Have you ever watched your kids interact with friends or other adults and ask yourself, “Who is this kid?”
As our children get older they become exposed to larger group of people. Parents, at least in the earlier years, have a great influence over how, when, and with whom children can interact. However, upon entering school age they begin to make connections with people that are no longer under our influence (although many of us try hard manage that too). What effect does this have on our children’s behavior and is that okay?
From a parent point of view I think it is perfectly okay. My role is to be their guide and to help shape their decision making so they can become well adjusted adults. I can teach rules, give examples, and model acceptable behavior. I can provide consequences for good and bad behavior and have them practice and role-play. But the choice is really their’s to make.
As our children get older their behaviors increasingly come under the influence of the social groups with which they associate. Therefore certain behaviors which you might never see or hear come out when children are with their friends. Think about it, have you ever said or done things with your friends that you would never say or do with your parents? You might praise and/or punish certain behaviors when they are with you. But those same behaviors might not get praised and/or punished by their friends.
It’s okay that these social contingencies exist, it’s all part of growing up. It’s okay that my son acts differently with his friends than he does with me. We have a different relationship. However as a dad, I must also teach him the social emotional competencies that help him build positive relationships and guide him to making good decisions. The key here is providing guidance in shaping their own goal setting behaviors. We can help (not force) them to decide what they want to do with their lives, both in the short term and long term. Sounds an awful lot like providing them with choices doesn’t it?
I think it is essential to show them where the biggest payoff is. If the bigger payoff is gained by acting a certain way with their friends, then obviously their friends have the greater influence. However as parents we need to help them recognize the greater payoff is by making decisions that help them achieve their goals. A child who is frequently given choices becomes more adept at making good choices later in life when peer pressures are at their greatest. Therefore when they are put into situations over which we have no control, they will have a greater ability to make positive choices that will help them achieve short and long term goals.
What are some ways you foster positive decision-making with your kids? Please feel free to share!