“Behave well” the real impact of this phrase on children
Most parents can’t resist telling their children to “be good” when they have been left home alone, taken to school, or left in the care of a relative. It is a simple and apparently innocent phrase containing all the advice we usually give children in a single action. At the same time, it works as a kind of warning or reminder about their behavior. However, the truth is that this phrase that we use, often automatically, is actually confusing for children and often goes against their nature.
Saying “behave well” does not work in educating children
What exactly does “behave well” mean? For some parents, it may mean paying attention to adults at all times; for others, it means staying calm without making noise. For others, it refers to not raising your voice too much and playing calmly. Without a doubt, parents are very clear about it, but children not so much. For most children, the expression “behave well” is quite confusing because they do not really know what their parents ask. In those cases, they only have two possible ways: inhibit their behavior and remain very calm or ignore the recommendation. Neither one is positive.
Ignoring parental guidance and doing what they want is not a good idea since, in the long run, it will end up affecting communication and the relationship between parents and children, as well as parental authority. On the other hand, if children try not to play, talk, talk loudly or make a little noise, they will be going against their nature, self-inhibiting. It is not a good educational strategy either, since they will start by inhibiting their behavior and, later, they will repress their emotions and feelings, becoming self-conscious and unable to express themselves naturally.
Also, it is vital to keep in mind that most children do not “misbehave” because they want to, but because it is their way of learning in this world. Little ones cry and have tantrums because it is their way of expressing their discomfort. They get into screaming fights with other children or adults because they don’t have the emotional resources to resolve their conflicts in any other way. And, they can cause disasters at home when left alone because it is their way of discovering and experiencing the world around them. This is normal behavior that does not have a negative connotation until adults label such behaviors as “bad.”
This does not mean that children should do what they want when they want, primarily if it affects other children or adults around them. However, it is not something that is taught or imposed with a single sentence; rather, it is a process in which, little by little, we show them how they should behave at all times and how they can regulate their behavior so that they can express themselves freely without affecting to others. Therefore, the next time you want to tell your children “behave well”, think twice. Instead, resort to other more effective alternatives to convey what you want to say.
How do you tell children to behave more effectively?
Telling children “behave well” is not an excellent solution to teaching them how they should behave in the different environments in which they operate. There are other ways to tell them the same thing but in a more effective way. Here are some tips that can help you on a day-to-day basis.
Be more specific
Instead of telling kids to behave, be more specific and say what you expect of them. For example, instead of telling them “be good at grandma’s house”, say, “today you will spend the day at grandma’s house; I hope you have fun playing, but don’t make too much noise and keep your voice down, so you don’t disturb anyone. your grandmother”. In this way, you are specifying what you expect from them. Also, you are teaching them how to behave in each moment and situation.
Get on stage
Many children “misbehave” because they do not know how to react to specific scenarios. To avoid this, always anticipate the circumstances and tell them what awaits them. For example, you can tell them, “today you will be home alone because I need to go shopping; I have organized the whole house, and I have cleaned up your room; please, if you are going to play, try to do it without disorganizing your room too much and, when you finish Put things back in their place.” In this way, children can get an idea of what awaits them and can better prepare for that moment.
Asking children to behave in one way or another without offering an explanation is not educating them but instructing them. If you really want to educate your children and learn how they should behave in different contexts, start by explaining the reasons. For example, you might say, “When you’re in class, try not to talk to your friends until recess so you can pay attention to the teacher. Keep in mind that she does her best to teach you and that not paying attention to what she says is a way of wasting all the knowledge she can offer you and a way of disrespecting her time and dedication “. In this way, they will be more aware of the implications of their behavior and learn how they should behave.
Most children do not usually have a large arsenal of emotional resources to face new situations or deal with conflicts. Therefore, if you ask them not to react in the only way, they know how, the least you can do is provide them with solutions and tools to know how to behave. You can say, “today I will need you to accompany me to the doctor because I feel bad. You won’t be able to talk loud or play as you do at home. I’ll bring you some sketchbooks and some colored pencils so you can entertain yourself quietly. When he’s in, sit there drawing until he comes out. It may take a while, but nothing happens. And, if you want, when we get back home, we can play something fun.”
Reward Their “Good Behavior”
For children, “behaving well” often requires great effort and sacrifice. Therefore, if you want to encourage their good behavior, focus on rewarding their effort. For example, if they’ve been good during the doctor’s appointment, you can reward them with ice cream or a fun game when you get home. Or you can just say how proud you are of their good behavior. For example, you can tell them, “I was so happy to see how well you behaved at the doctor today. Thank you for your understanding and help. Now, if you feel like it, we can go have an ice cream”.
Telling children to behave can actually have negative consequences. It can lead to kids feeling guilty or ashamed when they make a mistake, and it can also make them less likely to take risks and explore new things. So instead of telling your child to behave, try setting a good example yourself and praise your child when they do something good.
- Raising Children Network: Encouraging good behaviour in kids: tips
- Robyn Gobbel: Regulated Connected Kids who Feel Safe Behave Well
- American Family: How to Teach Good Behavior: Tips for Parents
- Parents: Secrets of Raising a Well Behaved Kid