Kids learn more from you, especially at earlier ages, than from any other source
Teaching kids how to manage their stress is a gift that will pay them dividends for the rest of their lives.
First build them a Stress Safety Net (SSN) so they can feel safe, secure and loved. This creates a springboard from which they can launch into their challenges and opportunities. The first component of this SSN is “Parents as Role Models,” (adapted from my audio program, “Teaching Kids how to Manage Stress.”)
Parents are their children’s number one role models. Kids learn more from you, especially at earlier ages, than from any other source. What has your own stress management style taught your children, who learn from both your effective and ineffective strategies? How you communicate, manage your emotions and handle conflicts teach your children something.
To become conscious of what you’re teaching your kids, ask yourself, “Is how I’m handling this stressful situation how I want to teach my kids to handle similar situations?” If not, you need to learn to better handle it yourself. You cannot teach what you don’t understand, so learn and practice stress reduction skills for yourself. Your children will learn from your example.
An essential tool to improve what you model is to understand that the role you play with your children largely dictates their role in reaction to you. A change in your role almost always brings about a change in your child’s behavior. For example, if you constantly remind your kids to do their homework – the reminder role – they’ll react by taking on the role of forgetful or dutiful child perhaps. If you’re not happy with the forgetful role you may nag that child to remind her to do her homework. But your reminder role keeps her in her forgetful role!
The point? To get a different outcome with her change the role you’re playing: stop reminding. Identify and announce a different role that would encourage her to take more responsibility like the supportive role. Only step in to help her with homework when she asks. This new role requires you to stop reminding her. If she chooses to forget she’ll pay the consequences. She’ll probably blame you for her own forgetfulness but don’t get hooked by that. One day she’ll figure out that you truly have stopped reminding leaving her to remind herself.
In situations that your kids aren’t handling well figure out if the role you’re playing makes you part of the solution or part of the problem. If part of the problem, which other role could you play to encourage your kids to handle the situation more responsibly? If your child has been accused of stealing again and you normally play the protector role shielding them from consequences by denying their culpability, could you take on the investigator role instead and look for the facts before deciding how to handle it?
Understanding that the roles you play actually set the stage for your kids’ behavior opens up entirely new options in changing yourself in hopes of encouraging more responsible behavior from them.
Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is an international speaker and a Stress and Wellness Coach.