The Power of Positive Parenting ...by Bill Knell
We live in a world that constantly reminds us about the NEGATIVES in life. It's tough to get through even one hour a day without some media prophet of doom, nay sayer or pundit reminding us about how bad things are. It is any wonder that most of us have negative self thoughts? These thoughts quickly become actions and get passed on to others, including our families.
Negativity is not something that most people willingly accept. We are naturally turned off by negative people, things and ideas. It's forced on us by those already indoctrinated into its insidious attributes. These include sadness, hopelessness and surrender to a culture that thrives on bad news. Conversely, positive people tend to be infectious and spread optimism to all those they meet throughout the day.
The people in our lives who are most vulnerable to Negativity are children. Young children, adolescents and even most teens lack the emotional, social and behavioral skills to process and deal with a constant flow of negative information and actions. It's bad enough that many face things like bullying at school, but when parents join in by labeling their kids or failing to recognize negative self imagining, things go from bad to worse.
What we say today can affect a child for their entire life. That's why parents have to be careful not to label their children by making these kinds of statements:
"You're too stupid to understand why I am telling you to do this; but you had better do it anyway."
"You're a real slob. Only a slob would make a mess like this!"
"I was never as lazy as you are. You had better get your act together."
Parents also need to watch for statements made by their kids that may indicate serious self-esteem issues caused by themselves or others:
"My teachers think I'm stupid."
"Nobody likes me."
"I can't do anything right."
"I think everybody would be better off if I were dead."
These kinds of ideas do not just fly into a child's brain. They are planted there by others: Family, friends, teachers, authority figures. If your child is saying these kinds of things, you need to find out why and take positive actions to change his or her self evaluation. If not, disaster can follow in the form of self-destructive behavior. Some kids will lash out verbally or physically. Others will cut themselves, hurt themselves, try to hurt others, break the law or attempt suicide.
Start your positive parenting program by getting to the source of any ideas that may be causing your child or children to have low self esteem. Make sure you are not a part of the problem. Think carefully about the things you say to them. Set house rules so that RESPECT replaces verbal or physical abuse by siblings. Make sure influences outside of the home are not causing or adding to them problem. Speak to teachers and other authority figures in your child's life and talk to their friends.
Sometimes speaking to your child's friends and even their classmates can yield information that you might not be able to get from teachers or authority figures who may not recognize the problems or may even be a part of them. Bullies are easy to spot because they don't tend to think that what they are doing is wrong; they might even think it's funny. A bully may say something like this to you: "So, you are that Nerd's Mom!" I have seen this happen.
Once you get things cleaned up outside the home and make it clear to everyone in the family that negativity, bullying or verbal and physical abuse if not an option, start working on your child's self esteem. Ask them to make a list of positive personal attributes. Concentrate on the positive things that they and others would notice about their body, personality, skills and talents. Encourage them to begin a daily diary or journal of thoughts and things in their life that they are willing to share with you at the end of every week.
Dairies will include what is important in a child's life. Knowing what is important to them can help you be a better parent. This is especially true if you find more negative statements than positive ones on a regular basis. This gives you a starting point to work out those kinds of things with your child. Remember, they probably do not possess the intellectual tools to cope with constant negativity. You have to try and replace as much of that negativity as you can and help them to learn how to cope and deal with whatever remains.
It can be a benefit to your child and you to try and bring positive things and people into your lives. Take them to see an uplifting movie. Attend religious services at a church that has a track record of turning kids on to positive things and ideas. Suggest books and media that entertain, but also inspire them. Watch out for obsessions that your child might have with negative people, ideas, video games, books, television or on line programming. Replace these with positive things.
Be sure that you acknowledge positive behavior. If your child gets a good grade, finishes a chore on time or does something else that deserves notice, make sure you thank them and tell them how much you appreciate the positive things they do everyday. Rewards are also good, but should not be excessive. Sometimes just taking your child shopping with you, to a favorite park or event is enough to let them know that they are on the right path and that you appreciate them.
No child's life is going to be perfect and no parent is going to be able to raise a perfect child. What we all can do is to make sure that our attention is constantly focused on the lives of our children. This allows us to be proactive and see problems coming before our kids are so overwhelmed by them that they give up and give in to despair.