Parenting. Possibly the most wonderfully rewarding and heart-wrenchingly challenging role a person will ever have. As if being fully responsible for another human’s life isn’t enough, parents then have to teach their children how to be happy and successful in an uncertain world. And if you’re lacking confidence in your own ability to be happy and successful, this can make the task seem even more overwhelming.
Research has shown that between the ages of 0 to 7, children learn how to think and behave by modelling their parents. By watching their parents, they learn what they need to do to survive in this crazy world. What behaviours and emotional responses they need to show to meet their needs. Their need for attention. Significance. Love. Comfort. Affection. Certainty.
You know that old saying “actions speak louder than words”? Well, in the case of parenting, it seems it’s is absolutely true. If you’re telling your children to play fair and be nice at school, but at home you’re constantly snapping at your partner – it’s what you do that will have more of an influence on how they develop. They will either adopt the same behaviour or rebel against it. Potentially exhibiting the opposite behaviour to the extreme. A decision they will subconsciously make based on which one will meet their needs most. Trying to answer the question, “Who do I need to be to be noticed by mum and/or dad?”.
This doesn’t mean you have to be model parents all the time. That’s a completely unrealistic expectation that will only lead to massive self-criticism. You’re a human being not a superhero. Most people don’t become parents with huge amount of previous parenting experience! You learn on the job. So be kind to yourself. If you mess up, that’s OK. Brush it off, learn from your mistakes and get back in the saddle.
Simply becoming more aware of your behaviour in front of your children, and explaining your behaviour is about you and not them, is a great step in the right direction. This requires investing time in developing your emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Health, happiness and success come from being able to manage your emotions in a healthy way. If you want your children to be emotionally fit, you must invest the time in developing your own emotional fitness.
So apart from working on your own emotional well-being, what other habits do you need to adopt to raise happy and successful children?
1) Demonstrate independence
If you want to raise independent children who can make their own decisions and are self-reliant, you need to teach them how to be independent. This means being showing independence. Needy parents often hold their children responsible for their emotions. Creating environments of psychological control – “Behave this way or mummy/daddy will be very stressed/hurt/upset”. Children don’t get the chance to explore what they like/don’t like or who they are in this kind of environment, always trying to be someone that mum or dad wants them to be. They will continue this way into their teens and will be more susceptible to peer pressure later on in life – not knowing who they really are or what they like. They will end up in jobs they hate or relationships that don’t fulfill them because they have lost sight of what’s important to them.
2) Let go of the need to control
We all want a level of certainty in our lives. And most humans spend a lot of their time avoiding situations which they perceive as potentially painful. But real happiness comes from being able to live in a world of uncertainty – getting our certainty from within. Knowing no matter what happens ‘out there’ we will be OK. We will still be alive. The world won’t come to an end. Because in reality, we have very little control over anything. And if you’re constantly chasing control in a world you can’t control… that’s a very stressful and exhausting place to be.
Children brought up by over-controlling parents have been shown to have higher rates of stress and depression in later life. Believing that nothing they ever do is good enough and they are incompetent, leading to low self-confidence and poor self-image. They have also shown to have more fear, and interpret anything that happens in life as a threat, leading to the ‘fight or flight’ stress response.
3) Communicate calmly and intelligently
Successful people generally have high emotional intelligence and excellent communication skills. To give your children a head start in developing these, you need to learn how to communicate calmly and intelligently yourself. Shouting not only creates a harsh environment for your children, but it also teaches them that in order to make themselves understood, they have to shout. This will not help them in their relationships later in life. Being passive aggressive has the same effect and children will cotton onto it faster than you think.
Intelligent communication is communicating how you feel, without blaming the other person. Remember – we are responsible for how we feel. Nobody else. “When I see or hear ‘this’, I interpret it as ‘x’ and that makes me feel ‘y’ is a good format to start with.
4) Be present
Children are more likely to be secure and self-assured when raised by parents who are present. Parents who spend more time on their phone, working, answering emails than they do actually engaging with their children, are giving the impression their kids come second. While this might not be the case, remember – children internalise and personalise everything. All of your behaviour will always be about them. I’m not saying you have to be with them 24/7. This isn’t good either as they will learn to become dependent on you for everything (fun, entertainment, comfort). Meaning they won’t be self-reliant and able to create their own happiness. It’s simply a case of when you do decide to spend time with your kids, engage with them and be present in their presence.
5) Be your own cheerleader
If you want your children to have healthy self-esteem, you need to show them how to be their own internal cheerleader. Being able to recognise their own value without relying on external sources to tell them whether or not they are good enough. Start by praising their accomplishments. Give them a high five when they’ve succeeded. And a good pep talk to pick them up after ‘failure’ to help them manage disappointment. Then migrate towards showing them how to recognise their own achievements for themselves. So when they are an adult, they won’t still be seeking your recognition or the approval of others.
Again, this must be done by leading by example. Ask yourself – how good are you at recognising your own self-worth and accomplishments? Do you try to be someone you’re not just to fit in? How comfortable are you in your own skin? If the answer is not very, look at ways you can start to develop your own self-worth so you can show your children how to do it for themselves.
6) Be warm, open and loving
Successful and happy adults are generally great at forming friendships and relationships. Most likely because they are loving, open and approachable. Creating a warm and open environment for your children is crucial to their emotional well-being and success in life. Demonstrate love, affection and openness with your kids and partner. Giving them the freedom to communicate how they feel and be who they are. This will have a positive impact on your family as a whole and your children’s self-esteem.
7) Positive mindset
If you’re a glass-half-empty kind of person, you run the risk of raising glass-half-empty kind of children. Now, in some circumstances this can be a strength. It stops you from taking impulsive, unintelligent risks. However, if it stops you from experiencing life because you’re only focusing on the negative, then you’re teaching your children that the world is a scary, disappointing place. And if that’s how they perceive the world, how motivated will they be to go out and experience it?
For more information on behavioural or emotional management, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.zetayarwood.com
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Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.