What is the “Golden Rule of Parenting”?  Why is it magical?

As we all know, the Golden Rule we’ve learned since childhood is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. Most of us have been raised with this old adage but, somehow, it can get forgotten in the dog-eat-dog arena of daily life. What could happen if parents consciously injected it into their parenting approach on a daily basis?

The Golden Rule, when used as a parenting staple, is a magically powerful tool to enhance parent-child relationships. The basic tenet of the Golden Rule is respect for others. Think of how you might apply with your kids. First, consider how you feel when the following happen to you in your relationships with friends and family:

  • In conversation, your friend doesn’t give you her full attention. In the middle of your sentence, she looks at her phone, perhaps taking a call or texting. Or she looks around the room while you’re talking.
  • You’re dying to tell your partner something, but he or she is too busy to listen.
  • At work, your employer criticizes you in front of co-workers.
  • It’s obvious that your boss likes your co-worker better than you.
  • Your friend constantly repeats instructions to you even though you know what to do.
  • When you don’t understand something, someone humiliates you, calling you “stupid”.
  • Your calendar is so full that you never have time for yourself.
  • You’re frustrated at a meeting that has no agenda or leadership.

When using the Golden Rule of Parenting, let’s revisit the above examples and consider them from a child’s point of view. Then let’s see how we could change each situation to help a child feel valued and worthy.

  • When you’re with your kids at mealtime, on an outing, playing a game or reading, you give them your complete attention. Your phone can wait and, ideally, could be turned off until you’re alone.
  • When the kids come in to tell you something,  you make the time, even for a few minutes, to listen, looking them in the eyes.
  • Criticism, even “constructive criticism”, is never welcomed. Instead, in private, you can discuss the misdemeanor, asking for ideas on what else your child thinks could have been done. As an alternative to criticism, recognition of the positive is a powerful incentive for your child to repeat positive actions. Constant attention to negative actions breeds resentment and revenge.
  • Even though you secretly favor one child over another, never show it. Work hard to treat your kids equally. Misbehavior often results from feelings that a sibling is preferred. Kids are great at measuring and watching to see who gets the bigger piece of cake.
  • When you find yourself repeating things over and over (don’t hit your sister, eat your food, brush your teeth, hang up your coat etc.), stop and assess the situation. Talk with your child and find out the reason for disobedience.  When repeated instructions don’t work, there is always a root to the problem. Is it your tone of voice? Does the child need training or an explanation? Talk about it. Nagging usually is unproductive.
  • Calling a child “stupid”, “dumb” or “lazy” is a form of child abuse. Never do it.
  • Kids need time to “be”. When they have too many after-school activities, they get tired and depressed. One activity is usually enough, hopefully chosen by your child because she is interested. Kids need time on their own just as you do.
  • Set limits for your kids. Bed-time, mealtime, homework time, TV time and time on tech devices should be scheduled and adhered to consistently. Children feel safe and secure when they know what to expect. When there is no routine, there is often more acting-out and unruliness. Routine works best when the family discusses it and everyone has some input on what will work best.

If you apply the Golden Rule of Parenting and treat your children the way you would like to be treated, your family life will be happier and more harmonious. You can still be in charge, the head of the family who makes major decisions, but because you’re treating everyone with respect, parenting becomes more joyful and effective.



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