Why You Should Treat Your Child as a Unique Individual
All too often, parents compare a child to their siblings or peers rather than view them strictly as individuals.
But, while your children may share several characteristics which they inherited through your complex DNA, studies and experience have shown that recognising and focusing more on each child’s uniqueness – even if they happen to have an identical twin – is important, and the right way to go.
Why is it important to respect your child’s individuality?
Each child is an individual learner who develops, not only in their own ways, but also at their own pace; a distinct entity born with a unique mix of needs and abilities.
Treating them as such can positively influence each and every area of their development, whether it is physical, emotional, social, or cognitive.
In their early years, children can be very vulnerable, one reason for this being that they have not yet developed a solid perception of themselves. Relating with them as unique individuals right from this stage can help them develop a strong sense of identity while becoming confident and resilient.
Spending a lot of time in groups makes children susceptible to peer pressure; and that is a good reason to, whenever appropriate, encourage them to feel comfortable doing their own thing. Letting your child know it is okay to be different, and there’s nothing wrong if they don’t think, or maybe draw, sing or dance the same as others in their peer group, helps to minimize the effects of peer pressure.
Giving your child the freedom of choice as a way of respecting their individuality is also beneficial. Some parents just go on to, for example, enroll their child into a certain club or activity, not because they asked and he/she indicated interest in such, but just because some other children are into it and they think theirs will fit in, too.
But when your child has some freedom to consider various options and choose the one(s) they are most comfortable with, they will likely grow up to become good decision-makers; and because it allows them feel they have some control over their life, this freedom of choice will help to promote self-reliance as well.
When children are frequently reminded, through words or gestures, how unique and valuable they are, they tend to develop a high sense of self-worth; they also find themselves in a better position to, in turn, appreciate/value the uniqueness of their siblings, peers, parents or caregivers.
It is often the case that parents entertain preconceived notions regarding how they want their child to grow up, what they want them to be, who they want them to behave like, etc; it is also generally the desire of parents that their child possess qualities of a certain nature, such as energy, curiosity, friendliness, cooperativeness, the ability to learn fast, and so on. So when the child doesn’t quite turn out the way(s) they expect, some parents express disappointment and may even allow it to influence their treatment of the child.
But as a parent, recognising that it is important to respect your child’s unique traits and abilities regardless of your expectations saves them from tending towards self-doubt, anxiety, low self-esteem, and defiance, all of which could be their natural reaction when they discover you don’t quite like/accept them as they are.
In terms of social benefits, a child who has been given the room to express their uniqueness without undue criticism tends to perform better in social situations. Not giving your child enough room for expression may give rise to mental or psychological stress, leading to the development of anti-social tendencies and behavioral problems.
When you acknowledge the unique talents innate in your child and encourage them to develop these talents, their morale is boosted, and they are motivated to achieve exciting results on their own. In other words, respecting a child’s individuality could also help them develop a sense of independence.
In summary, you should treat your child as a unique individual because doing so increases their confidence and resilience, enhances their decision-making abilities, gives them a high self-esteem, makes them self-reliant, saves them from self-doubt and unnecessary anxiety, makes them more socially-fit, enables them to appreciate the individuality of others better, and moulds them into more independent individuals.
Ways to encourage your child’s uniqueness
So, we have discussed the importance/benefits, but what are some ways you can, through words or actions, treat your child as the unique individual they are? You can start by…
1. Discovery. Interact with, and observe them closely to learn how they think and feel about certain things, what makes them tick, what they are good at, etc. Question them and listen to them with an attitude of interest, understanding and acceptance.
2. Motivation. Frequently tell and show your child that you believe in, and value their, individuality and how it serves to complement your family. Be genuine about it.
3. Encouragement, not criticism. While watching your child drawing, painting, playing a game, learning a skill, or performing, for example, do so with a smile, words/gestures of encouragement, or applause. Try not to criticize even if their performance isn’t quite what you would like it to be.
4. Empowerment. There are certain gifts/talents your child was born with; encourage them to explore these gifts, and provide them with the means of advancing these talents as far as possible.
5. Exposing them to different experiences and opportunities. Think music, drama, sports, art, reading, visiting museums, parks, and so on. The more your child is exposed to such, the faster they will discover who they really are, what they prefer, and what they are capable of.
5. Letting them direct. While engaged in certain activities such as play with your child, just let go and allow them to direct the play and make up the rules if they desire.
Your child is a unique gift and an original, so as a parent, always remember to treat them as such; allow them to follow their own path, and resist the temptation to try and make them what they are not.
Recognise, accept, appreciate and encourage your child’s individuality, and then watch them become well-rounded individuals capable of reaching their full potential and making a difference in the world.