Barging Through the Barriers Of Kids
In my previous blog ‘Keep Moving Forward With The Elephant.’ We learned how elephants keep moving forward with love and compassion and how they are able to push their way through obstacles that get in their way. You can find the blog on this link
This article looks at some of the blocks that children may encounter and how we can help them to overcome them.
What are some of the blocks that children experience and how can we address them?
Believe it or not many of the blocks that children experience are the same as those experienced by adults. There may still be that fear – of failure, of not being liked, of change.
Fear of Failure
Fear of failure can often be identified in children as an unwillingness to try. To many children it may be so much easier to not try than to get it wrong. Sometimes this can lead to them getting into trouble because they are perceived to be defiant or lazy, which can be very frustrating for the adult who is with them. Examples of where this may occur may be a piece of schoolwork, a homework task or maybe a football team, where the child is afraid to give the ball away or miss a goal.
Reasons for a fear of failure are probably deep-routed from their previous experiences, such as expectations being set too high or being praised for the wrong things i.e. success over effort. Children, like adults often compare themselves to other children and may give up on something if they feel that the other children are doing so much better. The old visual marking system of a cross and a tick reinforced this for many of us, though fortunately this system is less used in schools now.
How can we address this?
The best way to address a fear of failure is to emphasise and model that the things we learn best we often learn through our mistakes. This is something we all do all the time, but often with no real awareness of doing it. When a child is learning their spellings, for example, test them, then praise their effort. After that, help them identify where they went wrong and retest them. Hopefully, after one or two more tries the child will learn from their mistakes. You can then point out how learning from their mistake has helped them succeed.
– Ensure that your children understand that everyone makes mistakes – even parents and teacher. Point out your own mistakes and allow your children to see how you learn from them.
– Praise effort rather than success. It doesn’t matter how many questions you get right or how many goals you score. What matters is how hard you try.
– Point out how some of the most successful people learned from their mistakes. Thomas Eddison, when creating the light bulb, famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” JK Rowling was turned down by twelve publishers before finding one that would publish Harry Potter.
Fear of not being liked
Again, whilst this is a fear amongst many adults, this is often deep-rooted in our experiences of being children. From birth, children learn a lot by watching and copying other. As we all know though we are all unique. Everyone has different interests, different strengths, different styles and different skills. Likewise, we are all raised with different experiences. As adults, these differences and different skill sets are valued and celebrated. It’s what makes us all interesting and helps us all work together in different jobs to contribute to the different needs of our communities and societies.
Unfortunately, for children who are learning about social interactions in a consumer-led society there are more pressures on children to follow a ‘status quo.’ Likewise, children often compare themselves to other children and may feel inferior if they perceive the other children to be smarter or more popular than themselves. Children who are different often stand out and may be teased or even bullied for their differences. This can lead to social anxieties and a need to hide. It can make children feel that there is something wrong with them and look to others for social cues on how they should behave.
How can we address this?
The key to this is education. Actively teaching children to value themselves and others, teaching children to respect each other’s differences and how to see things from the perspective of others is a great start. However, to be comfortable in their own skin individual children need to be taught to respect and love themselves and to value their differences.
– Have open discussions about things we do well and things we are less good at. It’s important for children to see strengths and weaknesses in adults as well as children. As a teacher I always loved seeing the children’s responses when I told them I wasn’t very good at drawing and chose one of the less academic children who were good artists to draw something for me.
– Celebrate strengths and really help the children to value what they do.
– Teach children to recognise and understand their emotions around these fears and how to address these emotions e.g. relaxation and stress management techniques, such as controlled breathing or mindfulness.
– Help the children to truly love and value themselves. Allow them to ‘brag’ about their successes, but teach them to be mindful of how others may be feeling around this, so they can moderate their celebrations or reserve them for a more appropriate time or place.
– Listen to the children’s fears and worries and reassure them that they are loved for exactly who they are.
– Don’t openly compare children with others, especially in front of them. You may think they aren’t listening, but invariably they are.
Fear of change
Change is a natural occurrence in life. It can’t be avoided and it often leads to better things or improvements. However, change is scary. It’s a doorway into the unknown world of ‘what if’s.’ It’s natural for people to cling to the safety net of what we know, adults as well as children. However, change is also inevitable.
For a child moving to a new school or even a new class in school is really scary. Their ‘what if’s’ may include:
- What if I don’t like it?
- What if the work is too hard? (See fear of failure)
- What if I don’t like the teacher?
- What if the teacher or children don’t like me? (fear of not being liked)
- What if I don’t make any friends?
That’s a lot of fear for a young person to deal with and that’s just one scenario. Other scenarios may include moving house, changing or starting a new hobby or club, going somewhere new for the first time etc.
How can we address this?
As much as anything, how parents and other adults respond to a child’s fear can make a big difference.
– Empathise and talk to your child about their fears, but help them to rationalise them. Once again understanding their feelings and how to deal with those feelings will help children to cope better. Too much sympathy can reinforce the child’s fears, whereas ignoring them may cause it to grow if a child starts to overthink the situation.
– Help children to see changes as ‘possibilities’ rather than ‘what if’s.’ Discuss all the good outcomes that they may experience.
– Discuss changes that the children have already experienced and help them to see the positives and that their ‘what ifs’ then probably never happened.
So how can we help children to move
past their fears?
The main things we can do to support children is to listen to their fears, help them to understand and rationalise their fears and give them strategies to manage their anxieties around these fears. Positive affirmations can be a powerful tool to help develop a positive mindset too. Once the children have this understanding you can encourage them to move forward, one step at a time, dissolving the barriers in their way.