Do they think you care about others or just yourself? Do people feel comfortable recommending you for a school or job?
What does all this have to do with parenting today? I think children will be better served if parents 1) Go easy on the exaggerated praise. 2) Raise the high expectation bar. 3) Put character, which is defined as moral or ethical strength, back in the equation.
All of us advice-mongers, including myself, have repeatedly told parents to say the act you did is bad but you are a good child. Maybe that confuses kids. At the time I hit my younger sister I was not a good child and I deserved my punishment. My parents gave me the opportunity to figure out how to be a good child so I could avoid causing them shame.
Maybe we should change our strategy a bit. Let’s never be cruel or sarcastic or demeaning. Let’s not make our offending child go through life feeling miserable. But let’s never hesitate to tell a child who has misbehaved that we are upset.
And let’s concentrate on the importance of what other people think of us in our family, school and community. Remind your children they will not be valued for how many toys or gadgets or clothes they have but how they treat other people. Character counts!
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