Profile of Encouraged Children
Walk through any mall and you will see discouraged families. The parents look weary because the children are controlling them. How did this happen?
With both parents working and returning home tired, sometimes it’s just easier to give in to the demands of the children. Eventually the pattern is set. An Audio child knows if he relentlessly demands his way, he will win. A Visual knows if she asks for your help with a project and frets over getting it done, you will do it for her rather than taking the time to help her do it herself.
A Feeler child knows if she turns on the tears every time she has a little “ouch,” and you rush to her rescue rather than just cleaning the scratch and making light of it, that she can manipulate you by woefully crying. A Wholistic knows if he has a temper tantrum if you don’t take him with you, that you might give in because the tantrum stops instantly when you do.
Encouraged children develop into adults with good self-esteem and therefore, function through their Empowering Tendencies. Discouraged children end up as adults working through their Limiting Tendencies. This means they are controlling. They found out at an early age how to control you and now they do it with others as well.
In the children’s section of Stop When You See Red, there is a table that shows parental actions that lead to discouraging results, such as a confrontation with your Audio child where you are both demanding your way. Recommended actions are then listed that lead to more encouraging results.
You can easily spot a family that has encouraged their children because they are happy and relaxed. The family members obviously enjoy being with each other and there is mutual respect. In my book I also talk about 5-star efforts, which are actions that take more effort but the rewards are worth it. Here is an excellent example: When I was shopping with my sister, I observed two pairs of siblings running around the store. One set was getting into mischief. They took toilet paper off the shelf, built a fort, and then left it, all in a matter of minutes. They opened a bottle of soda, drank some and left the rest. They made a hole in a bag of candy and took some. Where was the parent? I never did see them with a parent.
The other pair, a boy of about age 5 and his sister, about 3 ½, peeked around the corner of the aisle, laughing happily. Their faces radiated sheer joy. They took something off the shelf and ran back to their mom and put it in the cart. This continued until I realized she was letting them help her shop. It made them feel important and respected and they cheerfully rose to the occasion. They always checked first before running to get something so they wouldn’t bump into someone.
My sister stood behind the mother while she was unloading the cart filled to the brim. I walked past the checkout counter to get out of the way. I was enthralled with what I saw next. Both children stood at the end of the counter and started bagging along with the mother. Each carefully put the items in the plastic bag. Often the girl had to set the item on the floor, put the bag over it, turned it on its side and then again so the bag could be picked up the handles. If she couldn’t get the bag in the cart, she asked her mother to help who waited until she asked. Then together they lifted it up and over into the shallow basket. On the pullout shelf, the mother put litters of soda. The girl carefully placed two in a bag by standing each bottle upright on the floor side-by-side, covering them with the bag, and then asking her mother to pick it up and put it in the cart. Her mother wasn’t concerned that the bottles were upside-down in the bag.
Most of the time, the boy put items on the pullout shelf for his sister. Otherwise she couldn’t reach them. That was her workstation and he worked beside it. When they tired, they came over to the wall where I was standing. Halloween was that weekend so there were two cardboard jack-o-lanterns taped to the wall at different heights. The boy jumped and touched the lower one. His little sister tried and missed. He talked to her, I couldn’t hear what he said, and she tried again and again, each time getting closer. Finally she touched the mouth of the jack-o-lantern. He cheered and then said, “Touch the eyes.” She jumped and did! Meanwhile he was finally able to touch the higher jack-o-lantern. They both looked so pleased with themselves because they both reached their goals. I was impressed. I asked the boy how they were able to jump so high. He said simply, “Aim high, jump!”
The mother’s efforts clearly fell into the 5-star category. Maybe she could have bagged the groceries faster without their assistance while she told them to wait over by the wall. Out of boredom, they might have become restless and started pushing each other. Next you might hear, “Stop it! Behave yourselves!” And she and the children would have slipped into a discouraging situation where none felt like winners.
How much extra time did it take to show these young children what they could do rather than dwelling on what they couldn’t do? Just remember to aim high and jump at the opportunities that will develop encouraged rather than discouraged children.