“If I have told you once I have told you a thousand times put your dishes in the dishwasher, not in the sink.”
I suspect a variation of this comment is played out in one form or another in homes around the world as parents continually correct children’s poor behaviors and annoying habits.
How much do you keep picking up on children’s poor behavior?
Well, it depends on the type of behavior, the child and your levels of tolerance.
I am a firm believer that the more adults reminds a child verbally about a behavior the more they assume responsibility for it. Also constant reminders about behavior tend to encourage parent deafness in children. They generally tune out when we drone on. Better to burn your favorite reminders, lectures and morality tales on CD and give it to them to listen at their leisure if you must have your say!
Action rather than reminders tends to change children’s behavior. I am not suggesting that you take offensive action every time a dish is left on a table, a child interrupts you in public or whatever your child’s annoying habit maybe. But do something different if your words don’t have an affect. Be a little less cooperative than normal. Ban whatever it is they may misuse. Take kids who misbehave in public home. Do whatever it takes in a reasonable way to impress on children that you are serious.
Of course, some children’s annoying or uncooperative behaviors don’t matter in the long term. I recall one mother who was at her wit’s end about the untidiness of ten-year-old’s bedroom. It became a constant battle of wills as mum nagged about the state of the floor, walls and the unmade bed. He daughter just dug her heals in and refused to budge. Standoff at the OK Corale if ever I saw it. In fact, I suspect for this mother the dispute was less about the bedroom and more about ‘I want to make you’. The bedroom had just become a handy battlefield and the child held all the aces.
The child was doing well at school, was generally well adjusted and well behaved. It was just that her bedroom looked like a war zone. But her mother couldn’t see past the bedroom for the positive stuff. Like many parents she was so close to her the situation that she had lost perspective and couldn’t see that in the long-term scheme of things a messy bedroom was small beer.
Typically, the girl’s father couldn’t see what the fuss was about. He just closed the bedroom door so he didn’t have to see it. Problem solved for him.
Some behaviors need to be picked up on. If you have a teenager then it seems that one way you show you care is by being like Attila the Hun and reminding them for the thousandth time that homework needs to be done before the television goes on. Some kids have so much going on in their lives that the very basic stuff of finishing a task or tidying up is irrelevant to them.
It is necessary to be sure about which behaviors are worth picking up on and which ones parents should let go. Otherwise, all some children will hear at home are constant reminders of “Do this ..., don’t do that ..., I’ve told you before ...” And their eyes will get that familiar glaze as they tune out and parent deafness sets in.
As always for parents it is a matter of being sparing with your criticism of children and smart about the battles you choose to enter.