We’ve talked a lot about responsibility, kindness, honesty, and helpfulness around here lately. And these are definitely values that are worth teaching to our kids. Although, in thinking through how to implement these character qualities, we’ve hit the same point each time: we as parents must be modeling these positive behaviors for our children.
We all want our kids to be decent people. We’d like for them to be strong, capable of handling life’s problems. These are worthy goals, but if we only talk about these character qualities, our words will not do much. We must live this kind of life in front of our kids.
So how do we work on good character qualities as adults? If we’re being honest, we all have something to work on in the character department. How can we change behaviors and attitudes that are ingrained habits?
Start with your mind
We’ll begin with our thoughts. While this may sound existential and vague, it is actually quite concrete and practical. Fill your mind with good things, and good things are likely to come out. This will look different for each of us. What gives you hope and encouragement? And on the other side, what do you put into your mind that tips it toward the negative? Maybe choose one inspiring quote, put it on a post it note, and put it where you’ll see it often. If you can keep your own thoughts and spirit positive, this will change what behaviors and attitudes come out of you. And this will help you in modeling positive behaviors for your kids.
Another way to fill your mind with positive thinking is to listen to positive music. I used to work with troubled kids in a wilderness camp setting, and we sang all the time. Our director often said, “You can’t stay in a bad attitude while you’re singing a good song.” And he was totally right. So we sang good songs, and it helped those kids deal with their sadness and pain without hurting other people.
The same can be true for us. If you cannot get out of a lousy attitude, turn on the music. No angry music or negative stuff. Turn on something that will turn your thoughts around and help you. It really does make a difference.
So much of our programming at My Signing Time is for children, but we do have resources for adults too. If you have a My Signing Time subscription, you can find some fun positive music in our digital album Shine: Selected Songs for Grown Ups. It’s available for download in the Signing Time Classic Collection.
Set attainable goals
It is, of course, great to declare, “I will start modeling positive behaviors for my children!” However, such a declaration would be too general and far-reaching. Success requires more specific actions.
So, as with any large task, we can set small goals. We can take baby steps in building our own positive character qualities. Here are a few examples.
Ugh. None of us wants to see ourselves as the yelling parent. And yet, in reality, many of us end up shouting or over-fussing at our kids out of frustration. So that’s where we work on our own responses to frustration. What makes you frustrated? Is it being late? Is it that your kids aren’t listening?
For me, it was that I had a good plan, and my kids were messing it up. So I had to learn to let go of some control. Each time I felt this way, that my plan was getting messed up, I tried to be OK with whatever was happening. I tried to think about the big picture, and that my plan could be flexible. And I would try to say, out loud, that this is how it was meant to be, so we can just go with it, even if it means we will miss something or have to rearrange our schedule. Loving each other is more important.
And you know what? The more I talked to myself this way, the easier it was to chill out, to adjust more willingly, and to stop blaming and fussing at my kids for my own frustration. So let’s think about what frustrates us and how we can handle our own frustration so that we don’t take it out on our children.
Show kindness to your kids
It’s so easy to forget the humanity of our own children. We expect them to regulate their emotions like adults (and really, do we as adults always regulate our emotions well?). Often, we want them to make life easy, and they don’t. And many times, we forget that they are little humans who have the right to get upset, to have opinions, and to be listened to.
You can help your kids learn to express their feelings clearly and safely by teaching them some signs for feelings. We have a section with several signs for feelings in our Signing Time Dictionary. Check it out here!
So let’s set a goal to remember that our kids are individuals, with their own minds and hearts. And let’s be determined to treat them the way we would like to be treated.
Let your kids see your honesty
Firstly, be honest. Be honest with other people, and be honest with your kids. It takes humility to be an honest person, and a humble, honest attitude will speak volumes to your children. When they see us being vulnerable and honest, it gives them the courage to do the same.
These are just a few ways to set small but significant goals so that your kids can see and learn positive behaviors from you. And the byproduct is an improved relationship with your precious children.
So figure out a way you can start modeling positive behaviors for your children in a new area. They will learn this good character quality, but they will also see you grow, and that is another great positive example for them. And the best outcome will be a better relationship with your kids.
My Signing Time can help!
We think of Rachel and the TreeSchoolers as a science show, and yes, it is a science show. But along with scientific principles, the TreeSchoolers learn about character qualities like working together, seeing each person’s unique qualities, and never giving up. You can see this for yourself in the first episode, A Rainy Day, right here for free! Watch it with your kids, and see how much fun they have learning about weather, while they also learn about dealing with fear and showing kindness.