“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”
Being a parent is one of the most daunting tasks known to humanity. Forget public speaking or thoughts of sky-diving naked at a hundred miles an hour (well, this might be a little fun to the adrenaline seeker), for if you are here reading this article, you deserve a medal of honor for your valiant efforts in raising the next generation.
My little Samantha (I just love calling her Sam; it just makes her perk up), is just about to turn her first year around and is learning a lot on what to put next in her mouth from her assortment of toys.
It’s the proudest moment of my life, seeing her grow up and become a woman of aspiration, conviction and change. For me to see this someday, I would wish for her to somehow find her inner voice.
This task is one which most first-time parents have no clue about, but for your sake I went through some hurdles as a parent and teacher and some lengthy research to bring you four different but proven ways to nurture your child into a freethinker with an infinite space of positive possibilities.
So come on; put your child to sleep, have a good read and be sure to chuckle along when you can- don’t spill the coffee though; those stains are a mess to clean up.
1: “You aren’t a klutz, honey.”
As a single father of one, a kindergarten teacher to 7 amazing kids and a tutor on the side, making statements to children that bolster their confidence goes a long way in nurturing their inner voice.
On most evenings when I’m not looking after Sam when she’s asleep, I’m out on my back yard playing scrabble and basketball with an amazing 12 year old neighbor of mine, Chris.
Chris is a former student in my class, and one of the most sensitive boys in any given room (ssshh, you didn’t hear it from me).
Whenever he drops the ball or is criticized by his friends on how he shoots, or in one of those bad days fails to find a properly lined word on his board, he shuts down and blocks everyone out- including his parents.
One trick we learned with him to make this feeling of loss and self-depreciation go away was to talk about how great his shoots were, and encourage him to read more stories to be the best at scrabble.
His smile lights up any room once he accepted this as truth.
He even took up storytelling to his baby sister as a nighttime activity right before bed.
Dr. Laura Markham writes that instead of just mentioning to your child how good they did something, learn to emphasize, describe and empathize with your child.
Give your child reason to empower themselves with positive vibes by giving them a better reason other than “Fantastic job!”
Go deeper and let them know how, “You know what [insert child’s name here]; I believe you are great at [insert favorite activity here], and you’re getting better and better at it every day.”
2: Positivity, always.
In my class, most of the boys are never the rough type, but there always has to be one in particular, and the knight in black armor is Alex.
Once during nap time, he mixed play dough and smeared it in the closest girl’s hair, Casey, when I was not looking.
I dismissed this action as a light crush he had, but I always take zero-tolerance on bullying- whatever the age the child is.
Having your child know they are in the wrong never mean for you to castigate them and yell at them. The heavy tension in the room already does enough damage.
Take your son or daughter for a walk, as I did for Alex.
Instead of recess, I took him by the school gate and overlooked the small pond and trees in the distance, and I let him know what he did was wrong in a positive manner.
He plays nice with the girls today.
Today, Casey and he walk together in the hallway as I take them to their waiting parents daily too.
Letting Alex know that he had crossed a line, albeit with positive words of instruction and care such as,
“You know you did a bad thing, right?” and,
“It won’t hurt to apologize, and maybe even Casey will accept you as her friend” and even,
“You’d like that wouldn’t you?”
This easy conversation really got to him in a positive way, and his inner voice was not damaged, just rectified to follow a better way.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Josie Castaldi shares a few kind words regarding the matter of positive energy in raising children.
She says that everyone learns best with a few positive remarks here and there, regardless of age.
3: “Honey, your daughter is talking to you”
I have seen many a couple falter and lose interest in one another, and quite unfortunately this trickles down to the children.
Picture the scenario where the family is at the dinner table sharing supper, when the mother asks the cliché but important question,
“How was your day?”
The father is so preoccupied with his thoughts that he doesn’t hear his daughter asking him if it’s okay to try out for the soccer team at school.
Now, all this is a matter of keenness.
When it comes to your children, there is no one who looks up to you more as a parent. Everything you do the child will mimic, until they realize how negative some of your behavior may be making them feel.
A study in 2011 showed that children who live in unstable homes have the same brain patterns of a war combat veteran.
Truly sad, I know.
Obviously things should never escalate to such levels, but it does happen in several homes in the United States as well as worldwide.
Living alone with Sam makes me cringe at the thought of having her mentally unstable due to any of my relationships whether now or future related, and so I prepare myself to listen to her by practicing with Biscuit, my lovely cat, and my students of course.
The former may be rudimentary, but don’t knock it away till you try it!
4: A smile a day keeps the hope alive
Being around babies, parents are advised to have certain facial features to influence the emotions a child has.
Roger Highfield, an editor with The Telegraph, wrote in 2008 how this can come by. Babies can pick up on emotions and facial expressions, even from a side-glance.
Raising Sam, I realized this to be true. If I was saddened by something, she would always know and react with slobbering on my face to make me feel better.
The more you keep bottling feelings up around your children, the more they are aware, even if you don’t want them to be.
Kids have an amazing third eye with these matters, and your moods tend to mirror on them slowly over time.
This will almost always lead to self-doubt in your child.
One day last year in class while I was drawing a few shapes on the chalk board, one blue-eyed Bridget was sullen and quiet.
On asking who knew the shapes on the board, all but her raised their hands up.
I had to give the rest of the class an assignment while I took the young brunette aside and ask her what the matter was.
“Mommy looked angry and sad today. I think I made her feel bad.”
Parents, do right by your children.
Life is hard, and they will have their time to learn this fact, but as they grow by your side, reinforce their spirits by proving you are better than your problems and can take a stand in adversity.
As a summary, it is fantastic to compress the key actionable actions to do with your child to strengthen their abilities and inner confidence.
- Always, always, be a positive shield and guide to your children.
- Give an ear to them no matter what is going on in your life. They will appreciate this one day, even if they don’t right now.
- Make them learn to have their own points of view of things and encourage them to pursue what they deem to be right, with your supervision and counsel notwithstanding.
- Be the anchor your child needs. Be excellent at communicating positive and constructive feedback to your child.
A long-term plan for all parents to gently bolster the inner confidence in your child
- Be the clear mirror to your child. If you want to see your child grow up into a person of character and definitive action, then it has to start with you. Take time to assess yourself and consider where you need to change.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. Most parents take a lot of pressure into trying to mold their children, but whether the child is 3 or 16, you need to take things easy and breathe once in a while.
- Give them room to breathe too. When you come at them with judgmental air, they will distance themselves from you. Be a beam of support, and watch from a distance. Even a lioness lets her cubs hunt for themselves, with her supervision.
Aaah, I hear Sam is up. Time to get the bottle warm.