The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.
When did words like rules, respect and repercussions (the 3 Rs) become bad words? It seems as the 1900s came to an end, fewer and fewer parents embraced the importance of these concepts.
I am not exactly sure why the 3 Rs went out of style; we all know that once our little babies grow up, leave the nest and get into the “real world,” they are quickly going to learn that the “real world” does indeed have spoken and unspoken rules, respect and repercussions.
Truth be told, these are NOT negative words. In fact, teaching Kidmandment #7 is actually positive—and crucial if we expect to have a happy and healthy family life.
Families who do not consistently practice the 3 Rs are more likely to experience problems with things like drugs, teen pregnancy, skipping school, poor grades and disrespectful attitudes. And when these problems rear their ugly heads, we only have one person to blame.
That’s right, it’s not the kids, it’s us. Okay, maybe not 100%, but certainly a big part of the problem falls squarely on our shoulders.
Sure, you can debate the “nature vs. nurture” argument; but they are living in our home, following our rules and dealing with the consequences we have established. When it comes to raising respectful children, chances are we all have at least a little room to improve.
We might as well attempt to get better since, not surprisingly, most of us will experience these types of challenges to some degree. Awareness of an opportunity to do better (often commonly referred to as a ‘problem’) and accepting responsibility for it is a big part of what is needed to improve any situation.
In order to create as much positive energy as we can, it is important that we communicate what is expected—early and often. When rules are vague and/or not communicated clearly, we create confusion and unnecessary negative energy in the home. Plainly defining rules eliminates any chance for mutual mystification. Kids want to please their parents. Clearly knowing what is expected helps them anticipate consequences and strategize success. The good thing is that we don’t need to have advanced psychology degrees to know what is right and wrong for our families; we just need to be consistent.
One of the rules we need to teach our children concerns manners. Novelist Laurence Sterne once said, “Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners.”
Teaching good manners is not complicated. It is as simple as teaching things like saying “yes sir,” “no sir,” or addressing their elders as Mr. and Mrs. If parents don’t pass down these basic concepts from to the next generation—like looking someone in the eye when talking to them—who will?
Respect for authority is a natural outcome of following rules like this. Although some might disagree, having respect is not a “nice to have” it is a “must have.” This is vitally important because children who have respect for themselves, for the gifts they have been given in life and for others are typically people who are more apt to grow up appreciating what they have. It doesn’t matter if our children are brilliant, talented and incredibly good looking; if they do not appreciate what they have, respect themselves and others, it will be almost impossible for them to achieve “success.”
Unfortunately, when our household doesn’t practice the 3 Rs, we create a breeding ground for a dysfunctional family. Simply put, a dysfunctional family is in a constant state of chaos. None of us wants this for our family, but this is what comes when we have unclear rules, no respect for authority and inconsistent consequences. Just because we kiss our children goodnight, send them to private schools, buy them Prada sunglasses and tell them we love them does not make up for the damage we are doing to them by not teaching the 3 Rs.
So, how do we keep this from happening? Simple. Communicate what is expected and establish boundaries. Just as it is hard to feel safe driving on the highway when you don’t know where your lane ends and the oncoming traffic begins, so it is at home.
When the rules are broken, allow your children to experience the “pain” of going outside the boundaries. Once the rules have been communicated, there must be consequences if they are not followed. You might think you are doing your kids a favor by “being nice”; but you are not! You are teaching them habits that will do nothing but harm them and the family now and in the future. So do your kids a favor and hold them accountable to the boundaries you have established with them. Whatever you do, do not create consequences you cannot or do not intend to follow through with. This perpetuates the dysfunctional family and is something you are 100% in control over. That means if you threatened to punish them, punish them, making it clear that your intent is to protect them and help them to be more effective in fulfilling their needs. Both parents must hold each other accountable for not making empty promises. And somebody in the family must be the “enforcer.” But the enforcer must act in a calm and rational manner.
By removing all anger and negative emotions from the punishment, you will be teaching with love rather than simply reacting to events. If you see discipline as something difficult, then you might have “head trash” that may be harming your family dynamics. Discipline should be seen as a learning opportunity, not something done simply to punish someone.
Remember, when it comes to communication, frequency is always better than intensity. That means communicating often is much better than waiting until you are so mad you blow up and scream. Instead, calmly and without negative emotions (i.e., screaming, yelling, wild threats etc.), tell your children what you want and why you want it. Good Parents tell. Great Parents teach. When people understand why a rule is in place, they are more likely to accept it because they understand the philosophy behind it. It doesn’t mean we necessarily have to agree with it; but without understanding why, we are forced to participate blindly in someone else’s game.
Let’s face it, chances are people reading this book love their children and want to be better parents. The question is, What are we going to do to get better? Having the courage to consistently practice the 3 Rs will help you and your family have the success you want for generations to come.