Preparing your child for LIFE
Becoming a parent is overwhelming. Suddenly we are responsible for this small person, and as our primal instincts to protect them emerge, we find ourselves wanting to shelter them from life's storms. Sadly, just like the weather we can't control what happens in life. The good news is, we can prepare our children for this wild, wonderful world by nurturing their developing sense of self.
Here are five everyday approaches that will help:
1. Encourage self-respect.
Treat your child with respect. It's contagious! Being treated respectfully will teach your child how to truly respect others, and gain respect for themselves. Here are some examples for reflection:
If you were telling your spouse something important and they weren’t paying attention, how would you feel?
How would you like your boss to talk to you? “Can you please answer the phone?” or “get the phone”?
If you weren’t hungry, would you like someone to shove food in your mouth?
How would you like your doctor to respond if you were in pain? Tell you you’re ok, stop crying and go back home, or instead listen to you and try to help?
Everyone, no matter what age, is deserving of respect. And it’s within these respectful interactions your child feels loved, valued and accepted as an individual, and realise they're worthy of fair treatment. Children with self-respect are more likely to stand up for themselves, ignore peer pressure, and choose to invest in happy, healthy relationships later in life.
2. Boost self-confidence
Self-confidence is like that universal tool in your toolbox. It is helpful in almost every situation and when you don’t have it, everything seems harder. Here are some ways to boost your child’s self-confidence:
Let them PLAY. When playing, your child is testing their working theories, exploring the world around them, and learning more about themselves in the process. Knowledge is power, and this brainpower will help them feel confident.
Be a cheerleader. Cheer your child on, celebrate their efforts and be there for them when they need support and encouragement.
Don’t intervene unnecessarily. Welcome your child’s opportunities to learn, no matter the result. With good intentions we often intervene to prevent our child from feeling upset if they don’t succeed. But what message does this send? We want to show our children we believe in their abilities, and if things don’t work out as planned, that they have what it takes to learn from it and keep trying.
Building self-confidence as a child will increase their chances of becoming a confident adult who finds it easier to manage failure and negativity, address challenges and have the courage to try new things (to name a few!).
3. Foster self-control.
Provide clear boundaries and responsibilities. We have all heard (and probably used) the saying "you can't always get what you want" and that's often the case! Here’s some tips for successful implementation:
Make sure what you are asking is age-appropriate and achievable.
Be consistent! Consistency allows children to anticipate the rules, expectations and consequences of their environment, this means less confusion and altercations.
Give your child a break. The Parenting Science website explains that when we expect our children to complete unpleasant tasks one after the other, their self-control will grow fatigued. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Fostering self-control now will educate your child about accountability, responsibility, acceptable behaviour, how to thrive in social environments and become a positive member of society. Important stuff!
4. Promote self-awareness.
Being a parent is hard work! But we are human, and we all make mistakes and have bad days. It’s normal! However, as your child’s greatest role-model, they are constantly observing and learning from us, meaning the way we deal with these mistakes and bad days matter. You can promote self-awareness (also known as self-management and self-regulation) by:
Being authentic. Own your emotions and be honest about how you’re feeling. This will create an opportunity for your child to identify different emotions and learn how to respond calmly to frustrating situations.
Acknowledge your mistakes and apologise when needed. Teach your child that they have the power to improve wrongdoings, and that it’s the right thing to do.
Understand how your child is feeling and empathise, this will help them feel secure and confident in their ability to cope, and control and express themselves. It will also help them learn how to empathise with others!
As your child’s self-awareness matures, they will gain a deep understanding of their personality and be able to predict their reactions, make positive changes and avoid unnecessary upset along the way.
5. Grow self-esteem.
A person’s level of self-esteem influences the way they look after themselves and make decisions. Here are some strategies that are guaranteed to grow your child’s self-esteem:
Love! Show and tell them how much they mean to you. Nothing makes a person feel more special and important then knowing they are loved. And did you know it’s scientifically proven that hugs enhance happiness? BONUS!
Focus on strengths by supporting your child’s interests. As humans our strengths are naturally highlighted when we are doing something we enjoy. Help your child live genuinely and feel good about themselves by supporting their true passions.
Exercise positive guidance. It’s crucial for children to know they are still loved and accepted, even if their present behaviour isn’t. You can read five easy steps to positive discipline here.
Lastly, set yourself up for parenting success by feeling good about yourself. Challenge your self-doubt and fight that inner critic. Believe in yourself the same way your child believes in you, because just like your child, you too are loved and important.
“When children feel good about themselves, it sets them up for success” (KidsHealth,2018). Essentially, self-esteem ignites the motivation your child needs to reach their full potential and chase their dreams!
“Every action in our lives touches on some chord that will vibrate in eternity.” – Edwin Hubbel Chapin
So, even though we can't protect our child from enduring life’s storms, we CAN prepare them by nurturing their sense of self and trying our best. This extra ‘love layer’ will act as the wet weather gear that keeps them warm and dry while they jump in the puddles, dance with the wind and sing in the rain.
Written by New Shoots Teacher - Laura Saunders.
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A useful tool for Respectful Parenting: