Thursday, January 31, 2013

Embracing Your Child's Uniqueness

Embracing your child's uniqueness
Four of the past seven American presidents have been certifiably left-handed. A fifth, Ronald Reagan, was rumored to be ambidextrous. Many people assume this means "the Gipper" was born a lefty, but was forced to switch by schoolteachers—a common practice all over the world until the late 20th century.

And it's not only the presidential election winners who are left-handed. Both candidates in 2008—Barack Obama and John McCain—write with their left hands. In 1992, the left-handed Ross Perot mounted one of the strongest third-party presidential campaigns in American history against his fellow southpaws George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Is this just some fluke? According to economist and co-author of the best-selling book Freakonomics, Steven Levitt, it probably isn't. "Ten to 15 percent of men are left handed, which means, according to my calculations, that this many recent left-handed presidents would only happen by chance one time in 1,000."

Up until very recently it has been a common practice for parents to discourage their children from being left handed, I still remember my mum reminding my nursery school teacher to make sure I didn't hold my crayons in my left hand. Thank God that many parents now see that there is nothing wrong with a child who is a "lefty". I have even met a woman who wished one of her children was ambidextrous.

Your child, no doubt, possesses a combination of traits that surprise and intrigue you. Her strongest traits are often those you find yourself trying to tone down — especially if those traits are opposite from the ones you were born with. For example, if your child is super energetic and you are more calm and quiet, you may say "Settle down, please!" a dozen times a day.

On the flip side, you may try to cultivate those traits that come less naturally to your child. If you are extroverted and have a shy child, you may urge him impatiently to let go of your pant leg and join that throng of other children. And while he may remain naturally shy, he eventually is likely to learn that joining other kids — even when he feels uncomfortable — can lead to making new friends.

For this reason, a child may express opposite traits, depending on time and place, expectations and experience. Relationships, the way he is educated, the environment in which he lives and major experiences will all, influence who your child becomes. There are so many debates nowadays about whether children who are raised abroad or within the country turn out better, whether it is better to ensure your children study medicine, engineering or accounting or allow them to choose what to do. But I have come to observe that becoming familiar with your child's personality, will go a long way toward helping you understand why your child acts the way she does. At the same time, the more intimately you get to know a child, the more you will find that he cannot be stereotyped and summed up by one personality type.

Some of us grew up with parents who thought that using the iron hand was the best way to raise a child and that has influenced how you have chosen to raise your children. The important thing is for parents to recognize is that each child is different and they should be treated that way. I am not suggesting preferential treatment but rather, individual treatment. Your firstborn might be very adventurous and the second born might be shy; the last child might have a unique talent and that might influence what he or she would like to study in the future. 

Every child is different. As parents we should guide them into discovering themselves and encourage them to embrace what makes them unique. Whether your child is studying in Africa, Britain or Europe, if they are left or right handed, whether they are sure about what they want to do when they grow up or not. It's always important to convince your child that they can succeed. Children often have a lot of self-doubts, due to the many challenges of childhood, such as peer pressure and competitiveness at school. As a result, as a parent we should try to find ways to not only encourage our children, but actually inspire each of them to find ways to reach their own personal best.

Ijeoma Olujekun.

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