Parents may not always realise how much their children look up to them, and this is particularly true of young children who learn to copy their parents’ behaviour. Without even meaning to, parents are teaching their children how to act every second of every day, and children are learning about what are considered appropriate actions from what they see their parents do. This means that as much as possible parents should be modelling good behaviour for their children rather than adopting a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude towards good behaviour.
Teaching Kids About Behavioural Choices
Learning to make good behavioural choices is a part of growing up, but many children benefit from hearing their parents discuss what makes a good behavioural choice. For example, when parents tell their kids that “it is polite to say thank you after dinner” or “it is not appropriate to yell when inside” the children begin to understand the rules of good conduct. However, parents should be wary of making statements such as “in this house we don’t push people” as it leaves open the idea that outside, or in another house, pushing people might be just fine.
Modelling Good Behaviour
In addition to describing good behaviour, parents should also strive to model good behaviour for their children. This means everything from saying please and thank you, picking up books and toys, turning off the lights when leaving a room and refraining from swearing. Modelling good behaviour should also take place outside of the house, such as by holding doors open for others at the shopping centre, waiting for the light to cross a street and waiting patiently in a queue. The more that children see their parents acting appropriately the more normal it becomes, and the more likely they will be to copy this good behaviour themselves.
Modelling Inappropriate Behaviour
At times parents may often model inappropriate behaviour for their children. No one is perfect, so parents should explain this to their children. Parents will also want to discuss why their actions were inappropriate and what they should have done instead. If a parent models an inappropriate behaviour that a child is working to avoid, such as swearing, then acknowledging the problem and disciplining themselves will also help children to see that the parent acted incorrectly. Simply by saying “No, Mummy can not have pudding tonight as she left her books all over the living room” allows parents to acknowledge that what they did was wrong and show their children that they recognise it and will deal with the same consequences that the children would if they did the same thing. When trying to teach good behaviour to children, it helps for parents to follow the same rules and not attempt to be ‘above the law’. This only teaches children that there are separate sets of rules for separate people, rather than that all polite people act in the same way.
Modelling good behaviour is important for parents trying to teach their children how to act. When mistakes do happen and parents model inappropriate behaviour, acknowledging it and explaining why it was wrong are equally important.