Sometimes we get so focused on correcting the misbehavior right in front of us and getting things “under control” that we forget that our kids are learning skills they will take with them way beyond childhood, into adulthood, for their entire lives. Skills that they will use on the playground with friends, or in the classroom when talking to a teacher, or with their significant other, or at work with co-workers. Learning these life skills will help your child succeed in life. So the next time your child misbehaves, take a moment to reflect on what life skill you’d like your child to learn. When you do that, you will find it easier to respond in a more effective way.
- How to communicate feelings effectively: When children have hard feelings (i.e. tantrums or back talk), parents often want to stop the behavior. But that doesn’t teach the life skill of communicating feelings effectively, it actually does the opposite. Instead it’s more helpful to allow the emotion and redirect to a respectful way to share emotions. With tantrums that often looks like allowing the tantrum while holding space as your child expresses their feelings. As children get older and begin to back talk, “this is so stupid!” teach them how to share their feeling respectfully “I see you’re angry. It’s ok to be angry. You need to express that in a more respectful way.”
- How to repair their mistakes: Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes and it’s what we do after the mistake that counts. So when a child makes a mistake or breaks an agreement, it’s important to teach your child to repair the mistake, rather than try to cover up the mistake, lie, blame others, or make excuses. When teaching a child to repair mistakes, avoid punishment. Help them get in touch with how they are feeling about the mistake and how the other person is feeling, and guide them to repair that mistake so that they can get back in integrity with themselves and others.
- How to manage conflict with respect: Disagreements are a part of life, and it’s important for children to know how to respectfully disagree and manage conflict with another, whether that be with their sibling, parent, friends, spouse, co-worker, or boss. So when your children are fighting, instead of solving the problem for them, be there to guide them and teach them this life skill of conflict management.
- How to ask for what they want: Whining, tantruming, manipulating, sneaking, threatening–those are all ways children will try to get what they want, but those aren’t going to be helpful skills as an adult. We need to teach children how to be direct in asking for what they want, while doing so in a kind and respectful way. (This is a skill I’m still working on as an adult…I have a hard time asking for what I want because I feel guilty, so then I end up getting angry and resentful and try to manipulate the other person’s feelings so that they offer what I want without me having to ask for it).
- How to learn from failure: Failure is a part of life, but we can’t let us stop it. One of the keys for success in life is learning to move on and keep going after failure. Work hard even when you’re not met with success right away. Instilling resilience in our kids will take them far in life.
My parenting course, Family Elements, is rooted in teaching kids these life skills, plus more! I teach a step-by-step process to help you teach your child how to repair mistakes, have a printable to help your children manage conflict through win-win negotiation, share several ways to encourage children and build self-esteem and resilience, and tools to help you effectively discipline in a way that will improve their future behavior.