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Twin ExpectationsRaising the Bar, Raising Expectations, Raising Children!
By Eileen A. Olds
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Judge Eileen A. Olds
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Confidence to Make Wise Choices
To lead or to follow.
To stay in class or skip school.
To stay in school or drop out.
To pay for that bracelet or steal it.
To do drugs or just walk away.
To fight or take the high road.
Our children make choices every day, but are they wise choices?
Too often, and for all the wrong reasons, kids make the wrong choices. Whether out of impulse, peer pressure, or simply a lack of tools to guide them, the choices kids make now can temporarily or even permanently affect their future. I can honestly say that I have never been in a fistfight. However, I have taken on many mental, emotional, and character fights! I think part of the reason I never got in a fistfight is because my mom always emphasized "taking the high road" and insisted that we weigh how momentary fits of rage could affect our standing among our peers, teachers, and neighbors (literally and figuratively), not to mention that fighting was not ladylike. I can still hear her saying, "Just walk away!"
Every day kids end up suffering the consequences of the choices that they have made. Too few of them understand that what they chose to do could land them in hot water or hurt someone. Sadly, too few care about the consequences of their negative behavior because they have not been taught to care about them.
That's why it's up to us as role models, parents, and people who care to help them make sound choices. But how? One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the confidence to make wise choices. My mom exuded confidence, and she made it look so easy.
Part of teaching the art of confidence is simply leading by example through making good choices of our own, and equally important is helping kids understand the consequences of both good and bad choices. Puddin'(the family nickname that we often called my mother)would remind us to be confident in our decisions, and then "hold your head high," she would say.
The Nine Gifts of Confidence
To help see the true power of confidence and how it might affect your child's decision-making process, here are what I consider the Nine Gifts of Confidence:
The First Gift of Confidence: Security
When your child feels confident, he or she also feels secure in who he or she is. When a child feels secure, he or she also has more confidence. I can't stress enough how important security is toward helping a child become a healthy, vibrant adult.
When your child is secure in who he or she is, what his or her strengths and weaknesses are, and what he or she is all about, he or she naturally finds it much easier to
make wise choices;
say no to unwise choices;
lead instead of follow;
follow the right person, if he or she must follow at all; and
choose his or her own path, regardless of popularity or peer pressure.
The insecure child, on the other hand, finds it nearly impossible to make wise choices because he or she has no idea who he or she is, what he or she stands for, or, in many cases, what's right or wrong.
The Second Gift of Confidence: Poise
When my twin sister and I were growing up, we were often struck by our mother's poise in the midst of hard decisions, tough times, or even major life decisions. While she was no emotionless cyborg, our mother personified grace under fire.
Today, however, I often see mothers as emotional and tantrum prone as their children. Children are like sponges, soaking up the mood, tone, and atmosphere of home. If they are raised by excitable parents, children often become excitable themselves.
In my experience, excitable children are often too emotional or even too frantic to make wise choices, while a child filled with poise, who can exhibit grace under pressure, can make wiser choices from a place of calm.
The Third Gift of Confidence: Calm
A sense of calm is so important for today's child. While childlike behavior includes a degree of impatience, anxiety, and selfishness, I'm amazed by the number of children who can't be still, stay quiet while others are speaking, or mind their parents even with constant redirection. I can only imagine how they act in a classroom or at home.
But the confident child can go through life with a sense of calm about him or her, making it easier for him or her to approach choices more calmly, if not more wisely.
I find that many children make choices rashly, in an environment of excitability, the very opposite of calm. I'm often struck by the thought that if that child could simply find some peace and more stability in his or her life, he or she could ultimately make better choices.
The Fourth Gift of Confidence: Trust
Specifically, the fourth gift of confidence refers to trusting oneself. One of the hardest parts of parenting is to allow our children to grow, to learn, and to test their wings and flyor fallon their own.
But how can our children learn to trust themselves if we can't learn to trust them? As I move through these gifts of confidence, I am reminded again and again of how integral the parents' role is in building a strong sense of confidencenot overconfidence, but sincere, genuine, and authentic self-confidencein their children.
My mother often reminded us that no one was any better than we were. On the other hand, if we got haughty at all, she also reminded us that we were no better than anyone else either. She taught us to be mindful of the delicate balance between confidence and conceit. Confidence was admired, conceit was not, and trusting ourselves was bolstered by that confidence.
