Galway Advertiser 2007/2007_10_25/GA_2510_E1_018.pdf
October 25 2007
H E A LT H
Developing your child's self worth
Ask any parents what is their ambition for their children and they will probably say they want them to grow up to be happy, healthy, well adjusted adults. They would like to see them develop their personality, meet life's challenges bravely, form satisfying relationships and pursue a fulfilling career. So, how can you give them a headstart in life? What can you do to help them cultivate a positive attitude, self confidence that will not be shattered by the first disappointment, and a healthy love and appreciation of life? A strong sense of self confidence or self-image is important for their happiness and fulfilment. A child who sees the world as a good place and feels loved and wanted has a great advantage over a child who is negative or doubting, say experts. Children who possess a good selfimage enjoy challenges, take knocks in their stride, are open and accepting and believe the world is a great place. Parents can play a major part in building their children's self esteem and it is never too early to begin. If you want your child to be positive and confident start by leading by example. Aim to be a good role model of someone with a positive self image. If you feel inferior and hard done by you may transmit this to your child in your comments, attitudes and reluctance to embrace change and challenges. Here are some tips to help your child to be happy, confident and able to stand up for himself/herself:balanced, positive view of themselves. Gently advising them how to deal with mistakes or setbacks and understanding that their behaviour is separate from their identity are good ways of boosting their confidence. * If you are unhappy with their behaviour occasionally resist the temptation to tell them they are bold/rude/uncaring. Separate their behaviour from them and explain why their action was upsetting/disruptive/dangerous. * Allow them to make decisions for themselves from an early age. Taking on responsibility helps them develop their confidence. Let them choose meals, clothes, care for a pet or grow plants. * Instil in them that failing at something does not make them a failure. Teach them not to fear failure. We must take risks to grow and we learn from our mistakes. * Respect their uniqueness. Do not compare them to others. Allow them to be themselves. * Use positive feedback statements. Point out what is good about their homework, for example, then what could be done to make their work better, if necessary. * Praise them when they have completed a challenge. It does not matter if they did not get the outcome they or you wanted. The important thing is that they tried. * Avoid burdening them with unrealistic expectations. They may not want the life you imagine for them. Just because you always wanted to do ballet but never got the opportunity does not mean that you should force your child to do it. Equally, do not expect them to achieve straight As if they are not academically inclined. * Praise and encouragement are always more effective than negative comments or criticism. * Do not tolerate put-downs. If your child says "I'm useless at sports" or "I'm stupid" respond with positive remarks. Offer to help them, if it is possible. * Avoid nagging, threatening or criticising. If you have a point to make, say it and leave it at that. Do not revisit the issue over and over. * Acknowledge and celebrate your child's successes. Even little achievements, such as moving into his/her own bed, doing homework well, staying quiet while you are on the telephone or getting himself/herself ready for school are all worthy of recognition. * Aim for a gentle, positive disciplinary style. Avoid too many rules or an overly strict approach. Equally, exercising no control over your child will be counter productive, too. Try to find a middle ground and be open to negotiation. When introducing rules, explain their purpose rather than imposing them without discussion. * Encourage your children to set goals. It will help them have drive, determination and motivation. It will also give them focus and a sense of direction. Get them to select ones they care about and which will benefit them as they will be more likely to keep those. Ask them to write them out, also. If their focus is too scattered, it will limit their chances of success. Remind them not to expect success without effort and to compete with themselves, not others. If they do not achieve their dreams it is not the end of the world. Remember, we tend to learn more from mistakes than successes. If they have a setback, advise them to try again. * Instil in them not to expect failure and if it occurs, avoid dwelling on it. If they channel their energy into thinking they will fail it will probably become a self fulfilling prophesy. Remember, the only way not to fail is never to strive for success. Encourage them to learn from where they went wrong and avoid it in the future. * Give your children responsibilities. Choose age appropriate tasks whereby they will feel they are helping the family without risking failure or blame. It can be as simple as setting the table, making sure lights are turned off or preparing their school lunch. Having an exclusive chore of any sort is a self-esteem booster.
Praise and encouragement are always more effective than negative comments or criticism.
How to help your child
* Listen to what your child is and is not saying. Practise active listening. Refrain from judging or trying to make things OK for them. Just listen to their fears or concerns. Remember too that what we may dismiss as silly may be a big issue for them. * Accept your child for what s/he is. They are not a mini you nor an idealised version. * Always keep the lines of communication open, even when the outlook seems bleak. Stand offs achieve nothing and will only allow resentment and misunderstandings to fester. * Be on hand when life is not running smoothly for them to offer a supportive word, a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. * Encourage them to have a