Every child's life is filled with accomplishments and milestones that ought to be recognized within a family. Praise, affirm, cheer, endorse, or bless them whenever and however you can, as they rise to an occasion, meet a new challenge, or master a new skill. Take nothing for granted as a child develops and learns. Celebrate and praise children from their first step, to their first ride on a bicycle, to learning to read, swim, or skate, making a great kick in soccer, or getting a first job, car, or date. Lift your children upward and onward by encouraging them rather than criticizing and judging.
Too many people limit themselves because they have low expectations for themselves and others. Let children know they are capable of doing great things, that opportunities abound, that they should aim high and do their best. Consistently and clearly remind children that "life is what you make it."
"Children should not get the message that something is wrong with them for making mistakes," says John Gray, Ph.D., in his book Children Are From Heaven. "Too many shaming messages make children feel they are bad, unworthy, or that something is wrong with them. They feel defeated and lose their natural motivation and confidence." When children make a mistake, help them get up from their fall and support them as they work to move forward.
Choosing and deciding can be instilled in children at the earliest ages. Some simple ways of doing this include presenting a child with choices and decisions to make using these kinds of questions: Do you want to eat at 6 or 7 o'clock? Do you want pizza or spaghetti for dinner? Do you want to get up at 6:30 or 6:45 in the morning? Do you want to wear a jacket or a sweater? Begin this process early and children will gradually develop their abilities to discern, make choices, and live with their decisions.
Most people have a tendency toward wanting immediate gratification. But because true satisfaction and lasting rewards come through diligent and persistent pursuit of a goal, the ability to handle delays en route to a goal should be instilled in children.
A good example of good things coming to those who are willing to work and wait occurred several years ago when I was coaching a youth hockey team. One of the eighth-grade players volunteered to be the team goalie, a position he had never played. As the team lost most of its games, the young man struggled to learn the intricacies of the position.
Children come into this world filled with infinite possibilities, but some fail to tap into their potential because they lack encouragement from the significant adults in their lives. Every parent as well as other adults who interact with children can play a vital role in helping unleash that potential.
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