Five Steps to Raising Children Other People Like to Be Around


A parenting proponent of simplification, Richard Greenberg developed SMART, an acronym of five principles from his book “Raising Children that Other People Like to Be Around.”

Set an Example – This has two parts.  The first one is solidifying your mission and values with your parenting partner and learning how to remain in sync about those goals through the whole process of raising your child (or children).  The second is to behave as though everything you are doing is going to be mimicked by your child – because it will be!  If you’re nice to the food server, your child will grow up to be nice to food servers.  If you show people respect, your child will do the same.  You don’t have to be a saint, but it’s important to realize that your child is going to reflect the behavior you teach… whether consciously or subconsciously…and that especially includes how you communicate with the people closest to you.

Make the Rules – As part of setting an example, you have to decide what values you think are most important to you (and your parenting partner).  If you value truth and respect above all else then shape your rules accordingly.  Remember that “Rules are the arms in which you children can embrace themselves.”  By following your rules, your children know that they are “good” and therefore feel comfortable in your presence.  When you consider your rules, be sure to make them reasonable and understandable.  Your children will follow those rules because they understand what the are for – to keep them safe and to respect the feelings and property of others. 9781909740242_p0_v1_s600

Apply the Rules – Once you’ve decided what’s important you have to stick to your guns. Little children will test boundaries – which is their job – and by saying “no” and explaining your motive you are showing them that you care.  Applying rules is as simple as guiding your children toward the behaviors that you prefer.  Arbitrary rules like “you must sit at the dinner table for twenty minutes” have never made sense to me.  When you see your child doing something you like (as in following a rule) just comment on it – “I like the way you’re sitting quietly at the table.”  “Thank you for taking your dishes to the sink.”  It’s as much about being a cheerleader as it is about being a cop.

Respect Yourself – This one is a biggie.  It is inexcusable to let your child tell you to shut up – but there are parents who allow it.  You are the boss, you are the “pack leader” and in order to maintain comfort for all concerned you need to demand and expect respect.  I like to think of it this way:  If you were to get into a cab and ask the driver to take you to the airport, and that driver were to say to you “OK – I think I know how to get there.”  You would have two reactions:  One reaction would be a complete loss of respect for this person who didn’t know the basics of their job, and the other would be “Get me out of this cab!”  Your children are passengers in your cab – you are far better informed about the local roads than they and, even if you’re not, you need to make them think you are (for their comfort and safety).

Teach in All Things – If you look at your child as an “Adult in Training” and you see that it is your job to be their teacher, then everything you do will be informed by the underlying lesson.  I like to believe that our job as parents is to create “citizens,” and that in order to teach citizenship we have to find ways to illustrate day to day lessons.  Will we help an older person cross the street?  Why do we have to wait in line?  What happens when toys get broken?  How does it feel to give a gift?  How would you feel if someone did that to you?  These are simple examples of the lessons that parents can, and should be teaching every day.  Once our kids catch on – they begin to see the lessons themselves.


There are entire chapters dedicated to each of these “Five Simple Musts” in my book. These simple and doable suggestions can simplify the parenting process and concentrate on the wonder of raising your children. They are eager to learn what you want to teach them. Be a leader and show them the things you love about the world.

—photo by hedvigs/Flickr

About Richard Greenberg

A native of Los Angeles, California, Richard Greenberg graduated from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in English. He married his childhood sweetheart with whom he continues to raise their four children. After more than thirty years in the entertainment industry as a post-production executive, editor and writer/producer – "Raising Children that Other People Like to Be Around" is his first book. Greenberg is a popular college-level instructor, and a whole-hearted proponent of simplification.


  1. Dear Richard,
    I love your 5 Tips and your emphasis parenting.

    I am organizing a Tele Summit themed “LET”S HEAR IT FOR THE DAD” 
    and I would love to invite you to be a speaker in this event.

    The purpose of the summit is to celebrate and highlight the importance of dads, the contributions they make and their particular struggles. I think your values are a perfect fit for the parenting community that I serve.

    Do you do interviews?

    Thanks for your time,
    Elisabeth Stitt

    p.s. The 30-minute interviews are prerecorded by phone to work with your schedule.

