Many parents come to me and ask for help because their children are misbehaving. I always ask what their plan is. What works for them in disciplining and what doesn’t? It is an interesting conversation. Because raising a family based upon no specific values or plan often feels chaotic. So I guide the parents into making a plan.
The first thing I ask them to discuss is their core personal values. I give them a list of values many people believe at their core such a faith, education, thoughtfulness, trust, etc. I have them choose their top 10. I make sure the couple is aware that since they have different upbringings, their answers will be different.
Then I have them pick 10 core values they want to impart to their children that they both agree on. These will be their Top 10 Core Family Values.
The following discussion is about how those core values look and how they can be taught based on the age of their children and throughout their children’s’ childhoods.
This allows for a conversation on behavior expectations and discipline plans. If the parents (married or divorced) are on the same page for core family values and behavior expectations/discipline, there is less confusion for the children and they behave better because they know what is expected of them. And they know the consequences for choosing a behavior the parents don’t value.
Most adults have heard that children like rules and structure. That is true but if they don’t know the rules and why the parents value them, then it becomes more of a power struggle. And punishing a child without a reason (at least to the child) is about power. Some parents believe that they should always be obeyed but they can’t figure out how to make it happen.
Children and teens follow rules that they believe make sense and they can see why a rule exists. Many teachers start the first day of school having students discus what rules are best for the classroom and why. They have learned that this helps the student have buy-in for the class rules and they are more willing to accept consequences when they choose not to follow the rules.
How can this help your family feel more peaceful? You have a plan, a way to implement the plan, you have buy –in from the whole family and everyone knows what the family’s values are so the plan makes sense to all. This creates calm, peace and focus for your family.
Let’s take one possible core family value and see how this works.
Thoughtfulness can be taught to all ages. Explain what it is –consideration for the needs of others. Use an example such as: thoughtfulness is when you take some ones plate to the sink for them just because you care. You can then have your children practice acts of thoughtfulness as well as setting a good example and pointing out when you see others being thoughtful.
This is a good time to discuss how thoughtfulness makes the receiving person feel. You can also find ways to do thoughtful things for others as a family.
Now you have buy-in, understanding of the value, the children will do the behavior to please you and for the joy of seeing others happiness.
Include in this scenario the behavior plan for when your child is being thoughtLESS.
Explain that this means not caring about the needs of others. An example might be that someone is on crutches and you walk through the door without holding it for the other person.
What might a consequence be for a child who chooses to be thoughtless?
Maybe they have to apologize to the other person. They might write them a letter. Or they could do one of their siblings’ chores if they hurt them by being thoughtless.
Now you have a complete parenting plan for your children and how you want to raise them and what kind of adult you would like them to become.
Remember, you are raising a future adult.
Kim Martinez, M.S.
True North Counseling
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