If someone were to ask most of us whether or not our parents loved us, most of us would answer with a resounding, “Yes, of course.” However, if someone were to ask us how good and how effective their parenting skills were, there would probably be a great multitude of responses – most of them being that their parents weren’t as patient, kind or loving as they would’ve liked them to be.
While it’s true that your child was not born with a “How to Parent” pocket manual, most of us pattern our responses and solutions after what we received from our own caregivers, but if their parenting skills were ineffective and sometimes even hurtful to us, why would we?
For most parents, immediate blame, shame and disappointment is what they deem to be the correct response to a child’s wrongdoing, and even though the end-game is to change the behavior and learn a lesson, blame, shame and disappointment do not usually provide motivation for behavioral change.
Often, children become involved in undesired, patterned behavior whether it’s lying, cheating, stealing or just being disrespectful to those in authority. They’ve done it for so long that it’s become a natural part of their daily framework. Once something is that entrenched in one’s behavior, it then demands a very concerted and active effort on the part of the individual to recognize the triggers, realize it’s happening and consciously determine that they will do everything within their power to break the cycle.
This is difficult enough for a mature adult, but for a child it is often an overwhelming and tremendous challenge because children are less able to control their patterns and are generally less aware, depending on their age, as to what they need to do in order to break a cycle.
This is where you, as their parent and caregiver, come in. Knowing that breaking an ingrained habit is hard work, you can be there to either cheer them on to do the right thing or heap blame, shame and disappointment, which will send the message that you don’t believe they will EVER break their bad habit and end this damaging cycle.
Being your child’s loudest fan will go a long way in providing motivation for the needed change you want to occur. Just think about the logic of it. If you were learning how to play tennis, but you kept hitting the ball outside the boundaries of the court over and over again, you would begin to think that you’ll never be able to get the hang of the game. Yet, it is up to your coach to cheer you on, give you tips and show you just what you’re doing wrong – not by embarrassing you or making you feel worse than you already do, but by encouraging you to try again and by letting you know that he believes you’ll succeed next time. It is this kind of “rooting for you” which makes you want to go another round. Your coach believes in you, and that’s enough to cause you to believe in yourself and not give up.
Yet many parents do not see their role as one of a coach who is rooting for the one they are training. This is the real secret to being the best parent you can be. We all need encouragement, but no one needs it more than those who are “in training,” and that is surely your kids. The scriptures say, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6.
Those in training are not there yet. They have a lot of work and practice ahead of them in order to excel at their game. They have setbacks, and they have times of real discouragement where they feel as if they will never succeed. In fact, there are times when they are so disappointed in themselves that they are ready to give up, because they have convinced themselves that they will never be good enough and that no one believes in them.
I remember a particular student who, after having done something wrong, came to my office and said, “Why should I change? No one thinks I’m any good anyway.” In his mind, he already had earned a bad reputation, and so, for him, change would not be credible to others, but the truth is that many children really do want to change. They don’t know how, and, most importantly, they need help to do so. Who, more than the person who loves them the most to give them that help and that belief in themselves in order to become the best possible version they can be?
Being your child’s most ardent cheerleader will make all the difference in getting your child to the results you desire and the behavior that will serve them throughout their lives. Your child must feel that you are for them instead of feeling that you are their greatest critic. They must feel that even if they blow it, you’re there to remind them that there is another chance until they get it right, and that you don’t love them any less but rather are pulling for them to win.
If you’ve ever seen a flamenco presentation, you will see one central dancer with all the other troupe members clapping and cheering on the performer. The more noise they make and the more excitement they put out, the better the dancer performs. The others are on the sidelines rooting for them to give their best and most impressive show. The same is true for sports players. When it’s someone’s turn to bat, all the team players are behind him rooting for him to get a hit. This motivates him to do all he can not to let down his team players.
Why is your child any different? No one wants to let down their parents, but kids naturally do. It is your response to your child’s actions which can determine whether or not your son or daughter will quickly overcome their failure and want to step up to the plate a next time. It is your encouragement which will go a long way to motivate them to do better and to eventually succeed.
For most of us, this strategy is a real departure from the way we were raised, and, consequently, many adults carry the scars of their parents’ harsh words, anger or indifference when they failed to live up to their parents’ expectations. It didn’t work in that generation, and it doesn’t work in today’s generation either.
Start believing in your child, make sure they know that you are their biggest fan. Root for them, help them to get it right, and you will see the change happen. Don’t waste any time. Begin today!