It was sneaky. It didn’t happen overnight. But I saw subtle clues in everyday living. My daughters were developing diva-tudes. I thought to myself, wasn’t it just yesterday that they were having princess tea parties with their dolls? How did they become the biggest fans of i-Carly and The Wizards of Waverly Place? When did our conversations become riddled with “Whatever,” “I mean seriously, Mom” and other unfamiliar phrases? I knew that now was the time to put the brakes on this emerging diva-hood. With three daughters ages 6, 8 and 10, I didn’t want a houseful of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga wannabes in the coming years.
What can you do to taper your daughter’s diva-tude? Lots of things. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, having positive communication, giving encouragement, spending time together and limiting TV viewing and computer use are key factors to foster respectful attitudes in children. Read on for elaboration on reinforcing respect among your family.
Maintaining Positive Communication & Encouragement
Use plenty of positive words with your children. Try to avoid sarcasm. Children often don’t understand sarcasm, and if they do it generally creates a negative interaction.
Respond promptly and lovingly to your children’s physical and emotional needs and banish putdowns from your parenting vocabulary. Be available to listen to your children when they want to talk with you, even if it’s an inconvenient time.
Make an extra effort to set a good example at home and in public. Use phrases that exhibit proper manners, such as “I’m sorry,” “please” and “thank you.”
When your children are angry or in a bad mood, give them a hug, secret sign or other gesture of affection they favor. Then talk with your kids about what was bothering them when they are feeling better.
Limiting TV and Screen Time
Restrict screen time to the recommended two hours a day for everyone in the family older than age 2, and you’ll all discover constructive ways to fill the time. Some examples include reading, going for walks, riding bikes, doing puzzles and talking more to one another— the most valuable family activity.
Expect resistance. If your children are used to having the Disney, Nickelodeon or ESPN channel on from after school until bedtime, take baby steps by cutting back on television gradually, maybe an hour a week. The key is to cut down the influence. Children are sponges. They pick up the dialogue, attitudes and actions of the characters and people they watch. When preschoolers watch Sesame Street, they learn good manners, the letters of the alphabet and how to count. But children who spend excessive hours exposed to i-Carly, Suite Life on Deck and True Jackson VP, learn other things, like rude behavior and sassy talk.
Spending Time Together
Designate occasions to spend time alone with each of your children. Even if it’s during the mere 15 minutes of reading with your daughter before bed, focus on her and only her. Talk about your child’s day and what’s going on in school.
Mark family game nights on your calendar, allowing the entire brood to be together for group play once a week or month. Take turns letting each family member pick the game to play.
Plan and cook meals as a family. Ask your kids to cook with you. Let them get involved in the entire process, from choosing the menus and shopping for ingredients, to preparing and serving the food your family eats. Children then get a bonus lesson about making healthy food choices. Plus, when families eat together, it creates opportunities for good conversations.
The bottom line is that parents have the biggest influence on how their children behave. By spending time together, limiting the influences of TV and the media and providing a positive role model for kids, parents give their children the foundation to be respectful in the ways they act and communicate. Now that’s something your kids can’t learn on the Disney Channel.