Off late, I have been wondering how to raise a child well. With plethora of advice available, it gets quite confusing. No wonder we, as parents, stand baffled with no clear idea of how to raise a child well.
For one thing, I am pretty sure. If you are not clear in your thoughts, your actions are going to be worse. You certainly need direction and clarity of thought. Raising children is not an easy task. Like they say “It takes a village to raise a child”. Imagine what the child will grow into when the entire village is stupefied!
Why I say you and me stand confused more than ever is because we want to raise achievers. Almost perfect children. Excelling in academia is not good enough anymore. Your child should be good at sports as well. And yes, an excellent orator too!
The checklist of raising a smart, intelligent child is long. Music, Reading, Early Literacy, Midline crossing activities, Data handling, Pattern recognition etc. often top the list of raising the Smart, Successful child.
With so many expectations, we are not only putting irrational pressure on our kids but also on ourselves. It is humanly impossible for a child as young as 5-year-old to do all that. Neither it is possible for you to take care of all those aspects of personality development of your child. Unless, all you wish is to run behind your child all day long, scheduling them from one structured activity to another. And in the process, robbing of the childhood that they very much deserve.
Now where does that lead us? Should you leave your child and let them grow up like a weed, untamed and directionless? No! You should not. As a parent, it is your responsibility to guide and assist your child in discovering the best version of her or him.
So, how do you do without the above-mentioned crazy checklist? Well! I think I have come near to an answer that can help you and me.
Here’s the recipe of raising a child well.
How to raise a Child who is Successful and Happy in her own right.
Children thrive with routine. Discipline is nothing but a positive routine that is aimed at uncovering the better version of ourselves. Think of discipline as self-love and not as a punishment.
When you are disciplined, the clarity of mind enhances manifolds. Set your children on a routine as early as possible. That will keep your mind clear as well as theirs. Knowing what is expected out of them will prompt them to behave better and be less overwhelmed.
Imagine indiscipline as a cluttered office. Where will you be more efficient, in a neatly organized office that has designated place for everything or one in shambles with everything everywhere?
Another advantage that discipline entails is Time Management. You can manage your time much better when you add discipline to your day. Setting a time slot for various activities, help children recognize and appreciate their time as well the activities.
With no apprehension or dilemma of what to do next, your child stays calm and ready to take on the tasks. Set time for their free play and structured activities to nurture their mind, heart, body and soul.
Once you start structuring your child’s day, you will also gain clearer understanding of their developmental aspects you are taking care of. Thus, helping you assign weightage to all different aspects like physical development, motor skills, numeracy and literacy skills, arts and so on.
Make sure you include plentiful amount of free play. Including free play is essential and non-negotiable. Omitting free play would be like putting your children on military regime.
Children need time to play freely to unwind, recharge their creativity and think out-of-the box. You would certainly not want to rob them off with these essential skills.
Thus, discipline not only works for you but also for your child. Now, imagine a child growing up with this clarity of thought of prioritizing work. Such children are bound to address the important tasks and schedule them better.
In fact, the ability to identify and complete critical tasks from the gamut of mundane, less significant activities is one of the key skills of successful people. People, who excel, have this innate ability to identify crucial jobs from the daily to-do clutter and hence are able to address them timely and efficiently.
To help your child master this ability, involve them in setting their own schedules. Ask them to list their to-dos, prioritize them and then work on them. This will help your child develop confidence and be independent.
Once you both are set on the schedule, do not tinker with it.
Try to follow the routine for at least 40 days because that’s the amount of time you need to foster a new habit.
Discipline is perhaps the best habit you can cultivate in your child. By setting your children on this journey of self-love, you are placing them on their front foot and giving them an early advantage.
2. Growth Mindset
For a long time, it was thought that we are born with a set Intelligence Quotient. This IQ is non-malleable, meaning you cannot increase or decrease it. Thus, limiting the potential or setting a glass ceiling for self.
It is similar to believing that your destiny is set in stone and that karma has no role in your life. This mindset that you have no power over your life corresponds to Fixed Mindset. It translates into ˜Either you have it or you don’t”.
Imagine your child’s motivation to accomplish a task with this mindset. With a set notion in their minds about their abilities, they stand much less chance to accomplish a task, which they feel they are not good at.
Many children suffer with this mindset when it comes to mathematics and science. They just seem to believe that these subjects are not for them.
On the contrary, envision if your child thought she could achieve anything if she tried hard enough and persisted long enough. Suddenly, you will find her with boundless energy and zest. That is what a ˜Growth Mindset” does.
Growth Mindset is a belief that with right effort you can enhance your intelligence and productivity. Instead of accepting IQ as fixed, it is perceived as malleable.
