Saturday, May 28, 2016

Initiative vs. guilt

Erik Erikson's third stage of development is known as initiative vs. guilt. At this stage children begin to develop confidence and carry out activities. The way parents and other adults respond to their children's goals affect children's self-esteem. If children are allowed to take the initiative to accomplish activities on their own, their self-esteem increases. If parents don't allow children to take initiative, they may feel guilty about their ambitions and their self-esteem will decrease.

For example, if a child wants to perform in a play and a parent encourages them to try out and practices lines etc. with them and the child gets the part, their self-esteem will increase. The child's perspective will be, "I accomplished something. I took the initiative and put the work into it and accomplished my goal." If a child wants to be an ice skater and the parent tells them they can't do it and all the ways they'll fail and the parents don't support them, the child will learn their goals and they as an individual don't matter. The child learns it doesn't matter whether you take the initiative or not, the goal won't be achieved because the parent has told them they'll fail, how quickly they'll do it, and all the ways they'll fail and give no support to the child's goals.

 Important questions parents should ask themselves are: Do you want to teach your children they are capable or incapable? Do you want to take the time to teach your children how to be capable of a certain activity or task or not? A parent can take the time to teach a child how to feed themselves, ride a bike, drive a car and how to take care of it or decide their children are incapable. These are some of choices parents have along with what kind of parent they want to be (see my post on parenting styles).

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Keeping children from feeling shame and doubt

If the adult's in a child's life don't allow the child to learn how to do things on their own, a child can feel shame and doubt about their abilities to carry any activity out because they've been taught they are incapable and need adults to do things for them.

In order to keep a child from feeling shame and doubt about doing any type of activity, parents need to teach children what they can do and how to do it, not that they can't. Parents who teach their children learned helplessness will eventually get to the point where they decide when their children are old enough to do certain tasks and activities on their own. For example, a parent will decide that age three a child is old enough to get a snack on their own and won't help them get a snack anymore. When parents decide these types of tasks for children they're usually not age appropriate and unreasonable.

When parents decide a child is old enough to do a certain task they tell the child to go do the task and often the child doesn't know how to do what's been asked because the parents have always done it for them. The child tells the parents they don't know how to do what's being asked and the parent gets mad because all of  a sudden the child is old enough and smart enough to do what's being asked. Parents get angry with the child when they have no reason to get angry with them. How is the child supposed to know how to do what's asked, when the parents haven't taught them how to do what was asked?

For example, if a parent decides a child is old enough and smart enough to do the laundry and asks their child to go start a load of laundry but the parents haven't taught the child how to do the laundry, how is the child supposed to know how to do the laundry? Out of frustration the parent tells the child, "You know how to do the laundry, now go do it." So the child does the laundry and WRONG and the parent get MAD, but the parent has no reason to be mad. The parent hasn't taken the time to TEACH the child how to the laundry, yet, expects them to know how to and CORRECTLY.

When a parent expects a child to do a task like the above example and expects their children to do it without them taking the time to teach them how to do it, causes a child to feel shame and doubt. They feel shame because they did the laundry wrong and they feel doubt because they feel like because they didn't do the laundry right that they won't be able to do anything right. So parents please take the time to TEACH you're children how to do things. Don't just expect them to know how to do something because they've seen you do it or you've decided they're old enough and smart enough to know how to do something. Take the time to teach them, to build their self-confidence and the frustration both parents and children feel will lessen.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Shame and doubt

An important part of developing self-esteem is not saying or doing things that will cause your children to feel shame or doubt. Parents who make their children feel shame or doubt about trying to do something on their own are more likely to struggle with independent tasks and can learn learned helplessness. Things a parent may say to a child to cause shame or doubt are, "You're not old enough for that swing yet, you're not old enough to try the monkey bars, etc." These statements come from parents telling their children they're not old enough to do whatever task the parent has decided they're not old enough to do and therefore capable of.

A different way to phrase or handle a situation when a child wants to do an activity they may not be developmentally ready for yet, is first of all to keep the activities age appropriate. However, this can be difficult when the activities surrounding the child may not always be age appropriate. For example, if a parent takes a child to the park and they want to do the monkey bars, instead of telling the child they can't do it, help them do it instead. A parent puts the child on the monkey bars and tells the child to hold on, then the parent can either try having the child do the  monkey bars as they "fly" the child from bar to bar or a parent can teach the child how to actually do the monkey bars by holding onto them. The parent can hold onto the child's body and then instruct the child. For example, the parent can say, "Reach your right arm to the second bar, now do your left arm."

More than likely the child will not be able to reach the bars because their arms won't be long enough which is why a parent can "fly" the child from one bar to the next. The child is going to see that they can't do it and stop and ask to be put down and go do another activity because they're going to see for themselves it's an activity they can't do yet unless a game is made out of it like "lets fly from bar to bar."

The example of the monkey bars is an example of when a child finds a way to do an activity using the parents help. If the child is stubborn and doesn't want help, usually one of two things need to be done. Either the child is going to in fact see for themselves they can't accomplish what they're trying to do and give up until they're older and want to try again, or the parent may have to say, "Look, this isn't something you can do yet, let's come over here and do this instead," and deal with the emotion of anger or frustration that the child is experiencing because they can't do a task yet that they want to be able to do.

An activity like learning the monkey bars can teach a child learned helplessness because if a parent isn't letting their children try tasks on their own, the child will learn learned helplessness. Any time a parent tells a child they can't do something and to let someone else do it for them, the parent is teaching learned helplessness. If the adults in children's lives don't allow the child to learn how to do things on their own and be independent, the child will feel shame and eventually doubt their abilities to carry out any activity because they've been taught they're incapable and need adults to do everything for them. The feelings of shame and doubt cause the development of self-esteem to be negative not positive.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Bubble parenting

In providing a healthy environment where children can grow and develop it's important to children's development that parents not teach a child the only safe place for them is at home and that anytime they enter the world, particularly without a parent, that something BAD will happen to them because the world is an unsafe place.

It's the responsibility of the parents to teach their children about the world and how to navigate and survive it. Parents need to tell children about things and people in the world that will harm them and what to do  when they encounter them. If parent's don't, the world will teach them and in ways more unpleasant and harsher than the parent would.

I call this type of parenting bubble parenting because the parent thinks if they raise their children in a bubble and protect them from all  the things in the world that would harm them, that those things won't affect their children. However, bad parts of the world do affect all children and if parents don't teach their children how to handle these situations, they don't know how to handle them and can get themselves into a lot of trouble.

One of two things can happen to the relationship of parents and children when parents are bubble parenting. One, the child cuts the strings on their own and enters the world learning how to navigate it on their own and possibly puts conditions on their relationship with their parents or two, these children are the children who as adults are living at home with their parents because they've been taught the only safe place in the world for them is at home with their parents.

Bubble parenting affects a child's self-esteem because they learn to be dependent on their parents all of their lives and never develop the self-esteem to embark on their own and try new things because of their fear of failure of whatever BAD thing is out there waiting for them. So parents please, don't raise your children in a bubble. Teach them the things about the world they need to know to live in it and encourage them and teach them how to be people who give back to the world they live in.