Recent research has indicated that parents are more concerned that their children are happy, possess good grades, and have strong self-esteem rather than possess good character traits. In fact, many children are being raised to believe that being happy should be their number one priority. While it’s important to raise children that are happy and have a strong sense of self, it’s more important to teach them how to be good people and caring members in their community. Below are our suggestions on how your children can cultivate healthy relationships with themselves and others.
What is a Healthy Relationship?
Communication is a vital component of a healthy relationship. Make sure your children know when to voice their concerns and when to compromise. Below is an outline you can follow to help instruct them on how to understand this further.
- Teaching children about friendship: Around the age of three, children begin to form friendships at playdates, the park, or pre-school. Parents will start to recognize their child’s friendship temperament develop, that he or she might be shy, naturally outgoing, or even bossy. He or she might like spending time in trios, large groups, or interacting on a one-on-one basis with other kids. This is a good time to discuss with your children what traits they would like to see in a friend. During the conversation, bring up integral qualities such as honesty, respect, and compassion to explain what character traits are necessary in a confidant. Parents should also clearly explain what good friends do, such as using kind language, having fun together, and being thoughtful. For example, if your child’s friend was recently sick, explain that a good friend will ask if he or she is feeling better.
- Focus on maturity: The best way to reduce your chances of raising a self-absorbed child is to deliver honest feedback in a considerate manner from early on in your child’s life. According to a study from The Ohio State University, research suggests that parents who constantly praise their child for the tiniest accomplishments end up over-inflating his or her ego and creating an “approval junkie,” someone that seeks approval for everything that he or she does. Parents should try to avoid excessively complimenting their children for non-accomplishments and instead, praise them on specific and meaningful things such as their schoolwork habits or actions in the community. Identifying a child’s strengths and how they can utilize them helps improve their confidence levels more than constant adulation on non-essential items, especially because frequent praise will lose its significance after a while.
- Handle conflict: Don’t always protect your child from adversity. Tensions naturally arise at every age and stage but children should learn how to resolve conflicts independently. It’s important that your children are aware that friendships are not happy all the time but that even during disagreements, both parties must be treated with respect. If a parent solves disputes for his or her child on a frequent basis, that individual will be deprived of the necessary coping mechanisms that are integral to long-term well-being.
- Honesty is the best policy: Don’t overreact if your child lies to you. Instead, try to understand the motivation behind his or her actions and then explain why telling the truth is the better option. Afterward, help your child understand that actions have consequences and that rather than just apologize, he or she should try to fix the situation. For example, if your child knocks over a playmate’s building blocks, suggest helping to re-build the tower.
- Emphasize the importance of treating people fairly: Teach your child to address others in a respectful manner, regardless of his or her personal feelings and the circumstances. Your child should know that it’s paramount to think about the other party’s side and the importance of honoring his or her commitments. If your child no longer wants to play soccer, discuss how the team would feel if he or she suddenly quit on everyone.
- Show, not tell: As with many things, teach by example and be a strong moral role model and mentor for your children. Say thank you for everyday helpfulness like washing the dishes or playing with a younger sibling but emphasize that kindness is expected from them. For children to respect and emulate their parents, we also need to acknowledge our mistakes.
- Remove them from their comfort zone: From an early age, children should be encouraged to interact with people from different backgrounds so they can better understand the world around them. Going outside of the familiar gives your child a sense of perspective and how to empathize with others. One way to do this is to complete community service as a family.
- Encourage self-reflection: Finally, stress that having friends is not only about how to be a friend to others but to yourself as well. Parents should seek to raise children that are self-observant and self-critical so they can attain a better understanding of themselves. Some questions for your children to think include the following:
- Am I a friendly person?
- Am I a good listener?
- Do I like myself?
Teaching your child how to be a good friend to themselves and others will give them the best tools for creating healthy relationships that last long-term. Here at the Nanny Authority, our nannies are familiar with developmental stages for all age groups and are able to translate that experience to the families they work for. Contact us via e-mail or at 973-466-2669 for more information today!