I attended Character First parenting workshop last Saturday and it aimed at parents with children from 3 – 12. The instructor, Joseph Tan, (thanks to his funny and lively presentation or I would have slept through the workshop), called it primary years. It is during this formative period that the children should be given moral drilling and not moral reasoning. Despite this fact, many parents do it the other way. They give moral reasoning first and in teenage years, moral drilling. That explains why the children are rebellious when they reach their teens.
Anyway, during the 2.5 hours workshop, some of the lessons have struck me like a bolt of lightning – because what I expected to learn was sometimes the opposite of what I thought.
I may disagree with some of the points while agree with the rest, but overall the workshop was a great refresher course to remind me of good parenting principles as well as an insight into other parents’ problems. And hey the latter made me feel good as I was thinking: “I am not alone.”
Here’s a list of parenting lessons that I find shocking but good to implement:
- Parent-centered family – In this generation, we are moving from parent-centered family to child-centered family. The latter would have children being the center of the family universe. Everything revolves around the kids and parents have lost their status as the commander of the family. How to tell if your family is a child-centered family? Here are a few signs: you feel like a chauffeur in the family, you hurry around the child going for the next class, or you have no personal time at all. If this is so for your family, it is time for you to take back the control and make it a parent-centered family. You are the king of the castle, not your child. The children have to listen to you, not vice-versa.
- Give “orders” not options – Taking the cue from the above lesson, while giving instructions to your child, you leave no options. You give order to your child just like what the police instructor does to his cadet police. Bear in mind, you do this to children of 3 – 12 years old. Of course, some parents will not agree to this as this might teach children to be yesmen. For me, I believe most of the things can fall into this category (giving as orders only) while you leave some unimportant decisions for your child to make. You have to strike a balance between “orders” and “options.”
- Spanking is required… sparingly – Most parenting gurus are not in favor of spanking. But in this workshop, I was shocked to find it otherwise. Caning is part of the discipline for this instructor but we have to use it only on serious mistakes. And before we spank, we should try it on ourselves first to decide the proper pressure before putting it on our child. Joseph stressed that we use cane not out of anger but out of love. That is to say don’t spank while you are in anger and when emotions have taken control over you. In addition, you do the spanking in the presence of your spouse. The other spouse is there to make sure that the punishment is done properly and will not transform into abuse.
- Give a memorable lesson – Here is a good trick. I used it on my strong-willed son immediately after the workshop. Does it work? You bet. The gist of this lesson is when the child misbehaves, you give a consequence that is so memorable (or hurtful to the heart) that he will think twice next time when he tries to misbehave. It might not work when you first implement this, but after a while, your child will pay attention to your “consequences” and will behave well if you carry out what you say. The consequences can be in the form of withdrawal of privileges (eg: no more chocolate), donating his favorite toy to a charity, and if it is a serious disciplinary problem, you have to take out the cane.
K has a problem of waking up late and this causes my wife and J being late for work and school. When he made a fuss yesterday morning for not getting ready for school, my wife started the car engine without him. Sensing something was not in favor and his “trick” did not work, he cried louder and louder and rushed out from the bathroom to the door. He felt that his position was “threatened.” And I told him that if it happened again next time, mommy would not wait for him and would just drove off without him. Finally, he agreed to be bathed and dressed. The whole episode ended in peace.
The key for this to work is you must say what you mean and mean what you say. What you say must be doable and you must follow up on it. Otherwise, your child will take what you say lightly and the method will lose its effectiveness on him.
- Put marriage first – Dammit. I went for a parenting workshop and here instead Joseph taught me how to have a happy marriage. Hold on a second and here’s why. According to him, they are all inter-related. If you want to be a good parent, you must put your marriage in order first. Not only that, your marriage is your first priority as far as the family is concerned. The children come later. He likened this to putting an oxygen mask on yourself first before your child whenever there is a plane emergency. One of the ways to have a better relationship with your spouse is to have a weekly “marriage time.” When only two of you spend the time together – without the kids.
- Say “no” to your child – Contrary to what we believe, children are fine to be hurt (not to be taken literally, of course). The saying that we can’t hurt our children is not true. Many parents dare not say no to their children and they worry that this might hurt them. Little do these parents know that children will not be hurt so easily and they can adapt well to the environment far much better than adults. That explains why children who are brought up in a rough environment are stronger. The instructor suggested that your child should hear at least 3 times of “no” everyday. The essence of this is it’s okay to say no to your child and they can take it well. To me, it’s more like teaching your child to accept rejections gracefully and hold no grudges at the same time.
For more info about Character First! Parenting Workshop, visit http://www.parentingbycharacter.com/