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
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
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.