Friday, 7 October 2011

Parenting my way - encourage, encourage, encourage.



Children take in everything we as parents say and do. They absorb, they mimic. As a result I have over the years really toned down some behaviour I am not keen on my child mimicking. I am less angry, I have calmed my temper down, I am very much aware of what comes out of my mouth. I definitely believe in leading by example. Recently a friend told me she thought I am ‘very calm’ in terms of my parenting style, I laughed to myself thinking ‘if only she had seen me during one of my outbursts’. I am much calmer these days yes, however I can throw a tantrum like the best of them.
My parenting style in some ways is not so conservative. I let my child stay up late, even on school nights. We eat chocolate for breakfast. I pack my child’s lunchbox with more cookies than fruit. I let him play xbox, I even play xbox with him. I don’t push him to partake in extra-curricular sport or activities, I barely even encourage him to. But I tell him he is great, every single day. I ask him how his day went at school, I ask lots of questions. I sit cross legged on the floor of his bedroom and play armies with him, without distraction. I cuddle him lots. I laugh at his jokes. I put my chores aside to spend time with him. I don’t force him to do jobs but ask him to help, when he wants to. Despite my busy working day I walk him into class every single morning, I look at his school work and point out his accomplishments and help him work on his weaknesses. I tell him he is great. Every single day.
I know that some may think that telling a child they are great is building them up to be an overly-confident or cocky adult, maybe so. However the way I see it I would rather my child grows into a confident adult than one riddled with low self-esteem. If I don’t tell my child he is great, who will?
I remember as a child I was full of insecurities well into my late teens. I am pretty sure I knew I was a great kid, but the self-doubt seems to overshadow the confidence, especially in children. I like protecting my child from the harsh realities of the world. I understand that he will have to know disappointment and failure through his own experiences but won’t the battles of life be easier to handle if approached with self-confidence, inner strength and a solid understanding of who he is? I think that children do not need their weaker points highlighted. Sure, I work on them in a subtle manner without drawing attention to them in a negative fashion. But I point out my child’s positives more and praise him on his efforts and accomplishments frequently, to remind him of the good in what he does and who he is. As quoted by Joseph Joubert, “Children need models rather than critics.”
I tell my son frequently that he is clever. In my eyes he is. I also tell him he is funny. He makes me laugh; that is a fact that I don’t mind sharing with him. I build him up to have a healthy level of self-worth. I know for a fact through my own experiences that I have not performed at my optimum level at times in part due to my lack of self-worth or lack of confidence. I also know for a fact that often, it is too easy to take on what others think of us assuming that reflection is our own character or personality, when in fact that is merely someone else’s impression or opinion. For this reason I like to use the power of positive words and affirmations to teach my child to have self-confidence. I think sometimes in our effort to remain humble we can mistake positive words and praise as narcissistic or arrogant, when in fact healthy self-worth is quite simply ‘healthy’. Setting a child up to succeed starts with recognising their talents and skills, and encouraging them. And as a parent, I know that is my duty.
It is a well known fact that toddlers view themselves as a reflection of how others perceive and assumingly see them. Telling a toddler they are marvellous and praising them over small achievements will in fact teach them self-confidence. There is nothing more damaging to a toddler than a message that he/she is not loved, the impact on his/her self-esteem can only be negative in nature. Praise, encouragement, love and positive attention are what a toddler needs to build up confidence and self-esteem. And this continues well past the toddler years. It is also a fact that low self-esteem or a negative self-image can lead to behavioural problems later on in life.
I may be raising a confident child but beneath it all he still has his days. He questions his own efforts at times and even then I worry he is setting too high limits on himself. I remind him that whatever it is that he does, as long as it is done with the best intention, best effort and a positive attitude, is great. Trying his best and then still being happy with his effort despite the outcome will only prepare him to handle disappointments in life that we all face at some time be it in employment, relationships or personal endeavours.
As Jacqueline Onassis famously said “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much. ’ I have to agree.

Peggy


{image source: Pinterest}

6 comments:

  1. I think we become the parents that we want for ourselves. Even though by all accounts, your mum is AMAZING by the way.

    What I mean is, you probably feel the need to tell your son how amazing he is, because you (for some reason) grew up thinking you weren't.

    I think you would be SUCH an amazing mother AND friend to your son!

    xx

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  2. Thanks Cherie. We definitely share a very special friendship my son and I, much like I do with my Mum.

    I think kids generally aren't naturally instilled with self-confidence so any influence we have on them must be positive. I am very aware of the effect our behaviour as parents has on our child. My Mum was very much the same when we were kids. She didn't like alcohol in the house and she was very focussed on good behaviour herself in front of us. I think I am mimicking her. :) xo

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  3. Here Here Peggy! I couldn't agree more. I parent by the same philosophy and was raised in the same way.

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  4. It's a beautiful and scary notion - the super significant role we play in shaping our children and their future.
    It really is a privilege and an honour.
    You do an amazing job.
    :-)

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  5. It's true that as parents we are the ones with the most influence on our kids when they are small but as they grow up the rules change. Their peers become the influencers. And it isn't so easy to assign play mates to a 16 year old!

    It can be naive (and even dangerous) to think that you've prepped your kids enough to make the right choices and that they will always behave in the way you taught them. All the 'ground work' when they were small can be all too easily undone in the difficult teenage years.

    Yes, raise confident kids, but don't get complacent and think you've got it covered. You just might not.

    I've seen plenty of parents who thought they did 'all the right things' only to have their kids go on to lead lives that break their parent's hearts.

    I find myself wondering what exactly constitutes 'bungle raising your kids...'

    My older brother is an alcoholic & an addict (fortunately 4 years clean and sober), who lives alone in public housing, on sickness benefits and has attempted suicide more than once. My younger brother and I both have postgraduate qualifications, professional careers, healthy relationships and financial investments. Would Jacqueline Onassis think my parents 'bungled'?...

    Back to my point... my siblings and I had the same parents, same healthy childbood and the same upbringing. The outcomes are vastly different, and I still don't understand why.

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  6. I totally agree Lisa, the groundwork we set out on our young kids won't solely determine which direction they take as teens or adults. However if we encourage them on their talents and skills, and focus extra support on their weaknesses I think that can't hurt in adulthood in terms of confidence and self-awareness.

    I think the difference in path choices between you and your brother might boil down to personality rather than upbringing. I feel that Onassis refers to 'bungling your kids' as in setting poor examples or not giving them the attention they need. I don't think this necessarily means your parents 'bungled' raising your brother, possibly the choices he has made were due in part to his circumstances as an adult?

    My brother and I had the exact same upbringing but we grew up on very different paths. I can see that characteristics that define us were there when we were kids - I was a scaredy cat, my brother was more adventurous. As a kid I would spend my pocket money on lollies that afternoon, he would save his money. He has much more financial sense as an adult than I have ever had. I do think upbringing aside, personality and character traits do play a big part in the path children choose as they enter adulthood. How we parent our kids won't determine how successful they are or aren't as adults, but encouraging them to think they can do anything they set their mind to and wrapping them in support surely can't hurt their confidence in later years.

    Great points Lisa, thanks so much for commenting. Got me thinking. :)

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