RAISING GOOD, RESPONSIBLE CHILDREN IS A SELFISH ACT.
Considering my own upbringing and working with many people for over the past two decades has allowed me to witness different behaviors and hear endless stories about family dynamics. This has helped me develop my own parenting style.
Parents face situations every day that require them to choose between correction or reward. That can lead to severe conflicts and even trauma. Or it can lead to memorable moments, constructive habits, and solid relationships.
Although I am right in the middle of my parenting road with my nine- and six-year-old daughters, I have been managing our respective journeys quite well so far. It hasn’t always been easy. Divorce certainly added some interesting detours.
As they get older, my daughters have gotten into the habit of demanding answers from me.
It’s important to consider the greater takeaway. Regardless of the interaction, what values will they see in my responses and decisions?
Our primary relationship pillar is trust. This is one of the most important things I have developed with my daughters. Mutual trust is an unwritten contract. Every choice I make must reinforce that agreement.
I always do what I say, not only with them but with everyone. I expect the same in return.
My daughters know I will always honor my commitments. If they bring a valid point to my attention, I will step up. This also helps them organize their discussion points. Negotiation is an important skill. I expect them to step up, too, when it’s appropriate, and they know it.
Another essential piece of our relationship is active listening.
I am intrinsically interested in what they have to say. It is fun to push them to think further and evaluate all possibilities. Children’s thought processes can be quite entertaining. But their thinking also needs to develop depth and understanding.
Victoria, the nine-year-old, once asked me before dinner if she could have a cookie. Of course, the answer was No. Instead of moving on, she behaved like any other child and insisted, “Pleeeease, Daddy, can I have a cookie?”
My response was constructive and playful. With genuine curiosity, I asked, “What makes you believe that asking me the exact same question using the exact same words will get you a different answer?” My question was not rhetorical. I wanted to hear her thoughts.
She didn’t hesitate to get back to me with the usual, “I don’t know.”
“Do you want to know?” I continued. She shrugged. “You repeat yourself because you want to break me,” I answer. “And I cannot be broken.“
I always tell them that wordless communication, like pouting and stamping feet, does not move a discussion forward. Tantrums are not dialogue.
When dealing with problems, I want to fix the issue permanently. Whether or not I’m successful at that is a different thing.
My daughters will be in my life forever. Why not make my life easier by ensuring they won’t come to me repeatedly with the same problem or requests?
Why wouldn’t I make my life easier by establishing boundaries and creating a healthy relationship with them based on mutual respect?
Why wouldn’t I make my life easier by putting more effort into our relationships now when I have the energy rather than later when I might be less patient?
Understanding how we feel and communicating it is very important. I tell my young daughters how I feel and I try hard to help them understand.
For example, when I ask them to clean their room and make their beds, they occasionally ignore me.
Instead of repeating myself, I switch gears. I think of something they really want and introduce the concept like this: “Hey guys, do you want frozen yogurt after dinner?” Then, I immediately walk away before they have time to answer.
After a few seconds, I come back and ask, “How did that make you feel?” I hear words like “unimportant,” “ignored,” and “confused.”
I tell them, “Well, that’s how I feel after I ask you to clean your room and make your beds, and you ignore me.” Point made. Empathy revived.
My life as a professional athlete has taught me that every action has a reaction. How I treat my daughters now impacts how they will respond to me ten years from now. Therefore, I am responsible for building a great and sustainable rapport with my children, so I will be proud of our relationships now and in the future. The wrong choices will lead to disappointment and resentment. Raising respectful and well-behaved kids is essentially doing myself a favor since I will be the one reaping the fruits of my labor.
So, is raising well behaved children selfish? You be the judge.
Have a great day.