The best thing we can do for our children is to give them the example of striving always to improve ourselves.
A selection of successful strategies
Be positive. Give failures a positive spin. See mistakes as learning opportunities. Martin Seligman argues, ‘Children need to fail. They need to feel sad, anxious, and angry…. Strong emotions, such as anxiety, depression, and anger exist for a purpose: they galvanise you into action to change yourself or your world, and by doing so to terminate the negative emotion… When we impulsively protect our children from failure, we deprive them of learning the skills (of persistence).’
Do not find someone to blame. Blame does not solve problems. It is a clumsy effort to force someone else to admit guilt, but in the process it blinds us to our own failings and complicates corrections.
Seek to understand. It may have been a mystic who first said, ‘Put love and you will find love’, but it was a mystic who understood human beings. Put love means to listen without judging; apologise for the times you did not listen, jumped to conclusions, or raked up past mistakes.
Avoid correction by nagging, sarcasm, lectures, or the cold shoulder. Hear the child out, reevaluate your conclusions and if you still need to correct, give clear reasons, make the correction calmly and help the child to mend the consequences of actions.
Be encouraging. A parent who gives lots of encouragement gives an important background message of trust in the young person’s good intentions, and confidence that present difficulties will pass. Do not allow a small matter to escalate.
Remember that your child loves you even when he or she says the most hurtful things. Do not take the harshness personally. Your reassuring love is important, all the more important when there is a show of rejecting it. Try to understand what is taking away your child’s peace.
Never, never, put your son or daughter into a corner with words like: ‘If you get a bad report then find somewhere else to live.’ Things said in the heat of a moment can too easily be regretted in the years that follow. Show self-control.
The calmer the better! Parents who show self-control keep the line of communication open and model the behaviour they want their child to adopt. But if you do lose your temper, find it before bedtime. Apologise for your part in the fracas. And then listen.
Remember: hard lessons can be the best lessons.
‘No’ is a loving word