Children should be told often what their individual strengths are and reminded that they are equipped to make wise choices. They should, in addition, be rewarded for maintaining the trust that we have in them and that we instill in them. Simply communicate with them, one-on-one, as often as possible. Talk to them about their fears, their accomplishments, their doubts, their strengths, and their weaknesses. Validate their worth as trustworthy individuals.
You don't have to be your child's incessant cheerleader, rooting him or her on for even the slightest tiny thing, but taking the time to check the pulse of your child's enthusiasm for this or that endeavor is a great way to show him or her that not only do you care, but that he or she is worth caring about. Your demonstration of trust in your child's decision-making is more important and has more impact than any peer's opinion ever could. Trust your child to trust himself or herself.
The Fifth Gift of Confidence: Establishing Priorities
I've seen too many insecure children who also lack confidence come into the courtroom for everything from minor infractions to major, even violent, crimes. The more I dig into their individual backgrounds, the more I discover how skewed their priorities often are.
I am convinced that if parents can isolate and identify their children's priorities, they can usually see the warning signs of misplaced priorities long before their children are in trouble. It's difficult for children to hide what they make important in their lives.
You can walk into a child's room and see what's important to him or her, from the posters on the wall, to his or her choice of music, to his or her list of Facebook friends.
And in case you are wondering, let me just say it: it is absurd for any child under eighteen years old to have a Facebook, Twitter, or any social media account without the parent taking regular peeps into the social-networking associations the child has established.
Trust me, this is not an invasion of your child's privacy. You are the parent; he or she is the child! (I have to keep saying it because sometimes I think we all forget that.)
The fact is, in your house, under your rules, your child should have no expectation of privacy when it comes to your overarching concern for his or her safety. A review of the source of your child's interactions paints a clear picture as to what his or her priorities are. The priorities that children set are moving and driving forces in their attitudes, morals, and behaviors.
To pinpoint your child's priorities, or to at least begin the process, ask yourself:
Who is my child making a priority? For instance, is there suddenly a new friend in his or her life? A new name you keep hearing as he or she talks on the telephone or communicates via text or Facebook?
What is my child making a priority? Is he or she suddenly into sports, or skateboarding, or hanging around on the corner? Has something or someone suddenly appeared in his or her life that is causing you concern?
How often is my child making something or someone a priority? There are priorities and then there are distractions. Fall and a new school year can mean new priorities for kids, like sports or extracurricular activities, but hopefully not distractions. Oftentimes unhealthy priorities border on and even quickly become unhealthy distractions.
Why is my child making this a priority? Again, look beyond the obvious and dig deeper. If your child is suddenly glued to the computer, it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Maybe he or she is working on a book report that's due next week or taking advantage of some new online opportunities for extra credit that the school is offering.
Is my child hiding his or her priorities from me? It does become a challenge when children start to hide their priorities from their parents. With today's modern schedules, working parents, extracurricular activities, and other family demands, it's often hard to keep tabs on your child at all times. However, more often than not, a few simple questions can reveal what your child's priorities are and why. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to ask them. But asking the right questions reinforces the need for the child to align with positive priorities, or at least distinguish from the poor or less important ones! Again, clear, positive priorities equal more confidence in the direction your future teacher, scientist, Broadway star, doctor, or judge takes.
The Sixth Gift of Confidence: Self-Assurance
To be self-assured is to trust in your own abilities, your own path, your own choices, and your own strengths and weaknesses. While few of us are ever completely self-assured, even in adulthood, the sooner a child can learn to validate the decisions that he or she makes, the sooner he or she will begin making the right choices. Your child also needs to look to you for confirmation when he or she makes intelligent, well-reasoned decisions.
One of the reasons kids make bad choices is because they're uncertain. Not only does confidence begin to erase that uncertainty with each passing day, but being self-assured makes one more certain of what is right or wrong.
The Seventh Gift of Confidence: Leadership
I see far too many followers and nowhere near enough leaders. But what happens to insecure children is that when they don't find guidance and intrafamily leadership at home, they look for it outside the home.
Usually they find it in their friends. If their friends are immature or insecure themselves or are really misguided parasites or users, they are going to be following the wrong leaders and head straight down the wrong path. The greatest leaders a child has are his or her parents. Lead the way.
The Eighth Gift of Confidence: Respect for Authority
Confident children aren't threatened by authority; therefore, they find it much easier to respect authority. Part of childhood is learning to know who to listen to and who to filter out.
