Here are 6 things to keep in mind when raising a child, things that will affect their behaviour and attitude for the rest of their life..
Nobody is ever 'ready' to have a child, but when you do, it’s very important to understand the psychological nuances in raising one. A lot of care and thought must be put into raising a child because their behaviour for the rest of their life is very much based on their childhood development.
So, here are 6 things to keep in mind when raising a child:
1. Praise effort over achievements
It is common knowledge that most Asian parents highly prize the achievements of their child (academic, musical, etc.). These achievements are also sometimes used as a yardstick to compare their kids’ achievements with their peers’.
While this may appear to be healthy as a form of competition, it also frames the child’s self-esteem towards external motivations (i.e. achievements).
Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University and best-selling author of the book Mindset, advocated that it is crucial for parents to praise a child’s efforts over their achievements. Her research paper found that rewarding children for their efforts would increase their motivation to thrive for better.
The rationale behind this is twofold:
- Achievements (in many cases) cannot be complete controlled by the individual. For example, if you trained day and night for a swimming competition and came in second place, then external factors like water getting into your goggles could’ve been the cause.
There are a lot of things outside of our control. You can direct the best film on Earth and still get rejected by the Oscars.
- Effort is the only variable you have control over. Parents who always applaud their kids by saying “As long as you do your best, it’s fine,” are onto something. On a deeper level, the child is responsible for his or her level of effort.
By praising the child for their effort, what they hear is “The more I work, the more I am valued.” Wouldn’t that be better than “The more awards I get, the more I am valued?”
In short, effort is within the child’s control – achievement isn’t.
2. What beliefs are you leaving your child with after an interaction?
Morty Lefkoe of the Lefkoe Method wrote a piece on the Huffington Post that’s very worth reading. He talked about the hidden message we leave behind with our children, based on our interactions.
For example, if we train our kids to drop everything and be at the table for dinner in seconds it may signal to them that what they want doesn’t matter, and their decisions and opinions aren’t important. Even during instances where parents dislike being questioned by their children and tell their kids to just do as they say, that might signal them to think that the only way for people to accept them is only for others to be happy.
The consequences are many: Among the gravest is the lack of self-esteem. It is no surprise that those with lower self-esteem because of their upbringing may give in to peer pressure at a very early age, playing a passive role in life and never expressing their opinions when it is truly needed.
To quote Morty:
“What is my child likely to conclude about him or herself and life as a result of this interaction we just had? If it is a positive belief, congratulations! You got your job done. If it is a negative one, go back, apologise, and clean it up.”
3. Self esteem is key.
Confidence is perhaps the most important ingredient in the personal development of a child.
We all have had our fair share of having low self-esteem (some of us still feel the same way now). We are all too familiar with the powerful grip it has had on us when it comes to pursuing what we want and our sensitivity towards the opinions of others.
Some attribute low self esteem for being the main cause of most social problems in society today.
A great exercise you can practice is the I Am Enough exercise made popular by Marissa Peer. You can watch one of her talks here.
4. Be somebody they can turn to / role model
This is a big one. It is my personal goal in life that my children look to me as their role model in life. If I have done that, I have succeeded as a father.
The old-school idea of being parent which means to provide for your children food, water and shelter is not sufficient for healthy mental development.
Warren Buffett was quoted in his HBO documentary, Becoming Warren Buffett, that the greatest gift he ever had, was having the father he had growing up who was a role model to him.
The new-school idea of being a parent is to be not only a provider but also a leader. No one likes to be told, but they like to be lead. As a parent, you should aim to be a great listener, a shoulder to cry on, but above all – somebody they truly respect.
Respect is the essence of all strong relationships.
It is often said that in a romantic relationship, the most important ingredient is respect, followed by loyalty and then love.
5. Kids notice everything
We as adults would like to believe that our children are oblivious to what we do. Consciously they are, but subconsciously… they are recording every second of their surroundings and your behaviour.
Since you are the first human they encounter, spend the most time with and depend on, they will model your behaviour and your habits.
So watch what you do wisely. You have to work on yourself as much as you work on them.
6. Respect different learning styles
Just because you need complete utter silence when you go about writing your next book doesn’t mean that your child is the same.
Harvard researcher Howard Gardner established eight kinds of intelligences, or ways kids learn best, some that include musical, logical-mathematical, linguistic, and interpersonal traits.
The thing to do is to pay attention to what mediums engage them best and makes them enjoy the learning process.
For example, if your child is visual, use flash cards or graphic novels. If they are more musical, teach them with musical undertones.
Being mindful about how we manage our lives greatly affects our children’s upbringing consciously or subconsciously. Therefore, just keep an eye out on how you interact. You are their walking talking model of reality.
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