Fearing the worst for our kids is something we parents do. In this imperfect world, our children can be discouraged, scared, harmed and put in danger by circumstances and strangers. Children don’t have to be burdened with the fear of a perilous world and parents don’t have to construct an insulating shelter around them. Boosting confidence and teaching strong coping skills to face many dangers is the best defense because it empowers kids.
Self-Esteem Our self-perceptions or what we feel and believe about ourselves forms the basis of our self-esteem. Our attitudes, motives and behaviors are influenced by our definitions of ourselves and our emotional judgment is greatly affected by it.
Such qualities as self-respect, pride, self-reliance, self-confidence and independence are all part of self-esteem. It is said by experts that self-esteem is developed during childhood and continues developing as we are changed by various experiences and social interactions we encounter.
In assuring a child’s right to personal safety, the first step is to boost the child’s self-esteem. Distancing the child from physical harm comes second. The teaching of self-protection skills to children and teaching families the recognition of possible unsafe situations are areas in which programs have been developed. Children feel good about themselves when they know their self-worth and helps them to deal with threats and signs of danger. Positive attitudes and communication skills are better developed when a child has good self-esteem. Children will grow up and pass these things on to their children.
Having a relationship with teachers and parents that is positive forms the basis of a child’s self-esteem. When ever a child makes an accomplishment, and he or she hears praise, such as “Great Job!” or “Wonderful!” from a parent, an ‘I can do it!’ attitude is fostered in that child. The first concept a child has of success comes from such positive comments and a healthy self-perception is the result.
Though they are very good, it takes more than praise and positive reinforcement to make a child feel better about himself. Understanding, love and care provided in abundance are also very important. If a child does not feel loved, he or she can still have low self-esteem even though they seem to be confident and happy otherwise. On the other hand, a child can have low self-esteem because they feel incompetent and inadequate even though they are pampered and loved at home. So, it is clear that a balance is necessary.
A healthy self perception comes from getting positive messages and being included in constructive communication. To boost your child’s ‘I can do it!’ attitude, give these tried and true tips a try.
1. Keep the “Don’ts” to a bare minimum. Use positive language to state your requests. Self-doubt is the result of hearing sentences with too many negative words.
2. Allow kids to finish their sentences. Try not to interrupt, as disruptions in their train of thought can cause them to forget what they were saying. This can result in the child feeling insignificant and their ideas not worth listening to.
3. Maintain good eye contact. When you give your kids your undivided attention, you are showing them a good conversation model. This shows that what they are saying is of interest to you and you are being a positive role model as well.
4. Make the conversation a two-way street. Make an agreement on who is to speak first and who second. While it is important that kids should be encouraged by their parents to talk about their feelings and ideas, they also need to learn to speak in their turn. Children should learn that they will not understand anything that is being said if everyone speaks all at one time.
5. Maintain a manner that is calm, uncritical, and non-irritated when giving an explanation. Keep your “talk” short. Use words that kids will readily understand, telling them what they should or should not do, and the reason they should or should not do it. Maintaining a calm tone also averts panic in them.
6. Criticisms should still be given. We should not avoid discussing misbehavior and shortcomings that we notice and learn about. Clear explanations should be given concerning why certain actions are not acceptable. Kids should be encouraged to consider ways of avoiding repeating unwanted actions in the future.
Smart Thinking A child’s spirit is made stronger by confronting challenges and overcoming them. Even though parents want to completely protect their children from hardship and threats, this would cause more harm than good. We have to admit that adversity is going to happen. The best way to protect our children from harm is to teach them to be prudent and intelligent in their thinking.
Practicing imaginary situations are a good way to sharpen the thinking skills of children. It is important for children to feel as though they have uncovered the reasons for avoiding possible dangers. Kids and parents can have discussions in this area. They need to think for themselves and develop good problem solving skills. Parents should not just tell kids what to do but let the kids come to these solutions first and then parents can provide guidance where needed.
It isn’t possible to control what our kids do every minute. However, we can encourage them to think about safety early in their lives. In doing this, we can trust them more with being responsible for their actions and safety in the present and as they grow into adults.
Below are some scenes of potential danger and some preventative tips.
Bully Alert: Kids who appear as though they can’t defend themselves and are shy, quiet and often alone get picked on by bullies. Kids who believe their self-worth and dignity are not important and have a poor concept of self are the most frequent victims of bullies. To make matters worse, kids who are bullied are often afraid to tell their parents. Sometimes, this is because they are afraid they will be considered weak by their parents and often because they don’t think their parents will do anything about the situation.
What You Can Do: Teaching kids the lesson of give and take will be of help to kids in dealing with bullies and keep them from being bullied. In learning that treating people the same as they want to be treated, kids also learn that relationships work as two-way streets, give and take. They will begin to understand that there are many reason for the way people act as they do. Asking questions of children that draw attention to feelings, theirs and others, also helps. Among these questions are:
What do you think is the reason bullies feel they have to pick on others?
Are there other reasons?
What do you imagine a bully might be thinking or feeling?
How would it make you feel to have someone bully you?
If you are bullied, what could be your response or action?
Encouraging an empathetic atmosphere, children learn to value the self-worth of themselves and others in the home. Child experts believe that children should be made aware of their rights to be treated with dignity and respect. Tolerating cruelty in any form, whether it is mean pranks in real life or as a form of entertainment, is not something that they should feel is expected of them.
Danger from Strangers: “Don’t speak to strangers” is not always the best advice. If parents break this rule all the time, such as in school, in the grocery store and in line at the theater, it is not reasonable to expect our kids not to break it. Kids should learn that most of the adults they meet are actually good people and are often able to help them in emergencies.
What Can You Do: Kids need to be taught to heed their instincts. When they feel something is not right or they don’t feel safe, kids should be encouraged to pay attention to the voice in their minds, they don’t need to go through with anything they don’t feel right about. So that kids have a safety net, we should inform our children of the adults that can help them, such as police officers, security guards, store clerks who have name tags, a person staffing an information booth in a public place or mothers with kids.
The next step is to teach the right way to deal with a stranger. Often, a stranger will pose as a friend of a child’s parents and claim that one or both of the parents are either sick or injured and has asked him/her to pick the child up. This is a common ruse used to try to kidnap a child. So that a child can learn what to do in situations such as this, allow him or her to imagine themselves is this kind of situation, then ask the questions that follow:
If someone you don’t know tell you that mom or dad sent him or her to take you home from school and you should get in the car, what would you do?
Would you go to a security guard, your teacher or the principal?
If the stranger grabs hold of you, what would you do?
When waiting for mom or dad to pick you up after school, what would be the safest thing to do?
Would you think that the principal’s office or with the teacher in the classroom would be the safest place?
Children should be taught, that if a stranger tries to grab them, they should scream for help and run, make loud noises, kick at the stranger and yell things such as “You are not my daddy!” or “You are not my mommy!”. It is very important to teach children from the time they are very young the reasons that they should never go with any adult, stranger or friend, unless they have the permission of the parents.