12 Feb 2018
It is common for some parents to wish that their children are a little better than who they are now – better in their studies, better in their social activities, better in behaviour, better in self presentation, and the list goes on. Though there is nothing in the world that might completely stop those fleeting, split-second thoughts that intrude into our psyche, albeit momentarily, let’s take comfort in the one thing we know for certain about child development —- children who feel loved and cherished, will grow up with a healthy self-esteem.
In the light of Valentine’s Day, let’s explore some ways in which you could make your child feel loved by you and the family.
1. Show that you are grateful and happy that you have him. The most important factor in your child’s development may be your pride and delight in him. Be sure to remind your child regularly how lucky you feel to be his parent, and that you could never love anyone else more than you love him.
2. Show that you notice your child – aloud – so he feels “seen”: “You’ve been working for a long time on that project.” “Wow, that character in the movie makes you so mad!” The point isn’t to judge his behaviour, but to let him know that you see and accept who he actually is, by acknowledging what he does and how he’s reacting to the world around him.
3. Look at your child with positive eyes. When something about your child’s behaviour makes you unhappy, remember that weaknesses are always the flip side of a person’s strengths. If he has trouble controlling his anger when his brother disrespects him, is he a passionate fighter against injustice? When he doodles everywhere – on worksheets, books, the kitchen table – is it a sign of the imagination that will someday make him a great artist? Always look for the good in every situation.
4. Empathise with your child. Once children are no longer in our cradling arms, it can get more challenging to stay connected. But every time your child expresses anything, that’s an opportunity to connect. Just empathise:
“You sound disappointed about that…”
“It’s exciting, isn’t it?”
When you welcome your child’s emotions, you’re giving him the help he needs to learn to manage them.
5. Help your child learn to manage his challenges without negative labelling. Describe that you’ve noticed this wonderful thing about him, but sometimes the flip side of this trait can be a challenge to live with – both for the child and other people. Ask him if he has ideas on how to manage it so he gets the benefits but not the drawbacks. If you (or the other parent) have the same trait, point that out and talk about learning to manage it. Make your story positive and hopeful so that it will help him to feel less alone and more optimistic about handling what may seem like a daunting challenge. You might want to make it clear that everyone changes and as we grow up, it gets easier to manage ourselves.
If you can show that you accept your child exactly as he is and help him to see himself positively, he’ll be on the road to learning how to manage even the most challenging character traits in time to come. Even more important, he’ll feel cherished for who he is. He’ll have a big heart, able to love deeply and feel loved in return. And that’s a Valentine that will last for life.