“Dr. Laura..Since I stopped punishing, things are a lot better at my house. But I want to be sure that I’m teaching my kids the right lessons so they’re responsible…What do I do when they hurt each other, or break things, or lie?”
How do we teach the fundamental lessons of behavior to our children so they’re responsible? Mostly, by modeling. Do you blame someone else when things go wrong? Tell a white lie on the phone while your child is listening? Ask your child to lie about his age to get into the amusement park? Scream when you don’t get your way? Unfortunately, children won’t always do what we say, but they will always do what we do.
Modeling is your secret weapon. Every time we we take responsibility and apologize, every time we work to stay emotionally regulated, every time we model kindness and compassion and forgiveness, every time we empathize to see her point of view, we’re teaching our child the most important lessons.
But we also teach directly, by how we respond to hurts in our house. If your child has been supported to notice relationship ruptures and repair them, rather than being forced into grudging apologies, he probably does it automatically by now. If not, it’s time to start.