Caution! Child Under Construction: Getting it right the first time.

A friend of mine is a construction contractor specializing in tiles. During a recent conversation, he was complaining that his previous job was problematic because it was a renovation rather than new construction. When he removed old walls and plumbing, he uncovered many examples of shoddy work and substandard materials. This required unplanned and unbudgeted extra work, which in turn reduced his profit margin.

I thought that this was a valuable analogy for personal growth. In my experience as a mental health therapist, I have observed that many negative adult behaviors originate in childhood, often before the age of seven. Just like new construction, this is the opportunity to do it right the first time. This period, when children are most impressionable, is known as the imprint phase of personality development. Of course, trauma in adulthood can spawn issues as well, but that’s another matter entirely.

The most important responsibility parents have in our society is to establish and nurture a resilient self-esteem in their children. Like well-built new construction, a child’s personality can be easily equipped with ways to endure the stressors and strains later in life. Parents, who expect perfection from their children, rather than their best efforts, can cause hyper-vigilance, which results in fuzzy thinking, impaired decision-making, and even a compromised immune system.

Some of the most-effective tools are consistent parenting, unconditional love, and praising for effort rather than intelligence. Praising for effort gives children something that is within their direct control. That is empowering. Like my friend the tiler, it’s easier to work on new construction than renovations.


















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