Every child born is a unique individual.
Even identical twins are individuals from birth. Many people don’t know that identical twins do not have identical fingerprints. This has to do with what we call genotype (genetic makeup) and phenotype (the result of the interaction between an individual and their environment. Thus, while twins start out the same genetically, during pregnancy, each interacts slightly different to their environment. This is due to their position in the womb, nutrition, growth rate of their fingers, and other factors.
The point is no two children are alike. And though they may have a few or many similarities with their parents, siblings, and other relative,s they also have their own unique traits from the get go and continue to differentiate even more as they grow and develop.
I like to look at each child as a unique gift, not only to their parents and family, but to the whole world as well. From birth, parents continue to discover more and more about their child’s talents, likes and dislikes, sense of humor, creativity, curiosity, dreams, fears, desires, and unique personality.
Those who study child development and work with children and adolescents understand that development is a result of both nature and nurture. While a child can excel in a number of ways, affirmation and encouragement from parents and others in their environment makes it more likely that they will actively engage in activities that will enable them to develop those capabilities.Unfortunately, some parents may have preconceived notions about how they want their child to grow up. They may picture them as becoming an athlete, a leader, an entertainer, or a professional in a particular field. Parents also want their child to be easy to get along with, friendly, cooperative, a quick learner, energetic, curious, and many other desirable characteristics. Some parents show disappointment when their child does not meet their expectations. When parents respond in this way, the usual outcome is a discouraged and frustrated child who may then respond in a number of different ways including anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of self-confidence, or oppositional- defiant behavior.
Another obstacle to a positive parent-child relationship is when a child suffers from a developmental disability such as a learning disability, ADHD, Autism, or a speech-language delay, or a medical condition like asthma, diabetes, or a physical disability. When parents are able to see all of the positives and affirm them and provide encouragement while at the same time providing help and support for a challenging condition, a child is able to move forward, grow, and develop. Parental encouragement and support fosters the natural resilience found in children as well as self-acceptance. This helps get both child and parents through the tough moments that enable them to better celebrate all of the positives.
Here are some recommendations for how parents can continue to get to know their children, and how to celebrate their lives and provide encouragement to enable them to grow and develop into happy, successful adults.
Take time each day to observe your child up close and from afar. Look for changes. Look for new skills. Experience your child as a person by interacting with them.
2. Listen and Ask Questions.
Discovery includes truly listening to your child. It means inquiring about how they think and feel about events in their life. The more you can listen with openness and acceptance, they more you will discover and at the same time affirm your child as a unique individual. Questions should be asked for the purpose of learning more. Find out what lead them to those feelings and thoughts, and how long they’ve held those thoughts or feelings. This is the time to show interest and understanding, provide support, and volunteer guidance but only if requested or when it raises serious concerns.
3. Observe and Comment.
This is the fun part of parenting – watching your child be a kid. Where they’re playing a game, drawing, playing music, performing, learning a new skill, showing off a physical feat or attempting comedy, all you have to do is watch, enjoy, and celebrate with a smile, applause, and a pat on the back. Provide praise and encouragement. Avoid being a critic – that’s the job of teachers and coaches, and your children will surely get criticism from peers as well.
4. Engage In Child-Directed Play.
Playing is good for people of all ages. It reduces stress, promotes health, and is just plain fun. When playing with younger kids as well as older children and teens, let them direct the play. Join in and have fun. Let toddlers and preschoolers make up the rules for games if they want. Get in touch with your inner child and enjoy along with them.
5. Expose Your Child To Many Different Activities.
Children should be exposed to all types of opportunities to try new things such as sports, music, art, drama, science, reading, visiting parks, the forest, the beach, museums, hobbies, and anything else you can think of. Encourage them to give it a try. Praise them for trying new things. If they become interested, encourage them and support them in their pursuit. If they feel like giving up after awhile, find out why and encourage them to keep going when things get harder or they become bored or lose interest. At some point we as parents may have to let them quit even when we think they could be successful at the endeavor. Letting them quit without a huge struggle and letting them know the door is always open is the best way to go.
6. Show Patience and Understanding.
No matter the situation, patience and understanding are always good to maintain. While dealing with children can be frustrating, being patient and showing that you understand how they are feeling helps a lot. Try to model and coach patience along with encouragement in the affirming of their abilities. Talk them through the process step by step and cheer them along the way.
Words of encouragement can be as simple as saying “I love you” and providing a smile or a pat on the back. Many young adults in my generation read The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I particularly enjoyed and still remember his passage on children. I think it provides a deeper understanding of the concepts I’m trying to impart in this article.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
For further reading on this topic, I recommend:
These videos provide both information and inspiration and will motivate you to take more time each day to truly celebrate and encourage your child’s uniqueness.
Your Unique Child
Every Child Is Unique As His/Her Fingerprints
Every Child Comes with Unique Potential
Every Child Is Born a Genius