It’s a normal day at the office when you receive a phone call. It’s the discipline master of your son’s school. He says: “I’m sorry, Mr. Phang, but this is the 3rd time we’ve caught Ivan stealing. He will be suspended for 2 weeks, and if this continues, we will be forced to expel him. The other parents are furious.”
You grow cold and there is an empty feeling in your heart. After all you’ve done for your child, how did he end up this way? You feel like you’re a horrible parent, and the only thing you can think of is how worried you are about Ivan’s future.
Hi, my name is Teacher Kean from Teaching Worthy. As a licensed headmaster and HRDF trainer, I’ve helped hundreds of parents and children improve their relationships.
Unfortunately, that was a true story and a very common one. Let’s see what we can do and say to get your child back on the correct path.
First, let’s take a look at what NOT to say. Many parents would choose to say this to Ivan at home: “Ivan, we’ve talked about this so many times! I’m very disappointed in you. Can you stop being like this?”
When we say that, we are projecting our own emotional needs into our language with our children. The rule in school prohibiting stealing was established to teach children that it is wrong to take something belonging to other people. It was not created to make parents happy. Therefore, when we use language like “I’m very disappointed in you”, we are signalling to our children that they have to obey the rules in order to make us happy. This causes a lot of long term problems.
So the first thing we have to do as parents is to demonstrate to our children that we are emotionally reliable and consistent. Part of this is to use impersonal language and to lead by example. Instead of saying: “You have to learn that stealing is wrong”, say “WE have to learn that stealing is wrong.”
Secondly, it is very important to guide our children to focus on what they should do NOW or what they MUST do next to fix the mistake. We have to guide our children so they are not stuck on past mistakes. There is always a correct time to analyze what went wrong, but first, our children have to take action to fix their mistakes.
So, instead of saying “We’ve talked about this so many times” or giving vague instructions like “Can you stop being like this?”, it is better to give them clear and affirmative instructions. Most of the time, you’ll realise that by the time our children have done what requires doing NOW, we won’t even have to tell them that what they did was wrong.
In my previous video, I’ve spoken about how it’s important to tell our children what we want them to do, instead of telling them what we want them to avoid. You can find the link to that video in the description below.
Thirdly, when correcting our children, it is important to explain why they’re being corrected or punished and how it will benefit them. Remind them that the goal of behaving positively or to follow the rules is not for them to please us, but ultimately is for their own benefit and will help them progress towards their own goals.
Sometimes, it’s hard for parents to explain how behaving positively will benefit our children. For example, if our child asks how studying history would benefit his dream of being a YouTuber, it can be challenging to find a convincing answer. This is why it’s important to carefully think about what lesson we want our children to learn before we issue a punishment.
All right, let’s put it all together. First, we have to set aside our own disappointments and expectations before speaking to our children. Secondly, we have to guide our children to focus on what they have to do NOW. Finally, tell them how behaving positively in the future will benefit them.
Here’s how I would speak to my child or student:
“Ivan, your teacher called today and told me you were stealing. Is this true?
First, we are going to sit down together and write 2 apology letters – one to your friend and his parents, the other to the school. I will guide you.
Secondly, I am taking away your gaming privileges for a month.
We are doing this because we have to learn not to take things which are not ours. In your journey to become an engineer, there will be many situations where you may be tempted to steal ideas or things which are not yours. To be a great engineer, you have to learn to produce and be proud of your own work.”
Note how it was not even necessary to tell Ivan that what he did was “WRONG”.
I hope my video has helped you. If you feel like your situation is unique or if you require specific advice, please do not hesitate to contact us at www.teachingworthy.com. Thank you, and remember to share these lessons which are worth sharing.