Bringing up terrific kids | Sunday Observer

Bringing up terrific kids

A reader – mother of two children – wrote to me recently. “I read with interest your story on teenagers. I have two children aged 7 and 9 and I want them to be terrific kids. Any guidance you can offer?”

Before we begin to help her, let us understand the difference between a kid and a teenager. Opinions may differ but, in some experts’ opinion,a kid is a child from 3 to 12 years and a teenager from 13 to 19. (Some experts believe children between 10 to 12 years should be termed as pre-teens.)

I have encountered many “terrific” kids during my social activities. I remember a seventh-grader, who stayed two hours after school, while her brother practised football, so her mother wouldn’t have to make two trips to pick them up. And there was a 5th grader, who, when anyone in his class was out sick at home, he would call to say, “Hi, we miss you.” Classic examples of terrific kids!


We all know that kids are subject to many influences outside their homes. But only parents have the lasting influence. Ray Maloney, the reputed psychotherapist and counsellor, suggests10 ways that parents can increase the odds of turning out kids who will be happy, responsible, and independent.

l. Love them. That’s too obvious, you say. Kids don’t think so. Believing they are not loved is one of the primary reasons both kids and teens give for being unhappy at home. When consistent efforts are made to show love, kids are secure and exhibit a deeper trust in their parents and, as a result, in themselves.It is the smile, the encouraging comment and maybe, the little gift for no special reason - that would make them really happy. Chanaka, schoolboy cricketer aged 11 said it well: It’s a great feeling when I come out of a game and my father says, “You played well, son” even when I’ve messed up.

2. Build their self-esteem. Without positive feelings about themselves, kids don’t grow academically, socially or personally. If kids sense that you think they can’t do anything right, that’s what they’ll deliver - nothing. With high self-esteem they perform wonders. Dushyanthi, a student of average ability, received 5th grade scholarship to a prominent school because of her great grades. When asked the secret of her success, she said, “Even when I was little, both my parents would say things like, ‘You’ll go places. We’re proud of you.’ Their trust and confidence, kept me going forward.

3. Challenge them. Kids who succeed are those who are encouraged to do their best, who are supported in trying unfamiliar territory, who are taught to look at mistakes as opportunities to grow. Success tastes good to them, so they go back for more. Be realistic, though. Encourage them to set goals equal to their talents, not your dreams.

Here are a few success words you can use: “Well, why not give it a try and see what happens” “Congratulations, I knew you could do it.” “Nobody’s perfect at everything, but you have passed better than anyone else on the team.”

4. Listen to them. Set aside 10 to 15 minutes every day to be with each of your children. Have a special “Let’s hear it” time - just listening to each other. If this sounds artificial for your family, maybe it’s because you’re not really listening. The typical parent doesn’t spend enough time really listening, though it may be the key to the parent-child relationship.

5. Expect respect. Disrespect to parents or siblings shouldn’t be part of any loving home. It is healthy for kids to know that parents have a right to their own time and space. But do you always show them respect? There is a lot of truth in the aphorism “Morals are caught, not taught.”

6. Don’t preach - be a role model- What parents do is so much more important than what they say. From their earliest moments, kids are observing how their parents behave in the world: and as they grow older, parents become all too painfully aware of how much children are modelling themselves on the behaviour of parents.

7. Make religion a part of their lives. If you are Buddhists, train them to spend a few minutes in the evening worshipping Buddha. If you are Christians, grace before meals and attendance at church as a family are reminders of God’s love.

These are ways to assure young people that life’s principles go beyond the golden rule. Gradually, they will sense that your beliefs are rooted in ancient traditions that still work today.

8. Develop a love of learning. Our kids face a changing world - requiring new knowledge and techniques. How can parents prepare them? Encourage their curiosity. Nurture their creativity. Help them establish consistency in their study and work habits. Those three Cs are as important as the three Rs.

9. Help them be community- minded. Many children, in their idealism, show concern for others. If we can nurture that concern, we go a long way towards turning out more “whole” adults - who give back more than they receive. Many of the kids I have known are involved in school and temple/church activities. It’s a boost to their self-confidence.

10. Don’t over-protect them. It’s difficult for parents to watch their offspring skin their knees, suffer hurt feelings from a friend’s rejection, or lose out on a part in the play. Over protection gets in the way of the lessons to be learned from dealing with the stuff of everyday living. Raising self-reliant, independent and responsible children should be the goal of all parents.


Your goal as a parent is to help your kids feel competent and confident, and to help them develop a sense of passion and purpose in life. It’s the education that is crucial in bringing up “terrific” kids before they set foot into their complex teenager phases.