A few months ago, while I was talking to a mother-of-two in the play area of our apartment complex, her five-year-old daughter came rushing to us, waving a handful of leaves she had collected. “See Mamma! I have so much money,” she chirped with her eyes wide open. “Oh, I wish that was money, dear. Don't you have anything better to do than collect dry leaves?” the mother replied. The very next moment, the child's smile evaporated and her shoulders slumped. Her bright demeanour was replaced by a frown.
Overcome by the stress in our lives, we parents tend to forget that, sometimes, all that our children need is a kind and encouraging word or a pat on the back. Research shows that children from loving and supportive homes develop a larger hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for learning, memory and handling emotions. Also, positivity can boost your child's self-esteem and make her feel good about herself. So, it all starts with you, the parent. Here's how you can make your child feel good.
- Show your love, no matter what: Children need unconditional love to thrive. They want to be appreciated, their feelings to be accepted and, their concerns to be acknowledged. So, tell your child that you love him, irrespective of his academic record and other achievements. This can have a lasting impression on his self-esteem.
- Don't be overprotective: When we hover around our children, we mean well but, being overprotective does more harm than good. Preventing your child from taking decisions on her own or imposing your views on her, will only curb her enthusiasm to take healthy risks and learn things. Moreover, micromanaging every little aspect of your child's life can negatively affect her confidence.
- Spend quality time: You must've heard this many times before, and for good reason. When you spend time playing with your child, it makes him feel that you value him. Also, when you remain available for your child, he feels safe and secure. It is important to note that spending time with your child but not paying attention to him doesn't count as quality time. So, switch off the TV and keep away your phone; just be with your child.
- Praise your child's efforts: Praise is a double-edged sword. Give too much of it to your child and she may become arrogant; give too little of it and her self-esteem may take a hit. So, how do you strike a balance? Simple – praise your child's efforts. Avoid labelling your child as smart, genius, brilliant and, so on. Praise her for the hard work she put in to achieve something.
- Give responsibilities: The over 80-year-long Grant Study by Harvard University lists work ethic as the second most important requirement to achieve success and happiness. Wondering how to instil a work ethic in your child? Give him the responsibility of taking care of some household tasks. For instance, you can ask your child to water the plants or feed the pet every day. If you have an older child, he can help with loading the washing machine, supervising a younger sibling and, so on.
- Offer choices: Here is the truth: Children are wired to test their limits and push us to our wit's end. But, punishing your child or yelling at her, will not make her change her ways. In fact, it will also hurt her self-respect. So, why not try to do things another way. Offer your child independence but within certain limits. Giving choices and setting limits will not only make your child feel important, but also make her behave better.
- Develop emotional intelligence: IQ has taken the backseat today. Feelings are good, is the new mantra. Now, it's emotional intelligence that determines how successful an individual will be. So, listen to your child and teach him to understand his feelings and, express them in appropriate ways. This will help your child empathise with the emotions of others as well. As your child grows, emotional intelligence will help him form meaningful relationships and, develop leadership qualities.
- Create happy memories and experiences: Travelling to new places or trying new activities encourages your child to come out of her comfort zone and experience new things. It kindles curiosity and fosters a healthy risk-taking attitude. Travelling not only gives your child a break from screen time and connect with nature, but also enhances her resilience. So, the next time you want to buy a gift for your child, stop and think about gifting her an experience that she is likely to cherish -- like going on a family trip or doing an activity together.
- Follow your child's heart: One day, it is spaceships; the next day, it is all about sports — your child's interests may oscillate from one extreme to another. And, sometimes his interests may seem strange too. But, the chances of your child succeeding in an activity of his choice are always higher than ones thrust on him. Forcing your interests on him will be counterproductive. So, put your reservations aside and let your child be the boss. Nurture his interests by buying him books on those topics and enrolling him in coaching classes.
- Lead by example: This has been reiterated a million times and we will repeat it once again: your child doesn't follow your advice but mimics your behaviour. If you want your child to be happy and confident, the best way to encourage her is by modelling these qualities yourself.
According to experts, success doesn't lead to happiness, it is happiness that leads to success. So, what are you waiting for? Show some love and see your little one blossom.
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