You Have the Power to Destroy a Child’s Future

Recently while at the post office, I bumped into a lovely stay-at-home mom I know. Aware of the success I have had as a mompreneur, she asked if I would mind giving her some career advice. After having been out of the workforce for the past 7 years, she was interested in contributing a few extra dollars per month to the household while perhaps also receiving a little mental stimulation. She had a few employment ideas, working part-time at a retail store in the mall or ringing up groceries, but was far from enthused about leaving her kids in the evening to make minimum wage. She also did not want to sell candles or cosmetics as a representative for one of the multi-level marketing companies.

“How did you do it? You have two kids and another on the way and you have created a great business.” she asked me. I responded to her the same way that I respond to the many people who ask, “Simple, I identified what I loved to do, I took a leap of faith and worked hard to put my passion to work in the real world.”

“Oh, I could never do that,” she said. She proceeded to list the many reasons why it would be impossible for her to tackle any sort of exciting venture that might charge her up and make her some money. With her endless list of road blocks she had literally paralyzed herself and drastically limited her options. Our short conversation left me a little depressed when it should have left me feeling excited for her exciting future. I knew that there was nothing that I could say to her to get her over the hurdles she had thrown up in front of herself.

Road blocks are the excuses people have for why they will “never be able to do it.” The fascinating thing about road blocks is they are usually very small, surmountable blips that effective people can solve before lunch. “Yeah, but, I will need liability insurance…”, “Yeah, but, I will have to get a business license…”, “Yeah, but, I will have to call people on the phone…”, “yeah, but I will have to find space to work…”, “Yeah, but, I need my sleep and can’t get up before the kids to do my work…”

Often people’s road block lists are extensive, seem never ending, and are a residual of limiting beliefs created during childhood. A limiting belief is a mental acceptance that a negative thought about oneself is true. “I am very shy so I could never speak in public.” “My brother is the smart one and I am the athlete so I could never finish that degree program.” “My father told me I would probably only be good at being a wife, so even though my idea to become an arts and crafts trainer is a good one, I better not try to start a business.” Limiting beliefs are powerful and feel very real to the person, but to the onlooker can sound like nonsense.

Limiting beliefs are not the same thing as honest self assessments, as in the following examples: “Becoming a professional tennis player is out of the question because I am 40 and have never picked up a racket;” “I am really great at running the daily operations of a company, but my abrasive personality wouldn’t be a good fit for the sales department;” and, “I worked very hard at physics in college, I even hired a private tutor, and I just do not have the mental aptitude to become a physicist.”

Parents, teachers, coaches, tutors, and trainers have a responsibility to avoid instilling limiting beliefs in children. Everyone can name at least one adult who said something so hurtful to us that we have shied away from the “offensive behavior” ever since. Having no crystal ball to see the future there is no way it is possible to know what a child is capable of achieving. Most negative assessments about a child’s abilities are at the very best premature and at the worst ridiculous, unfounded, callous, and harmful. What good does it do the child for an adult to look at his arts and crafts project and say, “Well, you probably should stop right there because you are just making a mess…too bad, but I just don’t see creativity in your future.” Or, “Manners lessons are wasted on you; you had better get used to paying high dry cleaning bills because your shirts will always be soiled.”

It is powerful to have a long-lasting and positive effect on a child. As adults we never know when a child will be touched by our words, so we should be conscious at all times of what we say and how we say it. The last thing that any well meaning, warm adult would ever want is to help introduce a limiting belief that stays with an impressionable child for life and keeps her from achieving her dreams and aspirations. Our words and actions can be the difference between someone who heads out into the world and makes things happen, and someone who sits inside too paralyzed to make a move.

Visit http://www.artsandcraftsmoms.com and become a certified arts and crafts trainer who helps build up children’s self esteem and never instills limiting beliefs in the students.

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Potty Training-A Simple 4 Step Formula for Initiating Toilet Training.

moe-logo.jpg“I’m so done with diapers!” groans a mother as she looks at the high price tag on the jumbo pack of diapers. “Is it time for my child to start potty training?” 

Potty training is a big milestone for children. But how do parents know when to start? Intuition, expectations, common sense and observation play key roles in initiating potty training. 

Step #1-Create a Parent/Child Team

Potty training is a combined effort between parent and child. Some parents may assume that they are in charge, while other parents place the child at the helm. In actuality, potty training is a partnership. Parents provide support, potty training tools, books, and dry clothing; children do the “going.”

Grasping the concept that potty training is a team effort between parent and child, and not a command and control situation, is critical to success. Strict, impatient pursuit of the goal puts undo pressure on the child, resulting in stress, anxiety and in some cases delayed potty training.  

Step#2-Starting early doesn’t ensure quick results

In depth research on intensive potty training has proven that initiating the process early is in fact correlated to extended duration of potty training. Those parents who start training prematurely find that the potty training process lasts longer.  Children must develop bladder and muscle control before they are able to control toileting.

Parents may adhere to this rough timeline of readiness: 15-18 months the child senses that his or her clothes are wet; 18 months the child may urinate on the potty if placed on it; 2- 2 1/2 years the child might alert the parent that he has to go; and 3-4 years the child may have the ability to “hold it” and visit the bathroom alone.   

Step#3-Determine readiness by child’s development

When deciding to begin the potty training process, chronological age may not be the correct indicator for readiness. The parent should look for signs that the child is developmentally ready. This is especially true for babies who were born prematurely and children who are developmentally delayed. 

Some good signs of readiness are: child can sit and walk well, child can stay dry for 2 hours or more, child is interested in doing what big kids or grownups do, child is able to follow and execute simple instructions, and child seems to understand what the potty is for and uses words relating to using the toilet.  