Coined by Stanford professor Dr.Carol Dweck, Growth Mindset is a philosophy based on extensive research and backed by science. Recent advancements in neuroscience show that brain is far more elastic than we ever thought it to be. Your neural network is greatly influenced by your experience, strategies you use, your sleep habits, nutrition and above all, practice.
Growth Mindset puts ˜Karma” back to its rightful position and empowers you to take control over your life. When you tell your children that anything is possible with hard work, you set them on an amazing journey of self-discovery.
This self-discovery helps your children identify their strengths & weaknesses and thus work on them. When children believe that with right effort and direction they can achieve their goals, they are more motivated and willing to learn.
This positively influences their self-esteem, confidence level and resilience. They develop a sense of responsibility for their achievements and failures. Thus, taking ownership of their actions.
For such children, the outcomes do not matter as much as the journey itself. They are not afraid to fail as long as they are learning. This is one trait that sets pathfinders apart from the crowd.
Besides promoting the right work attitude, Growth mindset also builds emotional intelligence in children. When your child feels accountable for their actions, they learn to accept setbacks and cope better with negative outcomes.
They are less egoistic and treat outcomes as reflection of their own actions. They do not trap themselves in self-pity but rather work on their shortcomings. Research indicates that such children enjoy challenging situations far more than those who believe in a fixed mindset.
In nutshell, when you inculcate Growth Mindset in your child you make them:
- More Confident
- Team Player
- Open to new challenges
- Process oriented
- Resilient and Persistent
- Better at handling emotions
All these qualities make for a great mind. Growth Mindset is like a super power, a belief in oneself that you can do better. And whatever failures you encounter on the way, are just temporary and part of learning.
Inculcating Growth Mindset in your children requires you to change the way you perceive them and their efforts. You need to follow a well-thought schema to nurture this super power and be patient. It takes years and a change in attitude to build children with Growth Mindset.
How to Inculcate Growth Mindset
2.1 Value Effort over Talent
The main premise of growth mindset is its emphasis on effort. Hence, the first thing to inculcate growth mindset is to shift your focus from your child’s achievements to their efforts.
Acknowledge the effort your child is putting in rather than stressing on the need of specific outcome. Teach your child to value hard work and encourage them to work hard to reach their goals.
Brain is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. That should be your motto. Engrain this philosophy in your children to keep up their belief in themselves.
When your children fail despite working hard, present their failures as great learning opportunities. Sit with them and help to pinpoint where they lacked.
For example, if it is a competition and your child couldn’t make it, perhaps they need to work harder. Explain them that when they are competing, it is not just their effort that counts. They need to match their effort and dedication with other children competing.
And even then, it is possible to fail as some children may have an existing advantage over them. It may be due to their previous hard work or just natural. Either way, it is possible to bridge the gap with hard work and dedication.
While it is extremely essential to work hard, it is equally important to work smart. What does that mean? It means you teach your child to introspect their way of working and fill in the loopholes in their learning.
It also means not making the same mistakes over and over. Help your children identify their mistakes and improve on them. Another important aspect of this approach is to try alternate techniques.
Lets say your child is playing with blocks and trying to make a tall tower. But every time they reach a certain height, the tower tumbles down. Now, working hard with the same technique will not help here.
Teach your child to think of another way to make that tower. Ask them to change their strategy, their work-plan to accomplish the same outcome.
Encourage them to ask for help if they cant find a solution themself. Seeking help from peers or teachers help children build a team and discover better and different ways of doing the same task. Thus, helping them build resilience and respect for others.
2.4. Compliment them right
This one is very important to build growth mindset in children. You need to compliment your child the right way. Praise your children’s effortsover their talents.
So instead of saying “Wow! You are excellent at this”, say, “You must have worked really hard at this”. The idea is to shift the focus from talents and outcomes to “Efforts (steps) taken to reach the goal”. This is called “Process Praise”.
Praise the process, the failures encountered on the way and the strategies used to achieve the outcome. Compliment them on their approach towards the problem and not the result.
Process praise plays a vital role in inculcating and reinforcing the growth mindset. Every time you applause your child’s effort, strategy, ability to rectify their mistakes and approach towards a problem, you build up growth mindset.
2.5. Help them manage their emotions
While it is easy to say don’t give up, it is not easy to keep trying failure after failure. It is natural to loose patience and give up after trying multiple times. This is where the emotional management comes into picture.
Teach your child to stay calm when things don’t work as planned. Ask them to take a break to regain composure when encountered with a tricky problem. Breathing techniques can come handy here when your child is overwhelmed.