  2. I too didn’t entirely see the connection between the title and the article itself per se — and furthermore have a quarrel with some of the underlying premise of the former. I’m not saying you were making this argument (but the title almost leads there), but if other people’s comfort with my child is the primary goal of my parenting I can imagine a great deal of ‘bad’ parenting behavior emerging as a consequence.

    An anecdote from my life for example. A couple weeks ago I was visiting a sporting goods store with my wife and almost 3 year old son. He loves to play in the ‘practice hiking area’ for trying out boots in this particular store and my wife or I typically spend 10-15minutes on each visit holding his hand as he navigates the terrain back and forth. On this visit, it was my turn and when I told him we were gonna go in 1 or 2 more minutes, he immediately began a full scale nuclear meltdown. He was hungry and lunch was our next stop. Giving him a warning is typically a golden ticket for avoiding crazing behavior and encouraging obedience. But not this time. He screamed and flopped and hit. All in front of my fellow shoppers.

    I felt embarrassed; and I felt guilty. I knew my sons behavior was an inconvenience to those around me. I knew people at that moment didn’t like being around my screaming child. I wanted to save them from that. I also felt incompetent as a parent — especially as I was unable to calm him or cajole him to obey.

    My first reaction was to parent out of this embarrassment and guilt. I modeled anger and harshness.

    Now — my desire is to parent out of a place of leadership and confidence as well as empathy and wisdom for my son. Where rather than the concerns and comfort of everyone else being the prime mover in my relationship and behavior with him — his needs and our relationship take the more key seat. Someone has to play second fiddle. Unfortunately, poor stranger at the sporting goods store with whom (unlike my children) I will not be celebrating Christmas with in 20 years or of whose grandchild I will not be holding in 30, I place my priority on building bonds of trust with and a honorable character within my son. Perhaps the two are not mutually exclusive, but in my experience they often feel as though they are.

  3. Richard, I absolutely get you. Absolutely.

  4. I have worked in the mental health field for over 30 years. It is so refreshing to read the voice of a father/husband that clearly is so devoted to his children/wife, and willing to stand on parenting. There are far too many parents who are filled with self-doubt and fear about how to parent their children. Even if I don’t entirely agree with the author’s way, it is obvious that his way brought great joy to him as a parent, as a team with his wife, and I’m sure I would enjoy knowing the children he has raised. Smart, loving, confident and devoted parenting are not easy to apply to one child, much less four. Thank you for this article, Mr. Greenberg. I will be handing out your book to patients of mine who are fathers that I’m sure will be breathing a sign of relief from your natural and non-clinical, loving dad approach!

    • Thank you Beverly Berg.
      Perhaps this truncated representation of my “Five Parenting Musts” doesn’t adequately reflect how important I believe it is to be positive in one’s parenting. I don’t spend a lot of time scolding my children, because I spend more time encouraging them and praising them for the things they do right. All of what I describe in the article is suggested in the most positive terms. My book does a far more thorough job of explaining that context with regard to the S.M.A.R.T. steps.

      • I only wish there were more fathers like you out in the world. Obviously, whatever way you are parenting your kids it is being done with wisdom and love. Please, please, please, keep writing and sharing your experience and thoughts. Wonderful!

  5. Hi Veronica,
    Thank you for your comment.
    We really thought a lot about the title… and it’s not so much whether I care how the people around me feel – it’s about wanting my children to behave in a manner that is courteous and conscious of their surroundings. Noisy, rude, children may not bother some people – but I know when I see a child disrespect their parent, or run wildly around a restaurant, it makes ME uncomfortable, so I just don’t want to subject others to those situations with my children. I know that if my children behave according to my expectations they will not make others uncomfortable – and that’s what I mean by “that other people like to be around”.
    As to shame, there are actually two clinical definitions for shame – healthy shame and toxic shame. ( I agree with you that toxic shame (the type that leaves one unmotivated and with low self esteem) should always be avoided. But, healthy shame is created at the same time we teach our children how to avoid feeling that way in the future. If I am ashamed that I didn’t bring a gift to a party – chances are I’m going to remember to bring a gift the next time.
    As I mentioned earlier, we, as parents need to discuss these issues with our children. Every discipline opportunity is a chance to TEACH our children how we think, what our expectations are, and how their behavior affects them and others. None of what I advocate happens in a vacuum. These opportunities, and the sense of safety that open loving communication creates in these conversations, teaches our children that there is logic to our expectations and that, in the end, we’re just trying to teach them how to navigate the world.

