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Here are 6 things that I believe children need to learn in order to step into being their best self…

1. To accept imperfections and failure 

Failure is a part of success and imperfect moments give us an opportunity to learn and grow. People who have phenomenal success will have failed multiple times before they hit the jackpot. If we can help children to get comfortable with failure and imperfection, they will be more likely to step out of their comfort zone, which is where their brilliance lies. It is also better to move forward in life, than to wait for things to be perfect. Perfection is an unrealistic goal. If we can teach children to put in their best efforts and to see the lessons in their imperfections, they will be more likely to succeed.

TOP TIP:

How much of a perfectionist are you? Look at your own behaviour and the words that you say and make sure that your own actions are reinforcing that children don’t have to be perfect.  

2. To talk about feelings

It is common for people to believe they shouldn’t feel a certain way because there are other people going through far worse than them. However, problems are relative, and we all have different limits and triggers. Imagine 3 buckets. One is made of steel, one is made of wood and one is made of paper. Now imagine putting fire in them. The steel bucket will be fine, albeit a bit charred. The wooden bucket will survive for a while but will eventually burn away and the paper bucket will go up in a puff of smoke immediately. That’s like people. We all have different abilities to cope with ‘fire’. Just because one person has more ‘flames’ around them, doesn’t mean that the smaller ‘flames’ around you aren’t damaging. We are all made of different things. In order to teach children to manage their feelings, we need to acknowledge them and remember that problems through a child’s eyes will seem small to us, but massive to them. By acknowledging how they feel on a consistent basis, they will learn through your actions that their feelings are valid and that it’s okay to talk about them.

TOP TIP:

In a way that’s accessible, talk about your own feelings to children and normalise this process.

3. To ask for help when they need it

It can be hard, at times, to swallow our pride and ask for help because it can make us feel like we’re not good enough. However, we all have different strengths and are on a continual journey of learning and development. The great minds of this world often had a team of people around them, which allowed them to play to their strengths. It’s important to teach children to try their best, but that it’s also okay to ask for help if they need it. It’s better to get help and to move forward, than to stay stuck.

TOP TIP:

Ask children for help with different things throughout the day and specifically say things like ‘I need your help please because….’

4. To take responsibility 

In life, we are always going to make mistakes because we are human and imperfect by nature. Mistakes are not the issue – it’s how we deal with them that matters. If we take responsibility for our shortcomings, it gives us an opportunity to learn from them and move forward in a different way. Self-awareness is key and the ability to acknowledge and own our mistakes is important in life. Children learn from what they see, so it’s imperative to model this as much as possible. Quite often people feel that they need to have everything together in front of children, or that they need to not show weakness in order to have authority. I totally disagree. By acknowledging our mistakes and apologising to children we pave the way for them to do the same. 

TOP TIP:

Use every opportunity to model to children how to take responsibility for your actions.

5. To try new things and be brave

Stepping out of our comfort zone can be tough. However, the feeling of achieving something beyond what we thought we could, is second to none and builds self-esteem. We need to give children the opportunity to try new things as much as possible. In order for them to experience the exhilaration of having a breakthrough, they also need enough freedom to be able to risk failing. Allowing children time to work things out is also important. Yes, we want them to ask for help when they need it, but they also, at times, need to be stretched beyond what they think they are capable of in order to build their confidence and resilience.

TOP TIP

Set up scenarios that will challenge children (for example, a climbing frame or obstacle course that is difficult). Make sure that safety measures are in place so that there is no real danger, but that there is enough of a perceived ‘risk’ to put them out of their comfort zone. If they say they can’t do it or that they are scared, gently remind them of their brilliance. Tell them that you believe in them and give them advice on how to move forward. If they do need rescuing, make sure you don’t do it too soon. The urge to quit is often at its strongest just before a breakthrough. 

6. To practise gratitude

In this fast-paced, digital world that we live in, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s important. Children have more ‘stuff’ than ever before and because of this, the small things in life can be underappreciated. We also teach children to say, ‘thank you’, but this is often just a word used without much meaning or feeling behind it. The practice of gratitude has been proven to reduce anxiety and improve happiness, so spending 5 minutes at the beginning of the day to say what we are grateful for can have a big impact. 

As part of my business, Early Years Story Box, I launched a campaign to help settings use gratitude as a tool to improve children’s emotional wellbeing. I’d love you to join in!

Here are the steps

a. Stand in a circle with the children.

b. Model a few sentences saying what you are grateful for and why (‘Thank you for my eyes because I can see’ etc). By saying why we are grateful, this generates a deeper feeling of appreciation because it compounds our understanding of why we are thankful.  

c. Say the first part of this sentence again but stop after the word ‘because’ so that the children can finish your sentences. Use things in your sentences like my arms, my toys, my friends, my family, my house, the flowers, food etc. 

d. Ask if anyone wants to say their own sentence.

e. Finish your gratitude circle by all shouting ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you’.

I’d love for you to post about this on social media and use the hashtag #ThankYouOaky (Oaky Owl is one of my storybook characters who teaches children about gratitude). Don’t forget to tag Early Years Story Box too so I can see how it is going!

TOP TIP:

A few times throughout the day, take the opportunity to explain why you are saying ‘thank you’ to children so that they can start gaining a deeper understanding of why we use these 2 magic words.

About the author:

Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.

Sign up to Stacey’s Premium Membership here and use the code PARENTA20 to get 20% off or contact Stacey for an online demo.

Email: stacey@earlyyearsstorybox.com or Telephone: 07765785595

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