by Karol Svoboda
This is the time to fine tune the values we want to develop in our child. This is the most impressionable age to teach, model and impart values into our child. In their first six years of life many of those values came through different forms of discipline and external controls. The discipline doesn’t fully end but should no longer need to be the main focus, so that we can be spending the majority of our time in training our child for life. It is time to build a deep rooted sense of self worth, a good sense of humour, responsibility, moral values, good habits, discernment/critical thinking and to develop their unique skills and abilities.
During this period in a child’s life school and peers can take up a major bulk of their time. In many children their world has become a much bigger place and the parent’s ability to control the influences around them has shrunk. The foundation we laid in the first six years can be strengthened and reinforced in these years if we understand our child’s needs and learn how to meet those needs.
If we believe in their God given value, potential and uniqueness we will encourage them to grow into that. It is vitally important that the home continues to be their main source of love and acceptance or a child will begin to look primarily to teachers, role models and friends to define who they are and determine their self image to a great degree. Our role as parents is to build in our child a strong sense of security and acceptance through an ongoing commitment to unconditional love. How do we do that?
Understand Your Child’s Love Language
What do they need from us to know they are loved? In what ways can we best communicate love to them? It comes through our understanding how each one of our children receives love best from us. A book that helped us to understand this, is: Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. (It is available through OM/STL Press) In his book Gary Chapman says that the five ways we can communicate love to our child is: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service and Physical Touch. Learning which one speaks love most clearly to our child helps us to communicate our love more deeply to them. Each child is unique in their need to receive love, just as we are.
Be Available to Listen with Your Eyes, Mind, and Heart
When a child knows they are truly listened to they will continue to share what is on their heart. Out of busyness or being too easily distracted, I failed in this many times. It is a skill to learn as a parent. When a child has something to share, we need to find time to give them uninterrupted time. If we can’t do it immediately, we plan a time as soon as possible to sit down and hear what they have to share, and make sure we give them the time we promise. And when we listen, we give them eye contact and engage our heart and mind in what they are saying. Make it a regular part of your day.
Skill Building, Developing Their Gifts
Not all children can excel academically and that is OK. But all children are gifted in some unique ways. When a child does not excel in school, they can feel like a total failure and that can define their self image for life if we don’t step in as parents and begin to identify and give them opportunities to develop their unique gifts. Each of our three children was unique in their strengths. One of our children showed interest in music, art and reading. We gave that child as much opportunity as possible to develop those areas. Another child enjoyed sports so we found ways for that child to learn skills in basketball, cricket and swimming. Another child’s greatest strength was building relationships. We may not think that is a skill, but it is and needs room for development. That child is now an adult who is capable of relating to all sorts of people and be a source of much help and encouragement to many lives.
We don’t have to invest a lot of money or aim for their gifts to become professional and competitive. The goal is to give a child a sense of worth in who they are so that if they struggle in other areas they have the encouragement to know that they do have strengths in something else. Often it is the parents that are at fault in adding to that sense of failure. Out of our own insecurity as parents we desire for our children to succeed and thus put undue pressure on them so that we don’t look like a failure. A child at this stage still needs discipline to do what is expected of them. But the danger is that we can easily mix up the discipline bit by cutting them down emotionally for not being as “smart or clever” as their sibling or neighbor. We never have to try and make a child feel bad in order for them to do better. This takes away the safety and security of what the home environment is to be. Our focus must always be unconditional love-loving our child no matter what.
What are the life skills a child should learn to become a responsible, mature, adult able to relate in a diverse world? A child at this age is still very teachable and observant. They will learn many things by example and we as parents have a big part in that. Are we the model we want our child to follow? Often as we teach our children we are learning the same things! This is a great time to build good habits and disciplines into their daily lives. I am not talking about legalistic rules and structures, but regular, reasonable, disciplines to develop good study habits, hygiene, household chores etc. The goal will always be to develop habits that become internalized and a part of the child, so that they will develop internal self control that they can carry with them the rest of their lives.
We also need to talk with our child about the whys behind the rules, so they can understand. They may not agree, but as we continue to have open discussion with them, be consistent in carrying them out they will eventually (maybe many years later) understand our reasoning . Don’t rescue them from their poor choices to not be punctual or finish work. They must learn that their poor choices have consequences outside of the home and that is life. In teaching them life skills one of the best things we can do is encourage, encourage, encourage when they do well. Catch them at doing good, instead of focusing only on the wrong.
We can teach our children skills to succeed in life, but the great gift we can give our child is the opportunity to know their Heavenly Father as their closest friend and greatest strength in life. Research has shown that the most receptive time for a person to come to know Jesus is between the ages of four and fourteen. We have an incredible opportunity to model to our children the love of God through our words and actions and to open the door for them to experience this love for themselves and to begin to find their purpose and meaning in life. It is the deepest security we can give them. All we do as parents is best done if prayer and relationship with God is the foundation that we continually work from. Learn all you can from others who have gone before you in parenting, but always remember if you lack wisdom, ask of God. He knows your child best.
Parenting Your Child, MC Matthew, Anna Matthew, Beulah Wood. UBSPD
Love Languages: Gary Smalley STL OM Books Hyderabad