Help Your Kids Find Their Tiger Power
In my last article, Stand In Your Own Power With The Tiger, we considered what forces drive us to make our decisions and achieve our goals. This article focuses on the emotional wellbeing of children. It aims to consider some of the issues that drive children and how we can help them to stand in their own power.
Children like adults have many predisposed characteristics – some are born leaders, some are happy to be led and others are somewhere in the middle. This is absolutely fine and each personality type has a place in society. Unfortunately, if not nurtured correctly occasionally these dispositions can become problematic. Leaders may lead followers down a path full of wrong choices, which can lead to problems at home and school – disruption, poor relationships with adults and other children, getting into trouble and exclusion. As a teacher I’ve seen it all.
Children are at the beginning of their journey and so positive experiences and a loving, nurturing environment can go a long way to developing a child’s personality and influencing their behaviour. Unfortunately, we can’t wrap children in a bubble and despite everyone’s best efforts not all experiences will be good. That’s fine again, as that’s how we learn, however how we teach the children to deal with different situations and experiences will make all the difference to them. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that do affect children and what we can do to help them stand in their own power.
As the key people in a child’s life from the moment of conception a child’s parents have a massive influence on their personal, social and emotional development. Even from within the womb the baby’s brain is developing in accordance with external factors such as sounds, hormones and diet.
This also continues after a child is born. Children who are loved, praised, made to feel valued and rewarded for effort rather than just achievement is more likely to have higher self-esteem than a child who is ignored, shouted at and constantly criticised. These two scenarios are extreme scenarios to explain the idea more clearly. However, we know that things don’t all fit into one box and there are variations on this.
A child could have very loving parents, who maybe have high expectations and try to push their children a little beyond their comfort zone, thus making the child believe that their efforts aren’t quite good enough. In some cases loving parents may be a little over zealous with their children – by doing everything for them, children don’t learn independence; by pushing too hard, or not hard enough children may find themselves unable to accept criticism or they may lack motivation.
Phew! – It’s hard finding the balance as a parent isn’t it? The thing to remember is that nobody is born with a manual on how to raise a child. Even if there was one it would be worthless, as every child is different and responds to things in different ways.
Children are individuals and they all need a different approach to parenting. Some children need more support to try new things and some need more support with organisation and independence. The key is to make sure your children know that they are loved and to constantly adapt to their needs, supporting them with the areas they are struggling with. Schools are a great source of support, so talking to your child’s teacher can help with this. Working together with your child’s school can help to develop consistency through shared ideas and will ultimately lead to success or a better understanding of the issue that will eventually lead to a successful outcome.
Children who have low self-esteem tend to hold other people with higher regard. They may perceive them to be smarter, prettier or better than them in some way. They often focus on what they would like to do or be, but don’t feel able to. Whilst others see their potential, the child only sees barriers. Children with low self-esteem may not feel valued because they don’t value themselves. This problem is caused by a fixed mindset, which if not addressed can create mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.
The good news is that a fixed mindset can be changed with the right support. The danger of children perceiving others to be better than them is that they are more likely to imitate, agree with or be led by others, even when this doesn’t sit comfortably with them.
Poor self-esteem can also prevent children from trying new things. A fear of failure or not being good enough can create a mindset that it is better not to try than to fail. This can be a barrier to able and competent children truly achieving their full potential. To find out more about fear of failure and tips to overcome it see Barging Through The Barriers Of Kids: The Elephant.
Similar to low self-esteem, low confidence often prevents children from speaking up and being heard. This may be to contribute their ideas, state their own opinions or even to talk to new people and make friends. Quiet, less confident children often choose to go with the flow and accept other people’s ideas and suggestions, leaving their own wishes unheard and unrealised.
To boost low self-esteem and improve self-confidence we really need to boost a child’s self-worth. Their confidence can be built by constantly praising effort and every success.
By talking to children about the things that they are good at or enjoy, you can develop their enthusiasm and recognition of their achievements.
Finally, by celebrating a child’s authenticity you can teach them to value and appreciate themselves for who they are. This removes the need to rely on others to guide them in a direction that is not best suited to them.
Peer pressure is when a group of people, often friends, put pressure on someone else to do something they don’t really want to do and may not like or agree with. This could be as simple as following a fashion fad or the latest media craze or playing a game that they aren’t keen on. However, this can become more problematic if it later leads to trying a cigarette, taking drugs or taking risks with their own safety.
Peer pressure to a degree thrives on low confidence and low self-esteem in that children who struggle with these are less likely to say ‘no’ and may even look up to the children who a pressuring them to do things. However, even confident children with good self-esteem may give in to peer pressure. This is because often that pressure comes from friends and people with whom they have good relationships. They may not want to be seen as ‘the odd one out,’ ‘a coward’ or ‘a snitch.’ It takes a strong character to stand up for your beliefs and tell someone ‘no,’ and doing this with your friends can be even harder.
Encourage your child to value their authenticity. Allow them to pursue their interests and take pride in their own skills. Nurture their values and teach them that it is ok to be different and even to disagree with others. Teach them how to disagree in a non-confrontational manner.
Bullying goes much further than peer pressure. Bullies prey on those children who lack confidence or have low self-esteem. The phrase bullying is often overused and is often thought to refer to a single act of unkindness from one child to another. Bullying however, is much more severe than that. Childline defines bullying as:
behaviour that hurts someone else. It includes name calling, hitting, pushing, spreading rumours, threatening or undermining someone.
It can happen anywhere – at school, at home or online. It’s usually repeated over a long period of time and can hurt a child both physically and emotionally
Bullying has a massive impact on the mental health of the children being bullied and can cause them to become withdrawn, to feel isolated and afraid and in extreme cases has led to suicide.
The thing that is often overlooked with bullying is that the perpetrator is never usually alone. Often there are other children with them, laughing along or even watching and saying nothing. This is often because these children are followers, who lack the confidence to say ‘no – stop!’ or else they bow to perceived peer pressure and go with what the majority are doing. Can you see the problem here? Children who stand by and watch – or even worse – encourage bullying can really add to the problem and make it feel so much worse for the victim.
What about the bully?
The other factor that needs consideration by people dealing with the bullying is that the bully often suffers from low self-esteem themselves. They may feel that, in order to feel good about themselves, they need to feel superior to other children. They may have experienced bullying themselves in the past and feel that in order to protect themselves they need to act over-confidently and make others scared of them or gain their approval inappropriately. In some cases these children may be witnessing or experiencing abuse at home or they may have done in the past and the behaviour they are portraying is the behaviour they have been raised with.
Whether the child is a bully or is being bullied their behaviours are both heavily influenced by their experiences.
Teach your children to understand what bullying is and how it affects others so they know how to recognise it. Children are less likely to get involved if they know that passive bullying – standing by and watching or laughing is wrong and that it makes things so much worse for the victim. If a friend is the bully let them know that it’s ok to tell them to stop. Alternatively let them know that it’s ok to tell an adult if they can see that someone is being hurt or upset by another child.
If your child is hurt or upset by someone at school speak to the teacher as soon as possible after the event and keep a record of all incidents. Your child can also get help and support from Childline. Their telephone number is: 0800 1111. Their website is a great source of information on bullying and what to do about it.
Why children should be taught to stand in their own power?
By teaching children to stand in their own power, you are developing their emotional intelligence by teaching them self-respect, strong values, independence and a positive mindset that will help them to live a happy, confident and successful life.