Raise with proper praise
"How can you be so dumb?"
“All you do is worthless”
“How could you be so stupid?”
“Just do it! or else”
“Sometimes I wish I never had kids”
"If you don’t come with me now, I will leave you”
“Don’t eat my brain”
“You are such a nuisance”
“Can’t you understand”
“I am dead for you/ you are dead for me”
Aren’t these a set of very familiar statements? Statements which we frequently use when we have a conversation loaded with emotions, frustrations and expectations with the apple/s of our eye, our children. None of us are born perfect, especially children who have many flaws and inconsistencies by virtue of being a child.
As parents, it is indeed our responsibility to not only point out to them, but also to correct at the right and appropriate time. It is easy to pick out every flaw or inconsistency in our children since we spend many hours each day with them and have seen them at their best and worst. We become so obsessed with their shortcomings as it relates to behavior, mannerisms, self-respect, mutual respect between siblings, daily chores, school and studies that out of sheer concern, love and ability to affect their future makes us look for the low hanging fruits which are the negativities that appreciation of the good is totally ignored.
Parents are always caught in the conundrum of criticism and correction and the message to the child is disapproving most of the times. Children begin to believe in these negative reinforcements and set themselves to very low expectations. This dire reality of the children’s life ahead leads us to seek help from our friends, school teacher, dance teachers etc. The most common suggestion received from the people around the child is to be positive and praising the child to elevate their self-esteem. We end up with praising our children to boost their confidence and self-esteem, we start controlling our emotions, nerves, take deep breath and keep praising and now this time with lot of positive reinforcements.
“You are smart!”, “You are excellent!”, “You are great!” We believe our well-wishers so much more than our instincts that we feel the greater the praises, greater the confidence, leaving the child lost and confused. Overall, we fluctuate like a pendulum between the extremes from ignoring the emotional health of our children to over emphasising it. This is what leads the child to lower his or her self-esteem.
Striking a balance and making the right correction at the right time is the key.
Here are few suggestions and tried solutions based on my experience as a child, as a parent and a close interaction with lot of parents over the past few years:
Children are not born with an image of themselves. They ensure their self-perceptions over a period of time through interactions with those closest to them. It begins with the parents’ attitudes towards their children, which influence the messages they send both verbally and non-verbally.
Avoid “disabling labelling”
Understandably, we can get disappointed, frustrated when our children are not meeting our expectations in terms of behavior, accomplishments, development or personality traits and we end up using these negative labels which we later regret about. Instead we can thoughtfully reframe our words which can convert the negative trait in our child into an asset. For e.g. the labels like picky, stubborn and loud/ Noisy can be reframed into selective, assertive and enthusiastic. Be the positive mirror for your children and you will enjoy seeing them grow into capable and lovable individuals.
Praise the effort, not the innate ability
For some of us, our child is like a superstar. From sports field to classroom to the dance floor, we want our child to believe that he or she is the best. It is good to praise but this continuous, effusive praise would make children egomaniacs and lead them to live in a world of fantasy and false belief. Acceptance of failure in any one or all walks of life is taken with a lot of negativity leading to lower morale and self-esteem.
It is always good to praise their efforts rather than innate talents because that motivates them to view difficult tasks and continue to improve their performance.
For instance, instead of saying, “You are a smart child” we can use, “I am so proud of you that you put all your efforts and did your best” that way the children will never have a giving up tendency, they trust their hard work more than their inborn talents.
Instead of looking to praise or criticize our children let’s look out for ways to encourage them, providing them skills and expertise they need to succeed thereby making them proud of themselves and increasing their self-esteem.
Know more on what can we do as parents to get our child successful in my upcoming write-ups in this column.
(The author is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Learning Arena, an e-learning company)