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How to Raise a Child with a Caring Spirit

By Sally Goldberg, Ph.D.


Q. How do you raise a child with a caring spirit?

A. With self-esteem and caring deeds.

Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does caring grow? With self-esteem and acts supreme. That is what we know.

Self-esteem

There are four parts to building your child's self-esteem. The first is based on confidence. This is the on-going process to help your child develop his skills and abilities in four areas – cognitive, motor, social, and language. The higher these skills are and the more well developed these abilities are, the more your child will feel inner strength.

Second, it comes from all the ways that you acknowledge his individuality and uniqueness. There is no one else in the world who is just like your child ... and that is wonderful. Personality develops over time, and it is a parent's privilege and delight to have the opportunity to watch it unfold.

Third, it comes from how you show your child respect and appreciation for what he or she does. "Please carry the bag" is respectful. "Thank you for helping" is appreciative.

The fourth or last part plays a large role as well. This is the process of translating the word 'misbehavior' to the word 'mistaken behavior'. The more punishments you give, the worse your child will feel about himself or herself. Consequences for mistaken behavior set up ahead of time are fair, firm, and positive; they are part of the teaching process. When it is 'mistaken behavior,' the focus is on learning. The key is for a child to be able to learn from his or her mistakes and do better in the future. This teaching is what makes a child feel good. If a child feels good about himself, he will feel good about others. If he feels good about others, he will treat them nicely. If he treats others nicely, that is caring.

Caring Deeds

As a parent you are your child's first and most important teacher. You teach as much as you can as often as you can. You talk about honesty and caring. You talk about responsibility and integrity. You tell your child about becoming a contributing member of society, being sympathetic, empathetic, and hard working. You promote kindness, understanding, and helpfulness. The list goes on.

While teaching about these values is a beginning, it does not complete the job. It is modeling that accomplishes the goal. As you love your family members, you model love for the family. As you help your neighbors and friends, you model caring about them. Here are some other examples:

  • You touch your child often. Any time he or she is upset or somewhat out of sorts, you are there to hold, hug, and caress him through the situation.

  • You prepare nutritious meals everyday for your child. Wherever you are, you make sure that your child has available to him as many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as possible.

  • You keep your house looking as clean and neat as possible. With beds made, toys picked up, and dishes washed, you display pride in your home.

  • You call and check on your aging mom and dad frequently. You visit them as much as you can and bring them whatever they need.

  • You make donations to organizations like Good Will. You know that some things that you no longer need can be helpful to others.

As the old saying goes, "They will do what you do and not what you say."

The combination of your child's feeling good about himself or herself on the inside and seeing caring deeds on the outside is the formula for raising a child with a caring spirit. The story gets better. Once your child starts feeling good on the inside, he stars caring on the outside.

Once he starts caring on the outside, he feels even better on the inside. This feeling good inside and caring on the outside cycle is what brings continuous generosity to the world. Enjoy this beautiful process over the holidays with your child. As you ring in the new year, you will know that you and your child are following "Mary's advice."



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About the Author: Dr. Sally Goldberg is founder/director of Dr. Sally Parenting. Learn from her on-line at www.drsallyparenting.com, in newspapers and magazines, and now through parent coaching. For questions or comments, contact Dr. Sally at drsally@drsallyparenting.com or call 561-715-9115.



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