Raising confident, competent children

My employer has recently signed up to the CityMothers network which gives staff the opportunity to network with other working parents and attend seminars and events organised by the group. Yesterday morning I went along to my first one, hosted at the law firm Bird & Bird, on ‘Raising Confident, Competent Children.’

The presenter, Anita Cleare, was excellent. I gathered from the comments of other attendees that some had been to her seminars a few times before; lots of them had very glowing feedback about her presentations and a few mentioned that they had taken action based on her advice which had changed their home lives for the better.

The seminar was good in that it reinforced to me that my wife and I are already doing—I think—a reasonably good job with our children. Time will tell! However there were also a few tips that I picked up as well as some tweaks that I think we need to make in terms of how we deal with certain situations.

The session was divided into six subject areas and here are my notes from each one:

Encouraging cooperation

  • If you need your child to do something and have a request of them, use the following process:
    • Get close to them
      • Makes you more difficult to ignore
      • Means that you do not need to raise your voice
    • Use your child’s name
    • Give a clear instruction—don’t be ambiguous
    • Pause for at least five seconds
    • Praise them if they do as you ask
    • Repeat once if necessary—don’t ask more than twice, otherwise you are giving a signal that it is okay to ignore you
    • If you are ignored twice, back up the instruction with a suitable consequence.
      • This will be difficult at first
      • Make sure you keep calm and do not shout
  • This is all about getting into a habit of listening and doing what is asked the first or second time

Being considerate

  • Children are unable to truly empathise when they are young—they are unlikely to truly empathise until they are much older—however they can learn the behaviours of kindness
    • Listening
    • Taking turns
    • Ask what others would like to do
    • Etc.
  • As a parent you need to model good behaviour for your children
    • Avoid criticising others
    • Point out others’ good points
    • Praise your child for being helpful
    • Ask your child about feelings
    • Encourage your child to make amends
    • Provide a consequence for inconsiderate or hurtful behaviour

Social skills

  • Encourage friendship
  • Expect appropriate behaviour from your child and from visitors
  • There was a tip from someone in the audience where she is part of a group that take it in turns to have random Friday off and have the kids over in a group. “This is a lot easier now the children are older.

Having healthy self-esteem

  • There is a self-reinforcing cycle about having or not having self esteem. If children don’t have it they will exhibit behaviours such as giving up on things easily, not making friends etc.
  • Things that are related to positive self-esteem in children:
    • Thinking and believing good things about themselves
    • Receiving lots of praise, affection and attention from parents
    • Having achievements recognised
    • Having clear limits and appropriate discipline
  • An example was given about a child who comes off of a football pitch and says “I had a rubbish match, I played terribly.”
    • Don’t contradict this, especially with an untruth such as “No, you played great!” Instead, help them interpret this and think about what they would do differently next time.
    • What they said was perfectly reasonable as long as they are not globalising and catastrophising it such as “I don’t like football, I’m rubbish at all sports.”
    • Try to help them to look at what happened objectively and avoid negative thinking.
  • Someone in the audience raised a point that their elder child says to their younger child that they are better than them at something and this makes it hard for the younger child to gain or keep self-esteem.
    • Again, don’t contradict this if it is true—don’t say “no you’re not!”
    • Instead, try to help interpret why this is (“he’s two years older than you”) and look towards the future (“when you’re grown up you may be better than him at that.”)
  • Encourage your child to set goals and work towards them.

Problem-solving steps

  • Children need to be guided through the process of problem solving, i.e.:
    • Define the problem
    • Come up with solutions
    • Evaluate the options
    • Decide on the best solution
    • Put the plan into action
    • Review how it worked and revise the plan if necessary
  • How to help them do this
    • Set a good example and model doing it yourself
    • Play games that promote thinking
    • Encourage your child to find answers
    • Prompt your child to work at solving problems
    • Congratulate your child when they solve a problem on their own
    • Involve your child in family problem-solving, e.g. “What do we think we can do so that we aren’t shouting at each other to get out of the door every morning?”

Becoming independent

  • If you’re a working parent, don’t compensate for your absence by running around and doing everything for them when you are at home—you’re not helping anybody in the long term
  • Give the children simple jobs to do
  • Know they won’t be able to do them very well at the start but they will get better
  • You need to teach and show them how to do it or they won’t do it
  • Examples (for my family) are making their own beds, putting dirty clothes in the wash basket, tidying up, feeding the cats, putting things in the dishwasher
  • Families live in houses and families need to take responsibilities for the things that happen there, not just the grown-ups
  • Children doing jobs will create more quality time for you as a family!
  • Morning traps
    • Getting up late
    • Rushing
    • Not being organised
    • Taking over and doing everything for your child
    • Giving too many prompts and reminders
    • Can be all about priorities and power. Align the priorities and hand over power. Structure it so that if these things are done they can play or have a reward. Ramp it up gently—if there are five things to do then the first day reward them if they do one thing on their own!
    • Someone in the audience says this has been amazing for her family life—her child has to be at the door ready by 8:15am and then gets to use the tablet in the evening.
    • Suggestion from someone of having a stopwatch to see how fast they can get ready for school
  • Have a set time for homework

It was definitely worthwhile and good to have some time to reflect on how we do things in our house. The view from the office was pretty fantastic too:

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