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Dates to remember

Jan. 17: Parents Forever session, Mandan

Jan. 22: Beef Quality Assurance meeting, New Salem

Jan. 28: Stepping On seven-week series begins, Mandan

Jan. 29: Conscious Discipline five-week series begins, Mandan

Jan. 30: NDSU Extension Advisory Council

As we wrap up the holiday season, we probably can remember hearing from parents or trying as a parent to motivate kids to display better behavior using Santa Claus and the threat of “no toys’ during the holiday season. The fear of not getting a new toy certainly can turn the magic of the season off in a hurry and get kids to behave, but now as the tinsel settles, the negative behaviors may be returning. One of the most effective ways to encourage good habits in the children in our lives is to do it first or do it with them.

Try this activity out at home: Round up some kids or family members. Stand in front of anyone and play a little “Simon Says” game. Ask them to watch you and do what you say. Give a simple instruction, such as “Raise your right hand.” As you give the instruction, raise your own right hand. Do not correct anyone. Next, put your hands on your knees as you instruct the group to do the same. You may want to ask, “Are you ready?” and wait until everyone is looking at you before each new instruction. Continue two or three more times. Now the fun part: Give the group a verbal instruction again, but this time, do a different action. For example, “Put your hand on your ear,” but put your hand on your nose. Watch to see if everyone follows what you say or what you do.

When you make a habit of brushing your teeth with the bathroom door open and then talk about how clean your teeth feel, chances are your children will do the same with less prompting. One family lucky enough to have two bathroom sinks calls “toothbrush party!” and all three youngsters gather with their dad to brush their teeth as a prerecorded two-minute song plays in the background. “It’s a little messy” admits the father, “but if it gets all our teeth clean in two minutes with no fussing, I am happy to wash the sinks.”

This parent is promoting a healthful habit by brushing with his kids and making it fun. Adults are expected to show kids from tots to teens and beyond the type of behaviors, they expect by being a role model. For instance, if you have started to use words that you would not be proud to have your kids repeat at dinner with the grandparents, you need to clean up the vocabulary and replace those words with appropriate alternatives. Likewise, when adults say please and thank you to their children, even toddlers will learn to include please with their requests and express gratitude.

Children need to hear our expectations for living a healthful life, and maybe more importantly, they need us to follow the same rules because like the old song, paraphrased says, “They see you when you’re sleeping, they know when you’re awake. They know when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for your kids’ sake.”

For more resources, search NDSU Extension at

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Liz Larson is the parent educator for the NDSU Extension Parent Resource Center Region VII. Larson has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology from Luther College in Iowa and started with Extension in 2016.