(Continued from September 18, 2010) ......
4. Develop an ear and an eye for what your children are absorbing. Children are like sponges. Much of what they take in has to do with moral values and character. Books, songs, TV, the Internet, and films are continually delivering messages—moral and immoral—to our children. As parents we must control the flow of ideas and images that are influencing our children.
This is much tougher now than when we were kids. With the Internet and cable TV, our kids are potentially exposed to all that is wrong. Monitor their TV watching; monitor their song listening; monitor their Internet usage; monitor your child’s friends and their parents.
Decide the values that you want your kids to develop and then work at it 24/7 to ensure that they absorb what you want them to absorb and that they are shielded (at least for now) from the undesirable elements that are available to them.
5. Use the language of character. Children cannot develop a moral compass unless people around them use the clear, sharp language of right and wrong.
When I was a young whippersnapper, I had a friend whose dad never yelled and never used foul language. This was unusual in a neighborhood where parents used profanity on a seemingly regular basis. I once asked my friend to tell me the worst word that his dad ever used. The answer: THUNDER! Yes, THUNDER was the worst word that his dad had ever used.
So, when my own kids came along, guess what became my “profane” word of choice – yes, THUNDER! I’ve also added such ridiculous words and phrases as, “Jiminy Cricket”, Sweet Biscuits and Gravy”, “Sweet Pearl Jam”, “Holy Rat’s Elbow”, etc. Yes, those are the words that I use when I am upset! Guess what words my kids use when they get angry about something in life – yes, they are as lame as dad and I am grateful for that!
6. Punish with a loving heart. Today, punishment has a bad reputation. The results are guilt-ridden parents and self-indulgent, out-of-control children. Children need limits. They will ignore these limits on occasion. Reasonable punishment is one of the ways human beings have always learned. Children must understand what punishment is for and know that its source is parental love.
Set the limits and NEVER let them cross the lines. To paraphrase Dr. James Dobson, ‘Establish absolutes – lines that you will absolutely never cross’. As Dr. Ryan indicated, children need limits and they will ignore these limits on occasion.
We had a rule in our home when the kids were growing up (a rule that still seems to have some value to this day). The rule was that our kids represented the entire family. If they were outside of the home and did something less than acceptable, it would be a black mark against mom, dad, and siblings. One time, through a teacher’s note, I learned that one of my kids had misbehaved in school. I talked to him about it, he quickly confessed, and suitable consequences were were handed out.
To this day, I fully believe that, if I had not dealt with that particular issue on the spot with suitable consequences, it would have opened the door for him, and perhaps the others in the family, to further cross the lines of the absolutes that were established in our home.
(Please come back next week for Part 3)
Paul W. Reeves