In today’s classrooms where your child’s abilities are already placed in stiff competition with their peers’ as early as preschool, it has become standard practice for many schools to pit children against each other through numbered or lettered ranks, grades, or points. Though these tools for measuring progress can be useful in assessing skills like math or spelling, too much emphasis on these types of evaluations risk causing your child to feel like a number rather than an individual. Because of this, it is especially crucial as a parent or guardian to ensure that your child feels celebrated for more than just their academic progress. With these five powerful tips, you will see how affirming your child’s unique qualities can help them feel appreciated, loved, and confident.
1. Get curious.
When I was a child, I had many odd hobbies like collecting rocks and recording stories about my dreams on a boom box (yes, 90s kid here) and my parents always found the time to ask me about them using a nonjudgmental approach. Once, they even collected rocks with me around the neighborhood just to experience it hands-on. These actions showed me that they weren’t afraid to join me in my hobbies, and this is turn gave me the validation I needed to keep being exactly who I am. Take a cue from my parents and ask your child about what interests them or makes them tick, as this usually results in a lively dialogue. A great way to validate them is to request a crash course on their favorite hobby. Barring any safety or ethical concerns, do your best not to interject with how you would have done the activity in question. Go with the flow and let them take the lead!
2. Slow down.
As adults, we are all too familiar with a fast-paced and cutthroat society where time equals money, so we buzz around the office and homes scrambling to finish our tasks in record time. Though these qualities can be productive, but it doesn’t work as well when affirming your child’s uniqueness. Dedicate an evening out of your week to being present with your child. Practice mindfulness when interacting with them so that you are living in the now instead of multitasking or steeping in “what-if” thoughts. Being fully present communicates to them that they are the most important person in the room.
Cultivating a daily routine where you exchange affirmations with your child shows them that it is okay to celebrate yourself. To do this, choose up to five statements that highlight their uniqueness. When you have gathered your statements, stand in front of a mirror with your child and watch them light up with joy as they repeat statements like “I am powerful!” and “I am perfect because I am unique.” Ensure that the affirmations you chose do not imply that their self-worth is rooted in academic success, which shows your child that their uniqueness is conditional and prevents them from feeling fully affirmed.
4. Respect their autonomy.
Many of us are taught that children do not have the right to make choices for themselves because they seem to lack decision making abilities. But what better way to flex that muscle by allowing them to tackle decisions you know they are ready to make? Know the difference between providing necessary guidance and enforcing impossibly strict rules that prevent your child from including their input. One way to help your child practice their planning skills is to ask your child if they want to plan an upcoming weekend with you. As a result, they feel like their opinions are valued and respected. There exists an inherent power imbalance in a parent-child relationship, so giving your child some control over their wants and needs will help them feel affirmed and strengthen their decision-making abilities, even if they happen to use a different approach than your usual MO.
5. Get silly!
Surprise your child by bringing home googly eye stickers and placing them on inanimate objects around the house, or play a game that encourages them to dance or sing. Make up a silly poem about pizza. As long as the activity is light in nature, dedicating one day a week to channeling your inner child with your child not only helps you feel freer as an adult with countless responsibilities, your child will know that their silliness is a cause for celebration.
Aside from the obvious benefit of your child feeling truly seen for their uniqueness, one of the most rewarding results of affirming them is that you ultimately give yourself the opportunity to see the world through your child’s eyes. With these tips, your relationship with your child will become one of mutual appreciation, love, and joy. To help your child embrace their unique qualities, contact our preschool today!