Children Learn What They Live #1

~ by Dorothy Law Nolte ~


For the most part, our children want to please us. We can make it easier for them to do so by saying clearly what we expect from them at the outset. This may take more time, but it will help us avoid criticizing them later.

Our children are continually learning from us, whether or not we realize we are teaching them. Let's make sure the lessons they are getting from us are positive ones.

Often when we criticize our children, our purpose is to encourage them to do better. Unfortunately, they may find it difficult to understand that it's their behavior that is unacceptable, not themselves.

If we are thoughtful about how we say things, there is always a way to tell our children that we don't like what they're doing without diminishing their sense of self.

When your child, full of fear and discouragement, confides in you, "I really goofed," be sure to respond with understanding and encouragement. ("Let's see what we can do to make things right.")

Giving your child an active voice in everyday decisions helps her build a positive self-image as a competent person. This can start with small things, such as allowing your preschooler to choose her own outfits, no matter how mismatched they may be.

Nagging is a form of criticism. It's a way of saying that we don't trust our children to be responsible. It is better to set an encouraging tone.

Just as our children are continually learning from us, we can continually learn from them. Let's allow them to teach us new ways of seeing the world. This does not necessarily come naturally. We need to make a conscious effort to let go of our own ideas and to make room for theirs.

Sharing control over small issues builds trust for future negotiations over bigger issue as our children become teenagers. Hopefully, if there is mutual trust, they will be more willing to talk with us and work together to resolve problems.

Criticism is a form of rejection. Acknowledge what has been done right, and make constructive suggestions about the rest.

Try letting your children know what you want them to do or how they can make amends - and leave out the criticism.

We can let our children know what we want them to do without criticizing them. "Can you think of a nicer way to say that?" is better than "Don't be rude!" and gives the child a chance to succeed rather than fail.

The younger the child, the more we need to stand by to see how she's doing and spot the potential problems. Help your child get off to a good start by giving her support and positive suggestions as she ventures into the world. A couple of extra minutes spend reading or playing with her before you leave her at the day-care center can mean a lot to her.

Being criticized doesn't feel good. Let's help our kids feel good about themselves even when they've done something wrong, by expressing our confidence that they can do better.

Few of us learn from criticism. Find constructive ways to help your children learn from their mistakes. Offering a paper towel to a child who has spilled something teaches him important practical skills while preserving his dignity.

Rather than being critical, be generous and positive with your suggestions. ("Let's try this..." "You might want to..." "Have you thought of...?" "Why not wait awhile and then try starting over?")

Most children will take criticism to heart unless we make it clear to them that they are okay, but what they're doing is not. Giving them suggestions for more acceptable behavior can help keep this message clear.

Before rushing in with criticism, try to see the whole picture from your child's point of view. She may have an entirely different way of looking at it. Give her the chance to explain it to you.

When things go wrong, our first, automatic reaction may be to criticize, but we have the power to pause and decide how we can respond more constructively.

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