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Three simple steps to take charge when your children’s friends are driving you nuts

Three simple steps to take charge when your children’s friends are driving you nuts

Same Passport, Different Culture

A great thing about living abroad is our children become exposed to many different cultures. This makes them tolerant, accepting, and more global which will be fabulous traits for their futures. Yet, many times our children seek out friends who are the same nationality, speak the same language, or look similar to them. When these are the defining traits to start friendships, sometimes more important characteristics such as honesty, compassion, or fairness may be forgotten.

As a parent, this can mean that, at times, our child has invited over a friend that does not fit our ideal image of who we want our child playing with. The children may be the same nationality and/or speak the same language, but the children are worlds apart in terms of upbringing, values and morals. The situation may be more complex if the friend is the son or daughter of a co-worker or our personal friend.

Walking a tightrope between judging and safety

Every family is different and there are no universal norms for how to raise a child. As a family, it is important to be accepting of the infinite variations that are present. That said, in order for children to fluidly move between the houses of friends, participate in sleep overs, attend parties, and go on outings with other families, it is useful that some basic behaviors are learned to ensure every child’s safety and security.

  • Honesty. Honesty keeps children accountable for their actions. Whether saying where they will be for the night, where they have been, what their activities where, who they were hanging out with, or whatever else, being honest when sharing information with parents and adults keeps kids from making costly mistakes that the adults in their lives could have helped them avoid.
  • Respect. Respect covers both verbal and physical domains. Children should have respect for adults, other children, property, and the laws of the communities in which they live (school, town, housing complex, etc.). Having respect in all areas keeps children safe from unintended consequences such as fights, trouble with the police, or discipline problems at school.
  • Self-control. Self-control involves noticing and applying the instructions or rules of the situation or location during decision making. The goal is to limit impulse decision making. Children who use self-control are able to conform to rules as necessary to maintain order, safety, and respect. Failure to use self-control can put a child in danger because rules, laws, or respect are broken.

These three basic concepts will help children conform to norms that make them pleasant and welcome in most settings. Additionally, these three concepts empower children to feel confident that they are equipped with the tools needed to navigate most social situations. Children feel out of place and embarrassed when they find themselves outside of the norms and everyone is noticing their behavior in a negative way. Teaching our children these basic concepts will assist them in moving successfully in the great variation of situations they are likely to experience.

How to take charge when a child is driving you nuts

Not every child has been taught these three concepts because there are no universals. That does not mean that you have to tolerate a child who is being dishonest, disrespectful, or does not have self-control. Ultimately, it is the parent’s responsibility to educate their child. Yet, in social settings when a child is behaving in a way that takes away the rights of others (such as other adults or children), you also have the right to limit the child’s influence in the areas where the negative behaviors of the child are affecting you and/or your children.

1. Clarify your family norms with the child. We don’t know what we don’t know. Perhaps the child is not aware of your expectations. State which specific behaviors are not acceptable in your house, tell the child simply and clearly how to correct their behavior, and let the child know you expect them to conform to your wishes.

Example: "In our home, we pick up our own toys after playing. So, when you finish with the Legos you are playing with, please pick them all up off the floor, put them in the plastic bucket, and put the bucket in the closet. Everyone is expected to pick up after themselves here".

2. Limit harmful or disrespectful behaviors. At times, children cannot anticipate the consequences of their actions due to development or stubbornness. When a child is engaging in activities that are actually or potentially harmful, or disrespectful to other people or things, interrupt the child during the negative behavior and describe the potential consequences that may happen if they continue. Be clear that you cannot permit them to continue.

Example: "Please stop kicking the ball into the street. When you kick the ball into the street, it is dangerous to the cars that are passing by and for the person who has to step into the street to retrieve the ball. If you do not stop, I will need to take the ball away".

3. Praise positive behaviors. Most children respond very well to positive feedback and praise. Catching children being good is a wonderful way to reinforce behaviors you want to see more of. When a child is fitting in, behaving well, or acting kindly give a small shower of praise. Then, when you see the child’s parent, tell the parent about the specific, positive behavior in front of the child. This gives the praise staying power because it has been share in a social community and increases the likelihood that the behavior will be presented again when the child is with you.

Example: "Susie, I liked how you followed my directions the first time. You are a really good listener". Be short, specific, and include the child’s name, if possible.

Living abroad will give your family many opportunities to interact with many different types of families. Not every family will have the same social norms and values which can cause friction when children mix. However, you can still feel confident and in control by limiting judgment and focusing on safety.

Knowledge is power

What new information did you learn from this posting?  Did it help you identify something in your family you would like to change?  Share your experience below and what steps you plan on taking to guide your family.

 

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