"Give me children until they are seven and anyone can have them afterwards".
What Francis Xavier is trying to tell us is that, once the child is seven and molded, she can take on the world. The same thought is expressed in Proverbs 22:6: "Train a boy in the way he should go; and when he is old he will not depart from it". Although Francis Xavier specifies seven, let us settle for twelve, which is the time the child moves out of childhood into adolescence. Obviously, the childhood years are crucial. That is why this blog is titled: The Child is Father of the Man. What the child is, the man will become.
Stage two Childhood(3-12), is the time when children look up to parents, both mother and father, for every need. Time spent with them is very important; more important than gifts, because when parents give children time and effort, they are giving part of themselves, not gifts that money can buy. Instructions, at such times, have a huge impact on children because they believe that parents can do little or no wrong, and can be implicitly trusted. In this phase, parents will have to chop and change their inputs to suit the needs of each unique child; yet never overdraw from the deposits made into each love-bank.
There are many suggestions offered by experienced parenting Guides on how to motivate
children in stage two, but one that guarantees results is so simple that it is not given its rightful place. What is this simple suggestion?
A certain African Tribe has a strange Practice. When any member of the Tribe is guilty of a serious lapse, he/she is called out at night and made to stand in the center of a large circle. The people of the village crowd outside the circle and join in a chant, led by the Tribal Chief. Then a ceremony begins. Starting with the
Chief, right down to the youngest in the village(who is articulate), the good deeds of the guilty person are praised. All his/her acts of kindness, courage and wisdom are recalled. That done, they recite a short prayer and return to their homes. Not a single unkind word is uttered. The power of praise is set in motion.
It is the power of praise that parents have to tap. That is why Haim Ginott writes:
"If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others". Don't stop by telling others; tell the children too. They revel in praise and respond admirably. The suggestion to praise children is great, but there is a catch. Will the child perform good acts like helping an old lady across the street, picking up a book someone dropped and holding open a door for an older person to pass, only for praise? Would the child do a good deed if no one noticed? That is the test. Parents should gently, but surely guide the child into believing that the good deed is a reward in itself; praise is only the bonus.
There are times when the child has to be chided for wrong doing. At such times, begin by praising her for the good deeds done earlier(African Tribe style)and then show her how she can improve, guarding her self-respect at all times.
As the child is exposed to others, peer pressure builds. She will want to do her hair, dress and behave like others. Three cartoons, showing a little fellow speaking to his father depict current child behavior.
Frame 1:'So its a deal. I get 20% increase in pocket money'.
Frame 2:'Fine with me if you want to spend quality time with me. But I'll control
Frame 3:'You always ask me about my school report. How come you never tell me what
your boss thinks of you?'
What comes through is that the little fellow in the cartoons did not have any respect for his father. It is likely that he learned such behavior from those in his age group. Parents have to guard against such peer influence negating inputs from home. In these and similar circumstances, disciplining becomes a priority. In posts 12 and 13 we referred to disciplining, the tricky part in parenting. Children should know that parents are in charge. If they mistakenly believe that they have taken over, parents have lost their place and will find it difficult to regain it. Parents must say 'No', when that is the right answer and stand by what they say, not to prove a point, but in the child's interest. E.g.,when she wants to scribble on the wall or on her palm, 'No' from her parents should result in obedience and not a discussion or a tantrum. If parents show weakness, children will exploit that weakness. Also, buying children things each time parents are out shopping, will lead to habits difficult to change.
Train children through dialogue. Encourage children to ask questions and be ready to answer them. When the answer is not known, promise to find out and give it to them.
Once children get into the habit of asking questions, they are truly on the way to self-development. From each experience she should be able to ask herself what she gained. By the time she is 7-8, she should be able to connect different experiences and form a pattern of behavior. E.g.,her concept of cleanliness and orderliness should include polishing her shoes and tying her shoe laces, without help from her parents. By the time she is 12, she should do her mother proud by being an accomplished hostess at her birthday party.