One such breathing technique is called “Square breathing”.
Step 1: Inhale slowly and count to 4, slowly in your mind.
Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
Step 3: Exhale slowly to the count of 4.
Step 4: Hold your breath again for 4 seconds, before repeating the process.
Other breathing techniques like Pranayama, Bhramari are equally powerful. They help calm the mind and regain composure. When practiced regularly, these techniques greatly enhance concentration and efficiency.
2.6. Positive Self-Talk
Model positive self-talk to children. Whatever skills they have not mastered, use “Not Yet” instead of saying “You can’t”. For instance, when your child complains she can’t do a certain task, rephrase her sentence to include “not yet”.
This will help your children regard that skill as a work in progress rather than believing they cannot do it. Thus, they will be inclined to keep trying till they can reach the desired outcome.
Discipline coupled with Growth Mindset envelope many positive traits of the human mind. With these two values at the core, you can propel your children to conquer any challenge life throws at them.
What is, however, important is that you do not measure your children with your yardstick. Let them find themselves. Be their guide on their journey, not a domineer. And when you do that, you will certainly raise a child well!
3. Parenting Style
Another factor that greatly shapes your child’s personality towards happiness and success is your parenting style. Being too strict or too helpful isn’t good for children. Authoritarian and Permissive parenting both are bad for your kids.
You ought to take a middle ground with Authoritative parenting. Be empathetic and yet rule abiding. Help them only when they need or ask for it. Encourage them to do age appropriate tasks independently. The key to motivating children is giving them just the right blend of responsibilities and rights.
4. Teach Responsibilities
Children need to learn to be responsible for themselves. Teach them early on that with every right comes a responsibility. Like they have the right to play with their toys when they follow it up with their responsibility of tiding them up. Similarly, they have the right to their parent’s love and affection and it is their responsibility to respect them.
Chores are one way to build responsibility and necessary life skills. Assign them simple chores according to their age and follow them up. This will go a long way in building responsible children who are far from the entitled kids.
5. Let them Fail
Failure often teaches more than success. It is the first step towards success. Be brave enough to let your children take that step. Often, parents shield their children from initial failures to safeguard their emotions, thinking it is in their best interests. But more than often, it is not!
Let your child make his/her mistakes and learn from them. Treat mistakes as stepping-stones towards success. Children who question their failures are bound to learn from them. Resist your urge to correct their mistakes and make up for them.
6. Give Autonomy
One of the key ingredients to the recipe of raising happy and successful kids is to give them autonomy. Allow your children to make decisions for themselves and deal with the consequences.
I recall once my 6-year-old refused to finish his schoolwork on Saturday. Instead of insisting, I let him make the decision that he regretted the next day. For him, Sundays translate to Fun days and outing. Coming back home from an outing to tend to schoolwork did spoil his mood, but he learned an important lesson. Far more effective than a preachy speech by one of the parents!
Once your children know the consequences of their decisions and how they alone are responsible for them, they are more likely to make better decisions going forward. This realisation cannot come if you don’t give them the necessary independence to make their own calls.
7. Safe & Secure Environment
Providing a safe, secure environment is one of the foremost duties of parents. You are the one responsible for providing your child a safety net where she can feel loved and secured. It is a basic human need.
Family that allows open communication where mistakes can be discussed without inviting unnecessary criticism raise smart, confident children who are not afraid of making mistakes and learn from them.
Always treat your children with respect. Their age has nothing to do with being demeaned. Respect your child the same way you would respect an adult. When they make mistakes, engage in constructive correction rather than destructive criticism. No mistake is big enough to take their dignity away from them.
9. Don’t strive for constant Happiness
Happiness is a state of mind. And with mind being so erratic, it is unrealistic to expect your kids to smile all through their day. Don’t mistake life happiness with day-to-day constant happiness. That is impossible to achieve.
Rather, teach your child that happiness and sadness are part of life. Not every moment is going to be happy, just like not every moment is going to be sad. Neither is going to stay forever. Make the best of the moment at hand.
10. Praise them for who they are
Love and praise your child for who they are! Every child is unique! Like Albert Einstein said “ If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.
Value what your child has to offer and encourage his/her talents rather than benchmarking them to set standards.
11. Value effort over outcome
The difference between a person who succeeds and the one who quits is that the former lays more emphasis on the process than the outcome. Valuing effort changes perspective and motivates your to try and experiment. When children are appreciated for their efforts and not outcome, they learn to put their faith in hard work and effort. Ability to adapt and change to achieve the desired result is imperative.
But if you just focus on the outcomes, it is highly likely that you will raise a child who will be shy of failures and eventually of trying.