3 Ways to Show Undying Belief in Children

by Heligirl on July 18, 2011

in Daily Ramblings,Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles,Positive Discipline

Last week I wrote about the honorable parenting qualities in fictional Transformers character Optimus Prime. One thing that really struck me about him, and was the source of a few reader comments, was his tendency to show an undying belief in those he leads, encouraging them to reach for their potential.

As parents, we too are leaders. In my opinion, all parents should strive to express undying belief in their children.

Children inherently have no grasp of their potential. Granted, they’re wired to explore and as such seem to have an innate ability to scare the crap out us during their daily expressions of fearlessness in the face of certain death. It’s through this exploration they learn of their potential.

However, as their parents and caregivers, we have the extreme power to boost that potential by simply believing in them with all of our hearts.

So how do you do that, exactly?

It all starts with what you say. Because what we start saying to our kids in their early life lays the groundwork for their own internal dialog.

Think of it this way, do you want your kids to be telling themselves they can’t, or do you want them to believe they can?

Positive Language
Getting into the habit of telling children what they can do. Especially with small children, our days can be filled with multiple repetitions of “don’t,” “no,” and “stop.” “Stop yelling,” “don’t touch that,” “no, you can’t have another cookie,” and the like begin to develop frustration and a sense of what they can’t do.

Instead we can strive to tell kids what they can do as much or more than we tell them what they can’t. Instead of saying, “don’t put your feet on the couch,” instead say, “remember we sit on the couch. If you want to jump, you can jump here on the carpet.” Put a positive spin on your words.

When kids begin to feel discouraged, express your belief in their abilities. Remember the difference between encouragement and praise. Don’t fall into the trap of meaningless praise, as this will develop a need to be praised for accomplishments in order to feel those accomplishments are valid.

Think of yourself as the coach, offering encouraging words along the way.

Perhaps your little one is trying to learn a new skill like riding a bike. He’s getting frustrated as he tries to get the hang of all the physical requirements. Staying calm and positive, offering encouraging words, “I know you’re frustrated, it’s hard learning to ride a bike. I know you can do it with practice. Just keep practicing. We all get better with practice,” and “there you go, you’re getting it. See you rode for a little longer that time. You’re doing it!”

Notice there is no “I’m so proud of you.” Make it about them. Give them that internal dialog. As they move forward in life, they’ll remember and tell themselves it takes practice and that they can do it.

Avoid Discouraging Words
I know this seems obvious, but think about a time you got frustrated with a child who did something he knew he wasn’t supposed to do and the reason why he wasn’t supposed to do it became a reality.

Raising your voice and saying “Look at the mess you made. You know you’re not supposed to play with the paints in the living room. Now the carpet is ruined,” may feel good to say because you’re frustrated, but consider the effect.

I know I’m guilty of letting out frustration in such a way. It feels good to verbalize your frustration, but think about where that negative energy goes: right to the child’s sense of self worth.

In these situations, positive discipline teachers recommend calmly reminding the child about the rule, “you know we have a rule that we don’t play with paints in the living room,” stating the obvious, “there is paint on the floor now and I don’t know if we’ll be able to get it out. The carpet may be stained,” and then empowering the child to help correct the situation in a way that teaches responsibility, “let’s get the carpet cleaner and see if we can’t clean this up.”

For children old enough to understand, you can request they clean it themselves and you can even include a logical consequence such as taking the paints away for a period of time.

Jane Nelsen, positive discipline expert, emphasizes, “Where did we get the notion that by making children feel worse we can make them act better?” It helps me to keep this quote in mind when approaching a misbehavior.

Stand back and let them fail
Too often we want to swoop in and help, correct or even do a task for our kids, lest we see them fail. It’s important to remember that failure is the way to success. Only by learning from our mistakes do we develop and grow as individuals and a society.

It takes some real willpower to let our kids try and fail. But when they do fail, we can take those opportunities to teach valuable lessons about tenacity and the importance of evaluating a situation and trying again and again.

Kids will learn the valuable lesson that they, and everyone, will fail sometimes, but they can depend on you to be there to encourage, support and express your belief that they will eventually succeed.

As they grow they will adopt that belief, believing in themselves as you did.

