Raising a Super Child
Anita was a smart intelligent five years old. However, as soon as she is disturbed about something, she will start howling, screaming 'endlessly'. Parents tried everything: explaining, scolding, punishing - but nothing seemed to work. Then the parents got an idea from a book. Every time the child will start something new (start for school, start dinner, etc.), they would say, "Anita, you are a sweet, relaxed and controlled person". The child's brawling continued, but so did the parents continue telling her that she was a sweet, relaxed and controlled person. A few days later suddenly her screaming vanished. She came and emphatically told her parents - "See I am a sweet, relaxed and controlled person."
Since Tarun was little slow in responding to questions, his friends will often tease him dumbo. Once when the teacher asked a question, Tarun just stood there. The teacher could hear the whispering from around the class "Hey, Dumbo; Come on dumbo". She addressed Tarun, but called him 'Rohan'. Tarun objected "But I am not Rohan, my name is Tarun. Well, the teacher reasoned, just as by my calling you Rohan you do not become Rohan, by their calling you dumbo you do not become dumbo. You stay the same smart Tarun I know you as!
Self belief is perhaps the most important ingredient of any super child. And often self talk determines what self belief I have. And for children self talk is directly influenced by what labels others (especially parents) put on them.
The problem with our sub conscious brain is that it echoes whatever is sent to it. So when we say "You are so irritating" or "You are so messy", the words irritating or messy simply echo in the subconscious mind of the child.
One, most children do not know how to handle this negative, so the echo continues, till the child starts believing in it.
Two, even if the child refutes, saying "I am not messy; the word "messy" continues to echo. So even if I do not agree with irritating, I still have to live the image of me being irritating. Knowing how subconscious mind works; we know we cannot cancel any thought. We can only replace it! (With a positive)
Three, if the negative comes from many sources (say both parents) then the child may not take it as negative, but may accept it as part of his or her personality. "I think I am messy". Our loose talk has become the child's self talk which soon becomes his self belief. What a dangerous loop!
Simply speaking a super child needs super beliefs, which need super self talk which need super labels put by us. While the process may seem obvious, in reality we take up every chance to tell the child where he is wrong. If your child has worn the left shoe in right leg today (while he does correctly every day) what would you do? Somehow the temptation to correct is too difficult to resist. Try staying "mum" as the approach (see newsletter No 24)
The best part about using a positive label on child is that it gets sowed in our mind also. Our own beliefs about the child become more positive, we start looking for more occasions when the child displays the characteristic. This is even more important since the society at large is constantly putting many lousy labels on the child, and the child needs the parents to counter that to ensure that those do not take root inside the child's mind. Parents often confuse lovely labels and sugary parenting. They argue - if we were to constantly praise the child, wouldn't child grow in an extremely impractical environment, won't the child become arrogant or believe everything is perfect about him.
Check out the guidelines for lovely labeling as an answer to above:
First, a great impact is made just by absence of lousy labels. So that is step one. Make a list today of all the negatives you say or think about your child.
Second, Lovely label whatever behavior or characteristic you think the child needs maximum reinforcement. It’s paradoxical, but the child needs most lovely labels in characteristics she shows the least. Do not lovely label a child when the child is not displaying that characteristic. Lovely is ONLY when the child does.
Third, If the child is not doing the right thing, criticize the act, not the person. So instead of "you are careless", say, "The things are not in place"; Instead of "you're so impatient", say, "you need to wait, while I serve". Instead of “you’re looking like a clown", say, "this shirt is not going with the shorts".
Many parents believe a playful label is OK. So in many households you find kids being playfully or even lovingly called a dumbo, half-brain, lazy-bum etc. While the child may know the playful nature of the label, yet it can soon become a belief - do you want to take a chance! Some lovely labels, when used sarcastically or teasingly become lousy labels. "Here comes the beauty queen", Hey, super smarto, show me if you do this", etc. are actually jesting the child capabilities. Since it isn't going to make the child any more confident, why do it?
The worst kind of lousy label is one put on the child while you are talking to the other parent, any adult, another child etc (and the child can hear). It kinds of seals the label in - removes any doubt whatsoever the child had in her mind. If you are telling your neighbor, "She's so poor in math" or "she is a cry baby, always whining", child knows you really believe in those thoughts.
If you want me to become what is right, show (in me) what is right. Why ask for darkness when you want light, why ask for sour when you want sweet, why put lousy when you want a lovely child.
By Ratnesh & Aditi Mathur
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