  6. Veronica Grace says:

    While I thought you said really excellent important things I have to admit that I’m put off by the title.

    I think we need to remove caring what other people think of our kids from our priorities and motivations. We need to parent well because it is our job and it is the highest form of love. Often being a good parent means doing what is right even when other people have judgments around it.

    To be clear I believe that being a good parent very often has the side effect of creating children that people enjoy being around. But it can not be the motivation behind your good parenting. The parent who cares to much what others think is going to be the parent who doesn’t suffer the temper tantrum in the super market in order to teach their child that they can’t have everything they want. The parent who cares to much what others think is not going to fight with the school to get their child a needed reasonable accommodation for a disability. A parent who cares too much about what other people think will shame their child for having needs or emotions that are not tidy and comfortable to be around.

    But worst of all a parent who cares to much what others think will (as you so fantastically pointed out in your #1) teach their children to live their lives based on what others think. They will teach them not to be good people, but to be people that others think are good. Which is a frightening disparity.

    I also absolutely disagree that some shame is good. No shame is good. Guilt can be good. Guilt is what happens when you do something bad, shame is what happens when you believe you are bad.

  7. Dear Karen and Amy,
    Thanks for your thoughts.
    Ironically, my book is written from a very “male” perspective. I believe that “Good men” can be sensitive and responsive even if they’ve been told their behavior is bad, or have been shamed for doing something wrong.
    By “setting an example” we are behaving in a way that is designed to set a bar for our children’s behavior. It is in this way that we earn, rather than “demand” their respect. Perhaps it was a poor choice of word on my part in the “Respect Yourself” section. On the other hand, if your child wants to buy a new toy every time you go to the store and you don’t buy them the toy, you are teaching them that they can’t always get what they want – a reality of life. You are also subtly “demanding” that they respect your belief by implementing it in your behavior. The concept of a parent stamping their foot and “demanding” that they be respected is not what I had in mind. These things are fleshed out more clearly in the book.
    I also believe that children who don’t follow the rules should be made to “feel” bad. This doesn’t mean they are bad children – it means that they behaved in a way that was unacceptable and they shouldn’t continue to do so. Shame is not always a negative. If we as parents explain WHY we’re unhappy with a certain behavior, then our children understand what we expect. It is important to confront the bad behavior, not ignore or equate it with good behavior. Behavioral issues are essential teaching opportunities. In this way we teach our children how to communicate, show them our love, and allow them to learn to trust us and our process.
    Raising a family isn’t something that happens TO our children… it happens WITH our children. I respect my children, their feelings and their opinions but yes, I am unashamedly the “pack leader.” I’m still their respected father, but now that they are grown, I’m their student as much as their teacher.

  8. I almost always love the articles on this website, but not this one, I’m sad to say. A few things jump out at me:

    Respect isn’t respect if it is “demanded”. And how does a child who grows up having parents DEMAND that they respect them become the kind of man this site promotes? Children who are treated with respect are far more likely to show respect than children whose parents “demand” that their children respect them.

    Also, “Applying rules is as simple as guiding your children toward the behaviors that you prefer”? Ummm, not really! For many parents, that “guiding” means shaming, controlling, punishing, spanking etc. Again, these things are not going to result in the kind of “good men” this site promotes.

    Lastly this: “By following your rules, your children know that they are “good” and therefore feel comfortable in your presence.” What about when children don’t follow the rules? Does this mean they know they are “bad” and they therefore won’t feel comfortable in their parents’ presence? Don’t we want our children to be more than “good”? Don’t we want them to feel comfortable in our presence whether they “follow our rules” or not?

    There are better ways to parent than this.

    • Karen Lee, you NAILED it EXACTLY! What you wrote about respect, rules, and comfort with parents whether they have been “good” or “bad” is spot-on!
      Also, ” You are the boss, you are the “pack leader”…” doesn’t provide the children the experiences of leading themselves. And learning HOW to lead is done by having leadership opportunities, not by following ” in order to maintain comfort for all concerned.” The precepts in this article, to me, seem well-intended but not very S.M.A.R.T.
      I could not agree with you more that, “There are better ways to parent than this.”

    • Madeira says:

      THIS. My parents always treated me with respect and I treated them with respect in turn.

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