“Good” Kids: Where do they come from and how can I get one for myself?

“The sisters’ dark hair hung in wispy strands about their cheeks, and their faces bore a look of peacefulness that results only when children feel safe in the world.”

Yesterday my daughter and I braved the rainy weather and headed to Panera to work on our individual projects. She on editing digital photos and I on writing a book review. But when two adorable little girls came in, I couldn’t keep my eyes from drifting. There was something about them – something that made them special.

The sisters’ dark hair hung in wispy strands about their cheeks, and their faces bore a look of peacefulness that results only when children feel safe in the world.

The mother sat one girl, about 4 or 5, on the bench seat. She sat the other child, a little younger, on a chair. Soon the small  party was joined by three more adults, perhaps family members.

Considering their ages, the girls fidgeted appropriately while waiting for their meals.

First Mom delivered apple juice boxes, which the girls eagerly took from her hands and began sipping. They then chatted with one another and sang in the sweetest voices – “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day!”

(Really? Today’s kids even know that song?)

When Mom brought their PB & J sandwiches – cut on the diagonal – the girls dug right in. Neither complained about her food. Neither collapsed in a heap, whining to be served something else. They just sat and ate.

Meanwhile, the adults enjoyed their food, too, and engaged in conversation. Not once did I hear the mother reprimand her children.

They didn’t need it.

After finishing her sandwich, the younger one wiped her mouth on her sweater sleeve, then examined the sleeve she’d used as a napkin. She opened her sticky hands in front of her, and one  finger at a time, licked them clean. Finally she wiped both hands down the front of her dress. There. All done!

Not one adult got in her face.

And while the adults finished up, the sisters began to play – which is what kids will do when the environment is low-stress. They crouched down on the bench seat and played “kittens,” quietly purring and meowing to one another. They played “puppies,” barking in low voices. Not once did they tug at their mother or beg to leave.

As I sat perched on one of those tall stools, flipping through yet another parenting book, I asked myself, “How do parents raise kids like that?” Seemingly aware of their surroundings and considerate of others,  yet so relaxed and content.

You can bet that this mom has HIGH EXPECTATIONS. In fact, she seemed to accept their good behavior as a matter of course. Nothing out of the ordinary. No threats. No promises.

She has that right: parents should realize it’s never a good idea to play “Let’s Make a Deal” when they need compliance. Getting into that habit creates dragon children who must be fed constantly from the flaming den of commercial crap. And I hear it never ends. (Or maybe it only ends if you retire in Ecuador and forget to leave a forwarding address.)

You can also bet that this mother MEETS HER CHILDREN’S NEEDS ON A REGULAR BASIS. Not just on her schedule, but on theirs. So the kids trust her.

She meets their needs because she pays attention. She doesn’t put them off until they’re cranky and crying and whining for Disney vacations and talking dogs. She pays attention whenever she perceives a need. AND, when she perceives that they want to engage, no doubt even playing with them from time to time, encouraging creative play.

Why are HIGH EXPECTATIONS COMBINED WITH LOVING ATTENTION so important? Studies show that when adults tune into their children’s moods and behaviors (empathy), AND have high expectations, children feel the most loved and cared for. And when kids know that someone believes in the good in them, they just don’t need to be bad. FFG

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