A teacher once asked me, “What are you doing with your children?” She pushed her reading glasses to the end of her nose, pointed her finger directly at me and said, “I must speak to you in private.”

I didn’t know what to expect. She shook her head and added, “What ever IT is, just keep doing it. It’s working!”

You can imagine my relief. Whatever “IT” was, it was a good thing.

The teacher told me how impressed she was by our daughter’s actions and display of good character. Somewhere in her explanation I remember hearing, “…in my thirty years of teaching, I’ve never seen…."

What did our daughter do that impressed her teacher? She cheerfully gave up her part in a play so a team member could have her spot, and she did it without hesitating. Her easy-going temperament made a lasting impression and gave me the opportunity to share my secrets.

When our four year-old son asked if he could have a candy bar at the grocery store, I said no, and he said, okay, and the woman behind me said, “Wow, I’ve never seen that before.” She couldn’t recall seeing a child take no for an answer without whining. Usually children beg and whine and complain until the parent gives in.

I’ve learned that it’s not what you do for your children that matters -- it’s what you DON’T do. The key is to stop doing things for your children that produce unwanted results in their behavior and character.

NUMBER ONE: Don’t ask twice.

Do not demand that your children pay attention to you. Command their attention instead. I don’t ask twice. I don’t count down. I never plead. I never bribe.

Make sure your children know that you will only make your request once. I trained my children to pay attention when an adult speaks. They knew there were very real consequences were to pay if they did not listen the first time.

I learned early on to say what I mean and mean what I say. For example, it’s not enough to tell a child “No running at the pool.” You must say, “I don’t want you to run. It’s slippery. You could fall and accidentally hurt yourself. If I catch you running, you will have to sit out for the rest of the day. Do you understand the consequences of running at the pool?”

Yes, it takes more time to explain things this way, but if the child runs, he has made his choice to sit out. A good parent always keeps his word and enforces the consequences.
It’s that simple. But it takes a commitment on the part of a parent to be tough in an extra loving, informational way.
If they run and have to sit out and they complain, you can say, “I’m sorry. Did you not understand what I meant when I said no running?...Oh, you forgot. I understand. Sometimes I forget things, too. But mostly, I remember the important stuff. It’s my job as a parent to help you remember the important stuff. If you had forgotten your towel, I would have given you mine. But if you forgot to not run and fell and seriously injured yourself, I would have to take you to the emergency room for some expensive stitches…You think you won’t fall?...Yes, I know how agile you are, but that is why they call them accidents, dear.”

Vocabulary lesson are free. Trips to the emergency room are not.
Remember, when a parent goes back on this work, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time, the child has learned to disrespect you and your word as an authority. They become accustomed to not listening and they stop attaching weight to what you are saying.

Parents lose control of their children by giving children the control. If a child gets the idea that they can simply pick and choose what they respond to, the child has the power. Remember this the next time you see a child begging for a toy or a piece of candy at the grocery store. (And for the record, there were times when I said yes to a treat. I know how the game works. Pick your battles, mix it up, keep ‘em guessing, etc.)

NUMBER TWO: Don’t do chores your children are capable of doing.

Our children were not given spending money (allowance) with strings attached to chores. They did, however, get paid extra when they assisted people outside our family, or if we asked them to assist us with a special project.

We’re a unit, the Randisi Group. Each family member is expected to take on responsibilities that matches our abilities, which is why I made sure that when our children were growing up, they did not get paid for helping out around the house.

We our children were around ten years old we trained to do laundry. They’ve done their own laundry ever since. They fed and walked the dog, made their own school lunches, loaded and emptied the dishwasher, set and cleared the table.

It’s the parents’ job to manage the household and that implies delegation, not exploitation.

When your child complains, “Why do I have to take out the garbage?” don’t say because I told you so. Offer to do the job for them in exchange for one of the jobs you do, say shopping for and then preparing the dinner meal, or balancing the checkbook, paying the bills, etc. They will get the picture, especially if you go through with your offer.

The key is to keep your word.

The other key is training.

My husband and I took time to teach our children how to pre-spot clothing, how to fold and put away laundry, load the dishwasher properly, scrub a toilet, change a tire, take out the garbage so it doesn’t leak, etc. We were specific so they could know how to please us. Without detailed instructions, they could have tried and failed to meet our expectations leaving the job for us to do all over again.

Let me be very clear. This requires a lot of your time up front but in the long run, the payoff is tremendous. For example, your children will not be stymied by the mundane ordinary tasks of life when it comes time to part from mom and dad.

NUMBER THREE: Don’t give your children a lot.

We live in a materialistic world. Our family in particular lives in a very prosperous area. I remember thinking, “My children are deprived. I must buy them more clothes and toys.” Then I realized our children do not need more stuff to keep them happy.

Their friends can have the latest gizmos, games and gadgets. That’s fine. Our children had one or two interesting hobbies. It worked out fine. Since our goal was to make sure our children grew up knowing how to do a lot with a little, we were able to be consistent on this “you don’t need it” thing.

How will children develop ingenuity if we give them everything they ask for or think they need? How will they develop creativity if we allow them to be constantly entertained by video games and television? How will (and why would) they become resourceful citizens if they’ve never had to work and save to acquire something, or solve a problem?

Sometimes, if not most of the time, the best thing we can do for our children is NOT giving them what they think they want or need.
If they say, “I have to have this video game!” ask them why they feel that way and have a discussion about needs verses wants. Or, you could help them devise a plan as to how they could acquire that game. Or, you could introduce a new hobby and take the time to get them going in a different direction, one that holds more value than playing video games.

I’m pretty much convinced it was because of what we DIDN’T do that our children ended up respectful, responsible, and resourceful. This is what I told the teacher back when our daughter made a distinct impression on her. The teacher listened intently and then said, “You should teach this to parents!”

That’s why I wrote this article.

Author's Bio: 

Jodie Randisi, a professional speaker with hands-on experience and a commitment to excellence in both business and in the education of our youth, received her degree in special education from Millersville University. She has been an educator for over 25 years and small business owner for 15 years. As a certified Family Manager™ coach, Jodie works alongside individuals and families to help them create a balanced lifestyle and the home of their dreams—happy, simplified, and organized. Her latest book, 201 Things to Do When Children Say I’M BORED! The Checklist and Journal for Busy Families, has earned her the title “The Boredom Eraser and Family Fun Expert.” Go to 201thingstodo.com for more information.