When you are focused on stressing your child while engaging him in guided play towards a certain outcome or meeting your expectations, you tend to become impatient and frustrated and your child can sense that as well. As parents, we have to keep in mind that it is the process of play that truly matters, and not the outcomes of our own expectations. It doesn’t matter if your child can't count now, the fact that you are exposing him to fun activities will build on his knowledge and he will get there one day!
P for Playfulness
Understand that play is love and bring play into your routine! Be a playful parent - Smiling, laughing, being dramatic and having fun with your child build connection and strengthens the parent-child bonding. Create a playful environment and enjoy the priceless moments of laughing with your children or making them laugh!
A for Affirmation
If your child has tried his best, whether he succeeds or not, you praise! Praise his efforts, and not just his outcome or results. By praising his efforts, you show him that you are valuing his hard work and efforts and this helps him to develop a growth mindset. It also encourages our kids to cultivate a love for learning and resiliency through not only focused on getting the right answers or achieving a specific outcome.
Some statements that you can use to affirm your child are:
"Yes you can!"
You are always learning!"
"I liked how you persevered and tried your best to solve that challenging puzzle"
"It's okay to make mistakes, mistakes help us learn and grow".
C for Communication
Communication is not just about what you say but how we you say it. Non verbal communication includes our body language (are you pointing your fingers and crossing your arms?), our facial expressions and very importantly, the tone of our voice. Even silence can be a powerful communication tool.
Avoid excessive use of words like "should", "have to", "must" etc. Use these words in moderation as they may set standards and create stressful states in a child's play experience. Instead, we can ask exploratory and open ended questions to encourage a child's critical and creative thinking, for example,
"Can you tell me more about what you are doing?"
"What do you think of...?"
"What other designs can you make using these shapes?"
We can also ask close ended and more specific questions to guide them, for example,
"How many blocks are there in the tower?"
"Are there more green apples or red apples?"
We are always communicating at a conscious and unconscious level and children have an innate ability to feel our vibes and sincerity.
E for Empathy
Acknowledging and validating your child's feelings is the first step to connecting with him. However, parents and educators tend to overlook how important this is.
For example, if your child says "Mummy, I can't do this", or " I am terrible at Math". Instead of saying discouraging statements like "Why can't you be more like your sister?" or " Why are so lazy?", show your empathy by asking,
"Are you feeling scared that you can't cope with Math?"
"Yes, I understand, math is tough, we will get better with practice, let's see what we can do to help you improve"
You can also share a story with your child on how you were terrible at one area (eg Math) and the action steps you took to improve yourself in that area. Modelling empathy through care and respect is one of the best ways you can cultivate empathy in our kids!
So, remember PACE (Playfulness, Affirmation, Communicate, Empathy), the 4 tips to help you play and learn effectively with your child!
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