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You Are Your Child's First Teacher

Celebrating 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 to share.
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.






















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