Our girls this summer at the 35th annual Concert on the Beach in Narragansett, RI
In the past few posts, I’ve mentioned our three daughters a few different times. They’re great girls and there’s almost three year’s difference between each one. Right now they are six, nine and just three weeks shy of 12 years old. We take them with us everywhere, without a problem and they are very well behaved girls. I can’t even count how many people have come up to us in stores, restaurants, community events etc., complimenting us on their behavior and how surprisingly good they are.
When it first started happening, we were kind of surprised, caught off guard a little bit. We just assumed early on that everyone’s kids were good, at least in public, because don’t get me wrong, they’re not angels all the time; we have our moments at home for sure. As time went by though, it happened more and more where people would come up to us and compliment us on the girls and how well behaved they were and more and more we would see the difference between our kids’ behavior and other kids’ behaviors. We’ve actually had people come right out and ask us if we hit our kids to get them to behave (which, no, we don’t.) That shocked me. Then last week, we were at an event at an Assisted Living Community for my grandmother. It was a welcome event for new residents and it was mainly for adult family members of the residents but I went and I brought my kids. There was a semi-long speaking portion at the start, and then refreshments afterwards. Two of my kids were sharing one seat, but I thought nothing of it. I moved away from them to the other side of the table so that I could see and hear, but I kept an eye on them from across the table. There was no problem, as expected.
After the speaking portion ended, someone came up to me and said, “You know, you could write a book about how to raise well-behaved kids.” I laughed and smiled and he continued, “I’m serious, 99% of the kids I know would never have been that good, sat through that event two in a seat, for so long without a problem.”
I thanked him, and continued about the night, but it really got me thinking. What is it exactly that we do that must be so different than what other people do? I really have no way of knowing since I don’t live with any other people, so I don’t know what they do, but I do have insight as to the things we do that make it easy for us and for our kids. I thought I’d spend this post sharing just one tidbit that’s helped us a great deal.
For one thing, we have extremely high expectations for our kids and their behavior, and they know it and they’ve known it since they were little. The expectation is: they will be good or we will leave, no matter where we are or what it is. They know this because way back when they were little, we have indeed left. We’ve left stores, restaurants, parties, whatever it took. So not being good isn’t really a choice for them. They are to be good, and that’s all there is to it.
But, it’s not as simple as that. From early on, we have always prepped our kids for whatever situation they’re about to go into. We clearly don’t want to set them up for failure, we want them to be good as much as they want to be good, so we want them to have a clear understanding before we arrive at anything, anywhere. Before we arrive no matter where we are going, we remind them that we expect “Best Behavior.” When they were really little, we would actually go over with them what that behavior looked like (and it often depended where we were going, since best behavior in church is way different than best behavior at a birthday party, for example,) and have them repeat it back to us. As they aged, they could just tell us what we expected. Even older still, we only had to say the words “Best Behavior” and they knew what was expected. Now, we hardly have to remind them, it’s so ingrained in them. We have built a strong foundation, but it literally took years.
One of the pages in my book, Baby Notes: Practical wisdom from one mother to another (available at http://www.amazon.com) actually talks about being consistent because to us, it’s one of the most important things a good parent can do for their kids.
We made sure to be consistent with our kids as much as we could, and “Best Behavior” became one of our catch phrases. We’d say it every time we went somewhere. It might sound like this in our car on a given Saturday afternoon:
“Girls, we’re about to get to the birthday party. What do we expect from you?”
“What does that mean?”
“It means no running inside, no yelling and screaming, no jumping on the furniture, and stick together.”
“That’s right. You may see behavior here that isn’t good, but you know what we expect of you. If there’s a problem you come and get one of us.”
We would make sure they all heard us, and understood us, and then we’d add one more very important thing:
“And girls, when it’s time to go?”
“It’s time to go.”
“That’s right. If there’s a problem when it’s time to leave, then the next time there’s a party invitation, we don’t go.”
And they know…we mean it. One of our daughters actually missed an entire month of birthday parties due to poor behavior last year and she’s been an angel ever since. They know we mean business.
To us, consistency is important and follow-through is very important. Our kids’ behavior is a clear reflection of our ability to parent and we want to be proud of our kids and we want people to want to be with them, not to want to run the other way when they see us coming.
I hope this helps those who wonder whether or not it can be done. It can and it takes time and consistency. Good luck!