Selfishness and entitlement seem to have become a prominent character trait of many children AND adults today. As a therapist, I believe some of this results from misplaced priorities in parenting, and even in trying to shield our children from perceived harm.
Character development starts at home. The social interactions and behaviors a child sees from his parents is what influences his behaviors outside of the home. Here is a short list of behaviors that are beneficial for children to see modeled by parents.
5 Important Behaviors Kids Need to See Modeled by Adults
There is a window of time in a child’s life where his parents are superheroes. If you are able to humble yourself to your child and apologize when you make a mistake, this helps a child learn humility and how to apologize to others. Many parents are under the misconception that apologizing to a child makes the child respect their authority less. Instead, it prevents the child from learning a very important social skill that will make him more socially adept. Another reason many parents do not apologize to their children is because it’s just plain hard. It means having to set aside pride. Don’t let pride get in the way of gifting your child with the lesson of apologizing.
2.) Conflict Resolution
“I never heard my parents fight,” is a common comment I hear from adult clients when I ask about how their parents handled conflict during their childhoods. On the surface, this may sound good, but what I find is that many times children are sheltered from seeing a disagreement resolved in the safety of their own homes. If a child’s parents are able to safely disagree in front of a child (about a topic that is appropriate for listening ears), behave respectfully, and solve the issue at hand in a healthy way, then why shield the child from any and all disagreements?
3.) Reflective Listening
If your child learns reflective listening, you have given your child a gift that will help him interact with people in a healthy way for the rest of his life. What is reflective listening? It’s being able to listen to another person in a way that shows that person that you see him as an equal. It’s not talking over the other person or just thinking about what you should say next while they are talking. It means taking what that person says and responding with words that show that you are trying to empathize with that person. You cannot be a reflective listener and be defensive at the same time.
4.) Be Assertive
Jesus said let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ People-pleasing is not an assertive behavior, nor is having the good intentions of saying yes to any demand and then not following through. Nothing can create more anxiety and relational discord like not knowing if a person is a person of their word. Having problems with the kids at home? Check to see if you are consistent with what you say and if you do what you said.
5.) Spiritual Discipline
Quiet time and scripture study helps parents. It helps kids too. The days you as a parent set the time aside for this practice benefits everyone. What you learn during your quiet time can be introduced during car rides or times your child has a question about something that is bothering him. Find teachable moments, they happen every day. Look for them, but don’t come across as condescending. Ask your child what he thinks, then create a conversation about it infusing what you have learned through your own life experience and with biblical principles.
Setting aside time to do family devotionals and family prayer time promotes family cohesion and deepening of faith. When your child knows that you have a specified time for doing this daily, he comes to expect it. This is yet another gift you can give your child that can continue to help him prosper for the rest of his life.
Every social interaction has potential lessons. The behaviors modeled at home are the foundational for the social skills that a child takes into the world. The world is not a “happy” place. Kids need to see that conflict and mistakes happen. They also need to see these things resolved in a productive, healthy way. With these five behaviors, you will have put powerful tools in their hands.