Too often insecure children respect the wrong type of authority: bullies, thugs, dropouts, and other troublemakers. Being confident in who they are allows children to tell the difference between not just wise and unwise choices but also between the right and wrong kinds of authority. My mom taught us and demanded that we respect adults as a higher authority. We were expected to pay attention when adults were speaking, to give up our seats to those older than we, to hold the door open for them, to say "Yes, ma'am," or "Yes, sir," and so on. Back talking was not allowed.
Mom, Fran, and I often fondly recalled a time that one of Mom's coworkers was riding in the car with us. She constantly talked about how great she was, how great her son was, what material possessions they had, and on and on. Fran and I, only seven years old, were in the backseat about to burst with laughter and seriously wanting her to shut up but sucked it in. As soon as we dropped her off at her residence, we erupted in laughter, cackling and declaring that "She was bragging!" but we didn't dare disrespect the lady or comment in her presence, and we knew that we better not! Puddin' had no tolerance for disrespect for authority. "Be nice," especially to adults, was a frequent refrain.
It is well known that one of the reasons that gang affiliation is so deeply entrenched in our society is because of the respect for the hierarchy and authority within the organization. A high level of secrecy in gangs is dominant. The indoctrination and subsequent acts are in large part a demonstration of the respect for the authority that rules within the gang set.
Again, if the authority and direction does not come consistently from one who has been fostering the child's best interest at heart, the clues and directions will come from those who are ill-equipped to guide them.
The Ninth Gift of Confidence: Accomplishment
I've found that confident kids are also achievers. They set goals, they reach them, they accomplish what they set out to do, and they are proud of their accomplishments. So are their parents, who are generally involved in both supervising and celebrating those accomplishments.
In my experience, celebrating any accomplishment your child achieves is not only a good way to build confidence, but also a great way to build a stronger relationship in general and demonstrate pride in the child's accomplishments. I firmly believe that the dollar per A that Puddin' gave us for good report cards served as a great incentive to make those As a pattern that lasted throughout our scholastic years.
Celebrate Confidence, Not Conflict
Confidence comes from a place of security, poise, calm, and trustthe child's trust in self, and the trust placed in that child. We build their confidence when we let our children know that they are self-sufficient, worthy, and capable. The goal is to eventually let them stand on their own two feet, and confidence is one of the best tools we can give them to help them do just that.
When I was growing up, there was never a rational idea I had, a notion I was considering, or a risk I was willing to take that my mother wasn't willing to support or take with me!
If I came home from school and said, "Mom, I'm thinking about running for student body president," her immediate, loud, and instinctive response would be, "Good for you! Go for it!"
If my sister said, "Mom, I am going to find a cure for cancer someday," she would have burst into shouts of joy and promoted the idea that she could do it!
Puddin' never encouraged us to be foolhardy, of course, but she understood that kids have to take risks and learn to grow. As much as it is our job to protect them, we must also prepare our children for the very unfair, very real world they will one day grow up to inhabit.
Our mother knew thatwin or losethe trials and tribulations of running for student government, for example, would prepare me for life, just as she knew that my sister may or may not grow out of her desire to find a much-needed cure for disease. Either way, she supported our decisions because she wanted us to be independent, to be self-sufficient, to be secure in our own decisions, to be confident, and above all, to continue to dream.
The fact is that we often do a disservice to our children by focusing on what they can't do rather than what they can. We simply do not celebrate the accomplishments our children make: mediocre, good, great, or anywhere in between.
In fact, we do quite the opposite. Rather than celebrating or paying attention to the good that our children do, we are frequently only aroused when they have done something bad.
So many children continue to act out in a negative manner because the celebrations in their lives center around negative behavior. The parent who only shows up to school when the child is suspended but not to the PTA meeting or for parent-teacher conferences is showing the child more attention and having more contact with school than he or she does when there is not trouble at hand. Likewise, the parent who joins with the child (without proper exploration or validation) in asserting that "it's the teacher's fault" tacitly ratifies the child's misbehavior.
The message the child soon gets is that the parent is more responsive to bad than good. Likewise, the parent who makes every hour of visitation at the detention home may be the same parent who never spent one hour of exclusive contact with the child when at home. Suddenly, a child who has been emotionally abandoned for most of his or her life is getting the attention he or she so craved growing up.
Excerpted from Twin Expectations by Eileen A. Olds Copyright © 2012 by Judge Eileen A. Olds. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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