A happy, well-balanced child is one who feels safe, both physically and emotionally. He/she is also valued for who he/she is, and not what he/she can do. Parents can raise their children to be happy, well-rounded individuals by surrounding them with love, happiness and encouragement, for it is the combination of all these factors that helps them feel confident about themselves and motivates them to reach their goals.
“The goal as a parent is to help your child feel competent and confident, and to help her develop a sense of passion and purpose,” says Susan Stiffelman, MFT, an educational therapist and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles. Indeed, it is the education that happens before a child starts their learning journey in school that empowers a well-rounded development.
Thus, if you are looking to raise a child who is well-balanced, healthy and happy, do consider these 10 tips and strategies to help you get there:
1. Celebrate and praise efforts
Studies conducted by Dr Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University and leading researcher in the fields of achievement and success, revealed that a person’s mindset has the power to influence behaviour. She suggests that parents praise their children for their hard work instead of using labels such as “smart” or “talented”. This may lead to them having a fixed mindset, and people who are categorised as such are usually reluctant to take on challenges as they believe that their achievements are a result of their innate abilities. On the other hand, people with a growth mindset are usually more willing to face challenges with hard work as they believe that learning is a life-long process.
2. Respect and acknowledge different learning styles
You might find that you work best in complete silence, but that does not mean that your child should study in a noise-free environment too. Most of us tend to lean towards one or two types of learning style, so it may be worthwhile to take note how your child learns best so you can identify his/her learning style.
For example, if your child is a visual learner, using flash cards and drawing charts might help him/her learn better. And for kinaesthetic learners, turning a learning concept into a fun, hands-on game could be what it takes to help them study better.
3. Keep their curiosity alive
Children are born with an innate curiosity about the world around them, and it is important to leverage this trait to raise life-long learners. This should start with parents creating an intellectually safe place, where a child is free to ask any question or express his/her opinion – as long as it is respectful.
Meghan McCormick, an American elementary school teacher and research associate at MDRC, a non-profit education and social policy research organisation, says that children should be encouraged to ask questions while parents should refrain from just feeding them with answers or use phrases such as “Because I said so.” For instance, when a child asks, “Why are the leaves falling off the trees?”, she suggests that parents probe further by asking, “What do you think?”. This not only provides insights into the child’s opinion, it also doubles up as a teaching opportunity and sends the message that we value the opinions of our children.
4. The power of reading
It is never too early to start reading to your child!
Starting a good collection of books at home and reading to pre-schoolers comes with great benefits as it encourages language development, reading skills and their future success in school.
“Even if your child is still too young to understand everything you are saying, he will learn to notice the rhythms of language, which will help him build a listening vocabulary,” explains Susan M. Heim, author of It’s Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence.
In fact, a study conducted by The Institute of Education in the United Kingdom found that 5-year-olds who were read to daily by their parents were less likely to develop behavioural problems in school.
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5. Allow some free time
“Play is the major way in which children learn,” says Dr David Elkind, a child development expert and author of The Power Play. He emphasises the fact that children “learn social skills through games and playing with other children”, and that it is important for parents to allow their children time for both play and academic work.
“There’s this idea that education is a race, and that’s false. We want to go so quickly, but you stunt things when you go too fast,” Dr Elkind added. Although adding playtime to crammed study schedules can be tricky, there are simple ways to work around them which is worth a try, as this helps to maintain a good balance in your child’s life.
Giving your child a hug helps to ease the tension and improves his/her concentration. More on this and other tips for raising a well-rounded on the next page.