Our children are growing up in an era of intense competition and larger-than-life exposure. Most urban kids have both parents earning, in a constant struggle to meet the insane expectations of contemporary lifestyles. Perhaps the biggest irony of our times is that even though the major part of these constant, high-pressure lives is centered around the kids and providing for their needs, demands and expectations, the kids themselves are feeling increasingly sidelined, or else, over-pressured. The ‘happy’ component is missing as insecurities and self-doubt run rampant in most kids’ minds.
School counselors will tell you what most of the seemingly depressed kids need is a booster shot of self-confidence, and it’s not really hard to do at all. We, as parents, simply need to make our children feel accepted unconditionally, just as they are, with all their qualities and faults. In addition, they also need to be shown that their parents have confidence in their ability to overcome their weak points and become fine human beings. Perhaps the toughest part of this is walking the tightrope between reassuring kids that success or its lack will not make a difference to their parents’ love for them, and at the same time, motivating them to put in their best efforts and realize their potential.
Here are five phrases that parents with secure, happy children have perfected through usage:
1. It’s Okay To Make Mistakes
One of the biggest fears that kids face in these madly competitive times is performance anxiety. The education system and the social environment are extremely intolerant of errors. The smallest mistakes mean losing precious marks in an exam or being ridiculed by both peers and elders. In such a scenario, when a child is told that it’s okay to make mistakes, it is an enormous load off her mind. The anxiety quotient drops dramatically when they feel they are not going to be judged for every little error. And believe me, a relieved and reassured child makes much fewer mistakes than an anxious one!
2. You Have Your Own Strengths
Being unfavorably compared with peers and being shown up as inadequate is everyone’s nightmare, be it child or adult. And kids are especially vulnerable in this regard. Equally true is the fact that everyone has different areas of strength – only some kids show theirs at an earlier age, while others might take some time. If your child seems to be lagging behind everyone else, DO NOT take it as a personal affront to your ego or your validity as a parent. The last thing your child needs from you at this point is a ‘pep talk’ full of comparisons. He may act depressed, or he may behave as if he didn’t care, but it’s killing his self-worth from inside. At such a time, a vote of confidence from his parents will make all the difference to his self-image, and motivate him to give his best, and in time, show his own areas of strength.
3. Don’t Worry, You’ll Get It
“Your child is slow”, I was told by all my kid’s teachers, and she was nicknamed ‘slow motion’ by the kids at school. Being a young and inexperienced mom, all I knew was to remonstrate with her, and ‘motivate’ her, by offering rewards and punishments. But all I accomplished was to make her even slower and more scared, to the point that she didn’t want to try anything new. Then one of her teachers, an experienced lady, near retirement, advised me to stop paying attention to allegations of slowness. “You will paralyze your child’s mind”, she warned. “Every child has their own pace and there’s nothing wrong with it. To hell with the current trend of making every child a xerox copy of everyone else.”
Thankful for the insight, the next time she struggled with a task, I told her to take her time, and that I had confidence that she’d get it. It has been a pleasure to see how she blossomed after that, and today, as a teenager, she is one of the quickest kids in her class, and other kids flock to her for help.
4. There Are Always Alternatives
So, your child did not win that competition, or did not qualify for the subjects of his choice, or did not make it to the shortlist of that prestigious college/university. Does that make you stop loving him, or does that make him any less your son? And will lament over it change the situation?
There are times when our kids are unable to achieve what they set out to do. The thing to remember at such times is that they are far more disappointed and heartbroken than we could ever be – it is their whole life, after all. At this point, it is not sufficient to be merely loving and accepting. As parents, it is our job to show them that there are always alternatives and other avenues to success and happiness. Believe me, it will go a long way towards restoring their shattered self-esteem and tackling life with renewed zest!
5. I Trust You
Your kid is growing up and you don’t know what kind of influences she is exposed to. Porn, drugs, sex, crime ... the list of a parent’s nightmares is endless. Psychologists tell us that most kids to walk these paths are ones with a poor self-image, easily influenced by negative peer pressure.
What most parents (especially moms) do in such situations is turn into FBI – riffle their bags, check their phones, check the Internet browsing history, smell their clothes, ask suspicious questions, and generally behave like stereotypical cartoon moms. Does that help? NO. Kids today, to give them credit, are smart enough to efficiently conceal all traces of what parents might find unacceptable. Plus, such kids often grow neurotic and defiant, hurt because their parents don’t find them trustworthy.
So, what WILL work? Being their friend, giving them respect and their personal space and trusting them to steer clear of negative influences. Trust from loving and accepting parents will bolster their self-image and is a much better incentive to do what is right, than any number of threats from authoritarian parents.
Ultimately, it is about giving your child a solid sense of self-worth and a positive self-image. This is what will motivate them to be the best person she can be!