As those of us in New Zealand enjoy the school holidays, you may have started to notice your kid’s behaviour that little bit more. You may be looking forward to going away or spending some quality time together but are concerned about whether your kids are going to be good!
This article is to remind you that good is not the simple concept that many people think. Each person and family unit has their own values, experiences and expectations, leading to their own definition of what good means.
A friend once told me a story about being good, from her own childhood. She was part of a busy family, where the expectation was that everyone would pitch in and help. Each morning her mum would insist that everyone make their beds and fold their clothes, before going out anywhere. She was about seven or eight. She distinctly remembers trying hard to be good, and do what her mum asked, but she never seemed to get it quite right. She never received praise for a job well done. She was just doing what was expected, nothing special. When she was older she stopped trying to impress or gain praise, doing the bare minimum to get the job done, she had no feeling of pride in her work. This attitude change came after she visited her aunty for a couple of days. She really enjoyed her time away, she did her chores as normal, thinking nothing of it, until she got home, and heard her aunty tell her mum how good, tidy and helpful she had been, and that she would be more than welcome to come and stay again. When her aunty had left, her mum turned to her and said, “Why can’t you be that good at home?” She said nothing, but wanted to shout, ‘I am, but at my auntie’s I’m good enough.’ A poignant story, which really made me think about my expectations, and what, is good enough.
If your kids are meeting your expectations then let them know this, let them know that they are being good. Positive praise is much more effective than negative reprimands.
I have spoken to a number of parents about their expectations, and house rules, and sometimes, like my friends mother in the story above, they admit to expecting certain behaviours without seeing it as anything special.
Friends and family can have different rules:
Do they say grace before eating?
Do they expect you to take your shoes off at the door?
Are you allowed phones at the table?
If you are visiting family or friends then check with them what their rules are. If your friends do not have kids then they may value things you have long since given up on, but that is no reason not to pre-warn your kids before you arrive. Just like at school, children understand that there can be different rules at different places. They just need to know what they are so they can show you how good they can be.
Does your good have a hidden time element?
There are times when children are not good enough for other reasons. If you ask them to stop what they are doing, you may feel that it is strongly implied that you mean now!
You want the instruction carried out in your timeframe, not theirs. Now is good, but five minutes later is bad.
It can be difficult and frustrating having to wait for your child to complete your request. You have so many conflicting responsibilities going on inside your head, if you have to wait, then you may forget what comes next. The difference is that they are children, everything is new and interesting, and may have a limited concept of time. If meeting the time frame is important to you then make sure your children understand this at the start.
So before you head off out somewhere these holidays think about what good looks like to you while you are away. If you are going somewhere new then explain it to your kids, before they find themselves confused by your and other people’s responses.
Confusion can cause more demanding and attention seeking behaviour than usual as your child tries their best to get back into your good books!