When raising children, love comes in many forms. Sometimes we show our love by trying to make our children’s lives ‘perfect’, shielding them from problems and emotions. Unfortunately, long term, this will only disempower them. One of the issues I come across regularly is the lack of coping skills – in children, teenagers and young adults.
When children do not learn from an early age that life is not perfect, that things may happen that can make them feel mad, upset, cross, lonely, inadequate, unlovable, that they do not have to take responsibility for their actions, they can very often grow up lacking in coping skills and living with the fear of not being perfect.
If we, the parent(s), explain to our children that our own world is not perfect, that we have days where we may feel lonely, upset, angry etc , and tell them how we cope with these feelings, we are giving them invaluable knowledge.
Firstly, we show them it is ok to have these feelings, it is ok not to be perfect, it is ok not to get top marks at every test/exam, it is ok not to be the best at sport……Very often, without even realising it, parents can put enormous pressure on their children by placing unrealistic expectations on them. This may well stem from parents wanting their children to achieve all that they themselves wanted to achieve.
When you come home from work after a really tough day and may be very intolerant with your kids, (a very normal experience) I would suggest you explain to them why you are intolerant/cross/irritable. Explain to them it is not their fault, you have just had a rough day at work. Maybe explain briefly (age appropriate) what happened at work and what you might do about it as this shows them if things go wrong, you can sort them out by communicating and working to find a solution.
If you are really disappointed because your son did not make the 1st rugby team (again very understandable) you really do need to shield him from ‘your’ disappointment and explain to him that maybe with a bit more training and concentration he may get picked next time. Tell him about times when you were his age and you did not get picked on a team and how it made you feel and how you dealt with your disappointment at the time. (a little white lie helps at times if it helps to normalise things for your child). If he thinks he left you down, this may well upset him more than not being picked on the team.
Children try to live up to the expectations parents put on them, it is an area that does cause me great concern. As parents, we have to be realistic, we have to really look at our children and see what are realistic expectations, what ‘they’ really want, not what we may want.
This does not mean we do not encourage them to be the best they can be, the important part is it is the best ‘they’ can be and not anyone else.
Be careful with your words, once they are said they may be forgiven but never forgotten!
By using negative words/phrases with kids we can only lead them to feel bad about themselves – knock their self-esteem.
Poor self-esteem is the most destructive feeling any child can have. Help your child/children to know their limits, help them to understand that you want them to be the best ‘they’ can be. Help them to understand feelings and how important it is to talk about them. Show them how they can achieve what ‘they’ want to achieve, show them you believe in them. Listen to them, watch them, you will learn so much about them if you take the time to really see and hear them. Communicate with them from an early age so they know that later, when things may get harder, they can talk to you. Communication is key.
“No parent can child-proof the world. A parent’s job is to world-proof the child.”
“There are many ways to measure success, not least of which is the way your child describes you when talking to a friend.”
“What a child doesn’t receive, he can seldom later give.”