Do you ever hear parents exclaim “Back in my day…” in relation to the difference between how they were raised and how their children are being brought up? Perhaps you too notice differences between the way you were raised and the way you are raising your child?
Our responses to these questions will be varied and possibly bring up many emotions. After all, childhood is so fundamental to who we are – it’s called the formative years for a reason. If you were told that “children should be seen and not heard”, it might be difficult to understand all the parenting advice these days which focuses heavily on acknowledging children, listening to and validating their concerns, praising their efforts and giving lots of love and affection. On the other hand, parenting this way may come easily if you are keen to give your child a different experience to your own. If your parents were attentive to your thoughts and feelings and gave love and praise, you may find parenting this was comes naturally. Regardless, let’s talk about what we know today.
One thing is certain, parenting has certainly changed dramatically in past generations and much research has been done in the area of childhood development. We now know that love and attention are more vital to a child’s emotional and physical health than food, shelter and clothing. In past generations, the importance of touch, attention, hugging and praise was not widely known. Parents were likely bringing their children up in a way that was accepted at the time or what they thought was best or in the best way they could at the time.
A common misconception was that praising a child too much will spoil them or give them an over-inflated ego. Now, we are told that parents can’t spoil their children with praise (nor love). Praising your child for being good will make them want to be good, and it will help them feel good about themselves. Kids love to please their parents. When they do well at something or are trying hard, your praise will make them want to do it again.
Children who feel good about themselves tend to:
- feel happier and more secure
- make friends more easily
- get on well with others
- get into less trouble
- learn more easily and make more effort to achieve.
Building self-esteem is not about vanity or arrogance but having a healthy view of our own worth as a human being.
Helping your child develop emotionally in this way is vital to their wellbeing, forming the foundation for their development through life. So, how can you incorporate this knowledge into your own parenting?
Tips for helping your child develop
- Give lots and lots of praise – for effort as well as achievement, and very little criticism, if any.
- Listen to your child – be aware of what they are saying, accepting of their perspective, and appreciative of their situation. You don’t need to fix everything for them, after all they will experience disappointment, frustration and dissatisfaction many times, sometimes all on the same day! Actively listening to them lets them know that they are worthy of your attention and their view of the world has merit – a very strong basis for a secure and caring relationship.
- Allow children to make mistakes and to learn – Never be negative about attempts at new things no matter how seemingly unsuccessful. This will encourage learning throughout life and help them develop thinking and problem solving skills.
- Help children solve problems themselves – by asking them ‘what should we do?’ when something happens or goes wrong. This has the added benefit of letting them know that you value their opinions and ideas.
- Offer loving discipline and boundaries – Rules imposed to help your child learn are more effective and positive than rules for the sake of rules or to make your life easier as a parent. Children like to know what it expected of them and boundaries and routines really help with this.
- Time and attention are the most precious gifts you can give a child – so much more important than toys and expensive holidays. Do simple things together and give your time freely whenever possible. Visit a park, read a book, go for a bike ride, or cook breakfast together. These are just a few ideas. The love, laughter and shared experience from time spent together is the most important thing. Your child will remember this in decades to come when the material things are well gone.
- Show your child they are loved by giving unconditional love and affection.