How to Raise a Confident Child
No book, no expert has all the answers to parenthood. You must sift through the advice and select what you believe works best for your family.
I grew up in a family of Alphas, and believed I was supposed to be one like them. But my true calling is to be a beta, like Samwise Gangee to Frodo in Lord of the Rings. I am proud to be Samwise, but we all need a Frodo in the world.
When one is a natural beta, how does one parent a child? Parenting is done differently in every family. Every family has its own culture, and I mean this even when it involves families of the same race and nationality. Some families are noisy, some are quiet and formal. Some are uber religious, others are hippies.
Here are some things I learned about motherhood
1. Don't follow books to the letter. When I was pregnant with my one and only daughter, I read a lot of books about raising children. Most of them said things that didn’t fit well with my personality. Things like discipline, for example, and the need for both parents to present a united front when disciplining a child.
2. It may be your church, but its advice is not carved in stone. A church I went to said you have to use a paddle to spank a child, never your hand. You had to explain to the child why he or she was being punished, and after the paddle, you had to hug the child and say how much you love them. This was based on the verse, "spare the rod, and spoil the child." I am far too undisciplined to be so formulaic. Besides, structure and I don’t make great friends.
3. Don't fake being you. I realized that all these books and churches assumed that a parent should take a leadership role. But that’s not me. I like to lead from behind. If I tried to be someone I am not, my child would surely see through me.
4. Child empowerment is cool. One thing I read that I certainly agreed with was about giving a child a sense of empowerment. The book said the child will be more optimistic in life if you let them feel that they have a hand in their destiny, beginning with small things.
I liked that very much. So when my child was just learning to talk, and we disagreed on something, sometimes, even if I disagreed with her (something as minor as whether or not she could play with a toy), I would let her have her way because she defended herself well.
5. Mix and match. I realized that raising a child had to be a combination of pointers from books and input from your own instincts. Hitting (slapping the face, spanking the butt, etc.) was out of the question. My husband never allowed it. As a baby he would only slap her hand (but not so hard that it would turn red), and if she was very bad, slap her feet. If her feet were slapped she would be so devastated because she realized she did something bad, even if it didn’t hurt that much.
When she turned three years old, my husband stopped slapping her hand because he said now she can communicate. Since that was out of the question (My husband’s hand slaps were never hurtful, anyway) I had to devise other ways to impose discipline.
6. Have your parameters. First, we had our parameters. Discipline took place only when she might hurt herself. We would then explain why she couldn’t do one thing or another. In this way she trusted us and knew that for us, her wellbeing was primary in the decisions we made.
7. Tell her you love her -- say it often. We also made sure that she knew we loved her. When her Dad scolded her once, she cried and told me, “Daddy doesn’t love me.” I told her, “You know how you get mad if Dad sleeps on your bed, you’re mad but you still love him. It’s the same with Dad.”
8. The three of you are a team. Also, the united front of parents in disciplining a child didn’t make sense to me. Oftentimes at night, I would get on Kat’s nerves, and Ed would come in and tell us both to stop. Kat looked at me worried, and I told her, “You see, when you need help because I am bugging you, Dad will help you. And when Dad is mad at you, I can help you.” In this way she never felt she was isolated from her parents.
It would happen pretty often. I have this tendency to really bug people, and I don’t know where to stop. As she grew up, she learned that I am just plain weird sometimes, and she accepts it. She doesn’t resent me, because her Dad was always there to lovingly step in, in a way that we were both respected but he gave the rule.
9. Dad's the boss. Another thing I taught Kat – Daddy is the boss, but with me she can negotiate. She learned as she grew up that she could talk things out with me and we could negotiate on when she would be old enough to go to the mall alone with her friends, when she could date, when she could have a boyfriend.
10. Teaching her to live independently is more important than imposing obedience. Kat didn't always obey me and like normal children, did stuff behind my back. But at least I was knew that she made decisions from a pretty strong base of self identity and confidence. I was more interested in teaching her how to live her life independently as opposed to obeying her parents all the time.
If she made a mistake, she could always know that we had her back. It was not all smooth sailing, but parenting for me involved a broad blueprint of what was negotiable and nonnegotiable.
My parenting style was pretty self directed with inputs from the hubby, some books, a little this and that, and reading into my daughter’s personality, and knowing that for some reason, (I think it’s genetic), there would be times when she and her Dad simply “got” each other and I would feel completely left out.
The First Seven Years
The reason I am starting with her childhood raising is because the first seven years of a child’s life tends to become the blueprint of who they are going to be. When kids grow up and rebel, it’s partly because they are trying to become an adult, and a large part of the blueprint the child got. Did the child grow up in a family environment where she could feel safe, protected, loved, set free in increments that suited her emotional and numerical age? These things were what more or less designed the type of parenting the hubby and I devised for my daughter.
Note: Out of respect I showed this to my daughter, now 21, to ask if I could publish this. She said it was a beautiful article. A true tribute to a mother’s heartJ
Part II to follow.