Setting Expectations for Your Children

John M. Dabbs

Having respectful and obedient children we can be proud of - it's something we all strive toward. We all have lofty aspirations for our offspring. We are proud of them, watching them grow and develop. There isn't anything we wouldn't do for our children to help them succeed. The best we can give them, is to let them know what we expect of them.

Pride and prejudice

While we may have pride and prejudice where our children are concerned, it is important to set goals. When I was small, I remember vividly when my mother told me, "You better not embarrass me." It sunk it. I was quite the little gentleman that day. I recall seeing a few similar remarks, but much less bluntly, while watching sit-coms from during my youth. It wasn't uncommon for the parents in Leave It To Beaver, The Brady Bunch, The Waltons, Little House On The Prairie, or even Bonanza, to get the point across.

Raising my sons, when we would be in a restaurant with family and see youngsters acting up and creating a scene, I would quietly whisper to my boys to see if they noticed the child/children making a scene. I would ask them if they thought it too was impolite and rude to act out in such a way when their family wanted a nice dinner out. They of course agreed, those children were acting badly. I would use that moment to reinforce their good behavior - telling them that is why everyone enjoyed having them come along. They knew how to act in public, and continue to be reserved and respectful in public settings today.

Rear not getting rearing

Is neglecting the rear affecting the rearing of our children in today's society? I both feared and respected my parents. They set boundaries and enforced them as needed to keep me in check. I do not represent an outcast heathen in the family, but I was quite a "spirited" little lad - back in the day.

I am sure my switching and spankings were no worse than many of my cohorts of the time. Paddling in school was also commonplace in those days. As society adapts to new paradigms, spanking has become quite controversial. In elementary school, I could see where spanking a child as a form of correction as permissible - with the written consent of the parents. I strongly believe we could have more respectful and well behaved children, who are less problematic in school if their parents were raised the same way.

My grandmother worked in the cafeteria of the elementary school I attended. During one episode of improper behavior, my teacher sought the counsel of my grandmother to see what she thought would be the way to handle me. Granny told them to "call his mother." My mom was a quiet rural homemaker in those days. She cherished her children and would stand toe-to-toe against anyone who'd do us ill.

My mother told them "I'll be there in just a minute." She arrived and was walked to my classroom, and called me into the hall. I remember vividly. She asked to the teachers to excuse us for a moment, and grabbed me by the earlobe and drug me to the nearest exit door - had me take my belt off, and spanked me with it! After I put my belt back in place, she took me by the hand and walked me back to class. She told the teachers to just call her again if they had any more problems... Wow. If parents were like that nowadays...

Rules of engagement

There are cardinal rules of engagement that civilized society embraces. Those of employee-employer, and parent-child, are very similar.

Praise in public. Correct in private.

My parents never spanked me in front of others, where we would become a spectacle for everyone else to see. Neither should employers fire employees or give them any corrective action in front of others. These are sensitive matters that require finesse if they are going to have any weight and bearing in the future. The whole world does not need to be involved, nor see what goes on.

The opposite is true where praise is due. It's not only polite to compliment someone at the dinner table, in a crowd, or in front of their peers. That doesn't mean you can't do it in private too. The situation dictates those actions. You can privately let your kid know how proud of them for how they handled a situation, where it wouldn't be appropriate to say something where others could hear - or be offended by it.

Even in the television family world, we often heard Ward and June Cleaver praising their kids, and giving them kudos in private at times. They even spoke of their dad "hitting them", which could be inferred as a spanking... but we never saw it. Those times are private.

We want our children to be examples of who we are. They should not embarrass us by how they act. It is a reflection on us. More often, we are proud of who they are becoming as a person. We just want the whole world to see it too.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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