Parenting is all about helping our kids to see their full potential, equipping them to fly with their own wings and encouraging them to live a life of significance. Three ways we as parents can help build up our kids are:
Say Yes! as often as possible. As parents we are great at saying No! We are often not great at saying Yes! Surprising our kids by saying Yes! is a powerful bonding agent. I’m not talking about saying Yes! when they are asking to take drugs (they don’t ask), jump off the roof or have their boyfriend sleep over in their bed. I’m referring to decisions that probably don’t weigh much but can bring joy to our kids. Saying Yes! can help create a fun family culture. A fun family culture bonds us together and helps create a safe place for our kids to discover who they are.
“Can i jump in the pool with my clothes on?” Yes!
“Can i draw a moustache on you?” Yes!
“Can i put my handprints in the fresh concrete?” Yes!
“Can i put food colouring in my bath water?” Yes!
“Can i eat my dinner with a toothpick?” Yes!
When we create a haven where Yes! is often said, our kids will be more likely ask us about the big things in life knowing that we may just say Yes! If all they ever hear is No! eventually they will stop asking and stop really talking to us. We miss opportunities to speak into their life when they are older when we always respond with a No! now when they are young. If it’s not harmful, if it shows love and respect to self, others and the environment, maybe we should consider saying Yes! OK! and Absolutely!
Praise character not achievements. Giving praise the wrong way is actually linked to low self-esteem and self-worth, lack of character, lack of self motivation and poor resilience. (Interesting post here). When our kids get all their spelling words right, telling them how intelligent or smart they are, maybe isn’t the best approach long-term. The truth is that they succeeded in remembering their spelling words, nothing more. Smart has little to do with spelling, maths ability or IQ. Intelligence is best viewed holistically; balanced by, built up and valued alongside emotional intelligence and character. Praise maybe best done through complimenting the character traits such as hard work, patience or persistence. Praising shouldn’t be exclusively linked to their achievements or successes, it is best linked to their character.
“Mum and Dad enjoyed watching you share your ball with the others. You showed great kindness.”
“Well done for all the early morning training you have faithfully done, it has really paid off with you achieving a personal best.”
“Your score really reflects the extra time you spent solving those maths problems. Well done for persisting.”
Instead of saying: “I’m proud of you,” maybe we should say “You must feel proud of yourself.” Encouraging our kids to feel proud of themselves promotes self-regulation and self reward (which builds resilience and self-esteem) instead of relying exclusively on outside affirmation (hinders resilience and self-esteem).
Look them in the eye. Communication is usually more effective when we look our children in the eye. Looking them in the eye allows us to take in their body language clues and encourages us to pause what we are doing for a few seconds and focus on them. It may mean squatting down of their level to enable eye contact when they are little. It may mean getting off the phone for a seconds and gently remind them to not interrupt you and you will be with them in a minute. Eye contact allows our children to read our expression, and body language too. Eye contact shows respect to them and reinforces that this family unit is a safe place to communicate ideas and ask questions. One minute the questions are about whether they can have a guinea pig or another cookie, the next minute the questions are what do we think about their friend getting their eyebrow pierced, trying marijuana or dropping out of school.
(As a parent of 3 teenagers i also acknowledge that there are times when the lack of eye contact is appropriate and helps keep the conversation rolling along. Difficult questions about squirmy topics such as sex, tampons or thoughts about self harming, may be best done side by side: while driving in the car, walking together, from the side of the bed while kissing them goodnight in the semi darkened bedroom or working alongside each other on a project).
The legacy i want to leave is my children.