“Joyful children naturally tend to be more polite, responsible and empathetic.”
Parents often wonder if it is possible to raise polite, responsible, empathetic children without using punishment. Not only is it possible, it is imperative to shift the way we think about ‘discipline’, the way we express expectations and the way we set up our family environment so that children can grow into their expanded emotional and spiritual potential.
In this article, I am going to share three principles that are keys to raising joyful children. Joyful children naturally tend to be more polite, responsible and empathetic.
1. Spend time bonding and attuning with your children
Children sense their value when parents authentically find pleasure being with them. One of the best ways to attune to your child is to allow and enjoy their unique perspective of the world. Do not insist that s/he see or experience life from your vantage point. We all want to be loved, accepted and valued exactly as we are. You do not have to agree with their points of view, but you can respect your children’s expressions of individuality as long as their safety is not at risk.
Children need loving attention from adults who are present and child-focused. This may come through some words of appreciation or a few minutes playing and enjoying each other.
2. Be the model you wish to see
Children notice just about everything their parents do. We cannot demand that they control their own emotions while we are shouting, screaming, ranting or cursing. It is indeed a great challenge to live a life of high integrity when our kids are watching. By the time they are teens, children have decided if their parents are hypocrites or authentically striving to ‘walk their walk.’
If you want your child to use kind words, intellect, reasoning or empathy to deal with their emotions, you need to consistently model the wanted behavior. Be aware of the way you display your own anger and frustration. If you are yelling or screaming, do not expect your kids to do it better.
In order for our children to develop qualities that involve appreciation and caring for others, the best we can do is live those qualities ourselves. Children who live with compassion tend to grow into adults who express compassion. Words do not teach. Children learn from what they experience.
3. Set up clear, consistent, age appropriate, predictable routines and expectations
Consistency lets children know what to expect, it helps them feel safe within a structure of rules and boundaries. Be careful not to confuse this with being rigid. You are aiming for a safe and nurturing environment where children know what to expect. Children will push, test and manipulate when boundaries are inconsistent or do not make sense to them.
Clarify your family’s ‘way of being.’ What do you believe about the way we treat people, animals, the earth, possessions, etc. Does your behavior reflect your values? How do you handle it when someone messes up? It takes about three weeks of doing something the same way for it to become a routine. It is so worth the effort! Once you have your morning and evening routines in place you will find it unnecessary to nag or threaten. Do it with love and with a playful spirit and it will pay off tenfold.
Children are constantly figuring out the ‘rules of life.’ Using shame, guilt, fear or threats to encourage positive choices creates a rupture of trust between parent and child. You can develop a habit of helpfulness rather than an environment of punishment to teach children positive expressions of their needs and feelings.
It is really challenging to be the parent we so want to be; especially when we are blessed with sensitive, intense, or power seeking children. These kids push our buttons and we find ourselves with a choice: We can take it personally and rev up the punishments or we can seek ways of growing as a disciplinarian, in the process rediscovering our true power and ultimately falling in love with these kids all over again.
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