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August/ September 2000  -  Volume 3  -  Issue 6

Parenting Tool Number 1
From The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children

By Steven W. Vannoy

What if the very thing we’re dong to teach our kids to be responsible citizens is backfiring?

Since our children are not born knowing the difference between responsible and irresponsible, why do they seem to act irresponsibly so often?

I used to think my job, as a parent was to take all the responsibility for my kid’s problems - - to have all the answers, and always to point out their mistakes and shortcomings.  What I didn’t know then was that a person can only focus on one thing at a time and we go toward what we focus on.  If we keep reminding a child of how shy or irresponsible she is, that behavior will become her pattern.

 Why is it that as our children are learning to walk we cheer their every step, but as they grow older we hover around waiting to point our every misstep?

 Here’s what happened when I used the focus tool in a new way.

 My seven-year-old daughter Alison was morose as we rode up the ski lift one sunny Saturday.  She’d just made a run down the slope that was nearly a disaster, full of bumps and falls and awkwardness. She was down on herself and, so, of course, her skiing got worse and worse.  I was being a good “old” dad, making notes on all the things she was doing wrong, (which would ensure she’d still be focusing on those things and doing more of them).  I could have given her a whole lot of “don’ts” – don’t leant that way, don’t use your inside ski, but that would have had her focusing on things that didn’t work.

Instead, I simply reminded her: “Do you remember what you were doing a couple of weeks ago when the ski instructor said you were the best student in the class?”  Her next run was magnificent as she focused on what worked and how to do more of it.

One of the biggest revelations for me was to understand that I was helping to perpetuate my children’s misbehavior.  I was constantly focusing on their problems and trying to fix them.  For example, when their rooms were messy, I didn’t tell them they were bad or use stern consequences.  I just repeatedly told them to clean up this room.  The message they got was that they were messy kids, that they couldn’t take care of themselves, and that I would own the responsibility for the problem.

If what we don’t want our children to do is what we’ve gotten them focused on and they can only focus on one thing at a time, and they go toward what they focus on – What have we been teaching them all these years?

 Here’s a suggestion.  Every day, find one desirable behavior to compliment – how nicely they buckle up without a reminder, how well they listened to someone’s story at dinnertime, one toy picked up – whatever.  Be specific and sincere and you’ll soon notice that child focusing on and heading toward that desired behavior.

 For further information about the Focus tool and how to use it with children of all ages, see Chapter 1 of “The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children,” By Steven W. Vannoy.


. . . More from Our August/September 2000 Newsletter  - Volume 3, Issue 6

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