Courtesy of Body and Soul
by parenting expert Michael Grose
Raising confident, well-behaved children can be challenging. Here are several steps you can take with your kids and be on the path to happiness.
Michael Grose is one of Australia’s most popular writers and speakers on parenting and family matters. The author of seven books, including the best-selling Why First Borns Rule The World And Last Borns Want To Change It(Random House, 2003), Grose educates parents and teachers around the world on how to raise well-adjusted kids and resilient teenagers. Here are the key elements he believes will help you to raise happy children…
Build self-belief in your child
"Children’s self-esteem influences their social behaviour and learning,” says Grose. “Children with low self-esteem are less likely to step out of their comfort zone to extend themselves, take risks or try new experiences. Quite simply, if kids have a healthy level of esteem and feel good about themselves, they’re more likely to make friends and succeed at preschool and at school. “The way we interact with our kids on a daily basis infl uences the positive picture that they construct of themselves,” he says. “It’s important we let them know through our language and behaviour that they’re capable and worthwhile, then they’ll start to believe it. The messages we send influence the way kids see themselves as well as our relationship with them. Encourage your kids to do things for themselves and focus more on what they’re doing, rather than the result, to help them grow, develop and become self-confident.”
How to promote healthy self-esteem in your kids:
- Build on your child’s strengths and point out their areas of expertise.
- Give realistic responsibility. Develop self-help skills from an early age.
- Help to develop the courage to be imperfect; mistakes are part of learning.
- Help to develop the attitude that anything is possib
- Establish an achievement board or star chart.
- Look for small victories or achievements and celebrate them.
- Help children set goals and stick to them.
- Leave notes of appreciation under their pillow and in lunchboxes.
- Give objective feedback, but begin with a strength or positive point.
- Compare them only to themselves.
Create a sense of family community
“It’s important to build and maintain distinctive traditions that make each family special signify a child’s significance within his primary social group – his family,” says Grose. “Creating sense of community in your family and building traditions and rituals gives kids strong anchors back into family when they are older. “Rituals can be as simple as the way you habitually say to your child ‘I love you’ each day as he goes to school, or the way you always read their favourite book before they go to bed,” he says. “The permanence of these rituals give them much of their significance, they’re like ‘coat hooks upon which we hang our family memories’. Also try to focus more on what’s good for your family, rather than each individual family member, and start insisting that kids take an interest in each other, so the whole family benefits.”
How to develop rituals that bind your family together:
- Having regular family mealtimes is a simple but powerful ritual.
- Have a regular one-on-one activity that involves each child, something both of you can look forward to, such as a bedtime story or a weekly walk.
- Celebrate birthdays, Mother’s Day, Christmas or other religious festivals in your family’s own special way.
- Ask your children about the rituals, special occasions and celebrations that they most enjoy and let them contribute ideas on how to celebrate them.
Develop your child’s resilience and coping skills
“Resilience is important for kids to help them cope with life’s hardships, frustrations and difficulties [HFDs],” says Grose. “Developmental HFDs are those that children routinely experience, including loss, rejection, change, disappointment, failure, confl ict and fear. Dealing with these helps to build coping skills for the future. “One way to build coping skills is to not overprotect your child,” he says. “Life happens and things don’t always go our way. It’s important that kids learn this and learn how to keep their confi dence up. Parents can support their kids by focusing on how they’re feeling and letting them know it’s okay to feel this way. Then they should help them learn to manage it, deal with it and move on.”
How to promote resilience in children:
- Remind your kids that they don’t always get what they want.
- Be attentive to their particular situation and needs.
- Work hard to keep their confidence up and help them get on with life.
- Give kids plenty of opportunities to solve their own problems. Children will only develop their inner resources when given the opportunity to develop their resourcefulness.
- Expect your child to be helpful at home from a young age without being paid. That’s how they learn to be useful.
- Make sure your expectations for success are positive, realistic and based on each child’s interests and aptitudes rather than on adult wishes.
- Normalise the HFD situations so they understand that others also experience similar situations.
- Be a good role model by being a resilient adult rather than an adult who’s continually stressed and has no real life outside immediate family and work.
