Raising a Calm and Polite Child
“Oh, what a sweet child you have there!”
These are words every parent would love to hear being spoken of their children. It’s a natural inclination for us to want our offspring to reflect goodness and kindness in their behavior, so here are some ideas on how to provide them with the lessons they need to develop these and other desirable emotional and social qualities.
Feeling loved is important
A child who feels loved and valued is likely to want to become the best person he or she possible can. Even a baby is more likely to be eager to please, be more attentive, and more cooperative when there is a secured feeling of attachment. So don’t be stingy in your affections and show your child some love! Spend some alone time with your little one each day for some one-to-one attention to let him or her feel special. With a toddler, it could be as simple as spending a half hour together playing and reading.
Mind your little copy-cat!
Children watch the way we handle our emotions, how we interact with other people and solve problems and believe it or not, how you behave and your actions are usually more persuasive lessons than anything you might say! Whatever the situation, ask yourself, “How would I want my child to behave?” and try to act accordingly. So, with that in mind, make sure your little copy-cat has opportunities to see you doing positive things in everyday situations, such as thanking someone for a good deed or helping someone in need.
Help with emotional control
Here’s an important yet tricky one, for understanding one’s own feelings is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence. A child who can identify negative emotions will be able to handle it better and may even be able to cope better too. Recognizing feelings sounds simple, but it can be challenging, even for adults. After all, how many of us are guilty of yelling at our kids in situations where we were actually afraid that they’d hurt themselves?
A youngster who can do this successfully is also better able to identify other peoples’ emotions and empathize with them. To help yours get into the habit of thinking about his feelings, describe the ones you see him expressing. For example, instead of scolding your little one when he or she has a tantrum, try saying something like: “I see that you’re really upset. Do you want to talk about what’s making you feel like this?” Don’t negate situations: “You’re not that tired”; or convey mixed messages about your own feelings – “I said I’m not angry, so be quiet or else!”. These can confuse a child and make it more difficult for them to correctly interpret their own (and others’) emotions.
Let there be adequate praises
Complimenting your child on a job well done is far more effective in promoting positive values than berating him or her for a wrongdoing. Show your little one how proud you are of his or her actions — whether it’s telling the truth or sharing a toy — by offering praises in front of the whole family.
It’s also important to encourage a child to feel proud of all good deeds; eventually, the sense of self-satisfaction, rather than praises, will be the motivation and noble intention for doing positive things.
Tell some tales!
Another effective way to teach social and emotional skills is through stories, be it your own experiences or some character building tales. The simplicity and repetition of many children’s books and movies help kids remember such eternal verities as being kind to others and persevering in the face of adversity. Telling stories from your childhood experiences lets your children learn that you once faced the same quandaries they may be experiencing now.
When a toddler attempts to comfort another child in distress, that’s empathy at work! It’s a trait that comes naturally to some children, but it must be nurtured.
When you respond promptly to your baby’s needs, you’re actually teaching the little one empathy. Infants who are cuddled, loved, and cared for — in short, whose emotional needs are consistently met — are likely to readily demonstrate caring behavior when they get older. By contrast, toddlers who have been abused may be more apt to hit a crying playmate!
Boost your child’s emotional vocabulary
When your child is upset, or begins to whine or cry, use this time to teach the little one words to describe his or her feelings. You could say, “I know it makes you sad when we have to leave the playground now, but when we get home, you can watch TV”. You can also try coming up with games that convey various emotions only through body language and facial expression.
This is one of the many traits that do not come naturally and need to be taught, for young kids tend to be self-centered and preoccupied with their own needs and wants. With a little nudging, however, they can learn how good it can be to share things with people. When you contribute to a worthwhile cause, for example, you’re teaching your child the value of generosity. Even the simple act of helping a neighbor can make a difference — and can show that giving includes both material possessions as well as time and energy.
Your toddler can even help select some clothes that has been outgrown or toys that can be donated to the poor or less fortunate. Chores are also a good way to get your child used to thinking about the greater good; when a child helps out with any household chore, he or she learns that it can be satisfying to do things for one’s family.
Problems are meant to be solved
Learning to solve problems is a critical part of growing up and becoming more self-sufficient. Frequently, though, when our children are very young, our natural desire is to step in and ease their frustration. In reality, even an older baby can handle some challenges — a toy that’s just out of reach, for example — and learn something valuable in the process.
Blocks, simple puzzles, shape sorters — toys like these are the first step in teaching little ones how to find solutions. If your toddler is easily overwhelmed when he or she is stumped, suggest that the two of you finish it together.
You can also try involving an older child in family discussions such as where to go on vacation. This enables him or her to see the various steps involved in reaching a decision. Sieve through alternatives together while evaluating the pros and cons of each suggestion before reaching a decision which is favorable to every family member.
You can influence your child’s temperament in a positive way even if you’re not the sunniest person! Try to make a habit of pointing out the positive side in every situation, and avoid the use of words like “never”, as in, for example, “We’ll never get this house cleaned up”, or “I’m never going to get this done in time!”.
The way you handle setbacks is important when you’re teaching a child to be optimistic. When you attribute failure to something you can change, rather than something beyond your control, and you search for answers instead of dwelling on problems, you are displaying to your child how to feel more in control of your life. Children who pick these qualities up are less prone to depression and are frequently more successful, at school or at work.
The ability to keep on trying even when faced with difficult challenges is a skill that researchers have linked to increased confidence, responsibility, and healthy risk-taking. On the other hand, overly high expectations — whether yours or your child’s — can undermine this perseverance.
You can teach your child that not everything has to be perfect. Don’t be too quick to criticize mistakes, but do point out with praises when something was done well or done right.
Patience, which plays a big role in perseverance, is also an important skill to cultivate. Teach little ones to be patient by way of routines. For example, by knowing that a visit to the playground will follow after one gets dressed and wears the proper shoes will give little ones the motivation they need (at least on most days) to do what they need to do while waiting for the activity they like best.
Respect to be respected
A child who receives respect will know how to show it to others and once again, being a good role model is a direct way to teach your offspring to be respectful to others as well as to his or her own self. Resist using pejorative terms when referring to other people, and don’t shout at, belittle, or criticize your child, even with pet names, such as “slow-coach” or “butter-fingers”.
Don’t tolerate name-calling or put-downs in your household. Get into the habit of saying “please,” “thank you,” and “excuse me” while your child is still a baby and ask your youngster to do things rather than ordering him or her around. It’s also important that your child knows you respect her opinions, so allow them to express themselves, regardless if those opinions are in line with your own.
This is, quite easily, the most difficult trait to build in a child, for children have a hard time separating lies from fantasies. Kids as young as toddlers may lie to avoid being questioned or reprimanded, or because they want to make themselves look better. Avoid putting your little one in a situation where he is tempted to lie. When there are telltale evidence on his face or hands, you don’t need to ask if junior took a cookie from the table, knowing it was not allowed. Instead, state the obvious: “I see you ate a cookie after I told you not to have one till after dinner.” Then tell him that this means he cannot have one after dinner for he already had his share.
When your child is truthful about something he’s done wrong, by all means, praise him. However, if you catch your child doing something wrong, don’t overreact for it only prompts the little one to lie about any following mistakes to avoid any more unpleasant reactions from you. Instead, forgive him, and say you trust him to do the right thing the next time.
In the meantime, your child is still your most faithful copy-cat, so do be truthful yourself! When our kids hear us tell even the smallest “white lie,” like saying we’re already on the way somewhere when we’re not even out of the house yet, we unwittingly devalue the importance of honesty in their eyes.