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Children are People, Not Machines

When growing up, my father frequently reminded me to "pay attention to the details." That saying became very real to me in the area of parenting. While raising children, the details make great differences in development.

Being that children are people and not machines, the kind of detailing needed is different. Focusing on the externals of name brand clothing, perfect hair and having the most extensive collection of expensive toys are not the kind of attention needed. Such efforts will result in the child feeling rejected and learning to substitute material objects and appearances for love.

Children need the attention of their parents. The areas of their lives and abilities given attention will develop most. If the majority of parental attention is given to not standing correctly or not finishing tasks, these areas will develop further. In situations where habitual fault-finding occurs, the child eventually takes all that criticism inside and turns it on themselves. Such methods often lead to unmotivated children with low-self-esteem.

Many adult parents still carry emotional scars from harsh fault-finding from parents. A good common sense rule is, "If you would not let anyone talk to you like you talk to your child, you need to make some changes." Sadly, many children suffer in quiet desperation as victims of harsh treatment, that the parent justifies by telling themselves "it's for their own good," or "I only do it because I love them so much." Such displays are not experienced by the children as "love."

Children need attention given to the details of their lives. The attention they need the most is from their parents. They need encouragement in specific and tangible terms. Statements like, "It puts a smile in my heart, when you show teamwork by playing nicely with your brother" make a child beam. Find them doing good things and bring that to their attention. Identify the specific talent, how it is used and your reaction to it. Train their young minds to search for their talents with the same kind of attention to detail that may have previous been devoted to fault-finding. It also helps to identify internal or character qualities to praise rather than external appearances.

By developing these qualities, the child will always carry those qualities with them, regardless of age. Children do want to please their parents. The challenge many children face is that they often do not know what does please their parents.

Focusing on the details when children do good is important. Such an approach is detailed enough for children to understand what they did good and how it made you feel. Parents often devote too much detail to fault-finding. When the attention to detail is directed to finding good, it results in motivated children with strong self-esteems. If the devil is in the details, perhaps the saints are also.

Jeffrey D. Murrah, LPC, LMFT, LCDC is The Results-Oriented Therapist specializing in marriage and family conflicts. Visit to sign up for his free newsletter.


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