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. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Combating the War Against the Family. . . Part 5

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.
Among all the assets we possess . . . 
nothing is more precious than our children  

Nurturing is a fancy word for simply doing the things we automatically do (or should do) every day day for our family --- nourish (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), love, teach, protect, help, support, and encourage. Parents play a crucial role in preparing their children to handle life’s many challenges.Proper nurturing better equips children to withstand troubling times.

However, sometimes we get so involved in the many things of life that we do this nurturing on auto-pilot. This post, from the Strengthening the Family manual,  addresses the need to, and the way to, put more into “one of the most important things parents can do for their children.”

Psychologist John Gottman of the University of Washington studied 119 families and found that couples who had the greatest parenting success were able to help their children when their children needed help the most—when they were distressed and upset. 

Dr. Gottman discovered successful parents did five things — all nurturing tasks—that gave their children a much better foundation for life. They are listed here as steps the surveyed parents took and you can take. 

As you consider the following please also consider the age-appropriateness of each step, tailoring each to the ages of your children.

Step 1. Be Aware of the Child’s Emotions
They were able to recognize and appropriately respond to the feelings of their children. Parents who recognize and accept their own feelings find it easier to recognize and accept their children’s feelings. Children who see their parents handle difficult feelings often learn to manage their own emotions. 

Step 2. Recognize Emotion as an Opportunity for Closeness and Teaching
Sometimes parents avoid talking with a child when he or she is upset, perhaps fearing rejection or fearing they have somehow failed the child. Many parents hope their children’s troubling emotions will go away. Often, these emotions do not go away without some kind of help. Parents should look at their children’s troubling emotions as opportunities for bonding and growth. Helping soothe a child’s trouble feelings is one of the most satisfying things parents can do. Children feel understood and comforted when kind and loving parents acknowledge and understand their feelings.

Step 3. Listen Empathetically and Validate the Child’s Feelings
When parents have questions about what their child says or feels, they can ask for clarification, keeping in mind probing questions may cause the child to become defensive and to stop talking. Simple observations often work better. For example, the parent might say, “I noticed that when you started talking about grades, you seemed to become tense.” The parent should then wait and allow the child to continue. Children are more likely to keep talking when they feel a sense of control over the conversation and have an uncritical, empathetic listener.

Step 4. Help the Child Identify and Name Emotions
Sometimes parents mistakenly assume their children have words to describe what they feel inside when in reality they do not always have a vocabulary for their emotions. Parents can provide words for their children to help them transform vague, undefined, uncomfortable feelings into descriptive words such as sad, angry, frustrated, afraid, worried, tense and so on. Children begin to feel a sense of control over their emotions as they learn words to describe them. The best time to teach feeling words is when children experience emotion. The mother who sees her daughter crying because her friend is moving away can say, “You must feel really sad. You have been such close friends.” Hearing this said, the girl not only feels understood but now has a word that describes her experience.

Step 5. Set Limits while Helping the Child Learn to Solve Problems
A child’s sense of control increases as parents help the child learn to deal with unpleasant feelings. Children must learn to deal with troubling thoughts and feelings in ways that are socially acceptable and emotionally healthy. Parents may need to set limits on inappropriate behavior while helping children work out problems. 

Reuben, age 12 dropped a fly ball, which cost his team a win and entry in the championship playoffs. While he was walking of the field, one of his teammates shouted, "Why to go, klutz!." Already feeling horrible, Reuben ran to the youth, grabbed him around the neck and shoulders, and tried to throw him to the ground. Reuben's father immediately bolted from the stands, pulled his son away, held him firmly, and said, "I know you're angry and hurt, but we never hurt others. Let's go home and talk about a better way to handle this."

Rather than scold or preach, the father in this example used the occasion to draw close to his son by listening empathetically , validating Reuben's feelings, and helping him explore other ways to handle difficult situations. The way his father handled the situation helped Reuben feel understood, valued, and better able to manage his feelings.

If parents do not know the cause of a child's problem, they should first ask questions to identify the cause so a solution can be found. Parents should ask questions such as "What is causing you to feel this way?" They should not allow the child to blame others when others are not to blame.

Once the cause has been identified, parents can ask, "What do you think will solve the problem?" They should listen carefully to the child's answers. They can offer some tentative solutions to help the child consider others possibilities. They may find it helpful to brainstorm solutions with older children. When parents and children brainstorm, they should not consider any solution too silly or inappropriate; criticism impedes the creative process, and parents and children can select appropriate solutions later. Parents should allow the child to take as much responsibility as possible, helping the child grow from dependence to self-reliance.

Sometimes it is helpful to have a child  recall other times in life when he or she handled problems successfully. What did the child do at that time to cope? Can the same approach be taken with the current problem?

While the following is important,  it is very important that the parents do not slip into the decision-making role, as often happens.

  • Once the child and parents have explored the implications for each solution, the parents should help their child decide which solution is best. 

  • Since parents have the advantage of experience and wisdom  they should offer their opinions and guidance, and can share their experiences in resolving similar problems --- sharing the choices they made and what they learned from them. 

This help can be invaluable WHEN the underlined words are followed.

If a child seems determined to try a solution that parents believe will fail, they may want to allow that to happen if the outcome will not be harmful and will not burden the child with major problem. Some of the greatest lessons in life are learned through failure. Afterward, without saying, "I told you so," parents should help the child work out another solution.

An important part of parenting is to help children grow from dependency to self-reliance. Parents can help their children develop self-reliance by teaching them correct principles so their children can learn to govern themselves righteously and responsibly. If parents take over their children's problems, they unnecessarily burden themselves while depriving their sons and daughters of the opportunity to learn responsibility and self-reliance. As a general rule, children should solve their own problems, frustrations, boredom, and failures, with parents assisting as teachers and leaders as needed.

Until we "meet" again remember among all the assets we possess . . . 
nothing is more precious than our children 

My next post will address Fostering Confidence in children. "Confident children do better in life. They are healthier, more optimistic, more socially comfortable, and more emotionally secure than children who lack confidence..."