I have learned a lot about raising well behaved children from watching others, watching the families of my childhood friends, watching people in the grocery store, personal experience, etc.
I get frsutrated with parents who do not train their children. It is not a matter of cruel discipline as a few would have you believe. It is a matter of setting proper, firm boundaries. One type of bad example are parents in a store who buy their kids a toy just so the kid doesn't scream in the store. I have discussed this with other parents and they wonder why the kid still screams of misbehaves in the store: "Did they not get a reward for doing good?" To me, it seems that the kid got rewarded for screaming. If the child starts to scream the parent will then say something like "If you don't scream, I will give you a ...". The kid has then learned to threaten the parent with screaming to get his or her way. In other words this is what the kid has learned: If I make mom or dad get mad they will give me what I want. Is that really what we would like children to learn? as a 3 year old it can be handled somewhat but as they grow this same behavior is reinforced. How does this learned pattern turn into behavior as a teenager? Do they push the limit of the boundary?
I was talking with my uncle recently and he said he has often heard people ask for an "instruction manual" for their children. His retort was that there are so many books about how to raise kids. They teach different styles and ideas but are they not instructions manuals of a sort? Do we actually read them? or do they sit on the shelf and we "hope" that our kids will be good because of our wishful musing.
As I have thought about all the knowledge and information about rasing children I have come up with several ideas that seem to work well. For my own purpoases, I have summarized these ideas with 3 simple words and ideas surrounding the words. Those three ideas are:
I call these the three C's. In more detail they are as follows
Care: Tell and show your children that you care. They need to know it and see it. Respect them and be there for them. Listen to them, if you think of something to say, pause and just listen instead. They will figure things out if you listen. Also, when they ask, even something personal, tell them the truth not partial truths. ... age appropriate truths of course. For example, one day I was talking with my daughter, then just barely 4 years old, about Santa Claus. She asked how he and the reindeer flew. I replied that it was magic. The day before we had had a discussion about how magic was not real. She thought for a second and asked if Santa was real. She had figured it out, and if she had not done so on her own I would have not told her that Santa is not real. I also told her that it is fun for young children to believe in Santa and their fun can be ruined by telling them that he is not real. I think that she has not told another child that he is not real. When she asked, I told her the truth. Truth is one simple way to show that you care for and respect your child.
Calm: Be calm. Difficult situations are best handled with a calm mind. Never give out consequences for their actions when you are upset. If you start to get up set, send them to their room saying that you will talk with them when you have calmed down. They follow your lead. Talk to them when you are calm and explain what they have done wrong. Often parents divy out consequences to their children without clarely defining what was done wrong. This confuses the child and leads to further wrong behavior. For example, we were trying to train our 2 year old not to go out into the street. But she kept running into the street. After many attempts of telling her not to go into the street, she looked at me and said, "What's a street?". That opened my eyes and I explained. Before she asked, I could have been angry, but what good would that have done? What would she have learned accept to get angry when someone doesn't understand you?
Consistant: If you make a rule, it must be applied equally (even to you) and justly to all. If you give you child a consequence for their action, you must be willing to actually do it. For example, we were visiting family and a child in the home was being rather difficult. The mother threatened the child that if he did not calm down that my family would not be staying the night with them. Was she serious? She would kick us out because of her child's actions? Of course, she would not, but that is my point. Her son knew that she would not make us leave and continued his behavior. Children recognize an untrue consequences or unjust punishments faster than we adults might recognize those same things.
I think the 3-C's, if applied constantly will lead to good, well behaved children and a loving family.