“What a mensch!” When said about a boy or a girl, this compliment is guaranteed to make us feel like great parents. We all know what it means, but what does it really mean? An honorable and decent person (according to YiddishDictionaryOnline and my grandma z”l). Who doesn’t want a few of those at home?
Of course, even mensches can lose it at home. This is actually quite a compliment from your child to you. What?! Seriously!? Yes. Kids who know they are loved, who trust their families, show them their true feelings.
It’s a tough call. We want our kids’ behavior to be excellent when we’re not around. Good behavior at a friend’s house, on a field trip or in public is proof that some of what we’re teaching is getting through. Except, we should treat our family even better than we treat strangers, not worse.
Respect, responsibility and resilience are even more important at home than away. Of the millions of times your children are going to want something in the next 10 to 20 years, who are they most often going to be asking? You!
How do we see these “3 R’s” at home?
· A spontaneous word of praise or thanks · An unsolicited offer to get a snack for a family member
when you’re getting one for yourself · Holding a door · Grabbing a package · Asking how someone’s day was
· Offering to help solve a problem. All of these are important skills as adults and make home a
happier place to be. And raising mensches at home isn’t just for you. Practicing these behaviors at home makes them more likely to show up out in the world.
So, how do we get these traits to show up for dinner?
Modeling these behaviors is the fastest way to get your 2- to 7-year-olds to try them also. Try it on your partner or other adults in the house and on your kids; it can only make your relationship even better. With older kids, the developmentally normal self-absorption has kicked in, and you have to be a little more obvious.
Respond to the behavior you admire. Our kids are used to the squeaky wheel getting the grease. Surprise them by doing more for the person who shows the respect, responsibility or resilience you admire most in that moment.
Catch them doing good. When you see any example of great manners, jump on it and praise it to the heavens. Even teens who roll their eyes at a goody-goody younger sibling will still want in on a little of that parental admiration. Just remember to apply the teen BS detector – you have to catch them actually being nice. If you make something up to have something to praise them for, you will lose the point. And don’t be afraid to make your expectations clear. When this feels like one battle too many, consider two facts. 1. Hopefully you have a bunch of years left to live with these people. 2. We should treat the people we spend the most time with
best of all.
The better a roommate you teach your child to be now, the less likely that he or she will boomerang back as a middle-aged adult needing to live at home again!
Doctor G’s Get the Behavior You Want… Without Being the Parent You Hate! – Dr. G’s Guide to Effective Parenting, was released in September through Demos Health Publishing, LLC. askdoctorg.com