The Ultimate Christmas Relationship Survival Guide
Boost Your Child's Confidence With Seven Surefire Suggestions!
Here's help for parents with this perennial problem
Having researched child behaviour I'm frequently asked by parents how they can help their children be confident in our stressful and challenging world. Here are my seven top suggestions:
1/ Never Compare!
When your child’s misbehaving, not doing their schoolwork, etc., it's tempting to compare them to a sibling. Saying, "your brother never acts like that," or, "your sister does what she's told," never helps the situation. What do such comments do? They cause sibling rivalry and damage your child's confidence. They feel they can’t live up to their sibling in your eyes. Parents even do this when they only have one child and compare their child unfavourably to, say, their best friend or their cousin. Again, this makes your child feel that they're not "as good as" others. Instead deal with such situations in terms of your child and what they may, or may not, be doing.
2/ Cherish Their Uniqueness!
It's easy to forget in the whirlwind of daily life - chores, work, schoolwork, etc. - that you have a unique little person in your midst. They have their own personality, feelings, and beliefs starting to form. It only takes a few moments to cherish who they are. Ask what they think about the programme you've watched together. Find out who their favourite teacher is - and why. Get them to describe their happiest moment from the day. And in the morning over breakfast ask them about any exciting dreams or frightening nightmares as these reveal much about what they're feeling. You learn so much about their uniqueness by listening. An important spin-off means you won't try to force them to live your dreams - instead you’ll encourage them to live theirs.
3/ Demonstrative Love!
More than anything children need love. The pitfall is many parents assume their child knows they’re loved. Don’t assume - tell and show them frequently. Their confidence thrives on lots of affection and attention. That's very different to spoiling them with material things. When it comes to discipline it's incredibly damaging to mix up your "love" with discipline. It's tempting when angry to say you "won't love them anymore if they don't behave". But to a child it's frightening to think your love depends on how they behave. They may get anxious about putting even a toe out of place.
4/ The Right Kind of Discipline!
I coined the term "flexible firmness" when trying to get parents to consider the overall “feel” to discipline. Flexible firmness means there are certain standards you expect, and household rules to live by, but occasionally you might need some flexibility. Say, their favourite uncle arrives on a school-night and they plead to stay up later. This sort of occasion means bedtime can be relaxed while clearly telling them it’s an exception. Discipline and boundaries show children you care and want to generate mutual respect between family members. This in turn gives them confidence. They know where they stand with you. Many parents fear their children won't "love them" if they set boundaries but this isn't the case. Consistency is also important so they know you mean when you say. If you say you'll ban television that evening if they don't do their schoolwork, then do so. It also means you spell out what you expect of their behaviour and helping with chores, and the consequences if they misbehave.
5/ Don't Forget the Fun!
Laughter, games, jokes and fun are crucial to your child's confidence. As so many parents are under stress they often without realising it allow that to pervade their household. Children are like emotional sponges and they'll pick up on your stresses and strains - very damaging to confidence. It's important to find light-hearted moments when, say, fixing supper, at the weekend, in the evenings, at bath times, etc. Laughter is a fantastic medicine for modern family life and no single day should pass without some happiness in your lives.
6/ Find Solutions Together!
Problem-solving skills will set your child up for life. Many parents neglect this area usually because they’re time-short. In the hustle and bustle of home-life it’s "easier" for parents to solve problems around the house. Instead get creative and enlist your child in age-appropriate ways to find solutions to challenges. This definitely helps them develop confidence to face what life throws at them. By doing this you also avoid over-dramatising situations - where you act like things are overwhelming and can't be solved. Instead you demonstrate how to face a situation calmly and with confidence to find a solution.
7/ You As Their Role Model!
You influence your child in so many ways you can't imagine. Think of it this way - whatever you say or however you act they definitely notice and may well absorb the “message” you give. If you complain about your life every day after work they'll wonder why you seem unable to change your unhappiness. If you drone on about wishing you had a bigger home like your best friend’s or better holidays like your neighbour takes, they'll absorb your envy and think their life isn't good enough. Demonstrate that you’re thankful for what you have - particularly having them! And don't allow them to feel that your lives are second rate.
Published in The Express Newspaper
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