Learning, discovery and finding your way in the world is not all fun and games. It can be very stressful for some youngsters. The Heath Practice Hypnotherapy have been busy helping the children and young people of Cardiff overcome anxiety related obstacles such as bedwetting, stammers, exam stress and night terrors, compulsive behaviour, lack of confidence and phobic responses for some time.
We have compiled a short list of steps you can take right now to start watching your child flourish!
These suggestions are compiled from personal experience, research and invaluable tips from families that have overcome such difficulties. Read and enjoy!
1. Take a step back and stop being a ‘helicopter parent’. By helping your child do everything from getting dressed, eating, making their bed, laying the table and tidying up etc. you are actually depriving them of small tasks they could learn to accomplish independently. They may not be as quick as you or match your exacting standards but this is the way children learn new skills. The more new challenges they accomplish the more competent and confident they will feel, so what if they go to Sainsbury dressed as batman.
2. Give your children choices. Ok let’s be sensible about this one, don’t just ask your child “what do you want for tea?” that is not only daunting for them but damaging to their self-esteem when you have to say a big NO to preparing sausage, peas and chocolate spread. Giving simple choices preselected by you such as offering a choice between lasagne and stew, helps your child feel empowered. Learning to make simple choices while they are young will help prepare them for the more difficult choices in later life.
3. Be generous with praise and cautious with criticism. We are very good at noticing and reacting when our children are misbehaving or being disobedient. But somehow we overlook the importance of ‘catching’ them being good. Don’t be afraid of ‘breaking the spell’ if your child is playing nicely – tell them how proud you are.
4. Only give sincere praise. Children see right through insincere praise and subsequently it means very little to them. Make your praise more effective by being specific with your compliments. If your child brings you a painting don’t gush about how wonderful it is and what a brilliant painter they are, really look at what they have done and try something like: “That’s a really great painting, I particularly like the way you’ve shown the man smiling whilst the scorpion stings him” (real example)
5. Be careful with your terminology. If your little darling is misbehaving and you want the behaviour to stop, chose your words with care. A great place to start is avoiding the word “Don’t”. A child’s brain will skip over double negatives as they are too abstract to process. When you say “Don’t hit your brother” a young mind will not register the ‘don’t’ and will only hear “Hit your brother” and we can see where that will lead…….. Saying: “be kind to your brother” would be far more effective as the child will hear the word ‘kind’ instead of ‘hit’. This takes some practice but you will be amazed at the difference.
6. Offer explanations. If like me, you would prefer your child not to place objects into their ears or nostrils, don’t just ask them not to do it (in the kindly manner of tip #5 e.g. “please use the crayon for drawing on paper”). But also offer an explanation why it is a good idea “because putting a crayon up your nose might well cause your brain to fall out”. (ok maybe be a bit less imaginative with the truth) but children need more than just instruction, they need guidance to learn.
7. Praise your child in public. This is a massively effective tool and fully charged with self-esteem goodness. Again this praise should be as sincere and specific as possible so they know you really mean it.
8. Help them feel valued. Even if they are having a full on 100% self-destructive meltdown make sure they know it’s the behaviour that’s unwanted and not them. Replace “you are a naughty girl” with “that was a naughty thing to do”. In the heat of the moment it’s easy to use sarcasm and put downs but remember that they are only just learning to control their behaviour and emotions. Just imagine if you were told “you are a stupid girl and Mummy’s so disappointed in you” how would that make you feel? better or worse?
10. Enjoy their company. Put your phone down and spend quality time with your child now before it’s too late. Before you know it they will be all grown up and their phone will be significantly more important to them than their relationship with you. So play, talk, read, skip, jump and be silly. Take a walk in the woods, a paddle in the sea and avoid the urge to ‘Instagram’ it – teach them that real life, face to face communication is vital for a happy, healthy life.
Implementing some or all of the above changes will not only improve your child’s self-esteem and happiness but will also change your life for the better. Shifting your focus to the great things about your child will provide you with Dopamine, this lovely neurotransmitter will be released by the brain as you congratulate yourself on what a good job you have done bringing them up. More positive interaction with your child will give your Serotonin levels a boost, as will the increased positive activity such as throwing an ollie down the local skate ramp…well why not.
If all else fails and you find it difficult not to think of the doom and gloom or maybe you actually love wallowing in your pond of negativity, then just follow tip #9 and pretend to be happy, just while your kid is around. This in itself will actually produce a good amount of ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters.
Pretending to be happy is the next best thing to being happy. Give it a go.