Parenting: The Ultimate Job
As a psychologist, I am constantly asked about parenting, about doing the right thing and about what really matters in child-rearing. Parenting is always a challenge, especially when we are bombarded with advice left, right, and center, each claiming the ultimate truth. Why is parenting such a daunting responsibility, despite knowing that it is probably the oldest job that we are aware of? In our attempt to perfect parenting, we have obviously gone wrong so many times on so many occasions that we are in dire need of re-evaluating what we do and why. We are continually looking for tips and for advice without determining and addressing the real purpose of ‘parenting’.
What are we trying to do as parents, aside from imparting the basics upon our children? The fundamental question is, in reality, what type of children are we bringing up?
As a psychologist who has come across many young people struggling with their childhood experiences and trying to mend and overcome the mistakes that their parents have imposed upon them, I would like to share what I believe is crucial in bringing up children who will be ready to embrace the world full force, with no regrets or obstacles. The one characteristic that allows children to handle the challenges that they will face at home, at school, with their friends and through their interaction with the bigger world is confidence. It is the trait that will help them cross the paths from childhood to adolescence and into adulthood and shine triumphantly. Confidence is a precious attribute that is acquired through nurturance and experience. It provides children with the courage and vigor that are the foundation of a successful future. Lack of confidence engenders fear and anxiety; the basis of most social and emotional problems.
The best advice for parents is to nurture confidence.
Yet, this is easier said than done! So, how can this be achieved and how can parents who might themselves be struggling with confidence issues secure a healthy environment and develop the intricate relationship with their children to breed a culture of confidence?
As a parent, you are your child's hero. Embrace this role, and teach them without resorting to preaching or punishment.
The one characteristic that allows children to handle the challenges that they will face at home, at school, or with their friends is confidence.
Parents have a vital role in demonstrating and in providing experiences that reinforce the concepts of ‘confidence’ without resorting to preaching or punishment. Fortunately, those two methods have been dismissed as ineffective in bolstering positive results, and have proved useless as parenting techniques that can generate long-term effective, adaptive, and productive traits.
Children in their nature are curious and eager to learn (what happens when they go to school is worth investigating!). Their interaction with their environment is the foundation of their psychological development and their parents are the facilitators who determine the quality of the messages that their children receive. The role of the parents is to invest constructively in this inquisitive nature and to capitalize every experience to nurture confidence.
At home; allow them to explore their world based on their curiosity and interests and provide them with challenging opportunities, whether through play or through daily activities. At all times, allow them to act their age and enjoy the freedom of childhood. Mistakes are the building blocks of learning and only a confident child will approach mistakes as opportunities. Whether they are playing in the garden, trying to climb a tree, or constructing a toy, mistakes are fun, so don’t try to create shortcuts for them or facilitate their experiences. Let them struggle and enjoy their successes. Daily routines and chores such as eating, showering, or getting dressed are also opportunities for children to challenge their abilities and be proud of a task well-accomplished. Your supervision as a parent is essential, but only as a guardian angel. Do not fall into the temptation of doing things for them because you are in a hurry or you just want to get things done.
School is the biggest challenge to a child’s confidence. Children join school and discover that the parent will not accompany them. In the absence of the parent, a child might struggle to fit in and be accepted in this new environment. The child also has to deal with the pressure of achievement and performance. In such an overwhelming environment, your role as a parent is crucial. At all times, support them without intimidating them. Acknowledge their efforts in tackling projects and problems, even when the results are not up to your expectation. Show them that perseverance pays off. Bear in mind that only a confident child will start all over again until he or she reaches the desired goal. Allow them to identify problems and figure out solutions. Restrain yourself from intervening just because you know better and very often feel impatient in giving them another chance. Let them evaluate their own performance, identify successes and failures, and encourage them to treat their mistakes as opportunities for growth. Celebrate with them the joy of discovery and the fun of learning. It is the happy child who will not only consolidate learning but also feel more confident and enthusiastic to learn.
Socially, your children will come across different types of people and experiences—they will be challenged in a variety of situations. Praise them when they show empathy and encourage them when they deal with adversity. Allow them to explore new relationships and challenges without exposing your fears and anxieties. Parents worry about their children; however, children should not be aware of this anxiety. When parents are worried, children will feel insecure, and this does not help them evolve into strong, confident, and assertive people. Give them a chance to share with you their experiences without judging them. Help them develop the skill of critical and rational self-analysis. This will boost their confidence manifoldly and help them develop social competencies.
The most serious concern for parents is how to create a balance between love and discipline; between warmth and control and between caring and providing a framework of rules and regulations. How can you ‘control’ your children and at the same time ensure that they have every opportunity to blossom and grow into confident adults, ready to leap into the world equipped with all the fundamental skills necessary for success. This is the authoritative parent – the parent who is loving, caring, present, available and assumes the responsibility of guiding and facilitating without being tough, strict, or controlling. It takes knowledge, courage and patience to be an authoritative parent and you will be proud not only of the results but also of yourself!
As a parent, you are the role model—do not shy away from this role. You are your child’s hero and your child is absorbing every detail through observing and monitoring your behavior. Teach them what you know, share with them your experiences (successes and failures), and disclose your feelings and thoughts about life experiences. This is the biggest treasure that you can pass on to your child.