Children are known for loudly communicating their displeasure. But for parents, developing children’s attitudes may be their highest calling.
It’s not that they want something they can’t have. Or that everything they want to do is banned. It’s the all-out squalling for not getting what they want.
Even young children can learn to ask politely and accept a no with some semblance of peace. And when they can’t, they probably need a nap or a snack. Or both.
The attitudes a young child forms stay with him for a long time, sometimes forever. Ever been in a group of adult siblings and could immediately tell who is the baby? Sometimes the baby just needs to grow up.
Of course, it’s not always about age order. For instance, a child who thrives on causing trouble or tattling won’t just outgrow it. Or a child who whines and complains to get his way or avoid a task doesn’t suddenly wake up one day compliant and responsible.
A bad attitude left to fester will infect a person’s life, rarely for the better.
When faced with a bad attitude about chores from one of my children, I have three words she must repeat, “How may I help?” Repeating this phrase once is not usually sufficient, and I often make them repeat it several times while they perform some type of penance.
For example, if the attitude disrupts harmony between two siblings, I might make them both perform a task as a team. One sweeps while the other holds the dust pan. One spritzes the floor while the other mops. This forces them to work together. This is usually their least favorite solution, so I relish using it the most.
If a child’s goal seems to be avoiding an unpleasant task, she, by default, wins the task for an undisclosed amount of time.
I know taking out the trash stinks. So, does your attitude, so you two should get along just fine.
Sometimes, I let them duke it out. This is my least favorite alternative because it’s usually a rather loud solution and one that doesn’t resolve the attitude. However, it can put someone in their place when no one else plays along.
My ultimate goal in adjusting a bad attitude is to develop a helpful attitude. Rather than demanding someone else do what you can do, why not bless your sister by doing it for her? Instead of complaining about a chore not being done right, why not ask how you may help or just start helping without asking?
Also, what if, “gasp!”, a child became sensitive to noticing when work needs to be done. No shuffling through piles of clothes or shoveling towels to the side to take a bath. No yelling for someone else to come do something you can do yourself.
“How may I help?” It’s a good first response and the cornerstone in developing children’s attitudes for life.