Empathy is the capacity to see the world through another person’s eyes. For parents, this means appreciating and validating your child’s point of view. It does not mean agreeing with everything they want. How you model empathy teaches your child a flexible point of view. Strong ties to family create a sense of security and help your child connect with others. You can teach empathy by encouraging the expression of emotions, so that your child will feel comfortable reaching out during difficult times, addressing conflict openly to resolve problems, and listening actively to your child.
Opportunities to Contribute
We want our children to develop responsibility and compassion by providing opportunities to contribute. This means each child has one or two age-appropriate chores at home. Contributing to family life strengthens parent-child bonds and teaches your child about satisfying life experiences. Most children at an early age are motivated to help others too. Involving children in community projects such as a food drive fosters self-esteem and a social conscience. Stress the importance of serving others by modeling generosity.
Competence Through Experience
Competence describes the feeling of knowing that you can handle a situation effectively. When we teach children how to solve problems and learn from outcomes, they gain confidence in their abilities to handle problems. Help your child learn that mistakes are learning experiences as well. Avoid shaming your child when he or she fails to complete a task. Find a way to express your optimism that your child will improve the next time.
Confidence and Flexibility
A child’s belief in his own abilities comes from competence. Every child has different strengths that take time to develop. Promote your child’s strengths by clearly recognizing your child’s qualities such as fairness, persistence and kindness. Focus on the best qualities in your child. Keep your child’s developmental stage in mind when you ask the child to do a task. Be a partner with your child when you want your child to complete a complex task. Your child needs to learn how to be successful with complex tasks and to enjoy the satisfaction when the task is done. Too often parents expect the least-equipped child to be the most flexible family member. Teach skills in small steps to build confidence.
Coping Skills for a Lifetime
Learning to cope effectively with stress will help your child be better prepared to overcome life’s challenges. Good coping skills include modeling a positive attitude and positive self-talk, how to calm down when upset, and how to be an effective problem solver. Children who learn to influence the outcomes of their decisions will realize that they can bounce back. This strengthens your child’s competence and confidence. Help your child to understand that life’s events are not purely random, but occur by good/bad decision-making. Children need to know that you believe in them and love them unconditionally.