A genius idea for raising well-behaved children

This post originally appeared as an exclusive article in Kirk Cameron’s new community: The Campfire. To join, sign up here.

If you’re a parent, you’ve been trapped in a public place with a screaming toddler or a child who is throwing a fit.  How can you lessen these unpleasant outbursts and teach your kids to be civil in public instead?

The answer is simple: practice.

And practice some more.

My husband James had a saying that became one of his parenting principles: “Don’t wait, create.” It was all about creating different scenarios that will inevitably happen to your child.  Instead of waiting for your toddler to walk out dangerously into oncoming traffic, you practice on the sidewalk at home and cross the street. After you try crossing safely in a quiet neighborhood, you practice on a larger road.

Before going to a nice restaurant for someone’s anniversary, you practice table manners at home.  You can make it fun, making mom or dad the server. Teach your child how to order food and say thank you when it is brought to the table.  Practice good manners like not throwing food or staring at an iPad. If your first attempt is unsuccessful, try again until your kids get the hang of it.

When our kids were small, we wanted to teach them to come when we called.  You can imagine how important this is in case of emergency or if you just want to finally leave a play date.  The first time I explained to my son Ethan, “When mommy says come, you need to stop what you are doing and run right over to me.  Let’s try it!”  I would put him on the floor with a bunch of cars.  Then I’d walk several feet away and say, “Come to mommy!”  He’d sprint right over because it was like a fun game.  I’d hug him and tell him he did a great job.  We did this a few times with me yelling “Come to mommy” from different parts of the house.

Here’s where it gets cool. Hours later, I could yell “Come to mommy!” and he would stop what he was doing and run to me.  Now as the days passed and this novel game wore off, he would ignore me.  I would say firmly, “When mommy calls you, you have to come right away.”  And we’d try it again until he got it right and then I’d heap hugs on him.  We ran this drill regularly at home and then when we were out in public, I could call for him and he would come.

For younger children, you can create these kinds of drills to keep them safe and you sane.  With your tweens and teens, you can continue to create opportunities for learning.  Here are a few ideas of things you can practice with your older son or daughter:

  • How to interact with your teacher if you don’t understand an assignment
  • How to respond when a classmate says something mean to you
  • What to do when a kid pushes you
  • What to do if you see something inappropriate online
  • How to choose clothes that are attractive and modest
  • How to interview well for a part-time job

When you’re actively involved in teaching your child about sex, relationships, money, and school, you shave off years of your child’s education in the school of hard knocks. It all starts with practice in the home. Role play different scenarios of what might happen and how your kids might respond.  My friend, author and speaker Kendra Smiley says, “One of the things that was really helpful to me was this question:  What’s my goal as a parent?  My ultimate goal was to raise a responsible adult.”

I wholeheartedly agree! I believe one of the keys to raising a responsible adult is practicing real-life scenarios in the safety of your own home.  Design practice sessions to help your child with homework, getting along with others, being respectful to teachers and leaders, and safely navigating the Internet. Don’t wait passively for life to teach your child lessons.  Think of the challenges your child faces today and don’t wait; create.  What is something your child needs to practice today?

This post originally appeared as an exclusive article in Kirk Cameron’s new community: The Campfire. To join, sign up here.

Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of several books including 31 Days to a Happy Husbandand Parents Rising: 8 Strategies for Raising Kids Who Love God, Respect Authority, and Value What’s Right.  Learn more at ArlenePellicane.com.


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