I know this isn’t a one size fits all, but I hope these examples give you some ideas. How do you show undying belief in your kids and what advice would you offer to help someone engender this parenting value?



Twitter: sidheherbal
July 18, 2011 at 10:38 am

I feel like those of you with younger kids are so lucky to have found this early. I was a way permissive parent (not wanting to be punitive) and only came upon Ms. Nelson’s books in the last 2 years (when my kids were 5 and 7) they are now 7 and 9 we try to implement things but we all have our ways now and it makes it sooo much harder. I can feel the house becoming more cooperative though and I just focus on that. Love your posts.

Twitter: Heligirl
July 18, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Thanks so much for sharing this Sherri. I really feel fortunate that I found positive discipline when my daughter was just about a year old. But I hear from so many teachers of positive discipline as well as Jane Nelsen that it’s never too late to initiate it. I really feel for parents of teens who have to shift gears. I have every faith your family will get the hang of it. Look at how they’re getting more cooperative. Just stay kind, but firm, and respectful. You can do it!

Thanks so much for reading. Please don’t hesitate to throw me a question if you get stuck. I’m always looking for Mom Tip Monday ideas!

JP July 18, 2011 at 12:34 pm

oh man, standing back and watching them fail is the right thing to do sometimes…but I know i’m really going to struggle with this.

i think there’s something inside us (trained not inherit) that makes us feel it’s rational to make another person feel bad about what has frustrated us. maybe it’s the fight or flight mechanism that kicks in. make someone feel shame about what they’ve done and they won’t do it again. more than likely it will just want them not to get caught doing it again (i know that’s how i felt growing up). i wouldn’t stop doing what i got it trouble for, i would just be more cautious about getting caught.

now to follow through with actions when i’m frustrated…

Twitter: Heligirl
July 18, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I hear you loud and clear on all points, JP. I have a really hard time watching them try and fail. The only thing that keeps me from running to the rescue is the image I hold in my mind of them being able to tackle anything when they get older. I share stories of Mommy trying again and again, which sometimes helps.

The frustration thing is a real battle for me. My mother was so very verbally abusive and I was the constant target for her frustration, whether it was me or not. She was the travel agent for guilt trips and I couldn’t make a single mistake without being belittled. I learned early how to be a good liar, and to be sneaky. It took many adult years to unlearn that. The other day my daughter came up to me and admitted she hit her brother and it made him cry. We talked about why she did and what was nice and what was mean. I asked her if she could think of a way to make it better for her brother and she went up and kissed him. I could have ridiculed her (it was my first impulse) because I was so tired of hearing him crying from her hitting or pissing him off in some way. It’s all baby steps, and also not being too hard on ourselves. We’ll mess up, but as long as we do it right more often than not, kids are very, very forgiving.

Thanks for the great comment my rocking blog designing buddy!

Susan July 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

I am so encouraged that you are working with your kids to learn how to get along. I so wish more people would do this. I have a few family members that never learned that there are ways to teach kids to get along (and it’s painful to hang out with them for very long). As for my family growing up, my mother was barely there, and we 3 kids fought all… the… time! (I hated it). Huge kudos to you!!
Susan recently posted: Leave Nothing Unsaid

Mama Spaghetti July 19, 2011 at 11:13 pm

This was just what I needed to read. With a 16-month old who gets into EVERYTHING, I’ve started to feel like every other word out of my mouth is “no.”

I needed the reminder that it doesn’t have to be that way!
Mama Spaghetti recently posted: Mommy Fail #118: Teaching a kid how to pee

Susan July 25, 2011 at 9:52 am

Great article!! I love all of this sort of stuff. I was chatting with a friend yesterday, and she was reminding me that our subconscious mind does not recognize the word “no.” So, if you are telling your child (or yourself) something involving no, or don’t, what gets put into your subconscious is the rest of the sentence. Don’t touch that! Becomes- touch that! Sure, you hear the word no at the time it’s said, but it is soon forgotten.

Plus, that which you put out comes back to you. If you can try to put your words into positive statements as much as possible, you’ll get back more positivity.

Love the reminder about failure. We need a new word in our language for failure- a word that means, it didn’t work this way so lets try a different way. People put too much negative emphasis and a finality to the word failure. It’s actually a great learning tool.
Susan recently posted: Leave Nothing Unsaid

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