Effective parenting involves good character development- that is, raising kids who have a sense of ‘other’ rather than a sense of entitlement. It also means raising kids with a moral compass that helps them work out right from wrong. Kids usually pick up this moral compass from their parents however parental influence is easily diluted by the huge array of messages from they hear from the media, music, peers and the Internet.
Kids today are exposed to too much adult-oriented content too early. In some ways today’s children remind me of slum children in Victorian England, who saw too much but experienced very little. Today’s kids are exposed to too much in terms of adult content and concepts that they may not understand and they don’t have enough positive developmental experiences that involve all their senses(however this is a topic for another day).
The following three simple processes will provide the means for you help develop a moral compass in your children and ensure that you stay in the game as your kids move into adolescence.
1. Place televisions and Internet-connected computers in a public place in your home. With the average Australian family owning more than two television sets increasingly televisions are in children’s bedrooms. This not only limits your supervision and monitoring options but removes the chance for the children to easily speak to you regarding content that they are not sure about. Ditto with Internet-connected computers. Search engine giant Yahoo! advises parents to place computers in public spaces in the family home so kids have easy access to parents while they are online.
2. Have regular meals together. Sounds deceptively simple but mealtimes are tremendous opportunities for parents and children to talk. Let your kids be heard but also be heard yourself. The free interchange of ideas and information that a vibrant meal-time provides is one of the best forms of adult/child/young person interaction there is. That is not to say every mealtime will be provide opportunities for brilliant conversations. However even if the conversation flows once in every three mealtimes that is a great hit rate- and better than non at all.
3. Read good literature to children. Good children’s books and novels generally have messages that revolve around a diverse array of positive values such as tolerance, persistence and courage. Just ten minutes a night spent reading to your children will help them develop a love of reading, but also expose them to ideas that are generally constructed with the relevant age group in mind. Kids are hard-wired to learn from story so expose your kids to good ideas through the written word.
The best interactions with kids happens when no one is working at it. However, in this noisy world parents need to be proactive and make sure they engineer situations where they can maximise their well-intentioned influence on the children they are raising. Lecturing and moralising doesn’t work these days with kids, but influence certainly does.
Michael Grose is a popular parenting educator and parent coach. He is the director of Parentingideas, the author of seven books for parents and a popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australia, Singapore and the USA. For free courses and resources to help you raise happy kids and resilient teenagers visit http://www.parentingideas.com.au