Raising a child is probably the most difficult challenge you will ever face in your life. Raising a well-rounded, assertive child with a strong sense of self – not overbearing but not a shrinking violet either – is taking it to the next level. And so worth the effort!
An assertive child is likely to carve out his or her own life path without too much adult interference, but as a parent there are quite a few pointers that will help you nurture and develop an assertive individual who can stand up for himself without letting ego get in the way.
EQ not IQ
Quite a mind-shift, but it’s been proven over and over that academic intelligence alone is not enough to equip your child for a meaningful life. It’s often the highly intelligent – and by default normally sensitive – child who struggles with the realities of the world out there.
You’ll do them such a favour if you focus on the whole rainbow of experiences that make us humans rather than only on their intelligence quotient and performance as the criteria for a generally happy life.
Go easy on achievement
And while we’re on the topic of academic performance, we should be very mindful how ambition and achievement are viewed at home. Is it the be-all and end-all or are your kids encouraged to aim a little higher than conventional ideas about success? If they look at you, do they see someone whose blinkers block everything on the periphery and focus only on achievement?
Raise realistic kids
A healthy ego is good and we all know it, but continuously praising your kids to high heaven will make them think they’re more special than others and somehow entitled to preferential treatment.
That belief will not help them when life shows its less perfect side. What will help, though, is a healthy sense of self and the conviction that they can achieve good things and be self-actualized individuals if they accept that they are not perfect but that it’s cool because that’s what makes life and the whole business of living special and tricky and fun and happy and sad and just a plain miracle. And that they should embrace it.
And while we’re talking about keeping things realistic, also remember to not always indulge your kids. Say no sometimes. Instant gratification won’t teach them patience and gratitude.
Be real yourself
If you plan to lead by example, you will have to show your less perfect side otherwise they will set their hopes in life unrealistically high. Life does not always work the way we plan and we have to accept that fact without letting it get us down. Sometimes Plan B is better than Plan A after all!
Be human and be real and they will mimic your actions as a perfectly fallible person with shortcomings like all of us. They’ll soon grasp that it’s perfectly ok and that life’s about learning and growing and not about being perfect. That way they won’t be so hard on themselves if they make mistakes.
Nudge them on
You know that taking a leap involves risk, but is fear of falling enough reason not to jump? What’s the worst that could happen if you’ve got their back?
Encourage your kids to nurture their sense of adventure and to be fearless in their convictions. Sure they will fail and obviously you won’t motivate them to rush into something really silly, but if they are moved to do something they feel passionate about, let them go right ahead.
The great achievers in life are those who stand strong in their convictions and get right back in the saddle after a fall. It’s the stuff that builds character.
Raise independent adults
And on the topic of character, teach your kids that everything has consequences and they’ll think twice before making a rash decision. Not always being there to clean up their mess will teach them to face and own up to their own mistakes.
Just always remember that whatever you do, don’t break their spirit. At the end of the day, if your child is happy in his skin, loving and kind, a good communicator, assertive and not swayed too much by the whims of this world, cares for others and hopes to leave a positive footprint on this earth, then you have done pretty well so far, my friend.