David B. Berg
The secret to raising happy, well-behaved, and well-adjusted children is actually quite simple—love. It's knowing how to apply that love that isn't always so straightforward or easy. Here are eight tips that are sure to help.
Teach your children to be motivated by love. Teach your children from a very early age to put love into action by being unselfish and considerate of others' feelings and needs. The following paraphrase makes a great starting place in teaching little ones to be motivated by love: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated."
Promote honest, open communication. If your children know that they can expect you to react calmly and lovingly no matter what, they will be much more likely to confide in you. And if you build a relationship of mutual trust and understanding while your children are small, they will be more likely to keep that line of communication open when they reach their preteen and teen years and their emotions and problems become much more complex.
Put yourself in your children's place. Try to relate to your children on their level and not expect too much of them. Also remember that children tend to be more sensitive than adults, so it's important to be extra considerate of their feelings. We all know how demoralizing it is to be embarrassed, hurt, or slighted by others, so realizing that such unpleasant experiences can be even more traumatic to children should cause us to do our best to spare them from such incidents.
Set a good example. Be the best role model that you can be—not by trying to appear perfect in your children's eyes, but by being loving, accepting, patient, and forgiving, and by striving to demonstrate the other virtues and live the values you want your children to have.
Set reasonable rules for behavior. Children are happiest when they know their boundaries and those boundaries are lovingly and consistently enforced. A spoiled, demanding, and irresponsible child becomes a spoiled, demanding, and irresponsible adult, so it's important that children learn to take responsibility for their actions. The goal of discipline is self-discipline, without which your children will be at a great disadvantage later in school, business, and the social world.
One of the best methods of establishing the rules is to get your children to help make them, or at least to agree to them. It takes more time and patience to teach them to make the right decisions than it does to punish them for their wrong ones, but it goes a lot further.
Give praise and encouragement. Like the rest of us, children thrive on praise and appreciation. Build their self-esteem by consistently and sincerely commending them for their good qualities and achievements. Also remember that it's more important and bears far better results to praise children for good behavior than to scold them for bad behavior. Try to always accentuate the positive and your children will feel more loved and secure.
Love unconditionally. God never gives up on us or stops loving us no matter how far we've strayed, and that's the way we ought to be with our children.
Pray for your children. No matter how hard you try or how well you do at everything else, some situations will be beyond your control or require more than you have to give—but nothing is beyond God's control or His power. He has all the answers and can supply every need. "Ask and it shall be given" (Matthew 7:7).
Originally published in Activated Magazine. Used with permission.