Children naturally look up to their parents and learn from them. They learn from the behaviour of their parents as well as from their teaching. What a parent says can be just as potent as what's left unsaid. As a parent, you have the power to build or destroy your child’s self confidence with a single word or a single look. Child psychologists all agree that the seeds sown during childhood bear fruit throughout a child's life. Knowledge of these issues can help us all become better parents.
We need to protect our children from the toxic actions of people around us as well as our own mistakes of omission or commission.
I love you.
Let your child know that your love for them is unconditional. Don’t use a withdrawal of your love as a weapon against them. That leaves deep emotional scars.
When parents divorce or a parent dies, some children blame themselves. They believe their own behaviour is the cause. Such a tragic belief has deep roots in a parent’s affection which has not been well defined for the child.
Don’t shout at your child. Instead, talk to him or her, and explain that you are angry, and why you are angry. The confidence of a child who is constantly shouted at just withers and the child begins to believe that they are beyond redemption.
Meal times should be a relaxed time to eat and start to digest food. If you raise the emotional tone of the occasion, the child is not able to enjoy the meal and to digest it properly. Avoid bringing up disciplinary issues at the dinner table.
Steer the conversation towards positive subjects.
The Act Vs. the Actor
When you praise your child, it means a lot to them. When you criticize them, that too, means a lot to them. When your child makes a mistake, do you criticize the behaviour rather than the child? Or are you mad at both?
One of the things to remember is that a child is learning all the time. When they make mistakes you need to take a deep breath and realise that there is a distinct difference between your love for the child and your reaction to the error they have made. Keeping these separate will help you to deal positively with disciplinary issues.
Focus on the moment. Don’t generalise. If you make it sound like there is no hope of the child improving their behaviour, they will start to believe that to be the case. Children are not perfect. Allow them space and time to grow.
When your child does something that deserves praise, be forthcoming with the praise. Praise is often a stronger incentive for a child who feels loved, than criticism.
Start early to talk to your child in an honest and loving tone. The earlier you cut out the baby talk, the better. Respect your child.
When a child cries, they are saying something to you. Acknowledge their emotions. Make your first reaction one of understanding rather than an angry reaction to the noise they are making, especially when you are tired.
Did you know that a child can smile before the tears have even dried from their eyes? Even when the answer is a "No", a loved child will find it easier to take it on the chin than one who is given the cold shoulder.
Listen to your child. When you come home feeling tired and your child wants you to look at the drawing she or he did in nursery school, it’s very important to them. Take the opportunity to build your relationship. Those are moments that cement your relationship and help you to later get through to them when you admonish or advice them about something.
What was the last thing you said to your son or daughter the last time you talked? Is it something you are proud of, or is it something you will need to make up for?
If you are busy doing something, it is all too easy to continue multi-tasking while you talk to your child. The best communication happens when you pause and pay attention to them.
Avoid making jokes at your child’s expense. The hurt lasts long after you have forgotten about it.
Big Monster Will Come and Get You
Some parents have discovered that scaring the child stops them dead in their tracks, whether they were crying or indulging in naughty behaviour. If you are one of those parents, have you considered the long term effects of your actions on an impressionable young mind?
Children may grow into adults with irrational fears which they can never understand how they came about. The roots may lie in such careless comments uttered by well meaning parents.
Your child is an individual, with specific talents. Encourage them to develop their own interests and talents. Show a genuine interest in what is important to your child. They will also learn to pay attention to what is important to you and to other people.
Even as adults, they will be happier doing what they like doing rather than what you decided was the best thing for them. Avoid living your life through your children at the expense of their individuality.
When your child fails, it is not the end of the world. Help them to learn from mistakes. Expecting your child to succeed every time is unrealistic. Everybody fails sometimes. What matters in not so much where they have been, but where they end up.
Sometimes the fact that a child has attempted something can be a more positive event than their failure to achieve a goal. Let them know that you appreciate that and admire them for putting in the effort.
You can teach your child to have a positive outlook by example. If you are always complaining about life, your child may also grow up always complaining about things.
Child psychology need not be complex. These are simple steps we can all work on as parents. The stakes are high because every parent wants the best for their child. Every effort to make yourself a better parent will pay dividends in future.
The Bemba say “Imiti ikula e mpanga.” This can be translated as “Today’s young trees make tomorrow’s forest.” It is a reminder that investing in our children is an investment in the future. Their future is truly in our hands. We can influence child behaviour positively and we can start acting responsibly right now. The reward will be emotionally balanced children and adults.