Children want to be respected also

On the weekend I was at the farmers market in Eagle Farm when I saw a dad berate his young daughter for not doing something. What really annoyed me was that he was attempting to use adult logic with a 7 year old. Good luck my friend! It really bothers me when I see a mum or a dad ripping into their kid about something they have done or said or even a way they have behaved without any explanation or forethought. You often see them erupting like a volcano on the kid without any thought for the feelings of the kid or the circumstances surrounding the offense. But before you start on me for suggesting all kids are angels let me explain.

Not all kids are angels, I know, I have two of my own and countless nieces and nephews. Two of which are the spurn of the devil. I’m not kidding! I know we have all heard how we should talk to our children respectfully and model the kind of behaviour we expect from them, but sometimes they just don’t, can’t or won’t listen. The truth is kids will be kids and that’s about all we can expect from them.

I raise this topic because of the countless times I have had to listen to a man or woman tell me about their dreadful upbringing and how they were never affirmed, never given the benefit of the doubt and never respected. They were always told they were bad kids, naughty children etc. And it is no surprise why they are seeing me with the expectation I will help them out of this mess.

The truth is that for many people in this situation there is often no hope. They will repeat theirs parent’s mistakes and cause untold damage on their own children. But for those of you who are just starting out in the parenting world and don’t want to burden your children with heavy criticism and low self-esteem here is a little advice. Advice I have used myself and helped others use as well.

Have you ever considered that there might be a better way to raise a topic or start a discussion around something that is sensitive?

So if you are one of those people who has walked away from a run-in with your child thinking, “Damn I wished I hadn’t said that!” or “Bugger, I could have handled that differently” then you are not alone. But help is at hand.

The CRAP Sandwich – A Child’s Self-Worth Building Tool

Forgive me if you have heard this one before but I find it is very effective in building a child’s self-worth. In fact it is a very effective tool for anyone, be they friends, pupils, siblings etc.

This technique works particularly well with kids, specifically teenagers. For want of a better name I have called it the Crap sandwich. I know it is elegant and charming in its own way but stick with me and you too will be charmed by its simplicity.

Here’s the best description I can give you.

…So for a moment picture in your mind a sandwich. Now for simplicities sake let us imagine you have two white slices of bread and some filing. Two pieces of nice buttered white bread and in between, the discipline stuff.

Here’s how it works:

Once again it works equally well with peers, colleagues, cousins and aunts as it does with children. So lets say you are away from the home at work perhaps and your partner is taking care of the kids. As kids will do they play up somewhat and by the time you arrive home your partner is pulling her hair out.

She gives you the usual commentary about how badly behaved the kids were with the expectation you go in there and sort them out. And you dutifully do that. Of course the result can never be predicted and if things are not handled well, everything quickly downs south and everyone is left feeling bad. You especially, because you had to lay down the law and get a bad outcome to boot.

Unfortunately this pattern keeps repeating itself. What is needed is a little bit of charm offensive. It is worth keeping in mind that most kids, and in fact most adults respond positively to kind and encouraging words of affirmation. No real surprise there.

So the next time you want to race into their room and start yelling and laying down the law first consider checking in with your partner to get the low down on what actually transpired.

1. First piece of WHITE BREAD:

As you start to engage with the kids be sure to ask them about their day first and engage in simple conversation. No Yelling! When it comes time to disciple you might say to the offender. “Hey Chris you know I think you are an awesome kid and I love you and want to remind you that you did a fantastic job cleaning your room the other day (or whatever thing they did that merits attention, something good). It really makes me proud that you get in there and help. “Well done son!”

2. The filling (crap).

So you are nice, you have approached the situation calmly and been gentle with you child. Now that you have done the ‘soft start-up’ you can proceed to get to the real reason why you have cornered your kid. You might want to start with this: “You know mum tells me you have been misbehaving a bit and being a little naughty and you know we had this conversation a little while ago. Chris I really need your help to look after mum until I am back from work. I need your help. But you also need to do the things mum asks you to do. OK?” “You know, helping mum equals helping me”. That kind of stuff!

Remember to remain calm as they put their case forward and always bring them back to the agreement you made together. Don’t raise your voice to meet theirs (or anyone’s for that matter) but keep an even keel soft voice. (You will be surprised to find that if you keep a soft voice while arguing with someone they will start copying the tempo and level). Remember to remind them that you had an agreement by asking them why the agreement is so important. Now I understand that some kids are just plain unruly and will act up no matter what. But in my experience most kids respond well. And think about this for a moment. How would you feel if you witnessed someone talking poorly to your kids, the way you sometimes do?

3. White Bread

Here is where we lay the last piece of bread down and its ready to eat. Remember how it is when the sandwich is almost done! It’s a good moment. So we get the ugly stuff out of the way but we can’t leave it at that. We now need to reinforce their good behaviour and encourage them to keep up the good work. So you might say something like: “Hey Chris I know you can do what is asked of you because you are a great kid and you always want to do what is right. You make me proud.”

Children, like all adults, who were all once children, lap praise up. Kids love to hear it. I have come across many adults who bulk at this idea and they say daft things like “I don’t want to make them think they are the best kid ever and that they are better than everyone else” or “They don’t deserve praise, they’ve been naughty” Just a word of advice my friend “Pull your head in”! There is no denying the fact that as a child you swam in affirmation. You looked forward to it whether you got it or not. Please don’t deny the child a right to feel good about themselves because you were never affirmed. Please don’t get caught up in the false notion that you are creating a vain, self-serving child. You are not. You are giving praise where it is called for and appropriate. Try this approach and adjust it, as you need to.

The bottom line is this: if we don’t try a new approach to raising our kids we are going to get the same results we have always gotten. There is no shame in sitting down with your children and discussing important issues. What is needed above all else is their buy-in. If they feel they are being heard you can bet things will change.

Like most of us, your children have a need to feel secure and a need to feel appreciated (affirmed).

Remember when we affirm our family we are giving them a gift. But we cannot take these gifts, they must be given and received.

Good Luck