One of our most fundamental needs as human beings is to feel we belong. A child’s misbehavior is driven, not by a desire to displease the parent (whose loving acceptance s/he craves more than anything in the world), but by an unconscious need for attention and belonging (even if that is to be achieved in negative ways).
There is no need to cheer, clap and comment on everything your child does. When we consistently rescue, fix and overprotect our children, we rob them of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes, as well as to know that they can survive disappointment.
Instead, learn to encourage them:
- Conduct family meetings where children learn to give and receive compliments and learn to brainstorm for solutions to problems;
- Ask “curiosity questions” that help children learn HOW to think instead of WHAT to think;
- Allow children opportunities to learn and grow — mistakes and all;
- Have faith in your children so they can develop faith in themselves;
- Pay greater attention to their inner worlds; take into greater consideration what they may be thinking, feeling or deciding in response to what you do or say.
- Help your children feel capable and independent, by offering them both chores and choices.
“Encourage the deed [or effort], not the doer.” — Rudolf Dreikurs, psychiatrist/educator, (1897-1972)
Research by Carol Dweck, Ph.D. a professor at Columbia University (now at Stanford), reinforced the notion that too much praise is, in fact, not always good for children. For over ten years, psychologist Carol Dweck and her team studied the effect of praise on students in a dozen New York schools. Her seminal work — a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders — found that children praised for being smart or talented when they accomplished various tasks tended to choose easier tasks in the future.
Do parents do their children a favor when they are present to address their every need and request? When they are available at every moment (in person or by text or cellphone) to protect, calm, soothe, remind, help out, and help make decisions?