How High (or Low) Are Your Standards?

Source: examiner.com

Where do you set the bar when it comes to your children and their behavior? How well did your kids fare during Thanksgiving dinner? Were you proud of them or did you walk away vowing to make some changes?

Deciding where to set the bar is an important exercise for any parent to undergo. Deciding on an intellectual (not gut) level what attitudes and behaviors are acceptable is the first step in parenting. You might even go so far as to write down acceptable behaviors and any future goals you have in mind for your child.

If you decide that you want your child to express gratitude to friends through acts of service, you might get him started on household chores when he’s 2. By the time he’s 8, he’ll then freely offer to unload the dishwasher when he sees that you’ve had a hard day.

By the same token, maybe you just want your kid to be a kid. You’re fine if he spends every free minute simply playing.

Personally, I probably stand between these two extremes. I have a friend who mentioned to me that her child offered to unload the dishwasher at a friend’s house. I was amazed. But then I’m also conflicted because I place a very high premium on imaginative play and think it’s so important to my kids’ developing minds and intellect. So while I do have my children do chores, I also let them play quite a bit.

This post is inspired by a recent comment I received from a stranger. Or rather, I should say that my children received this comment. It was Veterans Day, and my veteran and I took the kids out to a fairly upscale restaurant. There were other families there who were taking advantage of the partially free meal, and I won’t say I didn’t notice their kids’ behavior or the huge presence of mobile devices. At one table near us, there were two boys about Lucas’ age (5) and they each had their own iPad. As soon as they lost interest in the iPad, their behavior spun out of control, clearly unacceptable for this kind of restaurant.

Whenever we eat out, I explain to my boys that there are many other people in the restaurant who are paying good money for their meal, and they do not have the freedom of ruining that meal for those people. They must respect this fact every time we go out. Apparently, this has hit home because as a group of older people walked out of the restaurant, one of them leaned over our table and commended my children on their good behavior.

Of course, this puts a smile on my face. But my thoughts at the time bring me back to the point of this post. As this woman complimented their behavior, I felt some relief and pride, but I was also rolling my eyes a little. The fact of the matter is, at the exact moment that she complimented their behavior, we were frustrated with their manners. We didn’t see well-behaved kids. We saw kids who were eating green beans with their hands.

I realize that it’s important to step back a minute and realize that yes, they were sitting still, yes, they were sitting quietly, and yes, they were eating their vegetables without complaint. But at the same time, I cannot let go of the relatively high standards I have for my kids. I can recognize their good behavior and compliment them on it, but that doesn’t mean I should lower my expectations.┬áIf anything, their good behavior tells me that my methods are working!

So if you have high standards for your child, it’s a good idea to step back sometimes and appreciate their behavior. If you have relatively low standards, you’ll either be comfortable with the behavior you get while in public or you might even vow to raise the bar just a bit. Wherever you stand, be sure you have chosen where to set the bar. Don’t fall into an accidental parenting trap and just let the bar lie where it may.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the reminder. I face this a lot too. We will feel like the kids are not behaving to the level we expect, but others will stop and compliment them. It is important for me to see where they’re doing well without lowering the expectations that we have for them.

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