Monday, January 3, 2011

Applying the Golden Rule to Parenting

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

In plain English: treat others how you would like to be treated. Ever thought how this might apply to the way you parent? No? That’s okay, I have ;)

The bottom line is: respect. Add to that: respect children. I think, if I had to come up with a single motto for parenting (for life, really) it would be: respect children.

Children are just small people. They have thoughts, opinions, beliefs, and values. You may not always agree with them. But just like any other person, they still count. Respect them. Sure, children need guidance and we, as adults have a responsibility to help them learn and grow, but we also have a responsibility to allow them to develop into their own people.

An easy way to apply the golden rule to parenting your children is with your words. I think of it this way: try not to speak to your children in a way you wouldn’t want someone (anyone- a friend, stranger, trusted colleague) speaking to you. In one of my favorite parenting books ever, Unconditional Parenting, Alfie Kohn gives a great example of this by comparing the way a parent might treat both a friend and a child who had consistently forgets their umbrella. With a friend, we might say:

“Oh, you forgot your umbrella again!”

But with our own child, we might be more likely to get frustrated, saying something like,

“How many times do I have to tell you to remember your umbrella? What is it going to take for you to remember??”

The latter is quite disrespectful and if we spoke to our adult friends that way, we probably wouldn’t have very many friends. Instead, it might be more peaceful to find ways to work with our children in respectful ways to help them learn to remember the umbrella. For instance, while your child is eating breakfast, do a ‘weather check’ and make a checklist of the items needed to prepare for the weather that day. Keep the items that might be needed (umbrella, rain boots, gloves, hat) in a basket by the door.

Respecting children is not only easy to do, but instills a sense of confidence in them and helps them learn the skills needed to become independent and successful in their everyday lives.

How do you respect your child?


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