AND ENCOURAGING MILESTONES
Because my child is going through so many "firsts", how
can I celebrate and encourage these milestones?
You should not think of weekends, holidays and vacations as the only
"special times". All the time you spend with your child
should be quality time. There are many special times in your child's
preschool years that are milestones of growth and development. It
would take a whole book to list them. You might say that every day
in your child's life is a holiday, a time for celebration.
When your child was an infant, it was easy to observe milestones:
the first smile, each inch of growth, the first word, crawling, climbing,
and walking. The baby guidebooks told you what to expect and approximately
when to expect, so you eagerly awaited each new accomplishment.
As your child gets older, however, these milestones become more difficult
to observe and measure. Each child, for instance, has her own timetable
for toilet training, recognition of colors and shapes, and learning
Yet, during this time of enormous intellectual, physical, emotional,
and social growth, your child needs even more recognition and celebration
of her development than she did as a baby. Your recognition of this
growth and change nurtures your child's development and speeds it
along. Just like adults, children grow and learn more efficiently
when they feel good about themselves.
In fact, the most important thing you can help your child develop
in preparation for school, and for her whole life, is good self-esteem.
Your primary job is not to teach reading skills, study aids, or basic
concepts; it is to give your child the feeling that she is able to
do many things well, that she is capable and lovable.
Good self-esteem doesn't just appear in children. It grows like the
body and develops like the mind. It grows as your child meets small
challenges each day and gets positive feedback from you, even when
she doesn't succeed.
Your most important teaching tools are a multitude of positive, constructive
comments, tailored to fit each challenge your child undertakes. It
doesn't have to be a new challenge. Children like to repeat successes.
It makes them feel secure and builds that all-important confidence
that they need to try something new. For example, when you are asking
your child questions, put a question about something unfamiliar between
two questions that you know your child can answer with ease. In this
way, you are building self-esteem at the same time as you are asking
your child to meet a new challenge.
During those difficult times when you can't find many positive things
to say about your child's present behavior, talk to her about her
past milestones and accomplishments that she may have forgotten. "When
you were just a year old, you walked for the first time. We were so
proud of you." "Do you remember when Grandma was sick last
year? You made a picture for her. It made her feel much better."
These little boosts can be just the encouragement your child needs
to try that new task.
Here are some tips that management consultants offer for making positive
comments that make a difference in a business setting. Human nature
being what it is, these tips can be applied to your child as well.
First, be sure to make good eye contact with your child when you're
offering a positive comment. It really gets across your sincerity.
Also, with a "little listener," you'll be guaranteed that
your message is heard.
Next, be sure that you are close to your child when you speak to her.
Again, this avoids any possible confusion about whom you are praising.
Then, say what you feel. Tell your child exactly what she did that
was so special and how you felt about it. Don't forget to tell her
you love her for who she is, not just for what she does.
As well as speaking to your child about how special she is, make sure
you take the time to listen closely to what she has to say. Self-confidence
grows as children feel that the people they really care about are
interested in their ideas, concerns, questions, and feelings.
And, always remember, you can't make your child feel too good about
herself. With all the new things she is experiencing in her early
years, all the new people she is meeting, and all the challenges she
is facing every day, good self-esteem can make a tremendous difference
in your child's development and happiness.