8 Behaviours Every Child Should Know And How To Teach Them

8 Behaviours Every Child Should Know And How To Teach Them
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At the supermarket checkout yesterday there was a lady next to me who had two boys aged about 7 and 5. When I got to my lane, the boys were in there rummaging through the chocolates. I asked them politely to move so I could put my groceries out and the mum yelled over ‘You have lost your computer’. Then while the man on the checkout was putting my groceries through he was trying to get the mums attention to tell her the youngest was going through the cupboards and had pulled out the bags and other items. She told him he had lost his computer for two days now to which he replied ‘I don’t care about my computer.’

It struck me right there that children are not born to know how to act in society.

Kids don’t know the social norms of the supermarket or how to cross the road. They don’t know how to have empathy for others, how to care for their toys or how to read a book - until we teach them.

Just like teaching kids to read and write, we need to teach our children how to behave. We need to teach them how to behaviour rather than taking things away that are unrelated to the behaviour.

At school right now, we are teaching children the school rules (or expected behaviours) again to ensure they know how to act. The rules centre on 5Cs - compassionate, calm, considerate, courageous and courteous. As a school, we set the routines, habits and boundaries around these expected behaviours so each child knows what they can and can’t do. And when every teacher, support staff member and leadership team are using the same language, it is amazing how quickly the children work out what is expected behaviour. This can work the same way at home.

Here are the 8 behaviours every child should know and ideas on how you can teach them to your kids.

1. Have manners and be courteous

From a young age, we can teach our children to say please and thank you when they receive or ask for something. ‘Ta” is often a first word for many kids. Teaching our kids to speak back to an adult when spoken to and the right way to walk down the footpath is a good start. Also saying thank you when they have been on a play date or a sleep over is important. Be the role model and let your kids know when they have used their manners to help the manners become an automatic response.

2. Regulate your own emotions

By using strategies such as the red/green chart or the stepladder of feelings, we can help our children develop the steps to move from negative to positive emotions. Providing them with a calming corner or chill out space to think through these emotions also works. Helping kids identify how they are feeling by validating and discussing their feeling at the time is important. They then have their own strategies to self regulate the big emotions.

3. Be resilient and bounce back (courage)

Life is always going to have its ups and downs. We need to teach our children how to bounce back from a set back so they can manage the ups and downs they will face in life. One of the best ways to do this is with disappointment. Disappointment is a huge emotion and as parents we want to jump in and ‘fix’ it for our kids. By stepping back and allowing a child to feel the emotion, they find their own strategy to be able to bounce back. They learn to self regulate their feeling of disappointment and find ways to move to more positive feelings. This puts them in a better position when they don’t get the first job they go for; when they get ‘dumped’ for the first time or when they get rejected from a friendship groups to bounce back.

4. Have empathy and show kindness and compassion

Being able to feel how others feel and showing kindness and compassion goes along way for creating a community we all want to live in. Showing our kids how to be kind by talking to them and role modelling kindness is important. It may be simple acts of kindness like putting the ladybug into a tree or putting the neighbours bin out when they are away. Or it might be cooking a meal for a friend who needs it and delivering it together. Speaking kindness and compassion to your children is also where this trait begins. Talk about how others show kindness and compassion.

5. Be motivated and engaged

Teaching our children that putting in maximum effort is going to get them further in life than pure intelligence is a trait that will help them at work, in relationships and at home. Teaching a growth mindset as proposed by psychologist Carol Dweck is a great way to do this. Setting up this trait can start simply. It can start with teaching kids to pack away their own toys after they have played with them or being expected to make their beds or keep their rooms tidy. Setting the boundaries, rules and expectations help to ensure children are intrinsically motivated.

6. This is how you should behave in public spaces

Before you go to the supermarket, set the expectation of how you expect your child to behave. It might be that they sit in the trolley or that they walk next to you. It might be that they don’t put anything in the trolley unless you ask them too. Here it is about setting the expectation before hand and then reminding them along the way. The same for taking your child to a restaurant. These behaviours are learnt and we as parents are the best people to teach them. Explain what you expect before you go out for dinner and then repeat it as many times as you need to when they are out for dinner. The old saying of ‘as long as you know how to behave in public’ rings true her. Kids can’t be perfect all the time but it is best if they know how to behave when you are out.

7. Get ready for school in the morning like this

My eldest daughter often lags the chain when we leave the house in the morning. She has just had her 960th day going to school and surely by now the habit of getting ready (getting up, getting dressed, having breakfast, doing hair, brushing teeth, putting shoes on) is already embedded by now! The good thing is she knows what to do; it is my job now to remind her to follow the routine and get out of the house. When she was in Kindergarten, together we drew the six steps to getting ready and she ticked each one once she had finished it. She learnt the steps quickly and could soon enough get ready for school on her own – how to zip up her dress, how to put on and tie up her shoe laces, how to brush her hair and how to put her school bag on. Teaching kids these skills, rather than assuming they know is the key. By the age of 6 or 7, most children should be able to dress themselves and get ready in the morning including remembering what they need for school each day such as their lunch box, homework or library books.

8. Be grateful

Being grateful for what we have reduces the need to want more all the time. It creates a sense of satisfaction rather than entitlement. Our children live in a ‘now’ culture where delayed gratification is a thing of the past. By allowing children to wait for something, like for Christmas for a bike or a birthday for new clothes, we are teaching our kids to be grateful for what they get and what they have. Keeping a gratitude journal with older children or talking about what the best part of the day was around the dinner table also helps children to see what is important in life and what they have to be grateful for.

Just like learning to read and write children need to be taught how to interact and be social in the world. They need to learn how to behave and be taught, often repeatedly until it become automatic.

It is easy as adults to forget that our children don’t know how to use manners or how to get dressed because they are so automatic for us. It is easy to forget that our kids don’t know how to speak to people or how to act in a restaurant. However when taught, these behaviours will become automatic for our kids too - especially if we teach it from a young age.

Anna Partridge writes about the modern dilemmas parents face in raising confident, resilient and emotionally intelligent children. She writes from her experiences as a school teacher, parent educator, mom and writer. Find her at www.annapartridge.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

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