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.
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