Off late, I have been wondering how to raise a child well. With the plethora of advice available, it gets quite confusing. No wonder, we as parents, stand baffled with no clear idea of how to raise a child well.
For one thing, I am pretty sure. If you are not clear in your thoughts, your actions are going to be worse. You certainly need direction and clarity of thought. Raising children is not an easy task. Like they say “It takes a village to raise a child”. Imagine what the child will grow to be when the entire village is stupefied!
Why I say you and me stand confused more than ever is because we want to raise achievers. Almost perfect children. Excelling in academia is not good enough anymore. Your child should be good at sports as well. And yes, an excellent orator too!
The checklist of raising a smart, intelligent child is long. Music, Reading, Early Literacy, Midline crossing activities, Data handling, Pattern recognition etc. often top the list of raising the ‘Smart, Successful’ child.
With so many expectations, we are not only putting irrational pressure on our kids but also on ourselves. It is humanly impossible for a child as young as 5year old to do all that. Neither it is possible for you to take care of all those aspects of personality development of your child. Unless, all you wish is to run behind your child all day long, scheduling them from one structured activity to another. And in the process, robbing of the childhood they very much deserve.
Now where does that lead us? Should you leave your child and let them grow up like a weed? Untamed and directionless? No! You should not. As a parent, it is your responsibility to guide and assist your child in discovering the best versions of themselves.
So, how do you do that without the above-mentioned crazy checklist? Well! I think I have come near to an answer that can help you and me raise a child well. A child who is successful and happy in her own right.
This two ingredient recipe of raising a child well consists of:
- Discipline; and
- Growth Mindset.
Children thrive with routine. Discipline is nothing but a positive routine that is aimed at uncovering the better version of ourselves. Think of discipline as ‘self love’ and not as a punishment.
When you are disciplined, the clarity of mind is enhanced manifold. Set your children on a routine as early as possible. That will keep your mind clear as well as theirs. Knowing what is expected out of them will prompt them to behave better and be less overwhelmed.
Another advantage discipline entails is ‘Time Management’. You can manage your time much better when you add discipline to your day. Setting a time slot for various activities, help children recognize and appreciate their time as well the activities.
With no apprehension or dilemma of what to do next, your child stays calm and ready to take on the tasks. Set time for their free play and structured activities to nurture their mind, heart, body and soul.
Once you start structuring your child’s day, you will also gain clearer understanding of their developmental aspects you are taking care of. Thus, helping you assign weightage to all different aspects like physical development, motor skills, numeracy and literacy skills, arts and so on.
Children need time to play freely to unwind, recharge their creativity and think out of box. You would certainly not want to rob them off these essential skills.
Thus, discipline not only works for you but also for your child. Now, imagine a child growing up with this clarity of thought of prioritizing work. Such children are bound to address the important tasks and schedule them better.
In fact, the ability to identify and complete critical tasks from the gamut of mundane, less significant activities is one of the key skills of successful people. People who excel have this innate ability to identify crucial jobs from the daily to-do clutter and hence are able to address them timely.
To help your child master this ability, involve them in setting their own schedules. Ask them to list their to-dos, prioritize them and then work on them. This will help your child develop confidence and be independent.
Discipline is perhaps the best habit you can cultivate in your child. By setting your child on this journey of self-love, you are placing them on their front foot and giving them an early advantage.
For a long time, it was thought that we are born with a set Intelligence Quotient. This IQ is non-malleable meaning you cannot increase or decrease it. Thus, limiting your potential.
It is similar to believing that your destiny is set in stone and that karma has no role in your life. This mindset that you have no power over your life corresponds to ‘Fixed Mindset’. It translates into ‘Either you have it or you don’t’.
Imagine your child’s motivation to accomplish a task with this mindset. With a set notion in their mind about their abilities, they stand much less chance to accomplish a task, which they feel they are not good at.
Many children suffer with this mindset when it comes to mathematics and science. They just seem to believe that these subjects are not for them.
On the contrary, envision if your child thought she could achieve anything if she tried hard enough and persisted long enough. Suddenly, you will find her with boundless energy and zest. That is what a ‘Growth Mindset’ does.
Growth Mindset is a belief that with right effort you can enhance your intelligence and productivity. Instead of accepting IQ as fixed, it is perceived as malleable.
Coined by Stanford professor Dr.Carol Dweck, Growth Mindset is philosophy based on extensive research and backed by science. Recent advancements in neuroscience show that brain is far more elastic than we ever thought it to be. Your neural network is greatly influenced by your experience, strategies you use, your sleep habits, nutrition and above all practice.
Growth Mindset puts ‘Karma’ back to its rightful position and empowers you to take control over your life. When you tell your children that anything is possible with hard work, you set them on an amazing journey of self-discovery.
This self-discovery helps your children identify their strengths & weaknesses and thus work on them. When children believe that with right effort and direction they can achieve their goals, they are more motivated and willing to learn.
