The principal mission of every educative process is to convert weakness into strength. We shouldn’t confuse the term “educate” with the act of trying to make the child or youth be how we want them to be, or to be like us, or for our own convenience. As a basic starting point, it is important to respect them as independent and unique individuals, with their own abilities and potential to want to to discover and understand through daily experiences.
Every child is a potential adult. Helping them to mature means helping them to discover themselves, to think and consider experiences from a reflective attitude that gives them feedback. Helping them mature does not mean telling them what they need to do or think, but to be a supportive figure so that the child discovers practical, intelligent, and creative alternatives that motivate them to think and resolve their life in ways that are every day more grandiose and positive. If we see them in this way, we will be able to accompany them in this important discovery, and we will be able to cultivate their security, genuine thought, creativity, their enthusiasm to participate in creative and important ways on their part. This will keep them interested and enthusiastic to fulfill themselves personally. We will convert them into a good friend for themselves, and for ourselves.
As parents, we have always done our best given what we have. However, the more we know about something, the more we can expand and enrich it. So, in order to raise secure and fulfilled children and youth, it is important to begin to consider the following points:
There are 4 basic aspirations in every human being:
1. To think for myself, and to feel secure and important.
2. To contribute in an important way to my surroundings.
3. To influence by my acts and decisions.
4. To have the ability to discover and use my intelligence, creativity, and emotional strength in my daily life, and in the life of others.
When any one of these aspirations begins to be left behind or becomes frustrated, the children then begin to artfully create a series of attitudes that serve as adaptive and defensive mechanisms for what we consider valuable. Those attitudes are:
- Insecurity in oneself
- Lack of desire to do anything, apathy, indifference
- Low self-esteem
- Emotional distance
It is important to keep in mind that none of these attitudes are good nor bad, they are just ways that we find to respond to what we don’t exactly know how to respond to.
Bellow, we will describe a few adult personality types that do not help in promoting nor cultivating the 4 basic human aspirations.
Characteristics: Language is imperative, orders, commands, habitually manipulates so the youth will do what they way, they blackmail, and condition.
Consequences: the youth feels trapped, frustrated, or generates anger, which they will then convert into rebellion. Rebellion is a way to send a lot of messages of nonconformity to those that surround them: “Get out of my way”, “I can do it without you”, “I’m better off alone”, “You don’t let me grow”, “You’re not helping me mature”, “You never let me discover myself”, etc. When someone feels that something or someone prevents them from being valuable or feeling important and capable, rebellion is born.
If the situation continues and rebellion doesn’t resolve anything, or if the rebellion generates even more authoritarianism or even tyranny, an emotional distance will then be born. The child will want to avoid emotional contact with whoever represents a barrier to their development, so they will take refuge in defiant attitudes or in groups of friends where they feel protected and important, who are “up” on their situations. If the authoritative attitude continues or becomes hostile, and the youth doesn’t find a way to solve this feeling of frustration, they could feel the need to flee, or they could develop strong resentment that carries them to violence (running from suppressed rage). They could also find refuge in drugs or superficial pleasures to calm their internal pain.
Characteristics: easily forgives, doesn’t ask for explanations, ignores behavior or things that the don’t like or that they don’t want, mentality of “it’s all good”, tries to be “good”, setting boundaries or saying things frankly makes me feel guilty.
Consequences: my actions have no consequences, they don’t create interior limits, lack of responsibility, insecurity, low self-esteem, little value for things and people, lack of interest, despondency, apathy, lack of motivation, no self-control or self-discipline, never cultivates internal limits.
Children that grow in an indulgent environment are generally superficial, capricious, demanding, have little discretion, loose respect because they don’t understand values.
Characteristics: parents or adults that frequently rescue children from daily situations, or that go beyond the youth’s abilities with attitudes like “I’ll explain it”, “I’ll fix it for you”, “I’ll help you”, “I’ll do it for you”, “I’ll buy you”, “I’ll give you” or ” What did you expect?”, “How many times have I told you?” “You didn’t know?”, “Don’t you think?”
Consequences: This type of character truly delays and scares the youth’s ability to think, discern, participate, collaborate, etc. They hide away their aspirations in exchange for keeping the adult as an important figure. One of the conclusions arrived at through indulgence in “What would I do without others, without adults?” “It’s not important who I am”. This creates delayed children with little character. It’s difficult for them to make decisions, it is difficult for them to understand basic things in school, and it creates a sense of uselessness in them.
How to begin to make a character change for growth
There are lots of things you can do to begin to transform a relationship between parent and child (or youth). The truth is, we can’t fight or fix anything out there if we don’t first assume new attitudes for ourselves: new attitudes and new reactions. You must begin to practice new behaviors and focuses. Then, almost magically, you will begin to see the things “out there” (your relationships or experiences) transform and become enriched.
Language is very important in helping the child or youth explore themselves. Here is a list of phrases that are barriers, and phrases that help build a positive character in the child.
Get up, pick up, you need to, what were you thinking?, haven’t I told you?, how many times do I have to tell you?, Don’t you know?, you’re rude, you’re stupid, you’re inconsiderate, let me explain to you, etc.
How do you think your room would look if it were clean?, Could you help me with this?, How do you think your friend felt when you said that?, How do you think I felt when I saw you doing that?, What do you think we should do since you flunked?, What do you think is best so that this doesn’t happen again?, What do you think if we tell dad?, Why do you think this is important?, How would you feel if someone said to you, what you said to your teacher?
Explorative language is undoubtedly very powerful. It helps the child to search for what they feel. It is important that, when you ask these questions, you don’t expect any specific response. They should be asked simply to prompt the youth to reflect and consider. We surprise ourselves how they can arrive at the same conclusion that we wanted them to, and we might even learn from them!
It is important that you teach from cause and effect. This makes children and youth responsible from an early age, that everything they do or say generates consequences, and those consequences frequently carry responsibility. You must let your children experience the consequences of their actions, but without the conventional tint of “that was bad”. This creates guilt and a strong feeling of insecurity. The best thing to do, rather than threatening, punishing, or chastising them, is to say to them: “Well, that’s over, you already did it. Now, what to you suggest to solve it?” This makes them responsible: it does not blame them. Insults and threats are also useless. They only create frustration and insecurity. You must help them to think about how to solve what they have done, so they consider, to they feel what others felt when they did something, and search for creative ways to solve things, in the best way possible.
The tone of your voice is very important. You should always have a loving, calm, and available tone. If not, the child might feel aggression, denial, imposition, even if we use building words, we will be sending them a “double message”, and it will not work. So, you must practice a firm and clear tone, available and loving for dialogue.
Keep in mind that you can’t expect results instantly. It is very likely that when you begin with this type of attitude, the child or youth will feel perplexed, especially if they’re used to receiving orders, or if you forgive them for everything. However, if you continue, little by little you will begin to see significant and truly positive changes in our relationship with them.