In my first year of being a principal, I learned so much…by making a tremendous amount of mistakes and dealing with a variety of students, parents, and teachers. As student after student entered my office, parent after parent sat across from my desk, and teacher after teacher came in and out, I realized that most problems with students, parents, and teachers came down to two things. Respect and Work Ethic.
As parents, our kids know that we love them. We say it and we show it. We do not claim to love perfectly. Actually, our imperfect loving makes us more real than pretending we know it all. Our girls have grown up with us apologizing for our mistakes, growing in our parenting, and being real and honest. We hope to have provided them with a place to make mistakes and be who they have been created to be. But many parents do not think that discipline is a part of love and we believe it is.
There is not an easy formula to parenting. Parenting is THE HARDEST job that I have ever had. Teaching is not easy but one of my strengths is taking a goal and breaking it into the smallest steps so that the goal is obtainable. How could my husband and I raise two very different daughters to be loving, compassionate and independent? As much as we love them, we want them to be self-sufficient, hardworking, and caring people that can take their place in whatever or wherever they choose to go.
As a mom, I looked at my parenting and decided to keep my expectations fairly simple. I had been majoring in the minors A LOT…because when stress comes in I like to hold on to control the best that I can. Since I am constantly evaluating myself in every role, I knew I needed to stop majoring in the minors and be very clear in my expectations with our daughters.
We sat the girls down and basically told them that there were two no- negotiables in our house. These expectations were communicated with love and an established relationship. Respect and Work Ethic. Those two items are our only rules.
Respect Became a Non-Negotiable
We established “first-time obedience” in pre-school. There was a day that my youngest (the one that we thought we would send to Military Pre-School) refused to hold my hand and ran out in a parking lot ONLY for the car to stop 6 inches from her. In retrospect, I knew that I needed them to listen the first time I said something. Not 3 times. Not twice. The first time. Every moment is a teaching moment. Whether it teaches you or your children. They needed to learn respect now. There wasn’t time to wait. Just like myself, we would work on one or two of these at a time based on their developmental stages.
What it looked like:
- First-time obedience means I do not repeat myself.
- No means no. No matter how much you cry or throw yourself on the ground.
- Take care of your things and appreciate them.
- Manners matter. Yes ma’am. No sir. Thank you. Always.
- It is not what you say. It is HOW you say it.
- Eye rolls and talking back are not allowed. Use your words and tone respectfully to disagree. If not, I can think of many creative consequences.
Questions I use to get them to think about it:
- Would you like to rewind and try saying it in a respectful way?
- Was what you just said respectfully said to your sister? Could you say it again in a more respectful way? Thank you. (And if they couldn’t there would be consequences.)
In Caroline’s words:
“My mom and dad have always drawn the line with two things; work ethic and respect. At the same time, they have always expected those two things at all times. Nothing has changed. To me, respect is in a way, a type of appreciation for anyone. For example, in the Bowers household we are taught to use our manners. We say Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am, Yes Sir, and No Sir. My parents say it, too. So far, respect has taken me a pretty long way in life including; in school, in the arts, and at home. One time I had so much going on inside of my head and I had no clue how to say it out loud to my mom. There wasn’t a way that I could’ve done it and she wouldn’t be mad. (So I thought) Finally, I just said it. But it came out with respect, and I just told my mom and she wasn’t angry with me. She was glad that I told her, but not only that, she was glad that I said it to her in a respectful way. From then on, we both have grown to respect each other every day, and yes we are not perfect, yes we don’t always have the best attitude, and yes we mess up sometimes, but at the end of the day, what really matters is our love for each other, our moments that we celebrate when we accomplish something, and what we do for each other.”
Work Ethic Became a Non-Negotiable
I am a mom that knows that she MUST prepare her children for the real world. I have seen so many kids fail at life because they just DO NOT KNOW HOW TO WORK. Parents tend to their every need and do everything for them. The key is that we were consistent and followed through every time. We would also allow natural consequences to take place.
What it looked like:
- They do their homework.
- They make their beds.
- They complete all projects.
- They finish their job and I would call them back to do it.
- They do it right or they do it again. (at age appropriate expectations)
- I taught them how to study for their learning style.
- Work hard then play hard.
- They did not get an allowance. Everyone participates in our family. (They get paid when they get jobs outside of our house.)
- Their responsibilities were not mine. (putting folder in book bag, putting things away, etc.)
- If they were old enough to do it, they could do it. (draw their own bath, laundry, dishes, packing their own lunch)
- Complaining about what is expected equals more work to do. You can work with a joyful heart or a mad one but you will still work.
Questions I would ask to get them to think about their work ethic:
- How could you exceed expectations?
- Look around, did you finish your job?
- What do you think needs to be completed first?
- How much time do you think this should take to be completed?
- Should we set the timer? (to stay on task)
- Would you like to rewind and respond differently to what I asked you to do? Thank you.
- What are YOUR goals? How do you plan to meet those goals?
In Grace’s words:
“Work ethic is a steady trait that remains beneficial throughout all areas of life academically, personally, and athletically. Growing up with the expectation of a solid work ethic pushed me to not make excuses when faced with tough situations, but rather to suck it up and do the things I don’t want to do. Academically a strong work ethic pays off by completing homework and seeking extra help if needed, allowing positive test results. Athletically, a powerful work ethic pushes me to become stronger and better every time I step into the weight room or on the field. A strong work ethic carries you far in life and is easier to learn and apply if learned at a young age. Developing it in small doses as I grew has helped me pace my work now that I am older. I take my goals and work on them day by day and that hard work has paid off in school, at home, and on the field.”
Writing this blog has been very fun as we dissected and laughed over motivational moments that have grown and shaped them. We use questions to get them to think about what and why they are doing something and give them a chance to go back and correct it so they learn to do it well. Love, respect, and work ethic build upon one another but are so closely related. We are still in the thick of learning these lessons but the foundation has been laid. We are now “gradually releasing responsibility” to them…. and that will need to be another blog for later.