Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Training Your Child to Exercise Self-Control of the Mind and Attitude ...

Here are some practical ideas for teaching children to have emotional stability. We've been talking about the highly perceptive child, but most of these would apply to all children.

1) Listen, listen, listen to your child. This can be challenging with the highly perceptive child because a) They will ask you so many questions it will make your head spin and b) They may talk a LOT. You may, at some point, need to address the child's tendency to talk too much or at inappropriate times. Even so, it's important to listen, listen, listen!
2) If your child's imagination tends towards worry, help him visualize what it means to cast his anxieties on the Lord. One way might be to help the child draw pictures of or write down his worry on a piece of paper. Pray about these worries. Attach the paper to a helium balloon. Let the balloon float away. Another method is the worry box. If your child expresses a worry about something, pray about it right then. At bedtime, help your child write down the worry on a slip of paper. Pray about it again. Put it in the worry box. Say, "Now, you can let go of the worry and fall peacefully asleep." Once in a while, go through the box yourself. Pull out any worries that are no longer a concern. Leave longterm worries, such as an ill grandparent, in the box. Then, sit down with your child. Ask him how many of the worries you selected really happened. Chances are, most of them did not come to pass. If a worry did happen, ask the child how the Lord got him through it. Throw the worries you've discussed in the trash. If you do a worry box, it's a good idea to also keep a blessing box. Write down a blessing every night and put it in the box. Sit down from time to time and talk about the blessings. Then, put them back in the box. Those you want to keep!
3) Celebrate a highly perceptive child's powers of imagination, but teach him to direct it in positive ways. If, for example, his imagination runs toward worry or negativity, help him imagine positive outcomes to a solution. Or, if the child's imagination runs to unwholesome things, turn his attention to wholesome reading material and activities.
4) Protect your child's childhood. All children today are vulnerable to being rushed out of childhood too quickly. This is doubly so for the highly perceptive child. If a child's high level of perception means that he is gifted or advanced, he will have a tremendous drive to develop his God-given gifts. In order to thrive, he does need to grow at his own advanced rate.
This means that your highly perceptive child may progress quickly through school or home school curriculum. He or she may participate in activities, such as classes or sports, with people who are much older than he is. He may have advanced conversational abilities, and the fact that he sounds older than he is may lead you and others to forget his true age. The fact is, however, that he is still a child.
Give your child the advanced stimulation that he needs. However, don't allow yourself or anyone else to treat him as a mini-adult. Guard his childlike faith and humility. Allow for playtime. Provide opportunities for him to interact with siblings and other peers in age. Play and have fun with him yourself. If he has trouble relating to peers in age, teach him social skills that will help.
5) Don't be shocked if your child acts super-mature one moment and has a moment of total immaturity the next. Your highly perceptive child may function on several levels at once, from being advanced in some areas and a normal child in other areas or even falling behind average in some other ways. Recognize that he will have different needs at different times.
6) Teach your child to base his sense of security on the fact that the Lord is a loving and wise God and not on his own performance or what his peers think of him. Since highly perceptive children either perform at a more advanced level than their peers or fall behind their peers - due to learning difficulties -- you can be sure this will be an issue for them. By the same token, don't let your own sense of security be rocked by how well or how poorly your child performs. It's wonderful and right to rejoice in a child's gifts, and it's normal to show concern for a child's struggles. However, it's healthy for our child if we keep this in balance. Also, teach your child how to rejoice with others when they do well. If he can find joy in the success of others, he won't be threatened or insecure if others outdo his performance at any given time.
7) Teach your child from an early age that the motivation for doing our best is to love and glorify the Lord. This helps both the under-achiever and the perfectionist. Let your child know that it is a good thing to have high standards. However, teach your child the difference between doing something whole-heartedly and obsessing over the process. For more ideas, check out this article. Parenting the perfectionist child
8) Emphasize training in character. It's important that your child develop whatever academic gifts or other talents that God has given him. However, this must not be done at the expense of building overall character. While a highly perceptive child may have unique gifts and unique struggles, this does not exempt him from the need to overcome faults and develop virtues. It's one thing to understand the particular struggles that come with being a highly perceptive child; it's quite another to allow those to be excuses for bad behavior. Here's one example: Your highly perceptive child may become so engrossed in projects that it's difficult for him to turn his focus elsewhere. Don't let that be an excuse for rudely ignoring others or for being neglectful of chores. Softly place your hand on the child's shoulder or say his name gently. Give him a moment to collect himself and tune in to what you are saying to him. Tell him that you understand he is excited about _____, but now it is time to do ______. Give him a time when he can get back to his original project and follow through. Do not allow him to whine or complain.
9) Teach your child that strong emotions within and conflicts or shyness with others can be worked through in righteous and healthy ways. Help the child recognize that painful feelings and challenging situations are a fact of life, and that these things eventually pass. Acknowledge that discipline and self-discipline aren't always pleasant in the moment, but show him the benefits. Tell him that you have confidence that he will overcome whatever problem you're addressing at the moment. As you train him in character, let him practice by working through some things on his own.
10) Understand that your highly perceptive child may feel odd or different when he looks at his peers. The reality is that he is developing at a different rate than many of his peers. He might really be a little out of step with his peers. Added to that is the fact that because children and teens are limited in experience, they are prone to think that they are the only ones who experience certain feelings or struggles, when in fact, they are probably experiencing things that are common to us all. Teach your child that we each have our unique gifts and our own struggles, but we all have common ground somewhere. Help him avoid pride. This may manifest itself as the child thinking more highly of himself than he ought to or as looking down on others who are less perceptive in some areas. It may also manifest itself as a sense of insecurity, extreme shyness, or self-rejection. The truly humble person is generally at ease, because he is not always preoccupied with analyzing himself or comparing himself to others. He trusts the Lord's work in his life -- whatever that may be.



Christy said...

This series really resonated with me. Thanks so much for sharing.

My delightful(self-proclaimed) "4-3/4-year-old" son has always been extremely sensitive and perceptive. He is a perfectionist. It has presented some challenges that have left me feeling rather inadequate to tackle. This series gave me insight into his personality (and mine!). Thanks for the helpful ideas for guiding him. I'm so glad to be able to learn from someone "who's been there."

Also, I've been studying humility and appreciate your closing statement: "The truly humble person is generally at ease, because he is not always preoccupied with analyzing himself or comparing himself to others. He trusts the Lord's work in his life -- whatever that may be."

Elizabeth said...

Hi Christy,

I'm sure you're doing a great job with your son, who does sound delightful. I'm glad you enjoyed the articles.

I read an article that pointed out how I Peter 5:1-7 connects a discussion about being humble towards God and one another with the command to cast all of our anxiety on him. I've been thinking about the connection between humility, trust, and security ever since.

Thanks for your kind comments.

Buffy said...

Lots of good advice in this post as well as the rest of the series! I think sensitive children are often neglected in terms of their emotional development.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Buffy,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. Yes, I do think that people
can become so focused on the child's extraordinary academic progress or academic problems and neglect the emotional issues.

Becca said...

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