Even the best of children have their moments. Younger ones will cut their eyes at you while testing your limit. “Will she catch me?” “Does she really mean that ‘no’?” Even the worst of children have their moments when they want to do and be good. What’s your best course of action? Always choose first to catch ‘em being good.
When called to the table, 13 year old Alec groused that he didn’t feel like coming to eat dinner with the family. He shuffled out of his room, earbuds in place, wanting to be anywhere else but eating supper with his family. As he sat down, dad gave him “that look.” Alec huffed and whispered, “This is such B.S.”
At that point, Alec’s folks had a choice to make. They could focus on their son’ attitude. “Enough, young man. Lose the attitude. Eat your dinner.” Such a parental response is very common. Parental authority and family values are being challenged. They would have every right to chastise their son for his disrespect, behavior, and language. If they chose this option, however, they would be trading relationship for power. Do you want your family interaction to be based on your power, or on quality relationship?
Or, Alec’s folks could choose to focus on his compliance, even when everything else screamed rebellion. They would start the meal by holding hands and blessing the food. Alec might offer his pinky finger to another at this point, or nothing at all. Mom and dad would make small talk, engage other children at the table, and draw Alec into the conversation in some small way.
Assuming the meal goes well, considering, then at conclusion, mom or dad could catch Alec being good. “You know, Son, you made a good choice coming to the table and eating with the family even though it was the last thing you wanted to do. I know you are trying to find your way, and family doesn’t seem to mean much to you right now. Family means a lot to us, obviously, and I thank you for joining us for dinner.”
When given options, choose nurturing the relationship over exercising your power. Your child will remember that lots longer. Pay attention to what you want to grow in your child. Catch ‘em being good.