- Starting a hobby is a good place to begin if you feel that life is all work (and kids) and no fun.
Look after your child’s mental health
“About one in 10 children struggle with anxiety and nearly 50 per cent of adult sufferers identify that their anxiety began in childhood,” says Grose. “Most kids, like adults, experience some anxious moments or have fearful thoughts and feelings from time to time. These thoughts and feelings prompt them to proceed with caution rather than rush in where angels fear to tread. But anxiety and fear can be paralysing and some kids simply can’t stop their ‘bad thoughts and feelings’. They don’t know how to silence them. “It’s important to remember that anxiety is a normal part of life and it can bemanaged,” he says. “But you should also recognise that it takes time to manage anxiety and understand that it can’t be solved in one conversation.”
How to help children overcome anxious moments:
- Anxiety is contagious. Parents and children can feed each other’s anxieties. When kids get anxious, it’s the job of parents to stay calm, think clearly and role model confidence.
- When your child becomes anxious, create calmness through your words, voice and facial expression.
Help your kids unwind
“Modern kids are busy kids. Regardless of age, their days are filled with activities and it’s not uncommon for kids to have four and five extracurricular activities a week,” says Grose. “There’s nothing wrong with kids being busy as long as they also have plenty of chances to relax and unwind. Relaxation is a key to good mental health and wellbeing and it’s an important life skill for kids to learn.
“One way to ensure busy kids unwind is to allow them to be bored every so often. There’s a temptation to fill days with activities so that no time is wasted. ‘I’m bored!’ is often the last thing parents want to hear their kids say. Many parents feel compelled to do something to alleviate a child’s boredom. But there’s nothing wrong with a little boredom now and then,” he says. “Boredom can be good for kids’ mental health and wellbeing, because it gives them the chance to muck around and take it easy for a time.”
How to unwind your kids:
- Let your kids stare into the ‘fire’. The TV is the modern version of the camp fire. No need for exertion, to think or talk to anyone, just a chance to chill out and relax. Yes, TV used in this way regularly is good for kids’ mental health.
- Let kids exercise without rules. Children have always been the kings and queens of play, that is until their lives became highly organised and scheduled. Child-initiated play is the ultimate in relaxation.
- Let kids experience flow. Flow is a state we get into when we’re so engrossed in an activity that time disappears. It’s the ultimate unwind. Free play generally takes young children to flow state very quickly.
- Help kids calm down before bedtime. Have a bedtime routine that calms kids rather than winds them up. Be part of the routine by reading, telling nursery rhymes or giving soothing back rubs.
- Unwind with your kids. Do something together that you both enjoy.
Provide a consistent environment
“Consistency is an essential element in our relationship with our children because it puts them in control. Children love their parents to be consistent, as it enables them to predict how parents will act,” says Grose. “It’s important to be consistent in all areas of parenting, including regular mealtimes, bedtimes and reactions to behaviour. This enables them to grow and reassures them someone is there for them.”
“Children also like limits and boundaries, as they provide themwith structure and teach them how they should behave,” he says. “Of course, children also like to push parental boundaries, so parents need to resist the pressure that children can exert upon them. This is a normal but irritating expression of a child’s push for independence.
“Consistency also means not parenting on a whim, so following through and doing as we say,” he says. “It means not giving children second and third chances. It also means not allowing children to get away with misbehaviour two or three times then coming down hard the fourth time they misbehave. “Consistency prevents misbehaviour from escalating. We help children develop self-discipline, which is the aim, when we are consistent and do as we say we will – every single time.”
How to be consistent with your children:
- Focus on priority behaviours. It’s difficult to be consistent with every single wrong doing, so focus on one or two main ones. When you follow through with priority behaviours it has a positive effect on other behaviour.
- Remind yourself about the behaviour you want to follow up. Write a note for yourself saying: “Walk away when they whine. Don’t give in.”
- Check your routines. Do you have routines for troublesome times of the day such as bedtime or mealtimes?
- Act rather than talking over or repeating yourself. Sometimes a consequence can be inconvenient in the short term, but long term it pays off with children who end up being better behaved.
Get more parenting advice from Michael Grose - read his books and visit:www.parentingideas.com.au