Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Parenting Moment: Are you raising me to DO good? Not just BE good?

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Do you ever look at the little faces staring up at you and wonder, "What am I doing?"

As a first year classroom teacher I thought I knew everything. By the time the second year rolled around I realized there were a lot of really important things that I had never done during the first year. By the time I was a third year teacher, I was painfully aware of how much I didn't know and how much I still had to learn.

This is exactly how I feel as a parent.

I do know two things though.


1. I love my children and want them to be happy.


2. I want to raise my children not only to BE good, but also to DO good wherever they are.





I think about the second statement a lot. When I'm dealing with anger and frustration, I definitely don't feel like I am setting a good example. I've been thinking about how I can raise my children to "do good" and I thought maybe we could brainstorm a bit today and hopefully you can share your ideas with me too.

Here are four ideas that I came up with for helping teach my children to DO good:

1. Make sure that my words and actions are aligned with my values?

I attended a presentation a few weeks ago by Torie Henderson called Raising Gracious Children. She talked about looking at the things we say and making sure that they are teaching our children our values. For example, instead of asking your child after an event, "Did you have fun?" try asking instead, "Did you learn something?" "Were you kind?" "Did you play well as a team?" "Did you respect the rules?" "Were you helpful?" Try it. It is amazing how these conversations with your children reinforce what is most important to you.

2. Model doing good. 

Every single person counts- the rude person in the car next to me, the waitress that messed up my order... twice, or the person who rings the doorbell when my baby has just fallen asleep. How I handle each situation teaches my children something that they will hold on to and remember. I am hoping that they remember me being kind?

3. Catch my child being good. 

When I taught sixth grade we had a school-wide positive behavior system where teachers handed out gold slips when they caught kids being good. The good deed was listed on the slip of paper. Imagine the impact that made on the lives of those kids. They learned what doing good looked like and felt like, and they wanted to be people who did good things.

It is so easy as a parent to notice the disruptive or negative behavior. I need to do a better job at focusing on the good that I see.

4. Teach them to do good things in their own little worlds.

It is easy to get caught up in big campaigns and big acts of community service because the need is usually obvious and defined. Sometimes it is harder to notice the little good acts that could be done in your own little sphere of influence.

I think it is important to teach my kids to look outward towards the global community and do good, but at young ages, I think it is also important to make doing good meaningful to them daily through small acts of kindness- helping purchase a birthday gift for a friend, making thank you cards, taking a treat to a neighbor, sharing their special toy with a friend, cheering up a sibling that is sad, running to get something to help mommy, giving a compliment to a teacher, reading a story to a sibling, saying please and thank you, clearing a plate after dinner, etc.

Reinforcing these small acts and making them important to my children will hopefully instill in them a love for serving others- in big and small ways.


Being a parent is overwhelming sometimes. I am planning to choose one of these ideas above to focus on this next week. I'll probably work on all of them, but choosing one just makes it a little bit easier for me. How about you?

What do you know as a parent?


How are you teaching your children to "do good"?


What is your advice to parents who want to raise generous children?

25 comments:

  1. Such wise & encouraging words for new parents! We've raised our three to adulthood, and now enjoying two grandchildren! I'm sending this on to our "new mommies & daddies" to share this great insight!
    Thank you for your honesty & God bless your family! <3

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    1. Thanks!! I'll bet you have loads of advice for us. If you have a moment, share any thoughts that have been useful to you as you have raised your children.

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  2. Excellent thoughts to live by! Especially like the questions to ask instead of "Did you have fun?"

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  3. I think the most important - and the hardest part - is modeling doing (and being) good. As sponges, the kids are soaking in your good and your bad. Wish they had a filter for that :-) I think the times I feel bad about parenting are primarily the times I have displayed something I wouldn't want them to do themselves ... like getting angry over something trivial, sniping at my husband, or opening a plastic bag with my teeth :-)

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    1. I totally agree Chrissy! We are on show 24/7. It is hard work and they always seem to pick up on the worst things. I hope they're noticing some of my good characteristics too :)

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  4. We often chat at dinnertime about the girls' day at school and I'll say 'who was kind in your class today?', 'who helped you today?' so they think of their class as a community and where kindness is just as important as who got all the answers right in their spelling test. I also think it's important to encourage children to do good for the sake of doing good, rather than, say, to get stickers on a chart. If they've done something kind I might ask them how it made them feel, so they see the kindness as good for them as well as the other person.

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    1. Love you dinner conversations Cathy. I wish I could be there right with you sharing! :)

      I agree about the sticker charts too. Kids need to learn to recognize how great it feels when they do something good and we need to be facilitators to help them recognize and label those feelings. Great comments. Thank you!

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  5. I definitely need to work on controlling my reactions during stressful situations. It is one of my weakest areas as a mom. Great post! I look forward to reading more on this topic!

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    1. You and I both have the same problem. Parenting is hard!

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  6. My best advice is to model doing good things. Kids don't get it unless they see you donating food, cleaning up your neighbors trash, opening the door, sorting food for a pantry, and most importantly getting out of your little world. I find that my kids live in a bubble - the more we can get out and explore the more they see that all people are not just like them.

