How to Raise Children to be Successful Adults with Character
How to Raise Children to be Successful Adults with Character
By Paula-Elizabeth Jordan
I was really excited when asked to write an article on this topic because it has a close connection to “My Story”. I was very self-aware very early and it did prevent me from “experimenting” in the uninhibited that a child actually needs to do in order to properly learn when very young. What it did mean however was that I was also very observant and in my “shyness”, I paid keen attention to what was going on around me. I paid particular attention to the “popular children” – what did they do to make people like them so much? Whist I asked myself great questions like this (yes, even as young as 4-5 years of age) I “told” myself a negative story that prevented me from being able to share what I’ve learnt up until now! 🙂
I think that to answer this I first better outline my definition of “character”. Someone with “character” is someone who is likeable and able to turn situations to their advantage and the advantage of others around them. Whilst they may not always do things by the rules, they know how to “break” them in a way that does causes unnecessary upset, or anxiety to anyone; so there’s a certain savviness to them. They are also aware enough to know how much to push the boundaries and when to stop. – Does that sound like the type of “character” you want to encourage in your children?? Ok then; let me tell you how.
I’m not sure you’ll be able to believe your eyes when I tell you one of the biggest secrets to raising a child with character!! – Believe it, or not but the biggest secret here is the ability to know when and how to use that all important two letter word – “No”!! This one I learnt pedagogically in the same way Montessori learnt her method – through experience and observation. I was never good at saying “no” as a child, hence I could either be slightly teased, or have my “good nature” taken advantage of by other children. Hence I was always on the edge of groups – my sense of humour was my salvation!! As an adult – I am very good at saying “no”, and I have no hesitation to use it with children when necessary. As a result, I have a lot more friends, all very interesting people from all over the World with “growth mindsets” and all the children I’ve worked with are very likeable and doing well at school. Plus, they still talk about me in a very fond and loving way.
Think about it for a moment; “No”, is actually very attractive when used properly. Can you remember a situation where someone said “No” to you and it may have slightly annoyed you, but at the same time you had to make more effort for them – either to get a “Yes”, or just because something inside of you there was something that wanted to please them more. Compare this now to someone who always obliges and says “Yes” to everything you ask. Be honest with yourself; “do you ever take advantage, even though you know you shouldn’t??” Plus, “Do you respect them as much as another person who you blatantly know you can’t get away with behaving like that towards??” – Please avoid feelin guilty, it’s human-nature. So respect yourself and say “No”!
The way to use “No” properly is by simply staying truth to your beliefs and values. What’s important to you when it comes to raising a child? – First think about this if you haven’t done so already. The reason I’m saying this is because not everyone does think about it – I personally feel this is because of the fear that they feel they may not be enough – Listen, You Are Enough! When you know what’s important to you – stick to it – consistency – Never stray away from what’s true for you. When it comes to something important; say “No” if necessary. Remember, you are your child’s parent first and foremost before you are their friend. You can become more a friend when you fulfil the role as a parent properly. Ask any child, the vast majority want their parents to be like parents. It’s worth noting here that “No” is an extremely attractive word to use (wisely) in a relationship with your partner, which hence is good role-modelling to your child. It will also subconsciously teach your children to have an expectation of how others should treat them.
Another thing that I have learnt pedagogically is; please refrain from calling your child things such as a “cheeky monkey”, or a “little monster”. This is actually a “Montessori value”; however I was keen to understand it more for myself. The reason this isn’t such a good idea is because you are actually labelling your child and subconsciously they will aim to “live up” to it. I’ve actually observed situations where the parent has used these expression with “loving, good intentions” and the child has continued their “cheekiness” to the point where the parent gets exasperated and then tells them off – Are you familiar with this?? In actuality, I’m sorry to say, they set the child up to “fail” and then told the child off when the whole situation could simply have been avoided.
Please avoid feeling guilty and suddenly start apologising to your child – as this will confuse them and have them believe that all their “poor choices” are your fault – not what you want if you want to help them to grow. – Just avoid it in future!! An expression you could replace it with is “Tinker”. I use this and it has never encouraged any child I’ve worked with to continue being cheeky. The good thing about this word is; “what’s a tinker?”! – Because it’s not obvious, the child has more difficulty to subconsciously try and “live-up” to it!! Also, all the classy British Mum’s use it!! 🙂
Another and rather obvious thing to do is to encourage your child to have a sense of humour about themselves as much as about life. We all like someone who is funny and able to laugh at themselves. So please encourage this quality within your child. I can tell you a great story here about how I did this with a family I’ve worked with:
The children in this family were a boy aged six at time and a girl aged three and a half. I had worked with this family for a couple of years. It was Christmas. The boy had done something, I can’t remember what, that wasn’t his best choice should we say – more from a less well thought out point of view than unkind. It was the beginning of advent and he had a “Where’s Wally” advent calendar. In talking to him about his “not so well thought through choice” I suddenly had the idea and smiled at him; picking up his advent calendar I said, “Where’s Wally?” and pointed characteristically at him with a smile and a laugh. I must emphasise here that I knew the child well enough to joke with him like this. I knew he’d respond well. He smiled and couldn’t help but laugh as he saw the obviously funny side, as did his sister. Then we had a conversation about “Where’s Wally moments” – as the expression got coined. I told him about one of mind where I had been so tired coming back from my first year at University that I mistakenly put the multi-surface cleaner in the fridge and only realised the following morning when I opened it and thought to myself; “something’s not quite right here?!” – Children I have worked with have laughed again and again when I tell them that one! – We’re all human, so best to embrace our imperfections. Trust me; it had Never taken away any “authority” as the adult in charge. If anything, it has added to it.
