This week we look at the third secret of highly effective discipline: Model the Right Behaviour. In addition to offering positive reinforcement, modelling appropriate behaviour is equally important. Be mindful of what you say and how you say it—not just when you are talking to your child, but when dealing with others as well.
Tip 3: Model the Right Behaviour
Parents may not always realise how much their children look up to them, and this is particularly true of young children who learn to imitate 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.
Modelling provides visual clues to what acceptable behaviour is and indirectly reinforces the appropriate way to act.
As an example, consider what happens in your car when you have a frustrating encounter. Suppose you’re driving down the road when suddenly you notice the car behind you is barely inches from your bumper, and then the driver begins flashing their high beams and leaning on the horn.
Most people would let loose a slew of obscenities, jam on the brake and maybe throw up a “friendly” hand gesture, but suppose you instead slowdown in an attempt to get the aggressive driver pass you or you change lanes and let the hurried driver pass.
The first scenario can be confusing to your child if you’re always reminding them to “use nice words” and showing joy when you catch them using nice words. What is being demonstrated is the opposite—a lack of self-control—which conveys that you don’t have to use nice words when you’re angry. The second scenario demonstrates proper problem solving skills by remaining calm and not endangering others on the road, despite being angry.
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 meals” or “it is not appropriate to shout at one another 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 or shout at them” as it leaves open the idea that outside, or in another house, pushing people might be just fine.
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, and can be shown by holding doors open for others at the shopping centre, waiting for the light to cross a street, disposing refuse properly – not throwing things out of our car windows, waiting patiently in a queue, the list is endless. The more children see their parents acting appropriately the more normal it becomes, and the more likely they will be to copy this good behaviour themselves.
When it comes to modelling good behaviours for your child, it is important to be patient and consistent. No habit is formed overnight, but modelling appropriate actions and speech will help your child understand how to properly interact with the world around them.
To be continued.