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The Deadly Character Flaw that Results in Misbehavior (And How to Deal With it)

Character Flaw Pride - Main PosterYour kids say “Please” and “Thank you.”

They are kind, considerate and caring (most of the time). They respect others by listening when they’re speaking and they share and take turns (usually).

You’re feeling pretty capable at this Parenting thing, and the truth is, you’ve done well – considerably well.

And then, you have a play date, and not only you, but also your friends and half the neighborhood learn your child’s one defining character flaw.

Don’t worry. You’re still a fine parent, and now, you’ve been given your newest task on this parenthood journey of yours.

Oh, that bloodcurdling scream? That’s just my son.

My son Kenny was six-years-old the day his legendary growl ripped through the conversation I was having with my friend. We looked up to see him chasing her son down the street.

Horrified, I jumped down from the tailgate and took off after the two boys.

Catching up with my son, I grabbed him around his waist with a tight grip, swung him into my body, and plopped us both safely down on the curb.

He howled while pushing and shoving against me until I thought the blood vessels in his forehead and neck would burst. But, after a few minutes, my tough little guy’s yells and frustration gave way to sobs, and it was over as quickly as it started.

His friend, running wide-eyed back to his parents, obviously wanted to go home, and for good reason.

It isn’t every day that your friend turns into a wild banshee and chases you down the street.

What’s up?

Pride – a deadly character flaw raising it’s ugly head, both in Kenny AND his friends. That’s what.

As the story surfaced, I learned Kenny’s friend and his friend’s older brother had made fun of him. I can’t remember what it was about, but it punctured Kenny’s pride, and he acted out his rage.

While Kenny’s pride was easy to pinpoint (and hear), his friends’ pride was sarcastic and defensive, which was subtler than Kenny’s, though far from saintly.

After Kenny had settled down I asked if he was ready to apologize; he wasn’t.

Sadly, he didn’t apologize at all that day, and our friends left early without the boys resolving their issues. I knew that once Kenny began missing his friends, his heart would warm to the thought of apologizing, but I also knew that’d take longer than a day.

It did.

Before it was all over, Kenny’s friends argued, “But it was just a joke.” while Kenny argued, “They made fun of me!”

Pride’s gongs rang loud and clear.

As parents, we prioritize building character into our kids’ lives, so naturally, when we see a character flaw like this, it makes us cringe.

We wonder how many times do we have to repeat the same lesson before our kid gets it?

Of course, you know the answer to that already — as many times as it takes.

The 9 “Faces” of Pride and How to Respond

Once you begin digging, you will find that pride is usually at the foundation of many of your otherwise well-behaved child’s sudden and often unexpected lapses.

Though pride presents itself in many ways, I’ve listed the 9 most repeated ways pride reared its head in my son’s life over the past 7 years and how we responded.

Character Flaw Pride Mini-Poster ThumbnailBonus: Click here for a free printable version of this article for a quick reminder of what to do when you’re in the middle of a difficult-to-handle situation!

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How to Teach Your Kids to Value Personal Accountability

Personal Accountability - Main Title PosterYou know that one of the most important character traits we can teach our kids is personal accountability, but how?

Accountability is a hard enough concept to explain to a child, never mind teaching them how to make it an integral part of their inner guidance system. If you feel like you are missing out on opportunities to teach this because you’re not sure where to start, you’re not alone. The task does seem daunting.

In my years of parenting, I’ve learnt (and in many cases, mastered) how to nurture and care for my kids. I have potty trained four kids (my kids are 6, 8, 24 and 27) successfully without bribing them with presents (except new underwear and tons of pride). I have spent a lot of time working on how I discipline, not yelling and shaping how I phrase things to avoid hurting their self-esteem. I have taught them the basics of good character – to say please and thank you; to be generous and kind; to maintain a level of humility, and to say they are sorry and fix things when they know they were wrong.

It’s time now to take on some of the more abstract but equally important concepts. Personal accountability is at the top of my list. There is no point after all in raising our kids to achieve great levels of success if they won’t hold themselves accountable to their actions.

Why is Teaching Personal Accountability Important?

Consider for example the Tyco CEO Dennis Kozlowski who stole more than $120 million dollars from company funds, gave himself bonuses of $80 million, which of course was not approved by the company directors, and still claimed innocence. Found guilty in 2002 and sentenced up to 25 years in prison, he maintained that he did nothing wrong.

Another colossal example of a lack of accountability is the BP oil spill in 2010, which dumped more than 180 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Their accountability had to be forced by a federal court that ruled the company was grossly negligent and that they were cutting corners to boost their profits. Though they were responsible for $58 billion in court fees, penalties and clean-up costs, it does not make up for the impact to our environment, all of the wildlife that was lost and the devastation to the livelihoods of fisherman in the Gulf.

