Is it possible to raise our kids to be popular with their peers without buying them the latest must-have toys? The answer is yes. Parents can raise their kids to be confident, independent individuals.
As parents we want our children to be happy, and one of the most significant areas of their lives is that of friendships. Kids love to have friends, and, whatever age the child, it's a delight to parents to watch their children happy in a friendship, playing games, sharing activities. On the other hand, it's not so nice when a child has difficulty either making friends, especially in new situations, or when they have difficulty keeping friends. As their parents, we feel their loneliness, and this can be upsetting.
Children will invariably come home from school at some, or lots of times, in their lives, upset because they have fallen out with friends, have been ostracized from a group, or have been inexplicably treated badly. We want to help, but feel powerless to do so, but there are ways we can help and prepare our children to be popular, give or take a few jealousies that come along the way. Here are a few ideas:-
1. Give your child your time (this is what he wants more than anything). He wants your time, your affection and your protection. He wants to feel loved. A child who is shown love, learns to love himself, and learns to love others. When things are not going as well as expected in other areas of his life, at least he knows he is loved, respected and important at home. A child who is respected by his parents learns to respect others too.
2. Children who are encouraged to be independent from an early age grow to be confident – they do not feel insecure when they meet new challenges like starting school or leaving their parents. Your encouragement can be in any area depending on their age. A small child can be encouraged to make a sandwich, put his coat on, whereas an older child can be given new responsibilities, say, cooking lunch, or finding himself a paper round. The key point for parents is to avoid giving a 'helping hand', no matter how tempting, because this does not allow them the space or discipline to help themselves.
3. A child who has love and respect at home grows to have a high self-esteem. As well as this, give your child the opportunity to try out different activities, so that she can find something she is good at, something she can excel at and enjoy, which will build her confidence in herself and her abilities, especially when she may be having difficulties in other activities, say, in sports at school.
4. A child who is confident is less likely to be a victim of bullies because bullies tend to seek out children who are visibly less confident. In fact, being 'nice' doesn't always work – a child, just like an adult, who sticks up for his values and is not a 'push-over' is usually popular and respected.
5. Teach your child to see things from others' point of view, to see the other side of the story. For example, say a child complains her friend won't play with her – there could be various reasons for this, like she feels she has been hurt, is jealous about something, or feeling unloved – children have complex emotions they cannot communicate to either friends or their parents. It's hard for the egocentric child to understand such things, but you can at least make them aware there is always another side to every story.
6. As a parent, be organised, not just in your own life, but your child's life. Little things, like having the right equipment for school, wearing suitable clothes for an activity, mean so much to a child. A child who stands out as the ill-prepared child can feel unconfident and be a victim of ridicule.
7. When you meet your child's friends, be nice! Ask them questions about themselves – be a popular parent.
As parents you have the responsible and admirable job of mentor and role model to your children, and a child who is strong and independent is well-equipped for the world of friendships, school and, indeed, life.
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