Welcome to the ULC Minister's Network

Rev. Randall Gullickson

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children

  • How can I raise an emotionally healthy child Meeting The Five Critical Needs Of Children...And Parents Too!?

    Remember that the most important lessons you teach your children are communicated by the way you live, rather than by what you say.

    Although children are born with unique personalities and temperaments, their families have a profound effect on their emotional health.

    Emotional health is nurtured in children primarily through the direct and indirect messages they receive from the adults around them. Beginning with the development of trust as an infant’s physical and emotional needs are met, the development of healthy emotional responses depends on how children are treated. While there are many contributing factors, there are some basic ways that families can encourage the development of mentally and emotionally healthy children.

    When children are listened to, they learn that their words are powerful and that what they say is valuable. When children are included in conversations that allow them to hear as well as be heard, they learn facts about the world but also discover that their thoughts and ideas affect other people and that they can contribute to the world around them.

    Young children have very intense emotions and should be allowed to talk about them. When a child is allowed to talk honestly about his feelings, he can learn appropriate ways to express them. And when a child is asked about her feelings, she learns that her emotional state is respected. This acknowledgment of feelings helps to build good emotional health and develop sensitivity to the feelings of other people and in no way diminishes the responsibility of parents to make decisions about what is best for their child.

    Children want and need limits to provide a safety net for them. The most secure children have consistent, predictable limits. Children who are uncertain about their limits are constantly testing the boundaries. Allowing young children to decide between limited alternatives is a good way to teach them to think for themselves and to gradually learn to take responsibility for their decisions. Setting and maintaining reasonable, appropriate expectations help children feel safe and capable.

    Children need approval from the significant people in their lives and will go to almost any lengths to get approval. Young children should always feel that they are loved regardless of their behavior and should never be manipulated by attempts to impose feelings of guilt. The major goal of discipline is to help children learn to manage their own behavior. Positive behavior management helps to ensure that children will make good choices, develop strong and healthy consciences, and learn right from wrong.

    Every child has a unique inner timetable for growth and development and each child’s timetable should be respected. No two children are the same either physically or emotionally, and they should be treated fairly but not equally. Learn to appreciate and celebrate the differences in children. Look for the qualities that make children unique and find ways to let them know you value their qualities.

    Children learn to appreciate others as they feel appreciated themselves and as they observe family members relating positively to each other, other people, and the world in which they live. Teach children from an early age to express their honest appreciation for simple things. This positive regard will become the foundation from which children internalize respect, acceptance, and appreciation for others.

    Social scientists who study families have found that celebrations and traditions make a significant difference in our lives by creating and reinforcing emotional security. A simple ritual when repeated can become a tradition. Take time to acknowledge and celebrate milestones and successes of family members.

    Values are better caught than taught! What is valuable to you? How do you spend your time? How do you treat other people? Children acquire the values that they observe and experience.

    The way we treat children determines to a great extent who they will become. Someone said simply, "We do what we do because we are who we are." And we are who we are primarily because of the messages given to us by the significant people in our lives. Family members are consistently imprinting feelings and emotions upon children with their words and actions. Be sure the imprints for your child are those that build a solid foundation for emotional health.

    In today's world emotionally healthy children seem to be the exception rather than the rule. Why is it so hard to raise kids that are mentally and emotionally stable these days? There are some basic skills that are keys to raising emotionally healthy children that many parents learn.

    One of the biggest mistakes we make trying to raise emotionally healthy children is that we tend to leave doubt about our love. This is not something we do on purpose. As life moves by at warp speed, so to does our time with our children. Emotionally healthy children know they are loved because their parents tell them every day. They take the time to make sure that their children have no doubts because they ask. If a child has questions in this area, they are already behind the eight ball.

    Another huge mistake we make as parents is that we spend way to much time on correcting the child rather than addressing the problem. For example, if a child continues to wet the bed, we must resist the urge to judge and criticize. The problem is the bed wetting. Not the child. Emotionally healthy children do not feel as though they are the problem or that they are being judged. They know that they do bad things sometimes, but they themselves are not inherently bad. Focusing on the child rather than the problem will not produce emotionally healthy children.

    Shielding your child completely from the dangers of the world is the biggest mistake you can make as a parent. Emotionally healthy children grow up knowing that the world is flawed, and that they will have struggles to overcome. You do not want your child crippled because they think the world is going to roll over for them. Give your children small tastes of the real world. Rather than telling them that you are in danger of having your house taken away, maybe explain to them the importance of saving. Then explain that you are going to have to move to a smaller home because you did not save properly. (If that was the case) The point is, do not scare them to death, but do not shield them from the world either.

