How to effortlessly raise good children

family making breakfast in the kitchen

People have told me that my children are “well behaved” or “good.”

It doesn’t always feel that way to me. But, I guess, if that’s their public persona, I should be happy.​​​​​​​

I definitely don’t feel like my children are always good.

They fight. They spend too much time on screens. They make huge messes. And they don’t listen to me.

But they also help out, are polite, do what they’re told (often after the 7th or 10th time they’re told), and are empathetic. And they usually behave when we have company, or when they’re away from home.

Let’s be honest – good kids aren’t good all the time. It’s not in their nature. They need to push boundaries, try new things, and vent their feelings and frustrations. But also need to know how to respect others, and how to behave in any situation they may find themselves in.

So how did we manage to raise good children?

There’s no magic formula for raising good children. Common sense, some rules, discipline, and inclusion in family decisions go a long way towards helping your children learn to listen, respect, and pull out that good behaviour when you need them to.

We give them responsibility.

The girls are now in charge of their own stuff. And by that I mean they were packing their own lunches, managing their own school things, and coming home alone after school to an empty house.

They also have regular chores, including loading and unloading the dishwasher, putting away their own laundry, cleaning their rooms (though this rarely happens) and now keeping track of masks.

We also give them free time.

Since the COVID pandemic began, we’ve been encouraging the girls to play together, get outside, and find unstructured things to do. (We encouraged all this before as well, there was just less time in our weeks for them to do it.)

As a result they’ve learned how to ride their bikes, they’ve been more comfortable taking trips to the library alone, and they’ll head to whichever park they feel like playing at today without adult supervision. (Though they need to tell me where they’re going before they leave!)

Related: Teach your kids how to ride their bikes

And we limit screen time.

By planning screen time into our days, it minimizes the “can we have screen time??” nag a little bit. They have tv in the morning on non-school days, some screen time during or after lunch when we’re home, and maybe an hour in the late afternoon. This will change significantly with the return to school, but it’s worked for that last however-many pandemic weeks.​​​​​​​

Related: My kids watch crap on YouTube

We have expectations on their behaviour.

When company is over they know they can sit and visit, or they can go and play, but they cannot be underfoot or whiny.

Now that they’re older, they seem very interested to be a part of all our conversations – even if it’s only as an observer. And that’s fine with us. We all learn by example, so if they sit, watch, and listen, they’re learning how to function in a social setting.

They ask quietly and politely if they would like to leave our “adult” time and go watch tv in another room. And they also go to bed without fuss if our company is staying late into the evening.

We talk to them and include them in decisions.​​​​​​​

How to effortlessly raise good children

Nobody likes feeling left out. Especially children.

It’s easy to include kids in dinner table conversations about how our days were. In fact, my girls are the first to ask “what did you do today?” when we finally get to sit down together.

We make sure to have important family discussions with the girls. Right now we’re working on a bit of reorganizing which will end with some redecorating – painting, etc. – and by having the girls involved with decisions like colours and placement of furniture, they are much more eager to help out through the whole process.

After outlining all these things, I see why people may think my girls are “good.” But I think that these things should be expected of all children. If you treat them with respect and give them responsibilities they will learn and grow into well-behaved people – or so we hope!

Are you raising good children? What have you learned along the way? Share your experiences in the comments and we can celebrate (or commiserate) together.


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