LITTLE THINGS ABOUT LITTLE ONES
Dr. Gayatri Bezboruah
"Yes, I had a great time today," "Hey, hey, hey, I'm feeling good"…. is something we wait desperately to hear our children say to us after they have completed any activity or after they are graded for any work or test at school. We enjoy it even more when they use the words to comment on how they are feeling while involved in doing something that we want them to enjoy. And of course, we love it the most when they are giving us the message that they are feeling good about life in general. With such a response, there is very little left for us to be praying for because we parents have had a windfall, and are then feeling very very good…!
So what can we do to help our children feel good about themselves? Maybe all we need to do is let them know what they are doing right, and that we are feeling good for them and about them. With the same breath, we also have to let them know about the mistakes they make. A good rule is to say two nice but true things to children for every time we correct them.
Remember, when they are changing their behaviour, we should tell them how well they are doing, even if they only improve just a little. "Great, you played in the playground all morning without fighting," is a wonderful way to make them feel good about the changes they are showing in behaviour we parents do not approve of or want repeated.
What do we parents need to do to guide our children to feel good about themselves? One thing is to set routines for bedtime, meals and chores. Routines help children feel safe, because they know what parents expect. Young children have a hard time going from one activity to another. Warning them a few minutes ahead helps them get ready. We can say, "You have five more minutes before bedtime" instead of "Get into bed immediately." It makes them take the same message of regular bedtime in a better and more acceptable way.
We also need to be clear about their choices. "You can have milk or juice, but you can't have soda" helps them understand that a "no" to something is not a "no" to everything.
When we praise respectful behaviour that our children display, they begin to understand that it makes us feel good, and that we would like to see similar respect meted out in later similar situations.
Reinforcing their impromptu displays of politeness as much as possible is a wonderful tool we can use, but we must be specific. The praise should describe the behaviour in detail. We tend to say, "Good girl," "Good boy," "Well done." Instead, we need to say, "Thank you for saying please when you asked for some juice," or "Thank you for waiting for your turn while the other children got their ice cream".
We have to be explicit, and our little ones will quickly learn that their efforts are worthwhile and appreciated. And then we can expect a grand finale where we, the parents and they the beautiful children, are all feeling good…!
Dr Gayatri Bezboruah is Professor of Paediatrics, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati. She can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org