By Amita Bhardwaj
Let us face it. How many times have we as parents gone overboard to protect our children from disappointment and hence perceived pain? Whether it is doing away with the game of musical chairs from a birthday party so that no child stands to lose or not keeping score when kids are playing, we tend to go to great lengths to seemingly avoid pain. The fact, however, is that some amount of disappointments are healthy as they help the child develop resilience as well as coping skills. Driven by our love for our children, what we often set out to do is to prepare the road for the child instead of preparing the child for the road, which is bound to have some amount of bumps in it.
Next time around, when the child is not chosen for the sports team, should you rush in to speak to the coach or better still help him learn some coping mechanisms? Here are some handy tips, should you choose the latter:
Don’t overdo the praise
While every child needs validation, remember not to overdo the praise. You do not want the child to derive his sense of self-worth from external validation alone. Even when you need to praise the child, praise him or her for the efforts put in, not for the outcome. That way even if the child does not succeed he or she will still be motivated enough to try the task another time.
Do not take on the role of being a rescuer
Each time the child is faced with a problem, instead of jumping in to solve the issue, brainstorm possible solutions with the child, enabling him or her to learn to think critically. Even if the child’s ideas do not sound brilliant, encourage him to think and come up with possible scenarios instead of laughing his ideas off.
Encourage the child to try new things
Ever so often we do not encourage the child to try new activities or to step out of their comfort zone only so that they do not have to face failure. Instead encouraging them to take on activities will help them broaden their horizon as also take away the fear of failure. Allow them to try out new things without the pressure of excelling in everything they do.
Increasingly, we live in times of instant gratification. On an age-appropriate basis, therefore, there is merit in delaying gratification for children. Telling a four-year-old that the toy cannot be bought today but on Friday, will help him develop self-control, a skill that will come in handy throughout life. The famous Stanford marshmallow experiment where children were offered a choice between a small reward immediately or two rewards if they waited for a period of time, went on to show that in later life the children who were able to wait longer tended to have better life outcomes.
Having age-appropriate rules therefore can go a long way in establishing healthy habits in the child which in turn will go a long way in helping the child cope up with frustrations that ensue in adult life.
Do not feed into expectations
Keeping expectations realistic is an important aspect of helping the child manage disappointments. So a store can run out of the child’s favourite toy or a much anticipated trip can be cancelled. These are things that are out of your control. It is important, therefore in the buildup to these expectations to use language that shows these events as possibilities. Also, if a much anticipated plan fizzles out, help the child see some of the other things that they can still do.
Set an example
Above everything else, setting a good example for the child is of utmost importance. The child tends to internalise the coping skills that she sees around her. So mind your own responses to failure. The next time that you are playing the game of Ludo as a family and you lose, remember to choose your words correctly. It isn’t about posturing though as the child will be watching you equally closely when your business deal does not come through or when you have a fallout with someone.
(The writer is VP-Curriculum, Footprints Childcare.)