My grandmother’s house was my home from the time I was about three til I had nearly completed high school. It was a quiet and orderly house. We did major chores in the morning and arranged the afternoons for social life or reading or crafts. We rose early to get the days started.
At no time was there yelling or profanity in the home. When thoroughly provoked I did hear her say to my grandfather “Well, ye gods and little fishes, Ollie.” His strongest epithet was “Hell’s bells, mom.”
Her two rules of conduct were:
- You will not make a scene to disgrace the family, and
- I don’t care how you feel; you will put on a pretty face and be nice to the company.
Perhaps she didn’t realize it, but she was creating a pattern for successful living.
Children need a structure, a schedule, standard and unchanging expectations. Yes, I know that limits choices.
Until they are old enough to handle the chaos that is this world, limited choices are a good thing. I didn’t say to my children “what do you want to wear tomorrow?” Instead I said “do you want to wear the blue dress or the pink one?” The simplified choice, which one of two, is good practice for youngsters.
Yelling and raised voices generally lead to louder yelling. My grandmother had an eyebrow. When it dropped, you immediately left what you were doing that was not approved and started the task you had abandoned. If she reprimanded you, it was in a quiet, disappointed tone of voice. It let you know that you had failed her expectations.
I’m a firm believer in children living either up or down to expectations. When I was teaching, I had a set of twins in one of my classes. Ron (made up name) had always gotten better grades than Don (also made up name), but in my class, the opposite was true. Don put in the effort and earned the better grade. That was because I was new in town and didn’t know the prior expectations, so I expected the best of both of them. Don lived up to my expectations; but Ron was in the habit of skating by on reputation and didn’t perform as well.
All this to say, let your children know that you expect the best of them. Courtesy and civility are always in style. Working up to potential is the best course of action. Facing problems quietly and head on gets them handled more effectively.
The job of a good parent is to make himself/herself obsolete in the child’s life as early as possible. You shouldn’t be having to discipline your teenager as you did when he/she was two. And along those same lines, no good parent stands between a child and the consequences of his own actions.
The sooner children learn that every action carries within itself the seed of its own reward or punishment, the better off they are.
In fact, that’s a lesson we all should review from time to time.