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Are These Character Education Mistakes Sabotaging Your Family?

Character Education Mistakes: Main PictureWe saw several articles this month outlining a variety of ways to build character in our kids. But, what if none of our efforts seem to make any difference?

What if our kids continue being mean, in spite of our attempt to teach them compassion?

What if our kids continue to be bossy, in spite of our attempt to teach them politeness?

What if all our attempts to teach them to be responsible come up short?

As parents invested in raising kids with good character, this can be very frustrating.

But the reasons for these setbacks may actually just be us unintentionally sabotaging our character education attempts with some common mistakes.

Check below to see if any of these mistakes are holding you down:

Mistake #1: Believing how kids act on the outside mirrors who they are on the inside

A child with good character is not a child that is perfect all the time.

Successfully building character in your children will come with a lot of mistakes. Kids are learning everyday – and character building is a part of that learning process. Children’s brains are not wired to understand impulse control and selflessness from the beginning. These are actually learned traits that parents are responsible for instilling in their children.

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Are You Teaching Kids Responsibility? 50 Simple Challenges to Get You Started

Teaching Kids Responsibility: Intro ImageHow capable are your kids?

I’m not talking about their math ability or how well they throw a baseball.

Can they operate a vacuum cleaner? Cook a meal? Lodge a complaint? Change a light bulb?

Many kids today live a life of entitlement. Very little is asked of them in terms of responsibilities at home.

I know, at least in my house, this is mainly due to parental laziness. It’s much easier to do a job myself, especially if I want it done right (interpretation – the way I think it should be done).

I get tired of nagging, demanding, and threatening. Consequently, instead of teaching kids responsibility, I accept half-hearted efforts because, well, at least they did something.

My kids have very few responsibilities in the real scheme of things, yet they claim that kids at other houses aren’t enslaved as they are in our home. Hmmm

Raising a Generation of Entitled Kids

Teaching Kids Responsibility: Cleaning House Book CoverIn her book, Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement, Kay Wills Wyma cites the frequency of young adults who quit jobs because they don’t like them and throw away educations because they’ve changed their minds.

28% of 22-29 year olds rely on money from their parents to fund major expenses. They move home and freeload expecting their parents to take care of them. They don’t feel responsible for paying the bills, especially if it means taking a job that is hard and doesn’t pay well. In 1970 80% of American women left home by age 24, by 2007 that number had risen to age 29.

Wyma asks — Why should they? Isn’t the world here to serve them? Aren’t they entitled to a strife-free happy life?

She makes a point. I know my own kids are indignant when I ask them to do a chore not on their assigned list.

But Wyma takes the argument another step.

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How to Teach Bossy Kids to be Polite (Without Squashing Their Assertiveness)

Bossy Kids: Main PosterIt’s a bit embarrassing when someone describes your kids in ways that are less than complimentary, isn’t it?

“She really tells the other kids what to do, doesn’t she? A right little bossy boots!”

You instantly feel the need to justify your child’s behavior, but later you wonder…

You wonder if your child really IS bossy.

You wonder about your parenting techniques and if you’re on the right track.

You wonder if you ought to be doing something when you see your child being assertive the next time.

My own daughter is strong willed and opinionated, and I wonder.

I watched her this morning, telling her younger sister what to do. She bossed her about mercilessly, all morning. The younger one took it very well, and largely did her sister’s bidding. But eventually she got sick of it, and grew mutinous. It’s then that the Boss’ behavior deteriorated, and she became rude and disrespectful.

That’s when my blood started to boil.

I hate to see my youngest treated this way. I don’t want domineering children, but I don’t want to squash their spirits, either. I want them to know it’s ok to have an opinion and be strong-willed.

But, in spite of myself, I almost labeled my daughter as bossy. I stopped myself in the nick of time — “bossy” is a lousy label to carry around.

As Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg says, words like bossy send a message: it’s not ‘right’ to ask for what you want. It’s selfish. When we label behavior in this way, our children believe that behavior is ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’. Their self-esteem wears away, and their confidence slowly dies.

That’s not what we want.

As quoted in the Yahoo article “Since when did obedience become the epitome of good parenting?“,  Alfie Kohn, the author of Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason says that when he asks parents what their long-term goals are for their children, “No-one ever says mindlessly compliant.”

So how do we strike that balance as parents?

How do we teach our kids to express themselves without being bossy?

The answer is to help them to state their feelings in a way that is polite and courteous. Here are some things that I find helpful with my strong-willed daughter –

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What to Do When Your Kids Are Mean

Mean Kids - IntroHave your kids ever said something so unexpectedly mean that it made you recoil with horror?

When our second daughter, Claire, was born, it was immediately clear that Sarah, our first born, was not a fan.

She put on a good show initially – at least as a good a show as you can when you’re 2-1/2 and your world has been turned upside down. She claimed to love the baby; she would pat Claire’s head, try to feed her Cheerios and read her board books in a high-pitched, sing-songy voice.

Soon these charitable acts were interspersed with minor acts of terrorism. Pinching. Yelling. Failed attempts to tip over Claire in her baby bouncer.

I couldn’t leave the two of them alone in a room. All of my pleas to Sarah to love her sister fell on deaf ears. I envisioned a future where my home looked more like a war zone filled with mean kids than the peaceful, compassionate haven of my dreams.

The low moment came one day when Claire was napping.

Sarah was keeping me company in the kitchen while I cleaned up from lunch. As I wiped down the highchair tray, Sarah wrinkled her nose and suggested that the baby was way too messy. In the broken English employed by three-year-olds, she confided in me that the solution was to take that baby, dump her in the garbage and watch her “head crack open like an egg.

This was the solution my three-year-old offered me to put an end to messy highchair trays, forever!

I don’t think I can fully capture the horror of the moment.

How could my sweet little angel say such a thing?

How could she be – I could barely summon the word – so MEAN?

The Words that Make Us Recoil in Horror

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Positive Parenting Pledge for 2015 + Giveaway

Positive Parenting PledgeFrom the surveys, your comments and your response to my emails so far, one thing is clear –

We are a community of parents who love the idea of positive parenting. And yet, many of us struggle to implement the ideas on a day-to-day basis.

What say we do something about it? Let’s end this year and start the next one with a bang. Let’s take a pledge, as a community, to be positive parents in 2015.

I’ll be taking the pledge right alongside you, and will support you in this pledge the best I can –

  • All articles in 2015 will be approached from a positive parenting perspective. For instance, based on your choice in our last survey, our theme for January is “Raising kids with character”. So, every article published in Jan will look at how a positive parent would go about instilling certain character traits in kids.
  • If you run into specific issues while you try to practice positive parenting, and you can’t find answers in already published articles, just send me an email. Either I or one of the members of our wonderful writer community (you can be a part of it too — details here) who has experience in that matter will put together an article for you. And, if none of us can be of help, I will reach out to some of the top positive parenting experts to find their suggestions for what we can do.

One more thing. We are very fortunate to have Dr. Laura Markham support us in this pledge. As some of you probably know she is one of my favorite parenting experts and has been pivotal in my choice to become a more positive parent. Thanks to Dr. Laura, every parent who takes the pledge will be entered into a giveaway, and one lucky parent will win access to Dr. Laura’s course Stop Punishing, Start Connecting, and Raise a Self-disciplined, Emotionally Intelligent Child.

So, are you in?

Let’s do this!

Take the the pledge here –

“I Will Be a Positive Parent in 2015″ Pledge + Giveaway