‘Anna always helps me in the kitchen you know, she never disappoints me.’ , said Janet, watching young Anna blush as she bathed in the approval of her beloved mother. As parents, we all love the little kid who goes out of their way for our approval. We jump at the first opportunity to label this little mind- ‘good boy’, ‘smart girl’, etc and little do we know that the approval cycle has begun! Let’s take a good look at what it means to raise a child in a world of ‘Likes’.
Raising a Child in a World of Likes
Locus of Control
From the age of 1, as a child begins to walk by himself, he begins his inward journey to understand his independence and his capabilities. He throws a toy rudely or flings away his food to see the power he has on your mood and your behavior. The parent’s reaction to each of these actions begins to shape a new individual. The child is now beginning to develop his locus of control.
Locus of control is a term used here for accountability. When kids are raised with a sense of accountability, their locus of control always lies within them. Simply put, a child understands that ‘I’ and only ‘I’ am responsible and accountable for my actions. He does not seek constant approval from his elders, teachers or peers. The more the locus shifts within, the happier the kid we raise. Research shows that children who do academically well without the pressure of academics have a strong inner locus of control. “Until I don’t sit with her, she will never finish her homework.” This is the most common complaint among parents and teachers. “Is she depending too much on me? Or is she not clear about her responsibilities?”
‘It’s neither ‘, says counsellor Payal (name changed for confidentiality), “It happens because the locus of control for this child is outside.” When we begin to seek approval, we lose our sense of responsibility or in some cases, feel responsible for everything beyond our circle of control. Both extremes can lead to unhappiness resulting from disappointment and guilt.
Lead the way for your little one
The world of social media that we live in today demands that everything we do or are is to be ‘LIKED’. “I posted a recipe online and got 256 likes.” “Wow that’s great! Must be a great recipe.” This is just a sample of a regular conversation between two mothers who are a part of the online social media scandal of ‘Likes.’ We spend hours scrolling down on our smart phones, looking at pictures of someone’s vacation, hearing someone rant about their troublesome in-laws while another expresses his happiness over a promotion or a new car.
The ‘Likes’ and comments are the modern day version of outside approval. That recipe was good even it hadn’t got the 256 likes! However, the world of likes has changed a lot about our own perception of ourselves. Now, the outside world thinks of us and lets us know what we need to think about ourselves.
You can break the cycle of seeking approval and lead the way for your little one. Find your locus of control and let it be safe within you , untouched by the harsh or pleasant approvals of those on the outside.
Raise not Praise
Self esteem is a strong bridge to happiness. As parents, we are responsible for our child’s self esteem. Sometimes, our enthusiasm can cause serious danger to the self esteem of our child. He holds a bat and we declare he is the next Sachin Tendulkar. She sings a verse and we have found our very own Lata Mangeshkar at home!
We celebrate small achievements like our toddler entering playschool. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it isn’t exactly an achievement, rather it’s more of a milestone. We need to differentiate between efforts, creativity and true achievement rather than praising them constantly thinking we are loading them with positive energy.
The truth is, when they begin schooling, they find it tough to realize that they will not be praised for every single thing they do. It will be their unique skills and efforts that will get them the attention they desire. However, by then the game of approvals has begun with teachers, moving on to peers, to bosses and then to spouses !
Fear of Failure
“You have scored really well Sakshi, even when you hardly studied!” this could be positively modified to, “I am proud of the efforts you put in Sakshi; your score is just an outcome.” Young children who develop depression and anxiety issues always discover that the root of it seems to be an obsession with exams and marks.
Arvind still remembers that day like it was yesterday. He returned home with sweaty palms, nervous about failing a subject in his sixth grade. He didn’t know how to face his parents. His fight with Maths was turning uglier everyday. His mother’s slap and his fathers words still haunt him. “I just wish he could earn enough to feed himself. Hopeless character!” Arvind is 35 now, with kids of his own, but that old fear of failure grips him every time there is a new project at work. The anxiety spreads to his entire family and he wishes things could be different. If only people would accept failure as gracefully as they celebrate success. Would he be able to instil this in the young minds of his own kids? Would he be able to teach them that its ok to not get that sports medal or excel academically? Can he teach them something he never learnt?
‘Forget your perfect offspring. There is a crack in everything, thats how the light gets in.’ —-Leonard Cohen.
Give your child a hundred percent of the real you. ‘You’ without the selfies, ‘You’ without one hand on the scrolling updates of social media sites. ‘You’ without the fear of being judged by a neighbor or an annoying family member. Give your child, a space to fail, fall, rise up and try again, and you can be sure that success shall follow. Happy Parenting!
Mansi Nipun Gupta is a Psychotherapist and a Relationship Counselor. With a soon to be 1 year old naughty son, Mansi currently teaches and counsels students from various backgrounds. With her innovative learning methodologies and student management skills, she coaches students for life skills and academics. She also conducts seminars on parenting and relationship management.