I don’t want to be raising kids who go on to achieve great success, but do so with no regards to what is right or wrong. Personal accountability is an important trait in my opinion, and I wonder if we parents are doing enough to teach it.

Here’s the deal though. It is a rather abstract concept to teach. Also, personally, I myself am a work in progress. And because of that, the first step in my “mission accountability” was the hardest.

personal_accountability_mini-poster_thumbnailBonus: Click here to download a free printable version of this article to use as a “quick reminder” for your personal accountability mission.

Ask Yourself Some Tough Questions

Say your son is arguing about cleaning up toys scattered all over the living room floor. He is tired. His face is red, eyes are welling up with the promise of fresh tears and there are signs that an emotional meltdown is imminent if you pursue. Do you hold your parental ground until the task is done?

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Constantly Out-Negotiated By Kids? Here’s What You Need to Know

Art of Negotiation - Main PosterHave you ever found yourself drawn into deep negotiations with your child?

So deep that you temporarily forget you are the parent?

My daughter has a knack for reeling me in. At the tender age of seven she has already mastered the fine art of negotiation and seems destined for a career around the negotiating table at the UN. She’ll do well I’m sure. Her persuasion skills are legendary.

Here’s a scene from my house just the other night.

My 4-year-old son is in the bath, all soap and steam. There is water everywhere. Toy action figures are littered across the floor, around the bathtub, on the shelf. And in the toilet.

It’s getting late. It’s school tomorrow. I’m starting to feel stressed.

Picking up the signals with her in-built precision radar my daughter seizes her moment.

She has already won my heart this busy evening. She has bathed herself. Combed her hair. Fished new pyjamas from her drawer. Carefully placed her dirty clothes in the laundry basket.

I was putty in her hands. And she knew it.

Ella: ‘Mom? Can I please just watch the end of my film while you see to Joe?’

Me, distracted: ‘No I don’t think so sweetie, it’s getting late.’

Uh-oh. I used the fateful word – ‘Think’. Why didn’t I just stop at ‘No’?!

Ella, sensing my indecision: ‘Pleease Mom, there are only 10 minutes left.’

From the bath Joe launched a tiny Buzz Lightyear figure skyward. It connected with my left ear. He giggled.

Ella, persisting: ‘Mom? Can I?’

Me, rattled: ‘No, it’ll soon be bedtime and time to go upstairs.’

Uh-oh. I used the equally open-ended ‘Soon’. Very different from ‘Now’.

Ella, indignant: ‘But you’re not ready yet, and it’s not fair that Joe got to watch his programme earlier and I didn’t!’

Me, feeling bad: ‘By the time you’ve got it set up it will be too late.

Uh-oh. Now we’re negotiating. How did that happen?

Ella: ‘The disc is already in. So can I? Please? I promise I’ll come when you call.’

Joe, now feeling ignored, unleashed a mini-tsunami over the side of the bath.

Me, frazzled and soggy: ‘Okay, okay, but just 10 minutes, right?’

Uh-oh. I asked for her agreement. What was I thinking?!

Ella: ’20 minutes?’

Me, firmly beaten: ’15 and that really is it!’

Ella grinned and left the room. I saw to my dripping boy, only later finding the headspace to reflect on the fact that my girl had once again skilfully negotiated her way to the deal she wanted.

Part of me is proud of her tenacity. I have taught her how to focus on what she wants, and given her the tools to reach for it.

But I’m also aware that there is a vast difference between innocent persuasion, and manipulation that leaves the other person feeling bad inside.

It’s not a giant leap from one to the other. And lately, I’ve seen my daughter flirt across that line on quite a few occasions.

So. I’m officially now on a mission to manage my daughter’s talent for negotiation. And I realize, with a degree of squirming discomfort, that this will involve changing some of my own behaviors too.

After all, our children learn by example.

I’m all too aware that my former career as a professional negotiator has probably influenced the way I’m bringing up my children more than I care to acknowledge.

I know I’m adept at negotiation. I know how to use it wisely. And most times I do. In Desperate Mom moments when I’m tense and tired though, I know I occasionally cross that line between persuasion and manipulation. I blatantly, and shamelessly, maneuver my children into behaving the way I need them to.

It works.

But it doesn’t feel good.

And worse, it shows them that ‘This is how you trample on others to get your own way!’

Not the message I want them to receive.

So with a deep breath and a humble head here are my 5 top tips for nurturing responsible negotiation in your children. With a heavy dollop of personal mindfulness thrown in for good measure.