Children I’ve worked with have always been very good at embracing their “shortcomings” and laughing at themselves. This has inevitably enabled them to move forwards and learn from the situation in a positive, happy way.
Also, this is a rather obvious one; “Empower them to believe in themselves”. People with a high self-esteem are the ones who believe in themselves the most. The best way you can encourage this within a child is to give them a good self-image, because self-image leads to self-esteem. This is connected very heavily with My Story, as I had the type of self-image you would never want to give a child. It’s what set me on my path that lead to becoming a child-education and development Expert – as much through experience as through education/ qualification, which is what make me able to speak with such conviction and authority. I first want to put forward that it isn’t because my parents “didn’t care”; they wanted the best for me. Unfortunately my poor self-image was down to two things. First, as I’ve mentioned in a previous article, the inconsistency between their body language and their words – and yes, from very young I did pick up on this very consciously. Second, and this was a huge factor, they emphasised the negative. That is, they would, unwittingly, place far more emphasis on my negative characteristics and tell me what I shouldn’t be doing, rather than what I should.
I don’t like saying this because I love my Mum and Dad – It was all very unintentional. What drives me is the thought that sharing my story will help other families avoid the same pitfall. I felt as though my parents were not “for” who I was – rather they were “against”. All perception, but perception is reality until a “different reality” is learnt. So please be “for” your children – that is, who they really are deep down inside. So need I say; “Please – do things the other was around to my parents”!! – Tell your child, what they’re good at and what they’ve done well and why – note, with great emphasis one the effort and thinking that’s gone in to what they’ve achieved in order to encourage a growth-mindset. Our mind think about things in the positive – so it’s always best to tell children what they should be doing as oppose to what they shouldn’t be doing – basic logic! When children know what they should be doing, they feel more settled and stable within themselves. This then enables them to put their focus outwards on learning, their interests and other people. – My parents we luck I had a growth-mindset and was able to work through how I was feeling and why – it took a long time and I wouldn’t recommend it!!
As a Montessori Professional I am bound to say this! Take a holistic approach to parenting! We are complete individuals with many layers to us; so nurture all aspects of development, (physical, intellectual, linguistic, social, emotional and spiritual). When a child is encouraged to grow steadily in all areas of development it sets them up far more “wholey” to be a rounded, grounded adult who is able to cope in many different types of situations and make more informed choices for his/herself. That is an attractive character quality.
I think it’s worth pointing out here that EQ – emotional intelligence, is almost more important than IQ when it comes to raising a “smart, savvy, likeable” individual. A great person to Google for an insightful perspective here is Dr. Travis Bradberry. I found out about him as some of his articles were included in my LinkedIn emails – he really has a fantastic insight into what it means to be emotionally intelligent.
Can you see how experience alone and striving for the answer myself as to how and why people are likeable and popular has taught me so much? – You generally find what you’re looking for, so ask yourself positive questions about how to find the answers to anything you feel less clued up on. As you can see, it works!! A child bought up with all the above points in mind will definitely, to varying degrees, be popular, considerate, happy, savvy and fun – and hence, very successful too I whatever they choose to do. J
For more information please email me at; firstname.lastname@example.org or message me through Twitter/ Instagram @FamilyTeamCoach, or on Facebook/ LinkedIn as, Paula-Elizabeth Jordan. 🙂
Paula-Elizabeth Jordan is a Montessori trained Child-Development Expert who’s passionate about helping “Family Teams” work together for the benefit of each other, as this is how successful, well-balanced, happy children are raised. She has been Montessori trained for over ten years now and also has a degree in Theology with an Art minor. She is presently writing her own book entitled; “How to Bring up A Successful Human-Being”. www.paulaelizabeth.com
Thank you so much for taking the time to write and share this article. I really enjoy it specially the part that you talk about the important of asking positive questions.
For my experience I know that what help me to cope with challenges was having a role model. When I was not sure that direction to take I will ask myself what my role model will do . Usually, the answer was not the easy one . Hard work makes you feel better and with it .
Nice to meet you.
Silvia Bures Brownlow
Awww, Nice to meet you too Silvia. Thank-you so much for your thoughtful comment. You’re right – Hard work definitely does make you feel better and always pays off. Take care and very best wishes from