Gail Joan Cohen
ENCOURAGE, PRAISE AND LISTEN
Most parents start out with never ending encouragement and praise for their children. Did you ever listen to the parents of a young child learning to walk? How encouraging they are! “You can do it! Come on take a step! Come to Mommy. Hooray!” And, if the child falls, do we yell and scream? Never! So, the child learns that he can do anything. If he falls, he can get up and try again. If he falls again, he gets up and tries again. Meanwhile, his parents are happy and excited and praise him anyway. He is full of confidence. He learns to walk. He learns to eat. He learns to talk. Think about it. Our children make these amazing accomplishments because they believe they can. It is very important that we and our children believe we can!
Then somewhere along the way, junior tries to do something and he is told he is dumb or stupid. Who changed? Did he? Probably he did not. Most likely, we changed. He is now older and we expect more from him, perhaps too much, too fast. We may need to use a different way of teaching or give him more time. Maybe he didn’t learn to read as fast as his brother. Or, perhaps he could not jump as high as his sister. Or, maybe he fell when he was riding his bicycle. The child begins to have doubts and frustrations about what he can accomplish. We are all wonderful and amazing people. We are also all different, no better or worse than anyone else and still amazing!
Why do we change in our approach to our children? Why do we go from praising our children to scolding and criticizing when they try to do something? Is the child’s failing a reflection of us? Is that why we need to have our children be “perfect”? Is it so that our friends and family will think we are wonderful parents? It is hard to take our own ego out of the picture. It is important, though. Just think how much more our children would continue to achieve if we were to praise even though the task was not done perfectly or completely. Praise for just doing. Praise our children just for being themselves. Thank them just for being there. It was not their choice to come into our world.
Do we tell our children how proud we are of them? Do they need to make us proud? Do they need to behave to satisfy our own egos? Perhaps I have asked more questions than I have answered. Raising children is a complex task. It is important that the reason that children do well is not just to please the adults in their lives but to please themselves. It is very important that children have confidence in themselves for themselves. As we teach and correct behavior, be sure to correct only the behavior and not the child. That is an important point! Correct the behaviour. Do not criticize the child!
Children should be praised for who they are and not in comparison to siblings or others. We do not want our children to resent or envy their brothers or sisters. Each child is an individual and should be appreciated as such. Love each child for who they are and their good unique qualities. When parents treat children this way, siblings will treat each other this same way.
When a child draws a picture, ask the child about the picture. How does the child feel about the picture? Praise the child for drawing the picture and not necessarily for the quality of the picture. If the child enjoys drawing, encourage this activity.
I believe confident people achieve more and give more to others. Confident people are happier. We must give our children confidence in themselves, instill a belief in their own abilities and give them the power to be able to do and achieve anything. Confidence and belief gives people the ability to know and use their natural gifts and to overcome challenges.
Teach your children to sing, to love, to accomplish. If she wants something that is not in your budget, have a discussion about what she can do to raise money. Work together on a plan. There is nothing that cannot be accomplished with a plan. It may take time and it will probably take hard work. Set a goal and plan little baby steps to reach the goals.
Children are often concerned about how they look. People are often judged on how they look. Everyone is beautiful. Let your children know how beautiful they really are. A healthy diet, clean clothes, brushed hair and daily baths will add greatly to your child’s appearance. This is something everyone can achieve!
Listen to your children. Listening is an important skill to learn and children will learn it from you. Listen without judging. Children will tell us many important things about themselves if we really listen. Feel what the child is feeling. Acknowledge your child. Listen with every part of you. Most people just want to be heard. Listening is the greatest gift you can give another human being. Sometimes we are so focused on solving their problem, we are not really listening to what is being said. Ask questions. Most of the time just listening to someone helps them solve their own problem. That is a better solution than just telling someone what to do! Listen and guide. Ask questions. Listen to the unsaid. This is a very important skill and will help not only in raising our children; it will help in all of our relationships. If we have problems with our relationships; this is a good place to look. Work on developing listening skills.
Sometimes we are so focused on our own thoughts or problems or what we want to say next, we don’t take the time to listen. When we really listen to others we acknowledge them and give them the feeling that they are important and what they have to say is important. Thank them for sharing information with you. Allow them to feel their questions are of value. If your child speaks incessantly, it may be because you are not really listening and they are constantly trying to get your attention. Children often misbehave to get attention and control. When children feel listened to, they feel your attention and they can learn to listen when others are speaking. It is easier to teach children the proper way to communicate when they are not constantly interrupted when they are speaking.
Children will naturally take risks. When we teach children about risks we do not want to totally squelch this behavior. Of course, we do not want children blindly running out into the street without looking. So, we need to teach some rules about risk taking. Suppose you had learned that it was okay to take a risk and do something. And, that it is okay to take a risk and not succeed every time. What more would you have accomplished in life? Would you have taken more risks? Would you have done the things that now you only dream about doing? What if you had really done what you always wanted to do? Would it have made a difference in your life?
Praise your children for the values you want to encourage. When you ask your child to watch a younger sibling and he does so, praise the act to reinforce it. By asking more of him and by him doing more and by praising his acts he will become more and more trustworthy. This is a positive ability.
Children are wonderful human beings. Wouldn’t it be a fantastic world if everyone at age thirty or forty or eighty still thought they were wonderful and could do amazing things for themselves and for humanity? Let’s start now. It is okay to tell our children that we love them and think they are grand human beings. It is also okay to tell ourselves and our spouses that they and we are wonderful and grand human beings; because we are! The home should be a place where everyone feels loved, accepted, safe, empowered, important and encouraged. We all have strengths and challenges. These may need to be discussed at times. Let’s do it with love and acceptance. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to come home to a place of love and peace? We can do that!
My instinct even now with my own grandchildren is to have them sit still and be quiet. That is how I was raised. That is how my mother was raised. That was how I raised my children. I catch myself occasionally, with my grandchildren, wanting to restrict their actions. Then I remember to give them more freedom and allow them to take some risks. This is a very fine line we walk. As parents, we need to know when to reel in and when to let go. Sometimes I hold my breath. I watch them develop and grow and know that taking risks and having confidence will allow them to make a difference in the world and to be happy in whatever they are achieving. The journey and the process in itself is what we call life! Make it a fulfilling and wonderful trip!