by Jennifer Shakeel
One day, many years ago my sister, brother and I were sitting with my parents and we were having this conversation about who we wanted to be when we grew up. While it would take me a long time and a lot of space to explain the dynamics of my family as a child, suffice it to say that I wanted to stay in the good graces of my parents. My response was that I wanted to be like my mother (I wanted her to be happy) and my little brother said that he wanted to be like my father (he still wishes that he was, though he is nothing like my father) and my sister, the middle child said, "I want to be me when I grow up." My father’s response was, "That is the best answer so far."
You would laugh if you were to know us all now, to see how we actually turned out. Let’s just say that our answers as children are not representative of whom we are today. The point of this week’s tips is to help you accept your child for who they are. Not necessarily who you want them to be, but who they are. It isn’t easy, especially if you have a child that is not living up to their potential, but it is important if you want to have a relationship with your child, and if you really want to see them grow and blossom into awesome adults.
Understand up front, I am not saying do not discipline (discipline is essential). I also am not saying that you should not state and reinforce what your expectations of your child/children are. They need to understand what is expected of them, and they need to know that it is important to you that they excel in life. What I am saying is that it is possible for you to accept them and still instill in them morals, values, ambition and drive.
Tip 1: Get to Know Your Child
We all like to think that we know our children. After all we played a pretty important role in getting them into this world and making sure that they out grew being an infant. After that, what happened? I can tell you what happened, life. As the need our child had for our help declines, it seems that our interaction with them declines as well. Take time to get to know who your child is today. Talk to them. Spend time with them, doing what it is they enjoy. When you are with them pay attention to them, don’t multi-task.
Tip 2: Pay Attention to What They Excel In
Perhaps you want your child to be an all star basketball player. So to make you happy they join the basketball team. However they spend more time on the bench then on the court and when they are on the court they rarely ever make a basket. Do you get mad at them and tell them how disappointed you are or do you focus on what they did well? Do you pay attention to the fact that they do not play with heart, that they would really rather be drawing or reading or skateboarding? Our kids are not always very open with us about what it is they want to do. So in order to find out what it is they are good at, pay attention to what it is they like to spend their time doing.
Tip 3: Remember They Are Not You Your child is unique, they are and individual, they are NOT a younger version of you. Your child is not an excuse for you to relive your childhood. Let them be who they are. Yes explain your expectations to them. As a matter of fact make sure that your expectations are clearly defined and explained to them. Encourage them to strive towards achieving those expectations, but at the same time you also need to encourage them to be who they are.
Tip 4: Complement them on Their Individuality So what if all of their friends like to wear black clothes and paint their nails black. Does it matter if all the other kids their age are in love with the Jonas Brothers and they are not? No, celebrate what makes your son/daughter unique. Maybe your child likes to wear a sweat band around their head no matter what they are doing. If it isn?t hurting anyone and you aren’t going out for a fancy occasion, let them do it. For them, that sweat band, or streak of purple hair?,or whatever it is, is what they use to define who they are as an individual.
Tip 5: Ask Your Self if it will Matter in Five Years
It has been difficult handling our teenage daughter the last couple of years. Not because she is a bad kid, she is awesome really’ but living up to her potential is not something that she has been doing lately. She is more interested in doing only what she needs to do to get by. Her grades are good, but not what they could be if she applied herself. Which means that all the B’s she has and the one C (in German) could all be A’s if she studied, right now her grades are effortless. We have harped on her, taken privileges away all to no avail.
You may be asking yourself, why would you be coming down on her for B’s?! Well the answer is that she has big dreams for her future, and she is going to find high school and college very difficult if she doesn’t start applying herself. So to us, yes it will matter in 5 years if she does not start applying herself. In 5 years she will be entering college and preparing for the rest of her life. So ask yourself if what your child is doing (that you don’t like) is going to matter in 5 years. Will it really impact the rest of their life if they dye their hair neon green right now? No, it won’t.
Tip 6: Teach Self Respect
I spent an entire week on how you can help teach your child respect. Helping your child learn to respect themselves will help them stand up for who they are and who they want to be. When children feel good about who they are they are better able to "take on the world" when things go wrong. When your child has faith in themselves they are capable of "shooting for the stars."
Tip 7: Respect Your Child
Funny, we are always talking about teaching our children to respect us, but do we respect them? This tip goes along with tip 6. It will be difficult for your child to respect themselves if their own parents don’t have respect for them. When they talk to you, make eye contact. When they want to show you something, go see it. When something is wrong, listen to what is wrong and then help them figure out what they need to do to make it better. It is only going to take minutes away from what you are doing, and honestly, what is more important, making dinner, answering the phone, paying bills, watching the football game, or making sure your child knows that they are the most important thing in your life?
Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience. As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms!
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