Many parents worry when their children lack the motivation to learn. They also wonder how to encourage their child to build deeper relationships and develop better interpersonal skills.
There are numerous motivational, confidence-building seminars and workshops we can send our children to. However, they often only help in a superficial manner and might not fully address deep-rooted issues that are better managed at home.
A more effective way would be to help our children develop a healthy self-esteem.
Here are some things we can do as parents to raise emotionally healthy and confident children:
1. Step away from being outcome-focused
Don’t exaggerate by telling your child that they are the smartest or most good-looking child around. Affirm them for their effort and not just the outcome. If your child has done well in a test, try saying “The way you understood and answered the questions was really great!” instead of “You’re an absolute genius!”
2. Never label them negatively
Our children do not become more resilient when we are sarcastic or critical towards them. Even grown-ups would not like to be labelled stupid, clumsy, ugly or bad. Words can hurt and they cut deeper when negative labels come from us, their parents.
3. Resist the urge to compare
Focus on each child’s strengths and refrain from comparing them with their peers or even siblings. Constantly comparing them breeds insecurity and makes a child feel underappreciated. It negates whatever positive affirmation you have been giving and encourages unhealthy competition. Help your child to be the best version of themselves.
4. Refrain from making every decision for your child
When we allow our children to make age-appropriate decisions, we are communicating to them that we value their opinions and trust their choices.
For the really young ones, start off by giving them two choices so they do not get confused. Ask them if they would prefer one outfit over another. For older kids, encourage them to explain themselves if they disagree with something. Allow them to negotiate boundaries. This allows our children to make wise decisions confidently as they grow.
5. Stop being a “helicopter” parent
A “helicopter” parent is described as being over-protective. Resist the urge to swoop in and save your child from the negative consequences of their actions.
Barring situations that threaten life and limb, it is alright to let our children learn from their actions. Let them face punishment from a teacher when they forget to bring a book or fail to complete their homework, instead of rushing down to school with their book for them. Give them a chance to work things out from time to time.
6. Show that failure is not a sign of weakness
Help them understand that it is perfectly fine to fail at something. What’s important is how we recover from failure. It is normal to feel sad or disappointed but the valuable lesson to impart here is resilience.
Seize opportunities to share your personal experiences of failure. Describe how you felt and the thoughts you had, then share how you overcame the challenge and moved on. Model for them how failure does not need to be feared but can be embraced when it happens.
7. Spend quality time with your child
Find pockets of time to give your child your absolute attention to enjoy what they like doing and talk about their interests. When we give them our time like this, they understand that they are truly valued and are important to us.
It is not too late to try something new in our parenting styles. A positive change in the way we relate to our children will impact them, no matter how old they are. When they see changes in our behaviour, they will know that they are valued and unconditionally loved.
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Written by Elvira Tan.