Q: Our four-year-old little girl has a charming personality, and everyone has doted on her since she was born. She loves being the centre of attention and will “perform” on cue if given the opportunity. She’s very cute, but I’m not sure this is entirely healthy. Any advice?
A: We’re sure she’s a delight, but you’re wise to take inventory of the situation. At this stage of the game, it’s fun for everyone, but the danger is that she’ll grow up believing that her value as a person is based on her cuteness and her performance, not on her character.
While she’s still young and impressionable, you’ll want to encourage her to develop solid character traits. We suggest you make a conscious effort to praise her whenever she displays positive behaviours such as kindness, patience, selflessness, humility, gentleness, generosity and self-control. You should also model these same qualities for her and look for “teachable moments” to talk about why these things are important. It would also be a good idea to come alongside her to show her how to serve others, whether that means caring for a neighbour’s pet when they’re on vacation or donating some of her toys to a local homeless shelter.
It’s worth mentioning that the “misplaced values” syndrome can easily extend beyond the pre-school years. In fact, it only becomes more damaging as a child moves into primary and secondary school. Far too many parents today push their children to make the top student ranking, play on the school badminton team, or get into a top university. These things aren’t bad in and of themselves, of course. The problem is when they become our chief goal in life. It is far better to help our children develop character traits that will last a lifetime.
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