While sitting in my home-office trying to focus on writing, I can hear my daughter Julianne playing “silent night” on the piano. Although I am supposed to write about parenting, I won’t claim myself as a veteran in the field, given that my daughter is only six years old. So I am going to write about the lessons learned from my child.
A child forms a number of rules from what she observes around her. When she feels like she almost understood the entire world, there comes an exception. Nothing frustrates her more than an exception to the rules. I believe bringing exceptions to the minimum is the secret of having a contended child. Setting up a safe environment for the child to explore and reducing the number of “Nos” she hears from adults is also very important. This way, a child learns that the world has more possibilities than obstacles. There is no imminent danger arising from her own happiness.
I learned trust from my child — to trust and to be trusted. I noticed how trusting she was, when I asked her to jump and I would catch her. So I strive my best to make sure she can trust me and that I really mean what I say. Likewise, I trust whatever she says. She knows very well that she will look bad if things don’t add up later.
I learned that my child follows what I do; not what I say. I realized that I should try not to lie or try not to be rude with others.
I learned that my child is very open. She has very little secrets. This gave me an opportunity to reflect on my life and to make sure that whatever I do is ok to be told to everyone. Now I try to keep less secrets.
My child is positive. She thinks that a balloon is equally enjoyable as her Nintendo 3DS. Being positive means being grateful to gifts we receive everyday rather than complaining about what is missing in our life. I asked her to name three things that she is grateful for. She told me that she was grateful that she had dad and mom. She was grateful that she had grandparents and wonderful cousins. I noticed that she did not include her materialistic possessions in the list.
She has amazing energy. She smiles as if she is the happiest person on earth. She makes me laugh. I believe that laughter is contagious.
Occasionally she does show some tantrums; who doesn’t? Even adults do. I try to ignore her bad behavior and focus on what she really does right. This rule came from my driving instructor. That is,look where you want to go; avoid looking where you don’t want to go. While I ignore her bad behavior, I try to find and appreciate what she does right.
Occasionally she does show some tantrums; who doesn’t? Even adults do. I try to ignore her bad behavior and focus on what she really does right.
I try to resolve conflicts even before they happen — like giving her a budget when we go for shopping. She can buy whatever kids’ items she wants within the budget. I am willing to give pretty much anything to my child provided she can convince me with reasons that hers is a “need” and not a “want”.
I notice that my child is eager to learn and I don’t need to force knowledge on her in any way. All I need to do was to answer her questions. I never ever unanswered any of her questions. If I am busy I will tell her that and I will get back to the question afterwards. I think that kids are perhaps the best scientists. Just inspire them to learn.
Well, having talked about trust, sadly, I realize that we cannot trust everyone. So I teach her about safety rules; don’t talk to strangers when she is on her own, etc. I tell her that although most people are good although some people can do bad things. I encourage her to be careful, but not scared.
I notice that her experiments include human beings too. For example, she tests how she can make her dad angry, mom nervous etc. I try my best not to put my child down, especially in public. This is despite many other parents’ expectation to correct her misdemeanor in public. What they don’t know is that behind scenes I give her feedback and tell her what she should have done in that situation. Remember, she is forming her set of rules and I am just helping her to make them.
At some point she will test to see what happens if she breaks a rule — like dropping a china or toppling a wine glass. This is when she can learn about the consequence of breaking rules. When she was little the only thing we asked of her is to clean up her own mess, if it was safe to do so. Whenever possible, we try to repair a broken toy with her, making her understand how difficult it is to fix things once broken. Now that she is six, she can lose some privileges, like she can’t go to the swimming pool for two days, she doesn’t get to hold her favorite toy for two hours, etc.
Often times, I find it easier for getting her to do something if I ask her to start with a small step. Instead of asking my child to take a shower, I can ask her to: get up, walk to the bathroom; etc. In fact all great journeys start with a foot step.
A few times she stalls at the shopping mall and doesn’t want to walk. I never threaten to leave her and walk forward; she knows that I won’t leave her behind and I think that is good for her to know.
I will never ever smack my child; I teach her to stand up to bullying.
She knows that I love her unconditionally; it is just that I sometimes disagree with her actions. I tend to teach my child what is appropriate for different occasions casual and formal. Again, note that this is about rules. I teach her that safety rules cannot be broken. If she doesn’t like the rules, she can try to change them — but always follow the rules.
Organization is something that I always struggle with. I try to teach child that there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place. I try to pick her up from school on time. If I am late one day, she knows how frustrating it is when someone don’t show up on time.
I am not perfect. I try to apologize when I goof up. We are human. It is just that we should try to make up for our mistakes. Like if I hurt someone, I should say sorry. This sounds like a cliché but it is true, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
The children’s museum here has robotic arm that kids can operate by switches and levers. Museum staff often asks the kids to perform some tasks with the robotic arm like grabbing all Easter eggs and placing them in a small basket. One day she tried to do this. It was hard for her, but she didn’t want to give up. She was not embarrassed that others were watching. She didn’t ponder what others would think of her. She kept on trying this every day we went to museum until she succeeded. I imagine that she formed a new rule: keep trying hard and don’t give up; we will get the results one day or the other. This is in sharp contrast to the instant gratification even some adults seek today.
I don’t praise her like “she is great”; and try to be more specific. For example, tell her she played the piano very well, kicked the soccer ball the right way, etc. I don’t want her feeling like a super girl.
While a game like competition is healthy, one should know when to stop sparring. Let us try to get better by improving ourselves than bringing someone down. It is much harder to be kind than clever.
In closing, here is my pledge: I will do everything in my power not to adulterate the wonderful qualities that my child is born with. With that, I will leave this article open for discussions with other kids and their parents.
Article courtesy @cstrends