Affirmative action

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“There’s a trick I use with my son, Aravind. He’s an energetic two-year-old who tends to hurt himself jumping around. Nothing serious, of course. But what I know always works is mummy’s Band Aid. Here’s the trick...

“There’s a trick I use with my son, Aravind. He’s an energetic two-year-old who tends to hurt himself jumping around. Nothing serious, of course. But what I know always works is mummy’s Band Aid. Here’s the trick. When he starts crying following a mild fall, I calm his nerves down by inspecting the wound closely, rubing it gently and I’ll plant a kiss exactly on the ‘wound’, reminding him that he’s a strong boy and the he can overcome the pain,’ shares Mona Reddy, homemaker and mother of one.

“I usually also tell him to get up quickly and dust himself off. Almost always he stops crying and says the pain is gone. Magically!” she adds.

Ah, the classic kiss-for-a-Band-Aid trick every parent employs. In this scenario, the action, coupled with positive enforcements, affected Aravind’s self esteem - he believed in his abilities and felt better.

Granted, Mona may not be over the moon if Aravind now thinks he is Superman and sets out to conquer the world only to wreck more havoc. But as long her child does not put on a cape (or wear his underwear over his pants ala the superhero), she has utilised the power of affirmation without actually realising it. With her words and action, Mona inculcated virtues such as strength of character and belief in one’s self in Aravind.

Power of our actions

It is not rocket science to accept that parents have a large hand in shaping a child’s personality and nurture often meets nature halfway. A good and positive environment is known to make a good impact on child’s future.

The reverse is evident with many studies throughout history. Case in point is a well-known experiment carried out by American psychologist John Watson in 1920. Watson conditioned a child, Little Albert, to develop a fear of rats. He repeatedly paired the rat with loud, disturbing sounds, the latter of which the child was already scared of. After some pairings, the child started crying upon the mere sight of a rat.

That is the power of our actions. Watson even went on to claim that he could inculcate any characteristic in a child, good or bad. With all the power a physical environment has on a person’s character, creating a positive, nurturing one through actions is highly beneficial. Constantly telling your child he is intelligent, brave or an overall good kid will improve his self-esteem and self-worth.

Moreover, a child is exceptionally susceptible to external stimulus and they readily absorb ideas as their brains are just developing. Psychologists will agree that if you encourage, appreciate and praise a child, he will in turn respect you and others.

Positive affirmations translate into positive messages translated into the subconscious mind. The next time he or she deals with a problem of a similar nature, it will be taken with a braver and more positive front. Hence, positive affirmations lead to positive thinking, and the latter has exceptional benefits.

There are considerable studies shown, in adults at least, that positive thinking leads to a better quality of life. And when one is happy, endorphins and other protective chemicals are secreted that protect the body’s immune system. Scientists believe that these chemical changes also prove that optimists live longer and experience a higher quality of life. Thinking negatively about one’s self places the body under stress, which affects one’s immune system.

“Stress over a short period of time is good as it regulates the immune system. The problem is the body is not designed to deal with chronic stress and that’s where the problem lies. So when it comes to thinking, if a person is pessimistic, he is in a state of negative chronic stress just because of what is going on in their mind,” said Dr Amit, a psychologist.

Hence empowering a child from a young age often leads to a more positive personality, which in turn can have a powerful impact on his or her life. This is essentially the basis of the mind-body connection, a belief that thoughts and feelings have the power over the physical body.

So how do you get started? Well, as a parent you’re probably already using positive enforcements. But perhaps there are little things that slip by you that you can now rectify.

For a start, let’s give up the kiasu Singaporean ways that tends to be more destructive than constructive. Here’s a test, if your child comes in second for a math examination, what do you do?

Scold him for not coming in tops, or praise him his stellar effort? Perhaps after reading the above, you will choose the latter.