Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Just moved to Framingham, MA
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You are not too late to do things really well!
Teaching children to be gentle to others is as easy as getting them to say please and thankyou when they mean it, and that is really easy.
All you have to do is remember one golden rule on how children learn, and that is that they are copy-cats.
Now I want to be very clear here. Some people think that the way children copy is that copy the behavior of how they themselves are treated. While this is partly true of course, one is missing the mother lode.
Children learn very effectively by watching how others treat each other.
For example, if a mother and father are sweet to a child, but kick the cat, the child will kick the cat too. It's no use wondering how a child could behave like that after you have been so sweet to it!
Similarly, if you want a child to say please and thankyou, the best way is NOT to make the child say please and thankyou when dealing with it directly (such as holding an item until they say thankyou). That is most definately the worst way to do it because while you think you are training the child to say these things, in reality you are programming the kid to look for certain cues from you and it parrots out a meaningless (to him) phrase. Children trained like this rarely say Pls and Tnx when alone or out of earshot of an authority figure adult.
The way to do it well, really well, is for you and DH to play the "Here you are / thankyou" game round the breakfast table every morning. All smiles with kisses too, and your child will be frantic to join in.
Similarly, practice stroking the teddy, or DH and DH back, teddies round a "camp fire", one falls down, all the others kiss it better etc.
DONT GET ANGRY when your kid does something really unpleasent. All the kid learns from that is that he can get a rise out of you. He'll save that memory for later.
Once the correct model of behavior is routinly demonstrated, more overt meathods then have meaning in the child's mind:
1) restrain flailing arms.
2) firmly make hands do the right thing while softly entoneing the mantra that was established with DH or Teddies.
3) loosen grip and praise
4) apple slices.
If at any stage the child can't manage, then remove from group and cuddle.