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Fuel for the task - By RUTH LIEW

Encouragement helps build confidence in children.
CHILDREN often hear remarks such as: “You are always so hyper”, “You are stubborn”, “You are such a crybaby”, and “Don’t be so naughty”.They feel helpless when it comes to challenges that confront them. So their first reaction to anything difficult is to say: “I don’t know what to do.”
Children learn about themselves from adults’ reactions to them. I have heard the following comments from mothers: “My son is too soft. He acts like a girl.” Or “It must be because he is a boy. He is too active for me.” Even “He is hopeless in everything.”
Children’s self-concept is built on the information they get from significant people in their lives. As time goes by, they will either feel guilty or proud of their ways. Children with positive feelings about themselves tend to take up challenges easily. They are not afraid of making mistakes. They know if they keep trying, they will succeed one day.Adults who like to think and act for their children cannot help them to develop positive self-esteem. Children who are not allowed to think for themselves constantly question their own decisions. With no practice, they will never know when they are ready.Children know that there are many skills that they have yet to acquire. But they do not want the adults in their lives to pacify them. They want adults to encourage them when they work on the challenges. Instead they hear remarks such as: “You are still too young. When you are older, you will do better.”

There are also children who are not aware of what they are capable of. They do not have enough information about their attributes. Parents praise their children with words such as: “You are a good boy” or “You did a good job” when childen do good.They don’t tell them things like: “You spent a great deal of time and effort to get these results. You were persistent and patient.”

Many of our children today have to cope with standards that are too high for them. I talked to a childcare supervisor who felt sorry for a five-year-old in her centre. The boy’s mother is forcing him to focus on reading and writing, and ignoring his developmental needs. Whenever he has to do something new, he would refuse to cooperate because he fears failure.Parents must know whether children are developmentally ready when helping them to improve their self-esteem. They should refrain from put-downs and doing things for children when they can learn to help themselves.

Children who are good with their hands are confident. They know what they do has a purpose. The tasks they do for themselves will define them as capable people. Even if they do not do it well, they still like the idea that they are working towards being successful. If they make mistakes, let them try again and encourage them with words like: “Soon you will get it right.” Focus on your child’s potential and not her problems.
Children can learn organisational skills such as how to concentrate on a task at hand, plan each step of a task, check that their approach is working, persevere and make changes where necessary. Once they have acquired self-instruction skills, they will take up challenges and be able to manage them.

Primary school-age children need acknowledgement as they face increasing demands from school and home. Instead of feeling positive about their skills, they often find themselves berated for not knowing how to do half the things that are expected of them.Children like to receive acknowledgement for what they are doing right. If they have completed a task, ask them: “What do you think of it?” “Did you have fun doing the project your teacher assigned?”

Acknowledgement focuses on the process rather than how well the child did. You can tell your child: “You practised this piece of music well. I can tell how confident you are when you are asked to play this piece.” Children like to know that their effort makes a difference and contributes to their success.Do not judge children using adult standards. Children need to know that they are progressing in good time. Help them to see that they will get the results they seek as they persist and work on the task at hand. Make sure you let them take control of their own behaviour. Say to them: “You are the only person who can make yourself work at a certain task.” Be available whenever they need you.

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