If you want your child to be the best he or she can be, be your child’s mentor — not adversary. Be an active parent, set goals and consider parenting a full-time job.
Some of us have been fortunate enough to have been raised with respect, in which case you most likely have self-esteem and may not need to read this article. The rest of us can integrate respect into our personalities with practice. Consider the cordial nature with which you relate to strangers. Then, practice carrying that way of relating to your nearest and dearest.
Realize that there is no ownership in your relationship with your child. Your child is a totally different and valuable human being, and if you treat your child as valuable, self-esteem will grow on its own.
This does not mean that your child gets to do whatever s/he wishes. Additionally, your method of setting limits and helping your child to learn to make good decisions independently is what “parenting” is all about.
A parent needs to be mindful of what a child must learn at certain ages. For example, one of the skills to be mastered by a six- to twelve-month-old is to release something he has grasped. (The grasp is called the palmar reflex; you’ll see it immediately after birth. When a new-born child’s hand is relaxed and open, stroke the palm. The infant automatically grasps at the stimulus.)
While it seems simple to you and me, watch the six- to twelve-month-old child. Until ‘release’ is in the baby’s neurological trick bag, letting go is random. Then slowly, the baby releases by reaching for something else. (Spilling is common for this age.) Finally, the child learns to release with no other stimulus and can gently let go of objects.
If you watch a child at this age, you’ll note that the baby seems to enjoy playing a game we called “into and out of” – especially with really fun things like the garbage (if left where the child can reach it.). When I noticed my son crawling toward a waste basket or the kitchen trash, I’d grab a plastic bowl and small, harmless items (spoons work well). Then, I’d engage him in a game of transferring the items in and out of the bowl.
I never said “NO” (or worse “no, no, no”) to my son nor to my daughter; I substituted a developmental activity INSTEAD. My children are adults now and they will tell you that I’d make the substitute sound fun and say “why don’t we ___(fill in the blank)___ instead?”
Building on the example above, if you were to ask a five-month-old to give you what she’s holding, you’d be wasting your breath. But, knowing that the child has no notion of what you’re asking, you could begin to practice cooperation by saying “May I have that, please?” and gently prying her fingers open. Then, through positive reinforcement (“Wow! Thank you!”) you can start laying the groundwork for kindness between your child and yourself, between your child and others. For a six- to twelve-month-old, try to exchange items. (“I’ll give you these ___, if you’ll give me that ___.”) You’ll be helping your child to learn to release and to get along well in the world.
A child who shares and cooperates is a child who feels comfortable that there are enough resources for everyone. But realize, the path to becoming comfortable is paved with experiences. Direct your child in a positive way. A child who won’t share or cooperate may be a child who has already learned that items will be taken away and not returned.
Truly, tell your child what you want him to do. Avoid telling your child what you DON’T want. A child told to listen to the music will understand what you want; A child told to shut up won’t know to listen, only that you’re displeased and disrespectful.