While in theory, kids have little responsibility or pressure, the opposite can often be true. Kids can feel pressure from both family and friends to have to be all kinds of things. Some of the things we expect of our kids are necessary and important for their character growth. But sometimes we can expect our kids to fit the ideas that we have for them. We can even be guilty of expecting them to be just like us. It’s easy to fall into any of these pressures that we as parents can place on our kids. So let’s look at ways that we can encourage our kids to be themselves – the beautiful people that they already are.
Pressure from parents
Let’s start with the hard part. What do we, as parents, do to keep our kids from being themselves?
The biggest thing is our expectation that our kids will be the same as us. There are so many areas where this can apply. Are you an extrovert with an introvert child? That child is going to need to process the world in a completely different way than you process it.
Are you an organized person with a daydreaming, unorganized child? Sure, this child needs to learn to be more organized, but we have to address it in a way that accepts the difference and works with it.
Are you a very relaxed parent with a very type-A child? We have to be willing to allow that child to have his ducks in a row and function the way that he just is.
I have to remind myself of this throughout every day. These little people are their own people. And there’s a way for each of us to teach our kids about life without requiring them to change who they really are.
Watch and Listen
Let’s start by being willing to see the things in our children that are simply the way that they are wired.
I have a child who processes things very slowly. For a long time, she would say, “What?” after almost everything I said to her. And my first reaction was to reprimand her for not listening when I spoke to her. When I took the time to watch her and notice how she processed everything, I realized that she was actually panicking in her response to me. She said, “What?” as a reactionary effort to buy more time to process what I said. I started teaching her that she could take her time to think about what she needed to say instead of the immediate “what?”. Now she knows that it’s OK if she needs to think about it for a minute or ask for more information. And now I know to be more patient and wait for her to think something through.
So let’s work toward understanding how our kids are wired to operate. And then, let’s work with that information, even if it isn’t the way that we work. It will mean the world to our kids to know that we are willing to understand them and that we encourage them to be themselves.
Pressure from friends
Kids copy kids, even at the youngest ages. Have you ever been in a room full of preschoolers? Better yet, have you ever had to teach a room full of preschoolers? They copy each other constantly. Let’s say that you ask one of them to show you something she can do, and she stands on one foot. Each child you ask after that will also show you how he or she can stand on one foot.
This copying behavior becomes more sophisticated as our kids get older, but it’s still there. Kids separate into cliques based on interest, socioeconomic level, or ability. It’s so easy for kids at this point to try to be something they are not. So it’s important for us to help them feel secure in who they are from an early age.
So how can we encourage kids to be themselves?
We can encourage kids to be themselves by helping them to be confident. Teaching confidence begins with the listening and understanding component that we already discussed. Along with understanding, we can model confidence for them by approaching our own discomforts and fears. We can show them how to push forward and succeed, or how to accept that we cannot do everything, and that’s OK too. Along the same lines, we can allow our kids to make mistakes and mess up. And when they do mess up, let’s help them to see mistakes in a healthy way and to learn what they can from them.
Another way that we can encourage our kids to be themselves is to help them tackle something new or difficult. Then we can praise their efforts, whether the outcome was good or bad. When they persevere through something new or difficult, we can use that perseverance to build their character and their confidence.
Lastly, we can encourage our kids to be themselves by having high expectations of them. While we keep their nature and personality in view, we can teach them to help, both around their homes and in their communities. When we expect our kids to help and to be responsible, and when we give them the tools and skills to do so, we build their confidence. And confidence encourages kids to be themselves.
My Signing Time Can Help!
We often hear from parents that because their children knew signing from My Signing Time, they were able to confidently communicate in difficult or high pressure situations. When things get stressful, kids can find it difficult to express themselves. Signing provides a way for kids to feel secure in communicating with their families in difficult situations, and this eases their fears and provides confidence for them to state their thoughts clearly. This is another way for them to feel at ease in being themselves.
Our Signing Time Dictionary is a great resource for you to get started in learning signs that would help your family. There are signs about animals, bedtime, colors, feelings, numbers, people, phrases, questions, toys, and more!
Then there is all our fun, educational programming that helps your children learn signing for themselves. You can access our shows from any device with a My Signing Time digital subscription. Try it with a free 14-day trial here!