What Do You Want for Your Children? (3)

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     What is the alternative to these two extremes? Children growing up today have been exposed to the idea of equality all their lives. The world is moving toward democracy and away from the authoritarian governments and empires of the past. If we want our children to be successful in a democratic society, we must raise them with the democratic principles of equality and mutual respect, not with the authoritarian principles of control through power and intimidation. The basis for their courage is their self-esteem. Alfred Adler, the noted Austrian psychiatrist, said, "Self esteem...is the core of the child's personality and determines the use he makes of his life."

     Let's look again at what we want for our children. We want them to like themselves, think for themselves, and know that there is no problem so great they can't handle it. So, how can we give our children the best chance of growing up with these qualities?

     Take time to focus 100% of your attention on your child. Dorothy C. Briggs, in her book Your Child's Self-Esteem, calls this a "genuine encounter". Realizing that we do "time-sharing" with our children is the first step toward creating genuine encounters. In addition to looking at our focus, it is important to look at our expectations. Sometimes, what we see as misbehavior is simply a child being a child. Does a child get into cabinets to drive us crazy or is she just discovering her world? Enthusiasm and curiosity are valued in adults; however, much of what we say to children can stifle those qualities. Is the child crying to make our life miserable, or because he is frustrated, angry or sad? Many of us have been trained to hide those feelings. Acknowledging the child's feelings, and our own, tells the child that he can trust himself, and that feelings are an important part of being human.

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Glenna O. Auxier


Robert J. Perchalski, Ph.D.
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