Friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike marvel all the time at how well-behaved my little girl is. Some of them ask me how she listens so well, while others just comment that they can not believe she’d ever have a tantrum.
Make no mistake, Savina does have tantrums–a lot of them. All children do. It’s normal. It’s natural. Apart from testing their limits, they have big emotions and are still learning to deal with those emotions.
I strongly believe there are four pillars to raising my child to be well-behaved. They are:
not giving in, following through, showing sympathy, and modeling
and I want to give a little example or two for each of them. I will explain what each pillar stands for and why it is, in my humble opinion, a corner stone for good behavior.
Not giving in
Example. I play a puzzle with Savina, or read a book with her. We play/read for a while, and then I tell her we’re done for now. She wants more. A commonly made mistake is to repeat no, we’re done, watching the child cry and protest, and then saying, fine, one more. In other words, you’re giving in. Be it because you’re stressed, tired, or just don’t want to deal with the tears at this time–just don’t let it become a habit. She’ll figure you out fast, will know that she can twist you around her little finger. The result will be more tears, more tantrums, and less acceptance. Another example is if she asks you for a particular toy she wants to play with, or a particular food she wants to eat. If you said no the first time, don’t let her cry you into saying yes.
I try very hard not to punish and not to threaten punishment in the first place, but sometimes I don’t have the patience, or time, or composure to deal with a situation in the way I would like to instead. This happens rarely, actually, because I have adapted really well to offering alternatives instead of threatening punishments, but it does happen occasionally–usually in an “either or” way. And while a threat slips once in a while (I can probably count them on one hand), I have never actually needed to punish her. If you can read just a little bit of pride between the lines here–it’s there.
So, examples for following through. My little girl goes to my bookshelf and starts pulling out my books, although she knows she’s not allowed to. I tell her to stop but she won’t listen. I tell her stop now or you will go to your room. (I’ve never actually said anything like this to her, nor has she ever continued playing with my books when I asked her to stop, so this is a hypothetical example.) She keeps going, so what I’d have to do is send her to her room. Show her I mean what I say.
Another example. This one actually happened several months ago. Savina watched a short educational show on Netflix, and when the show was done, she wanted to see more. She began to throw a fit about it when I said, no more. So I said to her, listen, if you keep this up, you won’t be watching any TV anymore at all. (as in ever). I asked her, do you understand? She said yes, and her tantrum was over. Now, if hypothetically she had continued to throw a fit about it, I would have had to go through with it, and not let her watch anymore TV for what would’ve felt like an eternity to her (probably a couple of weeks).
A very common example is, if you want your child to stop playing a certain way with a toy (e.g. banging a block on a glass surface), and if the child doesn’t comply, you threaten to take the toy away. Well, if you just threaten it, and the child gets to keep playing with the toy, the child will learn that s/he has the power to do whatever s/he wants.
I find this to be so very important. When your child is upset about the rules imposed on him, or upset about you being angry with him, especially following a tantrum situation or suchlike, I feel it’s so important to show that you care about his feelings. A good example is that after not giving in, when your child continues to cry and fuss, please sit down with him and tell him something like, I’m sorry, baby, I understand, I know it’s hard. Are you upset that we’re done playing? You wanted to play more, didn’t you? It also often helps to then offer an alternative, like in above example I’d say something along the lines, how about we play again in the evening? Or, we can play more tomorrow morning, okay? If you’re angry with your child, kneel down to him, or sit with him, and calmly say something like, I’m sorry I was angry with you, but xyz. Even when your child didn’t listen and put himself in danger because of that (e.g. like playing with hot stuff), or especially then, you need to show that you were angry because you care about him. Don’t just boss your child around. Show sympathy. Remember that he’s still little and doesn’t see the world the same way you as an adult do.
You are your child’s first teacher. Your child looks up to you and will copy your behavior. I don’t scream at Savina. (Well, I do have my moments because I’m not perfect–but again, you can probably count it on one hand). I don’t hit her, or talk to her like a boss to his minion. I show kindness, understanding, love, and how to be gentle. There’s no yelling or slapping in our house. There are pleases and thank yous and sorrys. I use calm voice, gentle touch, explain and ask instead of tell and order (for example, I’ll say, would you close the fridge door please? when she opened it but I didn’t want her in the fridge at this time, instead of saying, close the fridge door. Now.). We are as nice and well behaved towards her as we expect her to be towards everyone else. Personally, I consider her to be on equal level with me when it comes to emotions. I respect her space and accept her feelings just as I expect other adults to respect and accept mine.
So that’s it. I’m convinced that the four points I made above have greatly contributed to my daughter’s good behavior. I hope you can take away something from this, or maybe you’ve had similar experiences, and the article resonated with your own way of raising your children. How do you instill good behavior in your child? Leave me a comment.
P.S.: A small feature on Savina’s second birthday will come next time. Thanks for reading!