Remember the old adage "children should be seen and not heard?" Even though most people don't expect children to disappear to their nurseries with their governesses, children's behavior is often under scrutiny. Sometimes adults expect too much perfection from children. One way to remedy this problem and take the pressure off of kids is to be a well-behaved parent. Let me explain five things you can do to help your children.
Remember what it's like to be a child
Children are just learning. Sometimes they need to learn a particular lesson over and over before it sticks. Not all children are good at sharing, being quiet and being ready to listen and obey. Children are full of energy and wonder. As a parent, make sure the things you do promote growth and feelings of safety. Patience, love and understanding are all qualities to develop.
Consider other points-of-view
I know it's easy for me to go into "mama bear" mode when defending my children. I've found that confrontation rarely ends well, however, so I try to use difficult situations as growth opportunities for me and my kids.
When a child is unsupervised at the playground and is causing trouble for other kids, I encourage my kids to talk kindly and express their feelings appropriately. If my child is accused of mean behavior at school or in other situations, I try not to get defensive. Instead, I listen to the whole story and offer input about what I know about my child's personality and behavior. This kind of response takes thought and self-control, but is worth the effort.
Practice good manners
Parents need to model the good manners they expect from their children. This applies not only in the home, where parents should speak respectfully to children, but also in public. Consider your behavior while cheering at sporting events, and make adjustments if your sportsmanship is lacking. When you let others go in front of you in line or show patience toward those who move through life more slowly, you exemplify kindness and good manners.
Learn to like other kids
I'm sure you've heard adults jokingly say "I like kids, but only my own." I can identify with this sentiment, but I also enjoy other people's children. When you take the time to get to know children and their individual personalities, you'll realize they're all pretty great. I've met children by babysitting them, being an aunt, volunteering in school classrooms and teaching at church. I become a better parent as I spend more time with kids.
Nothing will make you resent parenting faster than becoming a slave to it. Parenting is a constant job, which is why it's important to remain the person you were before you had children. Keep your hobbies, spend time with your spouse or friends outside of the home and teach your children that you need time to yourself.
When I've been on "mom duty" for days at a time, I am no longer on my best behavior. I remedy this by taking a run, going to lunch with a friend or putting myself in "time out" — in my bedroom with a book. Recognize when you, too, need to recharge, and do what you can to make it happen, even if it means asking others for help.
Your kids don't have perfect behavior, and neither do you. But you can work to develop these habits and watch how your good parenting behavior influences your children. Soon you'll be a happier, more effective parent.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.