In order to prevent behavior problems, you've got to understand your child's point of view, you have to be able to communicate with your child, and you need to model the behavior you want to see. Now, let's talk about behavior modeling.
Here's the thing about modeling: You don't have to decide to begin modeling behavior, you already are. You simply need to realize what you are modeling now, and decide what you want to model in the future. My parents, simply by being who they are, modeled a very strong work ethic and interest and joy in what they were engaged in. I learned that it's important to do work that feels valuable and I learned to work at my work very hard. I don't remember them telling me this—in words. They told me it everyday, just by how they were living their lives.
One of the most effective ways to get your child to be well behaved is to model the correct behavior. What you do, and who you are will sink in, eventually. (Please note that modeling is a daily process, and there are some results you may not fully see for years. Fifty years from now your doddering old daughter will be saying, “My parents taught me everything I know.”)
Words to Parent By
Behavior modeling means demonstrating, through your daily actions, the kind of behavior you expect your children to demonstrate. (This takes a certain amount of discipline of your own.)
It's a Good Idea!
If you're struggling with a certain issue or behavior, don't lie about it, and don't hide it from your child. The struggle is an important part of the process and you're teaching him that, though you're not perfect, you're working hard to improve yourself.
It's a Good Idea!
Model effective and appropriate talking and listening skills. “Don't you *&%$-ing talk to me like that, young lady!” doesn't cut the mustard. Work on it. A family that communicates well has fewer problems than a family that doesn't.
Modeling works the other way too. If you model the incorrect behavior, it doesn't much matter what you say. Forget “Do as I say, not as I do”—actions speak louder than words. That means that if you want your child to lose the foul language, you'll need to model good language yourself. I know, what about the occasional swear word that slips from your lips? My best friend Tilly's mom always recommends this approach: Teach your children the difference between “family words” and “public words.” “Family words” can sometimes be angry words (they make people angry when they hear them) and can cause trouble for us if we use them outside the house.
This, of course, is a matter of family approach. Other families never want to hear cursing. They might make that desire explicit in their family value statement.
It's the Golden Rule
Modeling behavior really comes down to one rule: Be who you want your kids to emulate. Be considerate and your kids will learn consideration. It's simple, really.