4 C’s For Raising Polite Kids

At just about every parenting conference I speak at I inevitably get one question and it usually goes something like this. “What should I do when my kids don’t behave the way they are supposed to?” My answer generally includes these four C’s for raising polite kids.

1. Clarity

Setting clear boundaries four our children in advance will help them know where the line is. That does not mean they stay on the right side of the line all the time; it simply means they know where it is. They will not only push a boundary but will exercise their will and cross it. Why? Because it’s their job. If you haven’t defined reasonable boundaries for your kids, how will you know what consequence to give once s a line has been crossed? If the lines are blurred, or there are no lines at all, you can’t hold your children responsible for crossing them.

2. Calmness

Remaining calm when our kids cross a defined line for the first time (or one hundredth time) is important. As our friend and marriage and family counselor Jim says, “Be aware of your emotions, don’t act on them.” Easy to say but hard to do. Respond but don’t react. I will tell you there have been times as our kids got older when my emotions were running beyond capacity after they made a bad choice with their behavior. That’s when I have needed to buy myself a little time, shift into neutral and let my emotions subside before they get the best of me. When I react, excuse me, over-react instead of respond, it rarely turns out well. There have been times when I have been so upset that I would have put all my kids on restriction until Jesus comes back. But that’s an unhealthy reaction. It’s hard to see the difference between healthy and unhealthy when emotions are running high.

3. Consequences

What is a consequence? Here’s our definition: An appropriate result of something that occurred. The key word is “appropriate.” Think back to what we just talked about: reacting, overreacting and responding. You want the consequence to match the inappropriate behavior. Let me give you an example.

One thing that often causes problems in our home is the beloved cell phone. In our family we have two boundaries regarding cell phone usage by our children: (1) you may not bring your cell phone to the dinner table, and (2) you must dock your cell phone in our room before you go to bed. The consequence for crossing either of those boundaries is cell phone related.

If one of our kids brings his or her phone to the dinner table, he or she loses the phone for the rest of the night. The phone is returned to the child the next morning. If he or she forgets to dock the phone before bed, that child loses the phone for the next day. Our entire family talked about the behavior, the boundary and the consequence, and we agreed on all fronts. Having our kids, as teenagers, be part of the process has made it easier and helped them understand the result of crossing a clearly defined boundary.

4. Consistency

I can’t tell you how important it is for both parents to be consistent and have their parenting styles aligned. Going to Dad to get one response but going to Mom when a different response is wanted is a child’s version of divide and conquer. We can’t let that happen. According to authors and counselors Dr's. Les and Leslie Parrot “all couples fight over the same five things: “money, sex, work, parenting and housework.”4 They call them the big five! I’m sure you noticed number four on the list: parenting. Having both parents on the same “parenting” page is extremely important.

How are you doing as a parent at setting clear boundaries?
How are you doing at giving consequences in a calm way?

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