10 Ways To Nurture Greatness In Your Child

We know them when we see them. They're fun to be around. They show concern for others, and often display an understanding beyond their years. They make us laugh. They surprise us with their insights. They pepper us with questions and impress us with their clever take on even the most (seemingly) mundane things. In short, they're great kids. But how did they get that way?

"Great kids" are emotionally and intellectually healthy people. 'Great' doesn't refer to a specific temperamental quality, such as boldness; nor does it depend on athletic skills or on musical or mathematical or artistic talent. Great kids come in all varieties. And, given the right nurturing and encouragement, all kids can be great kids.

Here are 10 ways to help steer your child toward greatness:

1) Engage your child

Find out what brings your child pleasure and where her interests lie, and do what your child loves to do. Explore your relationship by expanding the range of your activities together. Gradually broaden her relationship beyond her parents to siblings, other relatives, peers of the same sex and opposite sex, and other adults.

2) Model empathy

Empathize with your child. Help her to be aware of her own feelings and to express a full range of them. Help her tune into other's feelings by being very interactive with her— for example, through your voice and facial expressions.

3) Encourage curiosity

Let your child explore his world within the limits of safety. Help a fearful child overcome his fears of the new or unknown; encourage him to explore new territory. Arrange activities with varied sights, sounds, smells, textures and a variety of social situations and playmates. Offer toys to take apart, paints to mix, water to splash about, or woods to explore.

4) Foster communication

Ask your child's opinion about everything from playground fights to family events. Ask for reasons and preferences. Listen carefully. Find out what he thinks about friendships, schoolwork, etc. Include your adolescent as an equal in adult conversations with you and your friends. Make sure he understands your point of view. Listen to his, and respond so that he knows when you hear him.

5) Express balanced emotions

Help your child learn to regulate emotions by becoming calmer yourself when she is overexcited and by offering a warmth and reassurance when she is sad and withdrawn. Express a range of emotions— but always with an eye toward fostering security— as you interact with your child. Allow assertiveness and anger as well as compliance and happy feelings.

6) Build self-esteem

Challenge your child to figure out how to get what he wants by gesturing or using words— or by encouraging him to take action himself. Keep raising the bar a little on your expectations, always keeping his level of development in mind. Let him know you're pleased when he does something a little better than he did the day before. and place an emphasis on the satisfaction of an accomplishment rather than praise.

7) Establish perseverance and self-control

Allow your small child to focus on her interests and applaud her persistence. Gently but consistently set limits. Enlist her in choosing appropriate penalties and in discussing why setting limits is necessary. Ask leading questions that help her figure out what might stand in the way of what she wants. Help her anticipate the hard work and patience that will be needed to achieve her goal.

8) Support imagination and innovation

Spur your child to use all of his senses and parts of his body in a variety of ways. Encourage exploration and inquiry; avoid jumping on mistakes. Also encourage him to think about and express his fantasies and vision for the future in writing, painting, music and other forms of artistic expression.

9) Facilitate logical thinking

Help your child make sense of the world. Tune into your child, responding to her cues and challenging her to respond to you. Help her discover that what she does makes an impact. Ask her for more than one reason for things, more than one way of looking at an issue.

10) Develop morality

Initiate lots of "what if" discussions in advance of difficult situations that inevitably arise during early adolescence and the teen years. Tell your child about the religious or ethical traditions in your family history. Encourage your child to express his own moral perspectives and the reasons for them.


Buy Stanley I. Greenspan's Great Kids Book

From “Great Kids: Helping Your Baby and Child Develop the Ten Essential Qualities for a Healthy, Happy Life ” by Stanley I. Greenspan. Copyright © 2007 Da Capo Lifelong Books. Republished with permission.

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