This positively influences their self-esteem, confidence level and resilience. They develop a sense of responsibility for their achievements and failures. Thus, taking ownership of their actions.
Besides promoting the right work attitude, Growth mindset also builds emotional intelligence in children. When your child feels accountable for their actions, they learn to accept setbacks and cope better with negative outcomes.
They are less egoistic and treat outcomes as reflection of their own actions. They do not trap themselves in self-pity but rather work on their shortcomings. Research indicates that such children enjoy challenging situations far more than those who believe in a fixed mindset.
In nutshell, when you inculcate Growth Mindset in your child you make them:
- More Confident
- Team Player
- Open to new challenges
- Process oriented
- Resilient and Persistent
- Better at handling emotions
All these qualities make for a great mind. Growth Mindset is like a super power, a belief in oneself that you can do better. And whatever failures you encounter on the way are just temporary and part of learning.
Inculcating Growth Mindset in your children requires you to change the way you perceive them and their efforts. You need to follow a well-thought schema to nurture this super power and be patient. It takes years and a change in attitude to build children with Growth Mindset.
How to Inculcate Growth Mindset
1. Value Effort over Talent: The main premise of growth mindset is its emphasis on effort. Hence, the first thing to inculcate growth mindset is to shift your focus from your child’s achievements to their efforts.
Brain is like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. That should be your motto. Engrain this philosophy in your children to keep up their belief in themselves.
2. Embrace Failures: When your children fail despite working hard, present their failures as great learning opportunities. Sit with them and help to pinpoint where they lacked.
For example if it is a competition and your child couldn’t make it, perhaps they need to work harder. Explain them that when they are competing, it is not just their effort that counts. They need to match their effort and dedication with other children competing.
And even then, it is possible to fail as some children may have an existent advantage over them. It may be due to their previous hard work or just natural. Either way, it is possible to bridge the gap with hard work and dedication.
3. Introspect: While it is extremely essential to work hard, it is equally important to work smart. What does that mean? It means you teach your child to introspect their way of working and fill in the loopholes in their learning.
It also means not making the same mistakes over and over. Help your children identify their mistakes and improve on them. Another important aspect of this approach is to try alternate techniques.
Let’s say your child is playing with blocks and trying to make a tall tower. But every time they reach a certain height, the tower tumbles down. Now, working hard with the same technique will not help here.
Teach your child to think of another way to make that tower. Ask them to change their strategy, their work-plan to accomplish the same outcome.
Encourage them to ask for help if they can’t find a solution themselves. Seeking help from peers or teachers help children build a team and discover better and different ways of doing the same task. Thus, helping them build resilience and respect for others.
4. Compliment them right: This one is very important to build growth mindset in children. You need to compliment your child the right way. Praise your child’s effort over their talents.
So instead of saying ‘Wow! You are excellent at this’ say ‘You must have worked really hard at this’. The idea is to shift the focus from talents and outcomes to ‘Effort (steps) taken to reach the goal’. This is called ‘Process Praise’.
Praise the process, the failures encountered on the way and the strategies used to achieve the outcome. Compliment them on their approach towards the problem and not the result.
Process praise plays a vital role in inculcating and reinforcing the growth mindset. Every time you applause your child’s effort, strategy, ability to rectify their mistakes and approach towards a problem, you build up growth mindset.
5. Help them manage their emotions: While it is easy to say don’t give up, it is not easy to keep trying failure after failure. It is natural to loose patience and give up after trying multiple times. This is where the emotional management comes into picture.
Teach your child to stay calm when things don’t work as planned. Ask them to take a break to regain composure when encountered with a tricky problem. Breathing techniques can come handy here when your child is overwhelmed.
One such breathing technique is called ‘Square breathing’.
- Step 1: Inhale slowly and count to 4 slowly in your mind.
- Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds.
- Step 3: Exhale slowly to the count of 4.
- Step 5: Hold your breath again for 4 seconds, before repeating the process.
Other breathing techniques like pranayama, bhramari are equally powerful. They help calm the mind and regain composure. When practiced regularly, these techniques greatly enhance concentration and efficiency.
6. Positive Self-Talk: Model positive self-talk to children. Whatever skills they have not mastered, use ‘Not Yet’ instead of saying ‘You can’t’. For instance, when your child complains she can’t do a certain task, rephrase her sentence to include ‘not yet’.
This will help your children regard that skill as a work in progress rather than believing they cannot do it. Thus, they will be inclined to keep trying till they can reach the desired outcome.
Discipline coupled with Growth Mindset envelope many positive traits of the human mind. With these two values at the core, you can propel your children to conquer any challenge life throws at them.
What is, however, important is that you do not measure your children with your yardstick. Let them find themselves. Be their guide on their journey, not a domineer. And when you do that, you will certainly raise a child well!