a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Combating the War Against the Family . . . Part 6

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series on the war that is being waged  against families and family values---and what we can do to strengthen and protect ours. I teach a Sunday School class on strengthening the family and parenting skills. The lesson manual is terrific, the points "right on" and the suggestions doable. This post is a continuation of that series.

          Helping Children Develop Confidence
It is important that we 
help our children develop confidence!
Confident children do better in life. They are healthier, more optimistic, more socially comfortable, and more emotionally secure than children who lack confidence. Children who lack confidence tend to be more anxious, self-conscious, socially inhibited, frustrated, fearful, and prone to failure.
                                                                                                      from the Strengthening Family Manual

Caution: Children who are overly and inappropriately "built-up" by their parents (in their attempts to assure their children have high self-esteem) are actually teaching their children to be overconfident, eliminating  the necessity of their actually needing to strive to improve or accomplish. These children often overestimate their actual abilities, become self-centered and proud, and have increased feelings of entitlement.

Finding the Balance

Things You Can Do:

  • TREAT your children with love and respect.  Keep in mind the "Golden Rule" of treating others as you would have others treat you.Children should be our most prized possessions.
  • CONVEYING love and respect can be shown to even a disobedient child in many ways.                                                                                                        Examples from manual: Parents can look for times when the child behaves appropriately and compliment him or her "I really appreciate it when you pitch in and help with the chores." "I'm proud of you for helping your little sister."  Parents can express affection "Son, I want you to know I love you and I'm glad you're a part of our family." Parents can give physical affection. Sometimes a touch on the shoulder or arm, accompanied by words of affection, such as "It's good to see you," can be helpful. Parents should not be offended or react negatively if the child seems irritated by this show of affection. The touch and expression many mean more to the child than he or she is willing to acknowledge. Example from Gail: Years ago I was teaching a Sunday School class of seven-year-olds. One boy, Bobby, was driving me crazy with his constant disrupting and misbehavior.  I was at a loss as to what to do. I could not think of any way to sincerely compliment him about anything. One day he wore a shirt that perfectly matched his eyes and brought out their color.  I told him he had beautiful blue eyes. Those few simple words were all it took. From that time on, he was my most best helpful student--even staying after class to clean off the little chalkboard.  I later learned he had a terrible home life. Little things do mean a lot. 
  • BE an example for good --- being aware that all we do is  an example of one kind or the another. 
  • HELP your children develop competence in areas that are important for their future ---It is important that they learn to work, study, achieve goals, live within rules and get along with others. The best way to teach them is by working alongside them, pleasantly and patiently, showing them the way, especially when they are young. Teach without criticizing.
  • SHOW interest in your children's interests even though it is often hard to be interested in all the things (especially) little children want to talk about. Try to do this even when your child is disobedient and rejecting. It is worth the effort -- both at the time and later. From the manual: One father with limited financial resources bought tickets to ice hockey games because his son, a school dropout with a history of drug use, loved the game and would go with him. The son had recently been released from a drug treatment facility and was struggling to stay off drugs. The experience brought new life to their relationship, enabling the father and son to talk about a common interest and develop good feelings toward each other. 
  • ENCOURAGE your children in activities in which they can succeed and help them develop talents and natural abilities --- One of our sons had difficulty with fine motor skills when he was very young. While working in areas to strengthen this, we also wanted to guide him to areas where he could experience success at the same time. Swimming was the answer. In his swimming lessons he was in the top of the group. The confidence gained in the pool balanced the struggles he was facing in other areas.  
  • RECOGNIZE and ACKNOWLEDGE your children's accomplishments. It is important for parents to recognize the significant things their children do. 
  • PRAISE them when they do something good and noteworthy - - - It is important that praise be sincere. Children will detect and reject phony compliments. 
  • FOCUS on their behavior and its positive effect. For example, "I really like it when you're here with us and we can talk peacefully without contention. That means a lot to me."
  • KEEP your comments brief. A few words are better than many. If you go on and on it will may embarrass the child and turn a potentially positive act into one that is negative.
  • RANDOMLY offer praise --- for it to have the greatest impact, as praising the child for every act may diminish the significance of the parents' words.
  • INVOLVE your children in serving others. Service projects teach unselfishness and help children to consider the welfare of others.The more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our soul. We become more significant individuals as we serve others.  Jesus promised that "by losing ourselves, we find ourselves!" We become more substantive as we serve others --- making it easier to find ourselves because --- there is more of us to find.
  • TEACH your children to self-evaluate themselves when it comes to their behavior. In a calm, unaccusing, uncondemning way, ask questions such as "How do you feel about it?" "Do you approve of the way that you've handled the problem?" "You've told me what your friends think is right, but I'm interested in what you think." "What is the proper thing to do?" Helping them judge their own behavior is often effective because the judgment does not come from the parent.
Things You Should Avoid Doing:
  • DO NOT MAKE your children pursue activities merely to fulfill your ambitions for your children --- especially when the activities are not essential to their child's well-being. Sometimes parents want the "ego-trip" of seeing their children succeed in areas where they weren't successful themselves or didn't have the opportunities. 
  • DO NOT IGNORE areas of need, or possible, need. It is important that potential problems be addressed instead of hoping (or wishing) they will just "go away" or be outgrown, or telling yourself you are just overreacting. Better to check it out early, and get help if needed.  
  • DO NOT CRITICIZE or BELITTLE your children or their efforts. Positive encouragement teaches; negativity discourages. Parents sometimes underestimate the impact of their actions upon their children. Some otherwise loving parents make thoughtless remarks that deeply undermine their children's feeling of confidence and sense of self-worth.
One of Gail's personal regrets: Our young daughter sang loud and off-tune. One Sunday in Church I  leaned over and asked her to sing quieter. I thought I was subtle as I said nothing about being off-tune. The results: even today, as a grown woman she only mouths the words as she sings and this in spite of the fact that she can carry a tune. I feel terrible.
Personal Experience of a Friend: He is small in stature with average looks. He is a wonderful, kind and intelligent Christian man, husband and father. In spite of these great characteristics he is very insecure and self-conscious. Could his lack of confidence (or at least a big part of it) have stemmed from having heard  his father say "He's not much, but he's all I've got"? How sad is that. 
Another story from the lesson manual: One mother who was prone to criticize said to her preschool-age son , "You sure have a  funny-looking nose." Nearly 50 years later, at a family gathering, this boy disclosed  to his siblings that he had felt self-conscious about his nose all his life because of that remark. His siblings were surprised, seeing nothing that was funny or even unusual about his facial appearance.

  • DO NOT BE HARSH, JUDGMENTAL or CONDEMNING when teaching a child to self-evaluate because the child may lose sight of personal wrongdoing and focus instead on the excessive inappropriate behavior of the parents. Or, the child may respond with unnecessarily severe feelings of guilt and self-condemnation.

The Bottom Line

When parents have high but realistic expectations, their children tend to develop confidence that they can do things successfully. This confidence especially comes when parents provide a loving, supportive environment in which children can learn through trial and effort without being demeaned or condemned for failure. 

Children readily learn from setbacks when they feel love, support, and encouragement to try again. Children need to know that you love them, and their Father in Heaven loves them even when they make mistakes.

Simply give your very best to those who call you Mom and Dad. 

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