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    1. I completely agree. I probably don't venture out of my bubble as much as I think I do. I need to be better about that too. I feel that if we are making ourselves a bit uncomfortable in the giving process (bc we are going out of our comfort zones), it is definitely a success.

      Some people do tend to neglect the people closest to them though and always do good elsewhere, so I guess it depends on the person. Such great thoughts Kristen!

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  7. show the children opportunities as they come up of other people doing good. There was a video recently of people doing random acts of kindness or paying it forward. Each person saw and did for another and so on. We watched it together and had a conversation.

    Also, talking after the event of anger, frustration and looking back on what happened. It's quite interesting how we all react differently in the family.

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  8. I love those specific questions to ask. Will try that.

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    1. Would love to hear how it goes!

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    2. "How was school today?" isn't that the standard question to ask and really isn't is just as benign as asking "how are you" it has become just the polite conversation that we really don't want to have and no one listens to completely anyway. I heard a program once that reminded me - do you really want to know how the school's day went or are you inquiring about your child's day while at school? Even with my children grown and having grandchildren I never use this question even about the day at work, etc. Mix up the questions, was there a test today that you can ask how it went - even what was the easiest question, was it art, gym, whatever day - ask for details; if you need a standard question ask something like "what was the funniest thing that happened today?". Also, it helps to ask questions that cannot possibly be answered with just one word (typically "yes" or "no"). It takes more thought and time, but the payback in many times over worth it!

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  9. Thanks for posting this! These are the things that worked for us:

    First, we always involved our young children in opportunities to help others, even if it took longer with their help. They helped us deliver dinners to ill neighbors, rake leaves for the elderly, etc.

    Secondly, we tried to teach them to think of others from a very young age. When we needed to leave a room during a meeting because they were being noisy (either happy or sad noises) we didn't just tell them they needed to be quiet. We told them that we needed to be quiet so that other people could hear and not be distracted. When we asked them not to touch shiny glass we explained that someone had worked very hard to get it clean. Neighbors worked hard to have lovely yards, so it was polite to ask before playing in that yard.

    Now that they're teenagers we're often told how thoughtful and considerate our children are. We make sure to pass the compliment along so that they understand how appreciated they are. And we still involve them and remind them when the opportunity arises. And now they're old enough to remind us sometimes as well.

    Barbara

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  10. This is great! Love it. I like reading all the comments as well. Thanks ladies! I love teaching my kids to pray for others (and not just the typical praying in bed at night before you fall asleep, I mean going over to the person, sharing with them how much God loves them, and then asking if they'd like prayer for anything), especially if they see someone hurting, or sad. It helps them get their eyes off themselves, and to see the need of others.

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  11. I caught my 2 1/2 year old clapping and cheering on another child who was on a climbing activity the other day without my influence. She was saying things like "you can do it", "good job" and "well done". I cannot say how shocked I was but also how proud. I realised that sometimes when I'm shouting words of encouragement to her, that they do help to give her confidence in her own abilities. I'm going to try some of the above in the article today as I'm always asking "Did you have fun" and a slight moderation or addition would be much more in line with the way I want her to think and consider others. Thanks for a great post.

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  12. Thanks for this article! I agree with most of your points, but I would re-think the gold slips and "good jobs."

    The research shows that rewards like these damage intrinsic motivation over the long term. In other words, rewarding kids for good behavior does not necessarily internalize good behavior, but can even undermine it. Other studies show that kids learn empathy and morals better when they're neither rewarded nor punished (you can still guide your kids without a carrot-and-stick).

    Check out Alfie Kohn's work if you're interested in learning more, highly recommended!

    PsyBlog: How Rewards Can Backfire and Reduce Motivation http://www.spring.org.uk/2009/10/how-rewards-can-backfire-and-reduce-motivation.php

    Alfie Kohn: Unconditional Parenting, Moving from Rewards and Punishment to Love and Reason http://www.amazon.com/Unconditional-Parenting-Moving-Rewards-Punishments/dp/0743487486

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    1. Anonymous- thanks for taking a few minutes to reply. I am very familiar with the research you have mentioned. I don't believe that verbal praise (especially genuine and specific praise) can damage the development of good behavior. I think you may have misunderstood my example. The main point I was making in that section is that it is important for kids to be taught and learn to recognize what good behavior looks like. It wasn't to emphasize the use of tangible reinforcers.

      Thank you for your thoughts and articles!

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  13. This post will prove to be a timeless piece that every parent needs to read and consider. Thank you! My favorite is having kids to good "in their own little worlds"--my boys clean a creek right by the school once a week. They make sure that I don't schedule anything on Creek Day. So fun to see how they have ownership over that area of the world.

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  14. I think it is more important to raise kids with srtong moral values, so when they see something bad, they can't help but fix it. Or at least try. Doing good to earn approval is not healthy, normally it s a sign of low self esteem, and can lead to wrong conclusions. It is important to teach kids to do things because they want it, not because they think they will get something if they do(attention, someones freindship, approval, place in paradise, whatever).

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