A child’s self-esteem and social skills are a function of how we, the adults in their lives, react to their communications to us. This was one of the “takeaways” from parenting specialist Sheri Glucoft Wong’s lecture last Thursday night. Instead of writing a blog that captures the main ideas of her talk, I am including below Joel Scott’s very thorough notes from that night as well as this link to the video-recording of Wong’s presentation. Sheri’s presentation was filled with so many interesting tips and understandings about children’s social life. The notes capture the main ideas and the actual lecture has many examples drawn from her practice.
We hope to bring Ms. Wong back to Wornick in the fall.
Notes from Wornick Talk – Sheri Glucoft Wong
April 16, 2015 by Joel Scott
Raising children requires a combination of the right Attitudes & Practices
Parenting is a continuum of managing your kid’s life. The ultimate goal: if you’re really, really lucky, you end up with a seat on the advisory board of your child – that is, they will share with you what is going on with them and seek your advice. Your goal is to increase the odds that this will happen.
Peers are very important.
- Peers offer more give and take required than vertical (parents). That is, parents will allow for a lot of things that peers will not tolerate. For example, if your child is acting out, you may tolerate this; a peer will not.
- Peers offer a child an opportunity to try on different roles/personalities than the fixed menu role that the child adopts at home.
Kids are just trying to figure out how the world works. Even with misbehavior.
The optimal settings in which people coexist are those environments where people bring their best selves AND ENCOURAGE others to bring their best selves. It is not good enough to be a good role model for your child. You also need to encourage your child to exemplify optimal behavior as well.
Brain development is accentuated by short-term stress. Long-term stress is bad but short-term stress is actually helpful, so do not try to shield your child from stress in a given situation (e.g., having challenges with homework or a social situation) it will help them learn.
A child’s ability to get along well with others (collaborative, cooperative, ) are the best predictors of success, even more so than great grades.
Popularity and friendship are not one and the same. The key to success is the quality of one’s friendships, not their popularity. A couple of very strong friendships is far more important than being a “popular” child.
The medium is the message. How you relate to your child is very important. Your messages can be inadvertent. Example: your child tells you than another child was being mean to them and you reply that you will speak to that child’s parent. You are inadvertently giving a message to your child that you do not think that they can handle this situation on their own, even though your intentions were just to help. The key is to LISTEN to what your child has to SAY and to stay focused on what is going on FOR YOUR CHILD (and not turning your attention to the other children in the episode).
Rather than using “If (you don’t behave)… Then…” use “When (you behave)… Then…” The former sets your kid up to be led around by others who may have different motives from your benign ones. The former threatens your child that if they do not do what you tell them to do then they will face consequences. The latter positions that if they do do what you are asking, then they are able to continue to participate. It is a positive message rather than a negative one.
Inclusion cannot be legislated. It is fine to not include others and to say ‘no’ to another’s request to join but what’s important is HOW you say no. So if your child and their friend do not want to include a third child, that is ok. You cannot force them to want to play. The key is to teach them how to communicate with the third child. For example: “I would like to keep playing my game with X right now, but I would be happy to play with you later, once I am done.” This is the optimal way to handle such a situation for all involved and to communicate.
- Kids need 2 things to feel good about themselves: (1) that they are special and unique and like no one else and (2) that they are just like everyone else. The art of parenting is to figure out when to deliver which message.
- Self esteem is having regard for yourself and others at the same time. Just the former is narcissism. Just the latter is being a doormat. The combination is the basis of intimacy.
- Home is the training ground for the real world and how your children treat you will set the tone for how they will behave in the real world.
- Seek and welcome feedback from other grownups about how your child behaves when you are not around. You only see one personality of your child. They wear other personalities when you are not around and it is critical to learn about and understand what is going on with them when you are not present.
- Notice when your modeling does not align with what you want to encourage. Young kids think their parents are rational, so when you behave a certain way, they believe that you have thought through why you did what you did and that you behaved that way on purpose. When your modeling does not align with what you want to encourage, then you should observe that and call it out so that your child understands that your behavior does not reflect your intentions.
- Recognize your own issues and how your own buttons get pushed. Be mindful of your own history. Your history can impact how you interact with your children. For example, if you were always shy and struggled with that, you might be inadvertently overly aggressive with your child about socializing. It is key to not transfer your own issues onto your child.
- Be thoughtful about interpreting things through the lens of the child (e.g., when a child says “get your brown hand out of my lunchbox” the operative words there are “out of my lunchbox” rather than “brown hand” so while you can educate your child on the sensitivity to different races, note that their intentions are not the same as someone using this language when they are an adolescent or adult).
- If your child tells you about an experience where they were upset by someone else, avoid the reflex to blame the other person and focus instead on what your own child’s experiences are.
- Support kids finding the GOOD in things - support tolerance of others and themselves.
- Teach the difference between Impact and Intention. You can take responsibility for your impact even if you didn’t have the intention. For example, if you do something and your child says that you are being mean, rather than saying “No, I’m not mean” you can respond that “It is not my Intention to hurt or upset you, but I am sorry that my request makes you feel bad/upset.” And likewise, teach your child to acknowledge the other’s apology for Impact.
- Monitor interactions.
- When kids mess up, help them make it right. Punishment does not work well. It is ok for you to impose Results for actions, but just punishment for punishment sake is not helpful. Giving a child a “time out” for cool down / reset purposes is fine, but giving them a “time out” just to punish them for bad behavior is pointless. So, for example, if your child ends up playing with toys in their room during a time out, that is fine. There is no value in trying to enforce the “punishment” by denying them the ability to play with their toys during the timeout. The key is to help them reset so that they can try again.
- Teach the difference between tatteling vs reporting. There is no value in tatelling.
- Help kids realize disappointment is just a feeling, not an Event. Don’t make a disappointment experience an event. Kids get through disappointment and all other feelings very quickly. It is good for them to experience disappointment. Adults tend to dwell on disappointment and that is not helpful. Do not assume that your child will dwell on the feeling the same way that adults do, because they won’t.
- Entitlement: there is good entitlement and bad entitlement. Good is when you get what everyone else gets; bad is when just you get it (often at other people’s expense).
- Children experience success when you recognize and praise with how they cope/deal with what they are dished out. Have an identity around ‘I can cope’.
- Resilience: the key is that they are in a situation where communication is clear and open both ways. You should lead with empathy and yet set clear limits. Talk in a way to have them want to talk to you. How to make it safe: when your kid comes to tell you something bad that happened, just say ‘Oh’. Then they will talk more. Then say ‘Oh’. And so on. In sum, let them talk to you and give you as much info as possible. Don’t react.
- There are no villains and victims in your child’s life; rather, there are just relationships and dynamics. Be sure not to reinforce a feeling in your child of being a “victim” of someone else. This has a huge impact on their self-confidence. Rather, help the child understand that the other person (the “villain”) has something going on inside of them that is driving their behavior and that the key is to not take the other person’s behavior personally.