Handicapping your kids (Part. 2)

handicapart2Handicapping kids socially is what we were talking about in my last post. Just think of how much our opinion of a person is based on very basic and simple information that our eyes and ears take in when we first meet them. A person's ability to speak intelligently, to be friendly and confident, to have the courtesy to express that they understand what we are saying, to be relaxed while also well-mannered, and to know how to strike the balance between being upbeat while not being annoyingly happy, are all easily observed in the first few moments of any conversation. These are social skills that are taught, handed down from parent to child by example. No amount of formal education can compensate for the lack of these important skills.

One basic need of a child is to be mentally stimulated to express their creativity. Reading books aloud, going to museums, watching interesting movies that you talk about and learn from afterwards, singing, learning a musical instrument, going out to eat in a restaurant where they have to learn to order from a foreign language menu, talking about the news headlines of the day - all of these are ways in which your child's mind is stimulated to think beyond himself.

But just teaching him or her information about the world around them is not enough. It's how you talk with them that cements the lesson into their minds. It's the one-on-one interaction as you listen to their comments, and answer them back lovingly and patiently. It's how you allow them to imagine, to create their own ideas and theories and treat those thoughts as valid, that teaches them that this is how we treat others. When they come up with wild and crazy thoughts about the dinosaur bones you just saw, a smart parent doesn't shoot them down as ridiculous, but allows them to expand on their ideas. Kids need to see that even if you don't agree, you're willing to listen and give them a chance to explain their opinions. Kindly and discreetly, you can guide them in the right direction to understand what the truth of the matter is once they are done with their fantasy. The lesson may have been on dinosaurs, but the deeper, more lasting lesson was on how to listen and show consideration for other people's opinions.

These skills don't need to be taught in words. Kids learn how to do it themselves. They automatically pick up those habits of graciousness from you. They enjoyed that kind of treatment when they had something to say, and now see no other way to treat others than in the same manner.

And that is where the crux of social skills and good manners lies - in seeing that there is a beautiful and big world outside yourself that you can learn from and enjoy. That means when someone you have never met is introduced to you by someone you trust, you need to be kind and friendly. As you put others at ease around you, they will most likely enjoy your company and want to treat you kindly as well. When others observing your conversation sense that upbeat vibe and that willingness to listen, they form a snap judgment of you based on just a glimpse of who you are, but it's a very positive one.

So the connection is: Children who have that basic need for creative stimulation and interaction fulfilled, become aware of the world around them. Parents who know how to foster that love of learning with patience and consideration for their thoughts, pass on more than just head knowledge. Children who have experienced learning through kindness and consideration, enjoy expressing themselves in the same manner. Children with good social skills put others at ease, and reveal through their demeanor that they are intelligent, positive and creative people.

And from this, doors of opportunity open much more readily. That could mean, teachers more willing to help them, more supportive friends, more emotionally stable, better prepared to deal with stress, more focused on reaching goals, and eventually better job choices, dating choices etc.

This is no guarantee that taking your child to museums and talking about them will cause them to grow up to be successful, but the odds of success are stacked heavily against the child who grows up with limited cultural and social interaction.

It is rare to find a child who is a pleasure to be around these days. This is not the fault of the child, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents. A teenager that can't even listen to instructions and ask the proper questions to be sure that the job is done right is handicapped and may not go far in life. A young girl who only sees the neighborhood of drugs and immorality as her world, doesn't even want to speak to someone from outside that invisible bubble. In fact she doesn't know how to.

So for those children who's basic needs are ignored, who eventually does teach them culture and social skills? You don't want to know...

Evelyn Higginbotham

How-tos for Parents


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