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32 Etiquette Rules That Will Help Your Child To Be Heard In A Noisy World

Etiquette Rules: Main PosterHave you ever wondered what it must be like to be a child in today’s busy grown-up world?

What with the information age and the incessant noise, it is hard enough for grownups to be heard. Can you imagine how much harder it must be for kids?

As an anthropologist, I will tell you this – good manners make it a lot easier to cut through the noise and be heard. Manners are the social glue that allows disparate members of society to come together. Adults need to teach children this language, which is essentially what social etiquette is, so they can communicate with peers and adults in order to give them the most advantages in life.

I have worked the last seven years in Children’s Ministry and Early Childhood Education and I have observed that adult responses, both positive and negative, are based on basic manners.

I have noticed that even children with conditions or special needs that require extra patience and love from caregivers can elicit consistently positive adult responses and increased patience simply by following basic etiquette rules. My middle child falls into this category, and we have maximized her teachers’ patience by insisting on her use of the communicative language that is etiquette.

All children deserve the very best start in life, and a positive interaction with the adults in their lives helps children develop a healthy self-esteem. This in turn begets more positive interactions, and so on and so forth.

And of course, the opposite is true of negative interactions.

Because of this, giving kids a common language and a set of guidelines to navigate interactions is really giving them the tools to make themselves be heard, nurture faith in their own capabilities and set them up for future success.

So, here is a list of 32 etiquette rules that all parents should teach their children –

Etiquette_Rules: Mini-Poster_ThumbnailBonus: Click here to download a free printable “quick reminder” version of the etiquette rules that you can tape around your house for easy access!

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25 Of The Best Family Movies For Teaching Honesty, Grit, Courage & More

Best Family Movies - Main Poster CollageIt’s so hard as a parent to draw our kids in to meaningful conversations, isn’t it?

Especially if the conversation is about something extremely important, but rather abstract in the minds of our kids, as the topic of building character?

Then again who says you have to sweat it out?

I’m a lazy parent – if there’s an easier way to do the job as well without me having to do all the heavy lugging, I’ll take that option any day, and twice on Sundays.

Which is why I love family movie nights.

The lights are dimmed in the house, and the sun is starting to set. The sound of “pop-pop-pop” is coming from the kitchen and the buttery smell of popcorn is wafting through the house. With the smells and familiar sounds, the children are running around, gathering their favorite pillows and blankets.

The oldest calls the longer couch. The younger one chooses her white fluffy blanket and the pink pillow, and decides to make a pallet on the floor.

Meanwhile, I am putting the DVD in, feeling grateful for the quiet moments that lie ahead. More than likely a scuffle or two about someone’s blanket touching someone else’s is happening in the background (hey, life isn’t perfect and they ARE siblings, after all).

As the last of the advertisements wind down, I spread the popcorn and drinks around the room, while the comforting and familiar sound of the “Feature Presentation” hits our ears.

At last, everyone is settled in.

Ah, bliss.

But this is not the only reason I love movie nights.

Did you know that it’s been scientifically proven that movies have the ability to persuade and teach our children?

Really. It’s true. This article on the power of persuasion by Dr. Jeremy Dean discusses the psychological reasons behind why movies work so well to influence our thought process. One of the comments he makes is this “Stories work so well to persuade us because, if they’re well told, we get swept up in them, we are transported inside them.”

So since that is true, what if we secretly stacked the cards in our favor? What if we, as parents, were very strategic in the movies that we choose and then used that impressionable time right after the movie concluded to discuss and impress upon our child the favorable character traits we want them to glean from that show?

Let’s say we just finished watching the old movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The main character, Charley does the “right thing” even when all the other kids around him choose not to. In several poignant moments in the film, Charley makes important decisions that show his good character.

When the movie comes to a close, what if we took that extra moment with our child and nonchalantly asked them an open ended question such as “That was a cool movie, huh? Do you think it was hard for Charley to do the right thing when the kids around him were making bad choices?”

It’s amazing what kids will open up and say in this very vulnerable and open state. I am sharing this with you because I have personally found it to be so much more effective with my kids than just trying to talk about “doing the right thing”. At times when I’ve tried to discuss “doing the right thing” with my teenagers, all I ever received was the classic eye-roll.

Call me “sneaky” if you must. But hey, it works. And I’m all about doing things that work, especially if they are easy.

Therefore, let me equip you, my dear parent friend, with this list of 25 of the best family movies that I believe will help you in this venture. These movies will appeal to all age groups and engage the entire family, however for the purposes of this article, they are sorted by Rating. 
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