Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The nurturing of children: Best practices in parenting

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Having three young grandsons and now a very young nephew, I am sensitive to findings on best how to encourage children to find and develop their strengths — thus my earlier posts: the Atlantic interview of Michaeleen Doucleff (author of Hunt, Gather, Parent) and her NPR article. This morning I came across two more articles, both of which seemed useful. The better of the two is (IMO) Lisa Feldman’s article in CNBC’s Make It. Rather than focus on the goal to be achieved, it lists specific things parents can do (which lead to achieving the goals). It begins:

A child’s brain is not a miniature adult brain. It is a brain born under construction that wires itself to the world. And it’s up to parents to create a world — both physical and social — that is rich with wiring instructions.

Based on years of research in neuroscience and psychology, here are seven parenting rules to help your kid build a brain that is flexible and therefore resilient.

1. Be a gardener, not a carpenter.

Carpenters carve wood into the shape they want. Gardeners help things to grow on their own by cultivating a fertile landscape.

Likewise, parents can sculpt their child into something specific, say, a concert violinist. Or they can provide an environment that encourages healthy growth in whatever direction the child takes.

You might want your kid to play violin in Symphony Hall someday, but forcing them to take lessons (the carpenter approach) might build a virtuoso, or a kid who views music as an unpleasant chore.

The gardener approach would be to sprinkle a variety of musical opportunities around the home and see which ones spark your child’s interest. Do they love to bang on pots and pans? Maybe your child is a budding heavy metal drummer.

Once you understand what kind of plant you’re growing, you can “adjust the soil” for it to take root and flourish.

2. Talk and read to your child. A lot.

Research shows that, even when children are just a few months old and don’t understand the meanings of words, their brains still make use of them.

This builds a neural foundation for later learning. So the more words they hear, the greater the effect. They’ll also have better vocabulary and reading comprehension.

Teaching them “emotion words” (i.e., sad, happy, frustrated) is especially beneficial. The more they know, the more flexibly they can act.

Put this advice into action by elaborating on the feelings of other people. Talk about what causes emotions and how they might affect someone: “See that crying boy? He is feeling pain from falling down and scraping his knee. He is sad and probably wants a hug from his parents.”

Think of yourself as your children’s tour guide through the mysterious world of humans and their movements and sounds.

3. Explain things.

It can be exhausting when . . .

Continue reading.

The second article is by Amy Morin, also in CNBC Make It. In her article, Morin focuses more on the outcome desired, though also offers some means to achieve that.

As a psychotherapist, one of the most common questions parents ask me is: What are the key strengths I should be teaching my kids?

There are several, but the type that will really help them become their best selves and get through life’s toughest challenges is mental strength.

Mental strength requires you to pay attention to three things: the way you think, feel and act. Thinking big, feeling good and acting brave helps us grow our mental muscles. Of course, it takes practice, patience and constant reinforcement to get to a point where you’ll do these things naturally.

But I’ve seen many young people successfully achieve it over time. Here are seven things mentally strong kids always do, and how to help your kids get there if they haven’t already:

1. They empower themselves

If your kid says, “My friend got a higher score on the quiz, which makes me feel bad about myself,” they’re essentially giving someone else power over their emotions.

But kids who feel empowered don’t depend on other people to feel good. They choose, for example, to be in a bright mood even when someone else is having a bad day or tries to take their anger out on them.

Create catchphrases: Work with your kid to come up with phrases that they can repeat to themselves. Use words that show they are in charge of how they think, feel and behave — regardless of how those around them are doing.

This will help drown out the negative voices in their head that try to convince them they lack the potential to succeed. The most effective catchphrases are short and easy to remember:

  • “All I can do is try my best.”
  • “Act confident.”
  • “I’m good enough.”
  • “I choose to be happy today.”

2. They adapt to change

Whether it’s moving to a new school or not being able to play with friends during the pandemic, change is tough. Your kid might miss the way things used to be or worry that what’s happening might make their life worse.

But mentally strong kids understand that change can help them grow into an even stronger person, even though it might not feel that way at first.

Name your emotions: Change feels uncomfortable. But just putting a name to your feelings can lessen the sting of these emotions.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t spend enough time thinking about how we feel. In fact, even as adults, we tend to put more energy into fighting our emotions.

So when your kid is faced with a major change, have them talk elaborately about how they’re feeling. More importantly, help them find — and define — the right words to describe it (e.g., sad, happy, frustrated, nervous, eager).

3. They know when to say no

Everyone struggles to speak up, say no, or express their feelings once in a while. But depending on the situation, choosing not to say yes makes you stronger.

Kids often struggle to say no because . . . [My guess is that she does not have a two-year-old, who in my experience readily and easily say “No.” – LG]

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

19 March 2021 at 11:15 am

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