Children understand only detailed descriptions. Parents must make themselves clear to the child. Labeling a child does more harm and child gets stuck up with that label throughout his life. Due to this the child has low self esteem and a feeling of insecurity. Here are some tips to make your child feel secure.
It's dinnertime again. Both Ankur and his mother Rekha dread this moment. Rekha is tired of telling Ankur over and again that 'he is an untidy boy, and if he does not become a neat and tidy boy she will not love him.' But Ankur just does not listen. 5 year old Ankur----, he knows that he is expected to be something else to get his mother's love, but what? Even his teacher wrote in his book-'Untidy work'. He saw the teacher pat another boy for being tidy. He knows that tidy means neat. Ankur wants to be patted by his teacher and loved by his mother. But he does not know how. He is truly confused.
Year's later, Ankur's office desk remains cluttered, and his untidy room is a sight!
Children do not understand adjectives; detailed description helps them better
What is happening here? As many of you must have understood, Ankur is not clear about what exactly is being expected of him. To you and me Rekha's expectations from Ankur might be very clear. Maybe Ankur spills too much food, so she is calling him untidy. But little Ankur is not so clear. He wonders, 'what exactly he has to do to become a tidy boy'? It would have been easier for him to understand if he were told in descriptive terms about what specifically is making his eating untidy and how he can avoid it. A statement such as, 'Ankur, when your food falls here and there, it does not look nice-that is what I call untidy'. Along with such a descriptive statement, if it could be demonstrated to him how to hold the spoon so as to not drop food, it would really help him. Asking him to correct his ' person' by changing into a tidy boy does not aid change in any way. This is so as the concept of 'person' is so vague for a child. It is easier for children to grasp the kind of behaviour expected than the concept of type of person they are expected to be. Similarly, if the teacher could pinpoint what exactly makes Ankur's work untidy; (e.g. when you write, the alphabets cross the line so the next line has 2 letters in the same line and that makes your work look untidy), there are more chances of Ankur correcting his fault.
Often parents tell children who they are
Many of us would question as to why Ankur could not change after growing up. Why was his office table cluttered? After all as an adult he could understand what exactly is required to be tidy. True he can change now, but the task is much more difficult today. This is so as another process was taking place when Rekha called him an untidy boy. Through her words, she was giving Ankur the concept of his self/his person. From an early age, Ankur started believing that he is an untidy person. When a person believes that he is a certain kind of person his behaviour is guided by that belief. For e.g.-if Radhika believes that she is not a social person, she does not initiate to talk with people. She feels-'I am a shy person so how can I talk to people'. When she does not initiate, other people feel that Radhika is not interested in socialising, so they do not talk with her. Seeing others not talk with her, she confirms to herself that she is not a social person so people do not like talking to her. Thus even though it might not be true that she is a shy person, this self concept, maybe given by her parents (as untidy in Ankur's case) blocks the fulfilment of her need to be social. Obviously she remains unhappy, as her needs do not get fulfilled.
Children get stuck with the self-concept given by parents (Discretion an important factor)
Children often get stuck with such self-concepts even if they might not be true in the first place. Maybe if Radhika's specific behaviour had been focussed upon at an early age rather than her person, she would have never got this shy belief about herself. Similarly in Ankur's case, he accepted that he was an untidy person as a given fact. This belief itself becomes a reason for his messy way of life. Other people's comments about his untidiness only serve as proofs for him that yes he is basically an untidy person. And when we believe that basically something is our given nature, we find it out of our control to change it. Our beliefs about ourselves slowly become unchangeable facts of life and we take them for granted just as maybe we do our gender. Thus the adjectives parents use to describe parents have a far-reaching effect on the child's self-concept. So it becomes very important to choose the words they use to describe their children with a lot of discretion.
Laying conditions for love- not a good feeling
Let us see another reason for Ankur's untidiness to continue till today. Something else was also happening to Ankur's self-concept through Rekha's words. When she said that she would not love him unless he becomes a tidy boy, she was laying down a condition for love and acceptance. While growing up many such terms and conditions are laid out for a child to be loved, like- 'you have to be brilliant in studies', 'good with guests' etc. So many conditions to be loved! With so many conditions, the child starts feeling that he is wrong, his person/ his self itself is incorrect. The argument inside the child is ' if my 'person' was correct I would not be expected to change it to be loved'. 'I would not have to become a 'tidy boy 'or a 'good girl' to be accepted by my parents'. And it is definitely not a beautiful feeling to feel that 'I am a wrong person'. Too much of energy goes into combating this negative feeling about self and very less energy is left for productive activities. Ankur must have spent lot of energy in dealing with the fact that he was not worthy of his mother's love due to his untidy self, so there was never enough time or energy left to actually take concrete steps to change his behaviour. And yes, it does take a lot of energy in life to deal with non-acceptance and unworthiness.
Parent's words can help a child develop positively
As it must be evident I am not trying to say that we cannot tell our children how to behave. Of course it is the parents who have to guide their children about the desired behaviours, but how they communicate this is very important. Focussing on specific behaviour patterns rather than the child's 'person' helps the child be clear in what is being expected of him. Also it is the parents who are largely responsible for giving the self-concept to the child. So words used with discretion go a long way in the development of a healthier and happier individual.