Parents should assess the temperament of the child. Important questions to ask are: is the child able to focus, what is her attention span, does the child frustrate easily, is the child easily angered or discouraged. 

For most children potty training occurs between 2 and 3 years, with the majority of children potty trained by 4. 

Step#4-Go on now, go!

Today is the day! Parents should make sure that the child is in good health, and that the household is calm with no impending turmoil such as a move coming up, a new baby being brought home, or a parent going away on a trip.  

Dress the child in easy to remove clothing like sweat pants with an elastic waist. Snaps, buttons and zippers are difficult for little hands and time consuming to manipulate when the urge arises. To reduce the pressure on the child, allow him to stay in diapers during the early days of potty training. Gradually transition him into underwear for short amounts of time as his dry times become more and more extended.  

After a meal, nap, or when coming in from outdoors are good times to encourage the child to hop on the potty. Parents should be on the look out for indicators of when the child may have the urge to go.  

Accompany the child to the potty and stay with him. The visit to the bathroom should be short and sweet; five minutes is plenty of time. Offer reading material, or use a fun potty training tool or toy to make the five minutes engaging. Important: if the child wants to get off of the potty before five minutes, don’t force him to stay. 

Praise, praise, praise! Little milestones deserve lots of hugs and kisses. It is really something for a little tyke to hop on the potty by herself, pull up her own pants, or make it into the bathroom (even if only to be a little late.) Be kind, patient, sensitive and proud. Don’t scold the child for having accidents, ever.

Nurture Your Child Not Your Ego

moe-logo.jpgParents should never allow their egos to become wrapped up in their child. Many parents measure their own value and success by their children’s successes and failures. Children behaving like children, not hitting milestones early enough, or not living up to a parent’s unrealistic expectations, can be devastating to these parents and to the healthy development of their kids. The parent becomes focused on what the child can do versus on who the child is.  

A perfect example of a parent never satisfied with her son’s accomplishments was the mother of a preteen tennis player. When complimented by another mother about her son’s skills, the tennis player’s mother responded through clenched teeth, “Well, he’s no Roger Federer.” (She was referring to the number one tennis player in the world, a living legend, and perhaps the greatest player in history.) 

The mother’s response was typical of a parent desperate for her child to astonish and dazzle the world. Her expectations were destructive to herself and to her child. Her comparison robbed her of the joy of watching her son play, and because even Meryl Streep isn’t a good enough actress to hide the kind of disappointment the mother was feeling, this child’s self-esteem was most likely suffering as a result of her conditional love. 

The other side of the coin is the parent who takes all of the credit for the child’s success and creates an entire identity around that child. This parent yearns for an exceptional child. The parent is special because the child is special. The child becomes responsible for the parents feelings of self-worth.  

It is important for parents to disentangle their egos from their parenting. As soon as the umbilical cord is cut, children begin their own journey through life and even though hands on, attentive parenting is vital to their growth, children deserve to own both their disappointments and successes. Parents are then able to comfort, encourage, applaud, feel pride and express love.  

Taking parenting personally can also make parenting much harder. Unable or unwilling to see the child realistically, the parent misses what skills, manners and behaviors need work, and then the parent gets frustrated and confused when the child acts out. “But my child is gifted, why is he unable to potty train? I must be a bad mother.” 

Recently a very well known parenting expert was quoted in the New York Times, “The thing about toddlers is that they are uncivilized,” Dr. Karp says. “Our job is to civilize them, to teach them to say please and thank you, don’t spit and scratch and don’t pee anywhere you want. These are the jobs you have with a toddler.” 

To a parent who has their ego enmeshed with their toddler, the Dr.’s insight above would be terribly offensive and even hurtful. Instead of saying, “Yes, that is exactly what I am experiencing with my toddler, and I am really enjoying helping my toddler to become civilized,“ she says, “How dare he say that my child is uncivilized.” The mother is unable to actually see that the Dr.’s statement is not a personal attack, he is saying that her role is vital and it is okay to have a child who doesn’t understand proper social skills, and with her unconditional love and training the child will learn. 

Being objective and establishing appropriate boundaries with offspring is an important step towards not allowing ego to get wrapped up in the child. “Helicopter Parents” or parents who hover, are very inappropriately involved with their, often, adult children and have skewed the division between themselves and their child. For example, it has become commonplace for parents to come to the defense of their children who have been given a low grade or have been reprimanded by a teacher. Their ego is damaged when their child needs correcting, and in response they bristle and challenge the professional. The term “helicopter parenting” has been coined to describe these hovering parents. 

A true but unbelievable example of “helicopter parenting” happened at a large insurance agency. The father of a smart, well educated and capable, twenty-five year old woman, called her boss to discuss her job performance. Weeks later this same young woman missed a flight to a meeting she was supposed to take with her boss. He understandingly told her that she should go straight to the office and work. Instead she took an 8 hour train ride to the city to try to attend the meeting anyway. When questioned why she did not go back to the office as she was instructed, she responded, “My mother told me that I had to go to the meeting.” 

Parenting without ego helps develop healthy self esteem in kids. Children experience their parent’s unconditional love and feel valued for who they are and not what they succeed at. When parents allow their children to be their own people instead of an extension of themselves, children begin to take responsibility for their own decisions, likes and dislikes, good and bad behavior and choices. Establishing appropriate boundaries between parent and child helps the child become autonomous and independent and not feel pressured to excel in the hopes that their parents will feel fulfilled.  

An excerpt from a wonderful poem that summarizes this theme is in Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet: 

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.