5 Ways to Make Your Child More Likeable
We all love our kids, but let’s face it, there are plenty of days we don’t necessarily like them. Mighty Mommy has 5 ways you can like your child more.
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When I first became a mom 23 years ago, I fell instantly in love with our new baby girl. Because I had struggled with infertility for over five years, I had visualized the moment I would first hold my baby hundreds of times. We adopted our first child, so I didn’t experience that immediate gratification of holding a newborn after birth, but thanks to the relationship we had with our birthmother, I was able to meet her and snuggle her up to me within 24 hours of her birth. It was pure heaven.
Two decades later, I have been blessed to hold my next seven babies immediately after I delivered them, and my heart was just as full of love and joy each and every time I became a mom again. It’s hard not to love a baby—they’re tender, sweet, adorable, precious, and are 100% reliable on their parents for all their care. Babies offer the gift of unconditional love, which is something I tried never to take for granted.
As we know, however, they don’t stay babies forever. In the blink of an eye they are cutting teeth, crawling, walking, talking and exerting their growing independence as toddlers, pre-schoolers and then school-aged children. They have access to the outside world, are responsible for making many of their own choices, and form their own unique personalities, likes and dislikes.
Suddenly, this love affair we have formed with our child is met with the challenges of everyday life and all that goes with raising kids today. I have often referred to parenting as the toughest job you’ll ever love for a reason—it’s a work in progress every single day. But that doesn’t mean it has to be treated like a chore. We all love our kids, but let’s face it, there are plenty of days we don’t necessarily like them. Mighty Mommy has 5 ways you can like your child more on those days that you’re not necessarily feeling the love.
Tip # 1: Establish Clear Boundaries
I have a nickname both amongst my work colleagues and my friends and family members: Pollyanna. If you’re not familiar with Pollyanna, she is the main character in the novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter, published in 1913. To everyone she meets, Pollyanna explains “the glad game” that her father taught her before he died. He believed that no matter what happens, there’s always something to be glad about. One should always hunt for the positive aspects in seemingly bad experiences.
That pretty much sums me up—I truly do try to find the silver lining in as many situations as possible. Because of that, my parenting friends continually ask me to fess up about whether or not I really like my 8 kids as much as I appear to. The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake. I have plenty of days where I am not basking in the glow of parenthood. In an on-line article, Love Isn’t Enough: How to Like Your Kids written by Maud Purcell, LCSW, she states “moms with likable kids seem to instinctively follow certain principles of parenting. They recognize that kids are neither intrinsically good or bad, and it is up to us to help them become enjoyable people. Understanding and implementing these principles is not rocket science, and making the effort to do so is a wonderful investment in your happiness, and in theirs.”
Purcell’s first principle for raising a child that is likeable is to establish that you, the parent, are the one in charge, not the child. One of the best tips I ever learned early on as a parent was that kids need boundaries. Even at a very young age when they are toddlers, they need to know what they can and cannot do. When your child is learning to walk and finally gets mobile, you wouldn’t let her toddle over to the street where she could get hit by a car, right? Yet if she grabs her favorite toy and is excited to bring it over to you, you encourage and praise her for that type of interaction. Right from the beginning we are teaching them right from wrong and how to stay out of harm’s way. They learn by the tone of our voice when something is pleasing or not and kids are born to want to please, especially their parents, so by establishing your expectations early on, you are setting a solid foundation for likeable behavior.
Tip #2: Teach Your Child Good Manners
Even though I have spent over 20 years in the trenches of parenting with my 8 kids, it still amazes me at how little time we parents have to impart valuable life lessons to prepare our kids for the real world. As Modern Manners Guy will tell you, the value of having good manners cannot be overestimated. In fact, even newborns are old enough to begin learning the basics of good manners. The simple gesture of saying "Please" and "Thank you" is a great place to start. Use the phrases when you're swaddling, feeding, or any other time it's appropriate.
Continue the practice as your baby grows into toddler-hood. When she excitedly brings you her favorite toy, say "Thank you for sharing your doll." Even at this very young, non-verbal age your child will be observing and soaking in all of the interactions like a thirsty sponge. The more you exhibit the basics of good manners, the more likely these examples will become a routine way of life for your child, and a well-mannered child is definitely more likeable.
Tip #3: Catch Them Doing Good
By nature, humans tend to point out when someone has done wrong. Even though it’s necessary to teach a child right from wrong, especially if it’s a situation where they can be harmed or need redirection in order to grow and learn, it’s equally as important to make note of when you notice your child doing something right.
Dr. Laura Markham. Clinical Psychologist, states in an on-line article Catch Your Child Doing Something Right, “You could probably find negative things to say to your child all day long. All of them 'deserved' and none of them effective in helping your child want to cooperate. So if you want your child to be her best self, catch her doing things right all day long -- including all those things that you think it's about time she did right!”
When our kids are praised for something kind they’ve done, or done well, and we take the time to let them know we’ve noticed, this builds self-esteem as well as encourages a growth mind-set. This doesn’t mean we have to become cheerleaders that wave our parental pom poms every time our child draws a pretty picture or puts his dirty clothes in the hamper. However, when we genuinely and regularly take notice of their efforts such as making eye contact and saying “I’ve noticed you’re really taking the time to keep your room more organized—good for you!”, we’re fostering that growth mind-set which inspires our kids to do better and enjoy their activities more which in turn creates a more likeable child to be around.