    You cannot discipline with words alone. Parents usually realize that their children soak up information from them like sponges. But they don't seem to fully understand that everything a parent does or does not do is under close scrutiny. Our children are like mirrors; every good aspect about ourselves, and every flaw, will manifest itself in them. The big problem we have as parents is the fact that sometimes we don't like to look into these mirrors and we become hypocritical when raising our children. Remember when you were a child and you said your first swear word? Your mother said, "Shame on you. Where did you hear such language?" And you responded, "I heard it from you, mom!" And mom, in her embarrassment, said, "Well I never..."

    It's so easy to fall prey to hypocrisy.

    You have to remember that every action you take is showing your children how to live life. It's not the words that you say. When you come home from work, order out for dinner, watch television for a few hours, then go to bed, you're teaching your children that this is life. Don't wonder why they won't eat their vegetables at the next meal, why they don't want to go outside but would rather watch cartoons, why they can't seem to communicate with you. You can yell at them all you want, but your words will mean nothing unless they see you perform the same actions. You have to eat vegetables if you want them to. You have to initiate conversations with them if you want them to do so also.

    Your words are more meaningful to your children when you avoid hypocrisy. When you want your children to clean their room, you have to show them that you clean up after yourself too. It's not a magic cure; cleaning up after yourself will not automatically make your children have neat rooms. But when you are not a hypocrite, your children are more likely to listen to you. Think about it, do you like hearing things from a hypocrite? Of course not. Then don't expect your offspring to hear you when you ask them to clean their rooms if you can't clean your own.

    Avoiding hypocrisy requires you to study your own actions and those of your children. You don't have to write down everything that's wrong with them or spend hours meditating on your own flaws to avoid it. The most important thing is to watch out for warning signs and change yourself when you see them. That's it.

    The biggest warning sign is laziness.

    For example, when you ask your children to pick up the house and they only put one thing away and then sit back down on the couch, there's a problem. This is when you examine your own actions before you yell at them. What are you doing at the present moment? If you're sitting on the couch demanding that they pick up the whole mess, you're being a hypocrite. It's no wonder they sat right back down.

    When was the last time you picked up the house? Children aren't as experienced as you are in this world. They don't understand why they have to do something if you've stopped doing it. Remember, you're trying to teach them how to live, and living is certainly not done from a couch. Even if you explain to them the distinction of chores, "Mommy does this, Daddy does that, and your job is to pick up the house," it is your actions that they will mimic. You must do the very things that you wish them to do until they are old enough to understand that everyone has their own chores.

    Another warning sign is rebellion.

    Keep in mind that to a child, hypocrisy is akin to lying. When your words don't match your actions, it hurts your reputation with your children. They will stop caring about the things you say. When they stop caring, they will rebel. Sometimes the rebellion is overt. They will defy you when you ask them to do a chore. So remember to always display self control and review your actions first, before you decide to reprimand them. If you realize that they're rebelling because they don't know how to express their frustrations with your hypocrisy, you need to resolve the issue.

    In order to fix some of the problems that come with hypocrisy, it's not always enough that you stop being hypocritical.

    You should let your children know that you were wrong for leaving things up to them. You could say, "You know children, I just realized that I've been getting lazy around the house ever since I started giving you chores and I'm sorry. I'm not trying to be mean when I ask for your help. I really do appreciate it. Why don't we all work together to get this done so we can have a nice, clean house and go to the park later." When your children are old enough to reason for themselves, you can then dole out chores to each one, but until that time, they will need you to work with them or they will feel betrayed when they're left alone with the job. Yes, you can get a five year old to clean his room alone, but once in awhile you need to clean it with him when you notice that he's starting to get absent minded about it. It reinforces your words and proves to him that what he's doing is important, important enough that you are willing to do it too.

    You as a parent are training your children to live in this world. How you live is displayed by your actions, bolstered by your words. When your words don't match your actions, don't punish the children for it. Fix yourself first and your children will be much more compliant.


    Talk with your child and listen to your child

    Allow children to express what they feel.

    Be clear about rules and expectations.

    Approach discipline as education

    Value each child for his/her special qualities.

    Demonstrate appreciation for others.

    Make memories together.

    Are You Doing All You Can?

    Understand Your Children and Realize Why Hypocrisy Makes Discipline Tough to Accomplish