No two children are alike. When they’re parented in a way that recognises and supports their individual emotional, social and physical needs, they tend to be happier, easier babies and children. “Ideally, each child must be guided in a balanced way that best matches his unique strengths and weaknesses,” says Sharon Wood, a life coach and facilitator at Leapfrog Kids.
“A child who’s strong-willed and defiant may benefit from having firmer rules set in place for his own safety, and a more sensitive child would respond more positively to a few well-chosen words.”
Parenting isn’t a one-size-fits-all job. This can be tricky for us, because we have our own personalities and parenting styles. The key is to be responsive to your child’s personality, and tweak your style to suit your child’s needs.
The first step is to understand your child’s temperament. “Watch your children, learn their facial expressions and what they mean and how they act when they don’t know you’re watching,” says Sharon. “This can help you identify behaviour patterns and become more responsive to their needs.” Here are six general rules to start the journey…
1 RESPOND TO CUES. Notice what’s happening when your child’s happy or upset, and how your response helps.
2 COMMUNICATE. Listen to his feelings, preferences and opinions. You don’t have to agree, but let your child express how he feels and what he wants. Explain your decisions too.
3 AVOID LABELS. Being known as the ‘shy one’ or the ‘worrier’ won’t help your child’s self-esteem, and it won’t help you recognise his uniqueness.
4 DON’T COMPARE THEM TO OTHER CHILDREN. This is not only unhelpful, but it can also be damaging to their sense of self-worth.
5 ENCOURAGE THE STRENGTHS. The point is not to pretend that your child is perfect, but to encourage him to see his good qualities by emphasising and building on those, explains Sharon. “Teach him to see the positive. If a child is an impulsive risk-taker, it can also be seen as brave and adventurous. If your child is bossy, this could be seen as a sense of leadership that can be developed.”
6 CREATE A SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT. If your child feels safe, secure and understood, he will generally be happier and have better relationships.
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