The Whole Child Blog Series: Best Behaviors

Dr. Kristi Smith, Director of Education & Training   •   July 24, 2019

Everyone loves to be around a well-behaved child, but lets be honest - raising well-rounded, thoughtful and responsible children is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. It is understandable that disciplining children has been an incredibly popular parenting topic since the beginning of time. Ask any teacher; the most popular training sessions at conferences are those that deal with tools to improve behavior in children. Poor classroom behaviors have seemed to have skyrocketed, or have they? Recently, head basketball coach Frank Martin from South Carolina University posted a quote that garnered a lot of Facebook attention. He said:
"You know what makes me sick to my stomach? When I hear grown people say that kids have changed. Kids haven't changed. Kids don't know anything about anything. We've changed as adults. We demand less of kids. We expect less of kids. We make their lives easier instead of preparing them for what life is truly about. We're the ones that have changed."
While this quote might seem a little harsh when thinking of helping a young child develop best behaviors, it does have merit. The population of parents has changed significantly. Live Science reported that the number of working moms is up 800% since 1860 when households were mostly single-income. According to the Pew Research Center, 70% of mothers are in the workforce today compared to 47% in 1975. As a result of this shift, the lives of parents are increasingly demanding. We spend less time with our children and often indulge them with treats, special events and material items to ease our guilt. The constant guilt that parents feel leads them to ease up on their children in many areas. Like Frank Martin said, it's the parents that have changed, not the children. So what gives? How do we raise decent human beings in our current society's dynamic? Balance.
In the 60s and 70s, the guru of raising children was Dr. Benjamin Spock. My mother's Dr. Spock book published in 1957 is part of my collection that I often reference. Those familiar with Dr. Spock know his "baby raising" pointers are old-fashioned, if not unhealthy, based on what modern brain research has shown us about growth and development in children. One theory has remained consistent though - discipline is based in healthy relationships modeled with appropriate behaviors in a balanced and consistent manner. I'll end this blog with a quote from Dr. Spock - remember, best behaviors come from a firm balance between strictness and permissiveness and are based in positive relationships.
Dr. Spock 1957 "Baby and Child Care"

STRICTNESS OR PERMISSIVENESS?  72. This looms as a big question for many new parents. A great majority of them find the right answer in a little while. For a few parents it remains a worrisome question, no matter how much experience they’ve had. I may as well let the cat out of the bag right away as far as my opinion goes and say that strictness or permissiveness is not the real issue. Good-hearted parents who aren’t afraid to be firm when it is necessary can get good results with either moderate strictness or moderate permissiveness. On the other hand, a strictness that comes from harsh feelings or a permissiveness that is timid or vacillating can each lead to poor results. The real issue is what spirit the parent puts into managing the child and what attitude is engendered in the child as a result."