As a parent, I've always thought it was important to put the best spin on every situation, so my children would view the world as a place of possibilities as opposed to failure.
According to a study out of the University of Denver cited in U. S. News & World Report, parents who have a warm and positive attitude can help lift the spirits of children genetically predisposed to being gloomy.
In the study, children with a gene variation of 5-HTTLPR had lower serotonin levels in the brain, which is the feel-good hormone that makes people feel sunnier. When those children were raised in more supportive and positive environment, they were happier.
I think the study is key, because it shows that parents who are cold, critical, and less nurturing could have a devastating impact on more sensitive children.
When my children were young I attended a parenting class, so I could learn ways to be a more positive and supportive parent.
According to an article by happychild.com, a study conducted at Washington University showed being a supportive parent can even affect the size of the hippocampus in the brain. Having a smaller hippocampus is associated with mental illness.
Encouraging creative thought
One way I encouraged my child was by letting him know it is good to think outside the box, especially when trying to solve problems. I supported my son in any interest in taking art or music classes as well as joining the baseball team or playing tennis. At the same time, I also tried to establish boundaries by letting my son know what is appropriate in society.
Boosting my child's self-esteem
I found the best way to build my son's self-esteem was not so much what I did, but what I didn't do. I was careful not to criticize him. I did my best not to make deprecating comments so he wouldn't show false humility. In other words, I didn't put myself down because real humility isn't like that.
Praising effort, not just accomplishment
I used to be annoyed when my son's teacher would congratulate students for minor things such as sitting quietly or raising their hands. Some parenting experts claim children don't know how to cope in the real world because they are constantly praised for trying. They criticize the culture that promotes the idea of everyone winning or everyone getting a ribbon. I wanted my son to know he is a good person. I rather he win the trophy of being a good person in life rather than being first to cross a finish line.
Giving them space to grow
I think a lot of parents think they need to be at the school or church for every event, field trip, and party. Although it's important to be involved, some children also like to be independent. When my son let me know he needed space, I respected his wish. At the same time, when he asks for help, I give it to him. I don't roll my eyes and pull a passive-aggressive parenting move. Some parents I know think their children have to earn their help by making them happy and doing what they want. I think it's my role as a parent to be patient, nurturing, and forgiving.
Ultimately, as parents, we are not only responsible for our children's physical safety but for their emotional and mental development. In recent years, I've met grandparents and great-grandparents who had a cold parenting style that involved making their young children toughen up as latch-key kids. I think a growing number of younger parents know what it's like to be raised by narcissistic parents, and they just want to be there for their children.
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