Educating their children using common sense, keeping a good sense of humour and knowing how to set limits, are the keys to being a good parent.
Education experts at the British Council School, along with outside experts, Mª Jesús Álava and Javier Urra, recommend instilling values such as empathy and generosity in children. This will allow them to develop into confident and responsible adults.
Coinciding with Father´s Day, the educators from the British Council School have suggested recommendations, and brought these together, as part of our Wellbeing Weekend 2018. This is an initiative to promote emotional education in schools which is led by the British Council School. Taking part amonst others, were, Mª Jesús Álava, the psychologist and author of books such as “The futility of suffering” (500.000 copies sold), “The truth about lies” (2016) or “Three keys to happiness” and, Javier Urra, a psychologist, therapist, and key defender of children´s rights in Spain.
Under the theme of “Values which you instill today, are the roots to their future”, experts recommended not losing sight of the power of observation and warned of the dangers of over-protecting children.
“Parents have never worried so much about their children, and yet, they are feeling so confused, doing so”, explained Mª Jesús Álava. “We live in an ever changing world, marked by feelings of pressure and responsibilty. And children are natural, born observers. They evaluate us continuously, and we have to be role-models, so that they can develop into secure and confident adults. But this is sometimes difficult in practice, because we, as adults, often have trouble managing our own emotions”.
“We are under so much pressure, that we often project this onto our own children. We want them to get on in a competitive world and we forget basic principles which will enable them to flourish and become better people”, she said. “We have to instill them with basic emotions, such as feeling generosity in themselves and with others, and the importance of having self-confidence. But also helping them to learn how to manage feelings of frustration. And to be able to handle situations which sometimes don´t work out, as well as they expected”.
Álava also highlighted the importance of developing independence in children: “We have to teach them how to build relationships with others, how to think logically. This means giving them the freedom to let them do what they feel is right and to be able to resolve their own conflicts. Because it´s a difficult world out there and they have to learn how to face it. It is very important to understand that each child is unique, and they have to be treated as such. But we must also set them limits, because it is impossible to live without any rules. We are their main reference point. And without such a guide, they are lost”.
“If we watch and observe children, we can tailor our approach”, she explained. “But, we also have to make the rules clear, explain when things are negotiable, and when they are not. As adults, we often talk a lot, but take little action. Given inappropriate behaviour, there has to be clear and rapid action. Let´s not just, give them everything, with nothing in exchange. If we give them everything easily, they shan´t value anything and they will end up by not valuing people, either”.
Finally, she appealed to parent´s sense of humour, asking them to be flexible. “It is important to keep things in perspective, because they are going to measure us and challenge us, on a daily basis. Let´s be consistent, balanced, using words which they understand and give them clear messages when we promise them something as well as, when we tell them off. Let´s give them the attention which they need. And, above all, let´s listen to our children. If we interrupt them when they are speaking, because it´s not a good moment at that time; if we belittle the importance of what they tell us; if we aren´t alert to them, it will be difficult for them to confide in us, when they do have a more serious problem”.
These are opinions shared by Javier Urra, who based on his own experience, signalled that it is very important to provide children with security, love, limits and appropriate criteria. “We are forgetting how to be people and are becoming mere consumers. We are creating a society, where the majority of people think they are of over-average intelligence. We think that what is most important is ´Me´, and we forget to think about the ´You´, those people who are next to us. We don´t seek to educate on values of generosity, but rather about posessions. And, that is quite worrying. The ethic of, ´I have earned this of my own accord´ is false, because we do need others, and because we do live in a society. We have to show children how to develop empathy, how to live together, how to see themselves from the point of view of others and how to cooperate¨
“We want our children to put down strong roots, but let´s not ill-equip them to live in a complex world in which they have to learn to live with others. We are creating a society of fragile Bonsai trees, with weak branches, which break under the slightest pressure. Because we have given them everything and asked for nothing in return. And this creates a huge level of unsatisfaction in teenagers who are lost and have no personal goals”, he explained. “We have to teach them to manage feelings of frustration, and that things require effort”.
To finish, he appealed to the need to find limits, saying that parents and teachers ¨have to be figures of authority”. Children have to understand that actions have consequences. And they need to have reference points to show them where limits lie, when they themselves don´t know where these are, or when they just choose to ignore them¨.
“We have to teach them how to be flexible when things don´t turn out as they expected. And we have to give them the tools to be able to adapt to a society which is in constant change. But to be able to do that, they must first learn to be generous with themselves and with others”.
For Gillian Flaxman, the Headmistress at the British Council School. “It is essential to promote this kind of initiative, so that parents can be prepared and can get answers. Emotional education is key for children to have enough resilience, to face the current pace of change in society”.
The British Council School´s Wellbeing Hub is a pioneering project which seeks to convince parents of the importance of helping children to manage their emotions. We want to work alongside parents and experts in order to promote and understand this better. It is based on three pillars. On the one hand, working with children in the classroom, to better understand their feelings and their possible reactions to problems such as anxiety, bullying and stress, amongst others. On the other hand, working with professionals (teachers, psychologists and those responsible for child protection), who are the ones who often notice children´s problems first, and who develop strategies to combat these. And lastly, working with families through seminars and free, open, workshops to allow them to understand emotional intelligence and how to develop this with their own children.