Northeast Wisconsin
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • April 2015
Written by 

Giving your child your best — Tips for raising and educating your young ones

I have sat through many parenting and teaching seminars. Every single one of them has the “answer” for dealing with childhood behaviors. Sometimes I leave feeling confident: “Hey I know what I am doing. I got this!” Other times, I leave feeling defeated: “Of course a good mom would do that. Why don’t I?” If I just did everything they said consistently, my child would never do XYZ.

We all want the one handbook that guides us through parenthood. The fact is that we need several books to help us in our parenthood journey. We need to take a little from here and a smidge from there until we find what works in the moment for our child. The honest truth is that there is no one expert who has an answer.

Children — mine, yours, ours — will make mistakes. Parenting classes cannot prevent these mistakes, and as a parent, I secretly hope for that golden nugget of advice. But really, the best we can ask of ourselves is how to guide the children in our lives through poor choices while keeping their egos intact. There are lots of buzz words that are thrown around regarding this topic: positive parenting, loving family, etc. Call it what you will, here is what I have found works for the most part, both as a parent and as an educator:

Start with a close, strong and warm bond with your child. Children who feel connected want to please. I have always had a difficult time putting words to how I interact with my son and students. If you met me, you would think that I would run a “willy-nilly” classroom, but in actuality, my classrooms are calm and productive, yet happy places. I am genuine not just with the adults in my life but with the children as well. And children pick up on this. In return, I find respect and a natural discipline that falls into place.

Set limits/boundaries/expectations. One little teacher trick that I have picked up over the years is to lay out my expectations before every turn. Do the work first and life runs much more smoothly. Tell children what you want them to do.

But be flexible while consistent. Nothing works consistently day after day. That’s where flexibility comes in. And here is a simple fact: People — children — are not black and white. Behaviors do not happen in a vacuum. We must remember that you and I do not react to situations consistently, nor should we expect our children to do the same. Set up boundaries and expectations but recognize when those are not working and need to be changed.

Teach your child to respectfully voice opinions. Everyone wants to be heard, but I don’t want to listen to a person who is screaming, crying and throwing themselves on the ground. Show your child through modeling what discussion looks like. If you yell and scream at your child, how can you not expect the same in return? Show your child that moments of frustration can be talked through.

And then, be compassionate and empathetic. Listen to your child. It feels terrible to make a poor choice. My second-grader lied to me today. And it was a doozy, not just a little white lie. I felt anger, frustration and disappointment, but so did he. His consequences really upset him, and we hugged through the disappointment. The consequences are still there, but the judgment on my part is not.

Be calm, concise and logical. When those ugly moments do arise, avoid long lectures, loud voices or corporal punishments. Get down on your child’s level. Let logical consequences guide a situation. Did you take the crayon from the basket when I asked you not to? Then that utensil makes you not listen, and you’ll need to use something different.

Last, let’s remember that our voices become our children’s inner voice eventually. Give your child a gift of a kind, compassionate voice.


Teresa Kapelle

Teresa Kapelle teaches math and science at The Cooperative School, a private, nonsectarian primary school in Appleton serving grades one through six. Visit http://www.cooperativeschool.org to learn more.

Website: www.cooperativeschool.org

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