Children have loud voices, but too often they feel unheard. Amidst the clamour of contemporary life, their voices can be swallowed up by technological distractions, daily tasks, and our adult-centred preoccupations. This potential oversight isn’t just a passing concern, it can hint at a deep-rooted issue of parents missing nuanced moments crucial to fostering emotionally robust, confident young individuals.
Sydney’s leading clinical child psychologist, Dr Anna Cohen explains “In the intricate tapestry of child development, acknowledgement weaves an important pattern. It’s not merely about children being seen; it’s about them being genuinely recognised and heard. Such an act of recognition gifts them with feelings of security, bonding, and assurance all cornerstones for their psychological well-being. Without it, there’s a void which can lead them to act out, drawing any form of attention, even if it’s tinted with negativity.”
“The role of caregivers, educators, and adults isn’t just to be bystanders in this narrative but active participants. Our reactions, subtle though they may be, are like droplets creating ripples in the vast ocean of a child’s psyche. Indifference, disparagement, or unchecked reactivity can unintentionally skew a child’s understanding of validation and acknowledgement.”
Dr Anna Cohen offers three ways parents can master the sill of acknowledgement:
- Highlight positive actions: Focused and descriptive acknowledgement can profoundly shape a child’s perception. It’s a dynamic interplay between recognizing an action and detailing why and how that action holds significance. When a child shares or extends kindness, a simple, “I noticed how you shared your toy; that was very thoughtful” offers a richer context than a mere “good job.”
- Acknowledgement isn’t just about words: Acknowledgement is an entire symphony of communication. Heartfelt words paired with genuine body language create lasting imprints. A smile, a nod, a touch—these are the universal languages of love and recognition. Opting for this emotional touchpoint over material rewards cements deeper connections, fostering a genuine sense of recognition.
- Be consistent: Remember, energy flows where attention goes – behaviours that receive attention increase in frequency. Pick three or four target behaviours and get ready to spot your child doing them. If your child does not usually comply with your instructions straight away, praise them any time you notice them moving towards this behaviour or pausing to ‘draw breath’ in their undesirable behaviour. For example ‘Great job, you started to pack away your toys’, or, ‘Thank you for using a calm voice’.
“The challenges of our contemporary world might be manifold, but so are the tools and insights available to us. By harnessing the age-old power of acknowledgement, we can ensure our children grow with the confidence, resilience, and empathy necessary for a fulfilling life’ adds Dr Cohen.
Dr Anna Cohen, latest book Skilful Parent Happy Child aims to steer parents through the pivotal middle years (ages six to twelve), equipping readers with the essential tools to approach parenting with assertiveness, decisiveness, confidence, and empathy. Beyond just strategies, it stands as a testament to the transformative power of acknowledgement in child-rearing.
Skilful Parent Happy Child (Hybrid Publishers: RRP $26.99) is available at all good bookstores nationally and at www.hybridpublishers.com.au
Dr Anna Cohen also offers online courses, including Foundations of Considerate Bahavour which can assist with supporting acknowledgement. To find out more, visit: www.annacohenandco.com.au