Emotional Marks Left On The Heart  

All parents want their children to be happy and successful. As a parent it is sometimes difficult to know how to ‘bring up our kids without tearing them down’.

In today’s changing world, good academic qualifications are simply not enough to ensure success in life. Children need to not only learn to understand their own needs and wants but those of others as well.

Children need to develop feelings of confidence, empathy and learn to interact positively with friends, relatives, colleagues and strangers. They need to be well rounded and emotionally mature. Dr. Kevin Leman has a wonderful saying when he says that as parents you are responsible for your child’s ‘image insurance’. You may ask what this is and put simply this is your unswerving commitment to developing a healthy self-image in each of your children.

This is a tall order as a parent. A healthy self-image means that your children are responsible and capable, confident but not cocky, sensitive to the needs of other people but not doormats, always trying to do their best but never getting hung up on perfectionism. As a parent you must be asking how this is possible to develop in your child when you already find yourself over committed and overwhelmed in today’s fast paced world. Being a parent is sometimes like being a magician. You have the power to create an emotionally and well adjusted, confident and successful person purely by your own actions and behaviours. Simply said the way in which you treat each other and your children will leave a lasting blueprint which they will rely on in the future.

With careful nurturing and guidance, parents can help their children to become responsible, capable, confident and well-adjusted adults.

Here are some tips:

Accept that children have negative as well as positive emotions. Show acceptance of your child and he will believe that he is loveable and worthy of being liked by others. Acceptance is shown in what we say as well as in our actions.

Linked to acceptance is belonging - if your child feels that he belongs to the family group he will develop a sense of importance and that he is worth something. Feeling as though they belong helps them cope with times where they may not be part of the “ in group”. Most of us can remember a time when we did not feel that we belonged in a certain situation. How this affected us would depend on how strong our self-image was. As parents, we need to be careful with how we treat children in this regard. Every time we include them, affirm them positively and boost their self-image we are teaching our children that they are worthwhile.

Negative words leave a lasting impression – never belittle or bring your child down. Think back to comments or situations that have left lasting impressions on you. Most of them may not be very positive but they left their mark and you have most likely made certain decisions because of these remarks or behaviours.

Showing acceptance includes taking time to listen to and empathise with your child – children’s outbursts are usually due to their own frustrations and difficulties and they need to feel understood and accepted during these times in order to learn how to cope more appropriately in the future.

Set age appropriate limits and boundaries – children will react differently at different ages and teaching your child unconditional acceptance includes understanding the different needs at different ages. Your two year old, for example, will test his limits and push out those boundaries a little, to assert his newly discovered independence. It’s no reflection on you as a parent, it is just part of how he builds his self-image. As a parent you simply need to show your child his boundaries without bringing him down. Assert yourself without damaging his self-image. For example instead of saying ‘you are such a brat and always want your way’, you could say ‘I understand that you would like to do that, but you will hurt yourself and mommy loves you too much to let you get hurt’. Your child will continue to test you, and you just need to be consistent although this may be hard at times.

Help your child to form positive and healthy relationships with his peers – remember the relationship that children form in their early years, are a determining factor in the kind of people they will grow up to be. Try to understand that as children grow, the way in which they are able to manage their emotions changes. This is called ‘emotional development’. Each milestone requires you to understand that your child is working through different emotional challenges and needs, and you as a parent need to always respect his needs and respond assertively and positively.

When a child grows up with less than a good self-image, he or she will be handicapped and possibly emotionally crippled for life. I’ve had adults sit in my office and tell me, ‘I’m fat’, and when in truth they were quite slender. Others have said, ‘I’m ugly’, when in fact they were very attractive. But the most tragic ones are the children who tell me, ‘I’m stupid … no good … defective … a failure.’ And then they often add the crushing clincher, ‘My dad or mom says so.’

As a parent you have the power to create a rock or a diamond from a rough stone. What you say and how you treat your child will leave a lasting impression.

By: Raquel Ferreira Educational Psychologist 011-682 3561
Holl-Ed Centre



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