THE OPEN HAVERSACK: The individual child
Each child is a unique being with his or her own personality, developing at different rates and at different times, with individual differences. Knowing and accepting the individual differences of a child can help parents, teachers and caretakers understand the behaviours of the child and appreciate the child more. However, parents, teachers and caregivers can forget the individuality of the child and compare the child to other siblings or family members.
Every parent wants as close to the perfect child as possible. They want the child to excel academically, spiritually, emotionally, socially and physically. It is all well to want this, but we must be mindful that there is no such thing as the perfect child and that no two children are alike.
Get to know your child. Take time to get to know who your child is. Communicate and spend time with him or her doing things he or she enjoys. When you are with them give them your undivided attention.
Stop comparing. Do not compare one child to another in their attitude or performance to work. Such actions do not and will not motivate the child, on the contrary, it causes the child to feel dejected, angry and discouraged.
Teachers too must stop comparing children against their other siblings or family background. Too often you hear comments like “his or her brother did not learn so do not expect nothing much” or “this whole family did not learn.” Please do not compare or ignore a child; this may cause the child to feel not valued or rejected.
Do not show favouritism. Treat all children the same. Parents should not ignore one child and give lots of love and attention to another. This can cause sibling rivalry and jealousy. Within the classroom teachers should show no partiality. The children who are not as academically gifted as the others should be given the same attention as the “high flyers”. Favouritism can make a child feels less than worthy and unloved.
Talking too much about the mistakes of a child rather than his or her good qualities can be damaging and have long term psychological and emotional effects. Remember you are shaping young minds. It is time to accept children for who they are. Appreciate their strengths and help them grow from their weaknesses. Stop highlighting only the negatives in our children, commend them and tell them about the good you see in them. Teach them coping skills so that when obstacles come, however slight, they will be able to deal with them.
Show your children you love them by accepting them for who they are. When we learn to appreciate our children as individuals, understand their strengths and weaknesses, motivate and stimulate them, we help them grow into capable, loving productive citizens who can function in society and make a significant contribution to the development of our country.
• Rhonda A. Blackman is an educator, National Development Scholar and former president of the Early Childhood Association of Barbados Inc.