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In boot camp, drill sergeants insult and berate new recruits because they seek to dehumanize them. This is essential because, after all, these soldiers might be sent off to face other soldiers who want to kill them. They need that negativity to desensitize them. However, in daily civilian life, this approach serves no purpose toward raising a healthy, functional child. In fact, we must engage in the opposite approach, which is known as Positive Psychology.
Positive psychology seeks to develop positive emotions, positive traits, and positive institutions. Parents are taught to focus on the strengths and positive aspects of their child’s development. This means the parent will focus on the child’s strength rather than their weaknesses.
The primary tool for this approach is appropriate praise. Positive reinforcement helps a child identify the character traits that are most desirable. If siblings help each other clean up their room, praise them for their teamwork. Should a child admit to you (before the school reaches out) that they got in trouble at school, praise them for being brave enough to be honest. These kinds of remarks will help the child develop a strong self-esteem, which is essential to being able to function as a healthy member of society as the child gets older.
This is not to say that parent should ignore their child’s weaknesses. However, instead of being negative, there are subtle ways to get them to reflect on their shortcomings. For example, if you watch a movie or television show with your child, take the time afterward to ask them about it. You could say, “Did _____ do the right thing when they chose to _____? Would you have done the same thing in their situation?” Then you will get your child to reflect on the character’s strengths and weaknesses on their own. If they realize they would have made the same (poor) choices as the person in the story, then it will lead them to reflect on their own character.
Parents should always try to be optimistic. Children will model what they see. If you are constantly focusing on the negative qualities of those around you, then that is what your child will grow up to do. Not only will this lead to them having poor self-esteem, but they will not grow to have many friends. Naturally, the latter will compound the former.
It is important to tell your child their strengths will not be the same as their peers, and there’s nothing wrong with being different. This will help to reinforce their sense of self-worth.