Children are sponges for knowledge and information. They are born a virtual blank slate. They pay attention to everything you say to them. You are the purveyor of all knowledge. Children can’t distinguish between when you are serious and when you say something impulsively, without thinking. A single comment can stay with a child for the rest of his or her life. If you doubt this, I’m sure you can remember a number of statements made to you when you were younger.
Children believe what you tell them, especially with regard to their self-image. They consider you all knowing. How a child feels about himself will influence him for his entire life. Furthermore, it can affect his relationships with others as well as determining how he treats his own children.
You have a significant responsibility to your children. Your objective is to encourage and make them believe in themselves. Avoid belittling comments which will cause feelings of deficiency.
Unfortunately, many parents are not fully aware of the permanent impact they have on their children. Parents will impulsively say things out of anger or frustration they really don’t mean. But a damaging statement, once uttered, can be burned into a child’s mind forever. Your child can’t discern the motives behind your comments. Even if you apologize, your child still remembers what was said.
Perhaps you are carrying emotional baggage from your childhood. Your parents may have said things to you that had a big negative impact. If this is the case, you need to be all the more careful not to treat your children the same way. Something that had a deleterious impact on you will have the same effect on your children.
Until the cycle is broken, negative behavior will be passed on for generations. Raising a child is an immense responsibility; you influence the type of person they become. It’s imperative to tell your children things to build their self-esteem, enhance their self-image and enable them to recognize their unlimited potential.
I cringe when I hear an angry parent telling a child they are no good or will never amount to anything. Children will find a way to live up to your expectations. A child who is repeatedly told that she is stupid will rarely do well in school. A child who is told he is inferior to his siblings or other children will be an underachiever.
Children want your attention. A child who is ignored will do anything to be noticed. If being good doesn’t get them the attention they crave, they will resort to more aberrant behavior until they are noticed.
Children don’t understand or comprehend adult world stresses. The concept of money, income, expenses, jobs and responsibilities are learned only as children get older. Children are very perceptive. They know when you are angry or frustrated. Children will automatically assume that they must have done something wrong to cause your distress.
For this reason, you must never take out your frustrations on your children. Don’t snap at them or put them down. Don’t tell them they don’t understand what you are going through. They will feel there is something wrong with them.
Tell your children you love them. Praise them often. When they do something wrong, explain what they should have done and why. Make your children feel important and part of the family. Teach by example. Think before you speak. Never act out of anger. Insulate your children from the realities of the adult world. They will be dealing with them soon enough.
Bryan is the author of “Dare to Live Without Limits.” Contact Bryan at Bryan@columnist.com or visit www.DareToLiveWithoutLimits.com