Recently, there has been a trend that raises many questions for our society: sexting. People often wonder where were the stop signs in behavior standards in the young generation? Did he have any? Why and why not?
How do parents miss out in setting up a sense of acceptable behavior?
Another question we can ask is if we can understand why most 18 year old boys do have a sense of what is appropriate to send out as a mass email?
Are most young men raised in an environment with “stop signs”?
What is the environment surrounding our children from infancy that creates the warp and woof of their character, behavior they see on a daily basis, an hourly basis, a minute by minute basis that subtly creates “stop signs”?
Let’s go back to basics. Some people believe you can’t worry about “heaping up riches for your children but the need to act as you want them to act.” How does this work? What exactly happens?
For an infant, a foundation is built by every single thing that happens in his or her world. It’s simple. The world is the infant’s parents, what they do or what they don’t do.
It is the adult actions embodying responsiveness, gentleness and respect. Then for toddlers, layered on to this foundation, are adult actions showing integrity, restraint, compassion, concepts of right and wrong.
Following on to those toddler years, a four to six year old now layers actions relating to the larger world around them, television, a major environmental factor, the plethora of choices, selected and rejected every hour of the day as the child experiences interaction with other children at school, with shopping, crossing the street, playing in the park.
But what exactly are these actions? Certainly, they are many and varied but we can make a start and try to keep it simple.
A parent responds to a child’s crying, the need for food, a diaper change, and the need for affection, singing to sleep, rocking, holding.
Gentleness is exhibited at every single contact, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Respect is given to the infant whenever he or she is communicating, eliciting a response from adults repeating the sounds or offering new ones.
Integrity is exhibited when a parent tidies up the kitchen or picks up the newspapers demanding of himself or herself the same standards of neatness as with the standard applied to the toddlers toy box. Is everything thrown out of the sandbox in the park or in backyard and allowed to rust there? Is everything thrown around the kitchen, the laundry room, the bedroom, the car?
Restraint is obvious to the toddler when milk is spilled, when he or she spits out the cereal, when dishes fall, breaking on the floor, when the dog throws up or runs off, when the toddler opens a cupboard door pulling out all the pots and pans. Is it a hug and a cuddle and an admonition?
Compassion is demonstrated when playmates are in distress because of an insect bite, a lost or broken toy, a loud frightening noise, or intimidation from a third party such as an aggressive child or an animal. Compassion is also exhibited toward a pet that is thirsty or a stranger who drops her purse in the supermarket or an elderly person who needs a seat in the train or the bus.
Concepts of right and wrong are reenforced when aggressive playtime behavior or sibling interaction is stopped with an admonition, an explanation and a hug. It is also exhibited, very significantly, when television programs are turned off, when clothing choices are made, when toy selections are made, how many and which ones.
The mindset, a subtle collection of “stop and go” signs, is shaped and pretty much fixed by six years of age. Can this mindset be changed? Yes, but it’s a lot easier to get it right the first six years. Some parents find it difficult. They are not willing to take the challenge. It requires growing up.
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