The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.
This quote by parenting author Peggy O’Mara has been making its rounds on social media and strikes a chord with many parents.
How we speak to our children helps to shape how they view themselves, and their place in the world. Are we building up our young ones, or tearing them down?
Here are some tips on how to use encouragement and positive reinforcement in your parenting journey:
1. Recognise the power of your words
Do you recall the last conversation you had with your child?
If it was an affirming one, good! It is important to stop and take stock of the quality of our parent-child conversations, especially in our busy lives. It can be easy to give our children instructions, as we tick off items on our daily list of things to do.
Our children require more than superficial exchanges from us. Parents still hold great influence over their children, and your young ones will treasure the words of encouragement that you give them.
When you next speak with your child, observe your tone of voice, the conversation topic, and how your child reacts to you.
This will give you a good indication of what is working well, and what needs to be changed in how you converse with them.
2. Focus on the positives
Praising your child can feel like a challenging prospect when they aren’t meeting your expectations. One common example — parents finding it hard to encourage a child who is struggling in an academic subject.
As a concerned parent, our instinctive reaction is usually to swiftly highlight the problem and centre our attention on it, until it is satisfactorily ‘fixed’.
Unfortunately, focusing solely on the problem areas in their lives is one of the greatest parenting pitfalls.
In these difficult times, your child will actually need your affirmation the most, not simply your solutions. As adults, we want our efforts and strengths to be recognised, even as we work on our weak areas.
In the same way, our children are adults in the making, and need the same encouragement. Make it a point to highlight your child’s strengths and abilities, and praise them for these.
3. Learn from mistakes
As parents, our role is not to ensure that our children live mistake-free lives; rather, they should learn from these experiences, and ultimately develop greater resilience.
If your child is struggling in school, keep your focus on the learning process, rather than on the end result. For example, if your child receives a lower-than-expected score on a test, shift your emphasis from the actual score to the gaps in the learning process, and work with your child to make a plan to address these.
Are there specific topics that they need more help in? Could they be facing test anxiety? Perhaps they require more time to absorb the syllabus.
By addressing these issues constructively, you will assure your child that you are in their corner, and encouraging them even when they face daunting challenges.
4. Know your child’s love language
One of the greatest challenges for time-strapped parents is connecting with their children on a frequent basis. In addition to quality conversations, your child might respond well to other methods, depending on their preferred love language.
These include quality time, receiving gifts and acts of service. Observe your child to identify their primary love language – they usually show affection and affirmation in the way they prefer to receive it!
Take small daily steps to encourage your child, and you will begin to observe their self-esteem and confidence blossom over time.
With time and effort, you can build a family culture of affirmation in your home that will be your parenting legacy for generations to come.
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Written by Judith Xavier