Rearing children is not an easy feat. Parents should understand the developmental stage of their children will determine their behavior and measures of discipline. When a 2-year old yells, “No! Mine!”, it is much more acceptable than a 13-year old yelling the same thing. In the same vein, if an 18-year old, yells this, there is a significant problem and the child may clearly be on the path to becoming selfish or narcissistic. Noticing these signs in your own children may indicate some concerns, so early developmental intervention is necessary.
While we avoid indicating that young children are selfish or narcissistic, modeling health mannerisms would be a great guide to appropriate behavior in children. Young children may grow out of most undesirable behaviors, but it is always helpful to provide correction and appropriate modeling along the way. When children see parents or adults yelling and showing aggressive behaviors when they are angry, they learn to do the same. There are tips to help parents guide children in shaping their behavior.
- Teach them compassion. The main thing parents can do is to reinforce compassion and empathy for others. Talk to children about how they think certain events make others feel. Encourage them to talk and ask how others are feeling in certain situations. Not only is modeling kind behavior important, but parents should also point out unpleasant behaviors to teach children the difference.
- Encourage children to be creative and identify their gifts. Helping your children to nurture their gifts is valuable. They tend to become enthusiastic and increase their self-confidence. Allow them to use their gifts in helping others as a way to share their gifts and not be self-absorbed, demanding all of the attention.
- Instill a sense of responsibility. Identifying their gifts will give children a focus and purpose. They will develop a sense of responsibility for developing their craft and taking responsibility for successes and failures. Do not shield children from hard lessons. While we never want to see our children hurt or fail, there are lessons to be learned from missing the mark. If a child fails at something, encourage them to identify what happened and get back on track. It may be difficult for children to take responsibility for the negative but it builds resilience and character. Discuss their part in the mistake and turn those discussions into teachable moments. Remember to always validate your children when they take responsibility for their actions. Acknowledge their efforts in taking responsibility.
- Remind them they are loved unconditionally. Make sure that your children understand that they do not have to earn your love. This could lead to them developing a need for attention and a deep fear of rejection.
Remember to model desirable behavior, foster compassion, instill responsibility, practice emotional regulation, and love unconditionally. It will be a win-win for all!
Dr. Angela M. Powell is a Licensed Professional Counselor and owner of Progressive Counseling & Consulting, LLC., specializing in youth trauma, anxiety, and depression.