February 10, 2010
How children were expected to behave
When I was a young boy there were certain expectations on how I behaved around other people and at home. Obviously it's different within each family, depending on circumstances and the parents own experiences. I think there are some generational influences on our expectations of our children also. For instance, me and my friends simultaneously were not allowed to interject ourselves into adult conversations without being addressed specifically. We also were not allowed to eat with our elbows on the table, or swear and had to take our hats off in the house. The consequences were a good scolding. And I recall several of my friends who experienced getting their mouths washed out with soap because of mis-behavin' language.
When I became a parent my expectations of how my children should behave grew out of what I knew and what I learned from other people. I can't say I was the best parent. I had a thing about my kids being disrespectful or cruel to other people. I came down harder on my children when they displayed negative attitudes towards others. I don't think I was always fair. But like all parents, we were never formally trained in parenting and we did our best with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and wisdom that we had at the time.
I read an article the other day about youth acting out or being rebellious, and it made me reflect on my own my childhood and on my children's childhood. Basically the article stated that when kids act out, there could be underlying causes that we should be aware of, like abuse, drug use, hormonal imbalances, stress or being bullied at school. And it could mean that they are really looking to belong.
When I was young and acted inappropriately, according to my parents, It was usually to get the attention of my parents or my friends. When my children were young, they might have experienced the same desire to belong. I can recommend to new parents to stay emotionally connected to their children. By connected I don't mean controlling their behavior, which never worked very well for me. Being aware of underlying causes of behavior would have been extremely useful to me. The other thing that I believe in now, is that a sense of purpose and meaning in life at a young age effects behavior in a positive way.