September was a very educational month for me. I was lucky to be able to attend a seminar by Clinical Psychologist Marietta Rodrigues that gave me a lot of information on how to handle children positively and what the consequences of distant or ill informed parenting could be. I want to do the best I can for my kids and I’m sure every other parent wants to too. So I decided to pen down what I learnt so that others can also benefit. I have put it down in the form of questions and answers.
- How to increase my child’s self-esteem?
Be lavish in praise and appreciate all the little things they do. Be very specific in your praise. Being generic makes the child feel that good qualities are inborn. Statements like “You are smart” make them feel they are no good when they fail. You could instead say “you solved that problem smartly”.
Be specific with praise as well as criticism. Do not use generic phrases like “you are stubborn” or “you are disobedient”. The same thing could be conveyed as “you are behaving stubbornly”or “don’t you think you are being disobedient?”.
If possible concentrate on the positive or good the child has done. If we keep pointing out to their mistakes they will begin to feel that they are not good enough for us or worst still that we don’t like them and would be happier without them. With feelings like this they loose hope and give up at the thought of failing as their parents will be disappointed with them.
Show them that you respect them. Listening to them can make a big difference.
- What can raising my child’s self-esteem the wrong way do to my child and those around?
By labeling them in the name of praise we will be conveying the wrong message. For example; If they do well they are smart. That would imply that those who take time to grasp concepts or do not perform well academically are dumb. If we make children think like that then they will not strive to improve as God made them that way. So when they do not perform well are they in bad books with their creator? Not at all.
I once heard of an incident where a child was vocal about being unimpressed with her younger sibling not understanding a concept as fast as her. Luckily the mother was present and spoke to them but the other child has already been affected. In their case the mother was present and could intervene. Both might have understood. But what if it happened in school to another child? Who will know if the other child develops a complex and grows up with low self-esteem? It is a hurt that goes from the conscious mind to the subconscious and gradually to the unconscious mind manifesting itself into behavioral disorders in adulthood.
This is another reason why it is very important to listen to children’s stories, no matter how boring, when they return from school; even if they are spectators to incidents they have opinions and reactions to the same. If we listen we can guide. If another child faced criticism from a colleague your child could play a role in increasing the victims self-esteem through your guidance. No child wants to harm another. They all want to do good and we are responsible to guide them on how to.
It’s important to know everything about your school going child as you are responsible for shaping their outlook in life. Once the values are instilled you can give them their “personal space” as you have already developed a bond with them and they will want to come to you when faced with a problem. I somehow feel that I only got in trouble and repent for those events in my life from which I kept my parents away.
- How to motivate children to become more responsible rather than nag them for being irresponsible?
As Mrs. Marietta Rodrigues said, in her session on Parenting in the 21st century, “One of the best ways to motivate children to learn and become more responsible is by praising and affirming what they do”. Honest appreciation and specific and descriptive praises can go a long way in not only encouraging kids but also building their self esteem.
My mother, who has an academic background in psychology and extensive experience raising 4 kids and guiding them in raising her 7 grandchildren is very particular about bringing out the best in each one. She says that children should be treated as responsible individuals and given responsibilities at their level. They can’t be relied on as they’re too young to know the impact of irresponsible behavior. Whenever a situation arises where their help will really make a difference we should firmly give them a role to play. Our confidence in them helps make them responsible. Do not reprimand if they fail to live up to your expectations. Don’t we all have times when we have not achieved our goal? Failing does not mean that we did not put in our best. We still expect some appreciation, a sign of gratitude. Why should our children expect less from us?
Another thing my mother stresses on is to encourage children wholeheartedly in any interest they show. This helps them to grow as happy individuals which builds their self esteem. This helps a lot when children have a dislike for a particular subject. The reason is most likely an inappropriate teacher who either dislikes the subject herself or does not have a passion for teaching. Instead of nagging the child and converting the dislike into hate concentrate on what the child likes and teach this subject too (get a good teacher to help your child if the resources are available to you). Once the child excels in the subject he likes he will not want to let behind another subject. The same approach works at times with bad behavior. Instead of only correcting and pointing to the child’s mistakes, try praising the good the child does. Once the child starts falling in love with the praise he/she will not want to disappoint you.
- What will I achieve by constantly reminding my child of his/her mistakes and shortcomings? In other words – What does nagging achieve?
We should not be correcting them on matters of no importance. Parents must correct and children must be encouraged to listen. It is very important to never show anger because it confuses the child. Get angry or upset but don’t let it take over your words and actions. We need to keep reminding ourselves that children have a mind of their own and cannot obey blindly. One must reason out with them. And please do not say “do it because I told you so”. Believe me, it will gain you nothing. I say it at times and the look I get makes me want to rewind and play a different tune. Ordering them only makes them resent doing it. A good leader motivates and makes the other person want to do what he/she wants him/her to do. When it comes to correction, parents must convey the message that it’s an issue that has to be sorted out. This gives the child a chance to ponder without feeling that she is forced to comply.
I will pause now and give you time to ponder. We need to be aware, and when required work on changing, the way we treat others, react to situations and utilize our time. If we do not respect our parents and employees our children will neither respect adults nor those a little lower to them either in age or social status. Being aware of our words and actions is the first step to raising healthy children. We all make mistakes. Say sorry and when required correct yourself vocally (especially in front of your children). There is no harm in being humble and asking your child to forgive you for acting in a fit of anger. As soon as you realize you have gone wrong, apologize.
Look out for my next post that will talk about raising honest and trustworthy children and teaching them social skills.