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The 10 Best Things a Mother Ever Told Her Child

The 10 Best Things a Mother Ever Told Her Child

 

mother with child on hip

              

    In the modern age of online self-improvement tips and self-help books, we seem to have lost our way on some of the most basic things in life. When I say basic, I mean the things our mothers (and fathers) have been telling us for as long as we can remember.  Now, I know that not everybody’s parents are clinicians, psychologists and self help gurus.  And furthermore, we all know that our parents didn’t walk three miles to school, both ways, in the snow, without shoes. 

    But I think that it is pretty safe to say that some of the folk wisdom handed down from generation to generation was handed down for a reason.  It was useful and it made sense.  Moreover, much of it has now been shown to be scientifically sound.  So maybe it’s time we turn off our smart phones and tablets and get our information the old fashioned way— by asking our mothers (and fathers).  So here are some of my favorite gems of conventional wisdom.

    Do it until it’s done.

    family gardening

      It turns out to be true that those of us that show the best task persistence actually do better in many areas of life.  I often hear my own kids asking, “How much longer do I have to do this for?  How long do I have to study?  How long do I have to clean my room for? Now I think back to my fairly stress free childhood, and I know that I had it easy compared to many others of my generation and before, but I remember this: “You do it until you are finished.”  That might be one hour.  That might be 10 hours.  But you are finished when the job is done. 

      It turns out that task persistence matters. So do your best and finish a job.  And when you get to the point when you think you can’t do any more, think again and go try some more. 

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      Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, does a beautiful job of making this point.  In one chapter in which he discusses why some people do better than others at mathematics, he goes into our attitudes towards mathematics.  Those who give up and say “I can’t do this. I need you to show me how” not surprisingly don’t do as well at mathematics as those who say “I can’t do this yet.  I need to take a different approach”. 

      Gladwell goes on to describe the TIMSS test, in which every four years an international group of educators administer a comprehensive mathematics test to elementary and junior high school students around the world.  Before the students sit the exam, they fill in a questionnaire which asks them all kinds of questions relating to, for example, their parents’ level of education, who their friends are, and so on.  This is a tedious and demanding questionnaire.  In fact it is so tedious that many students leave as many as 10-20 questions blank.  The average number of questions answered varies from country to country.  But here is the interesting part.  The number of questions answered on the questionnaire correlates perfectly with the number of questions answered correctly on the actual TIMSS exam.  In other words, those who persisted in answering the questionnaire questions also persisted in “figuring out” the maths questions and did better on the mathematics exam as a direct result. So if you do a thing until it is done, you will do much better on mathematics exams, but also in other arenas of life.

      It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.
      bullying in magnets

        Being nice costs you nothing. But not being nice is costing us all dearly.  There are lots of different iterations of this piece of advice, but it basically comes down to having respect for people.  Again, in our fast paced modern lives, we are often so busy that we forget to be nice.  This might be shocking to a generation gone before us, but it is true for many of us today.  And we hand this attitude right down to our own kids and then we are surprised to hear that bullying is on the rise, in the schools, in the workplace and even in old people’s homes.

        Why are we surprised?  It seems to me that what has happened here is that people have forgotten the importance of being nice and that has trickled into every institution we are part of.  School systems and other organizations are now required by law to have a “policy on bullying” and a “code of conduct”.  Why? Because we are all forgetting to be nice to such a degree that it is psychologically damaging to those around us.  One American study on the Kansas School System (see Kansas Communities That Care Survey) found that 60 percent of students reported being bullied.

        Teachers in those same schools estimated that approximately 16 percent of those students were being bullied.  That’s quite a discrepancy between what is happening and what teachers are aware of.  Some further interesting statistics on bullying include that a child is bullied every 7 seconds and that 20-30 percent of school age children are involved in bullying incidents, as either the bully or the victim.  Finally, researchers also report that 60 percent of those characterized as bullies in grades 6-9 had a least one criminal conviction by the age of 24.  So what has happened here? We are forgetting to be nice.  We are so caught up in being important, being popular and getting ahead (in the school yard and the work place) that we have completely forgotten to be nice.  This “forgetting” has long term implications for all parties involved.

        Education is no burden to carry. 

        child writing

          Doing well in school predicts how well you will do in life.  While this piece of advice likely brings to mind the wonderful work of author and film maker, Dionne Brand, this is advice that is not just for women and not just for black women.  My parents used to say when I was going to school, “Study hard.  Learn a lot”.  So while perhaps this is less eloquent than Education is no burden to carry, in many ways, it makes the same point.  The more you know, the farther you’ll go.  The better we educate ourselves, our children, our society, the more opportunities we will have.

          When you are a child and looking out the window of your classroom on a sunny day, it might feel like school and studying are a burden.  But the fact of the matter is that doing well in school predicts how well you will do in life.  The longer you stay in school, the higher your intellectual skills will be.  Research has shown that people who score well on IQ tests have more successful jobs, earn more money, and are even happier and healthier.  So while we all know examples of famous and successful people who did well in life, we should remember that these are exceptions to the rule, they are not the norm.  For most of us, if you get your head down and work hard in school, you will have a more successful life and you will be happier and healthier too.  So education is not a burden.  It is a path to success.

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          Never go anywhere without a good book. 

          KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

            It has been shown in a number of studies that people who read a lot have better developed vocabularies and perform better on cognitive tasks (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998).  The pioneering work of Todd Risley and colleagues has shown us that exposure to a greater number of words through speech and reading has major implications for increasing your later life’s success.  Also, on a practical note, you never know when you are going to be stuck in a queue at the bank or doctors office so in the spirit of modern day multi-tasking, let’s use that time to our advantage.  In fact, go one step further—enjoy that time!

            Don’t look for love in a bar.  Look for love in a library.

            Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

              Ok, so this one is probably not one you have heard before.  In fact, the only mother I ever knew who imparted this wisdom was my own.  Being a librarian herself, it would only have made sense to her to take someone seriously if you knew that they were interested in learning and books.  But this advice actually makes sense on a number of levels, and not just for book lovers.  In days of yore in the Western world, and also in some modern non-Western cultures, marriages were arranged based on what would best serve each family and people only married those people that were acceptable and accepted by their individual families and within their own social structure.  People who got married came from similar cultures with similar value systems and you know what? More often than not, these marriages worked.

              So now with all our new fangled notions of romance and freedom, and with all the choice that comes with that, we find ourselves in the modern world of more complex and cosmopolitan marriages, many of which could certainly not be called traditional.  So we have now got a lot of choice and people are not compelled to doing what culture, society or religion has dictated.  For the most part this is a good thing, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  There is a problem with this modern and advanced system too.  We have moved so far away from where we have come, that we don’t know what the value system is anymore. This is the problem.  One way to counteract this new system full of choice, surprises, and different ways of thinking is to seek out people with shared interests and values.  So whether that might be at the tennis club, the church or the library, it seems that seeking out a partner who shares your passions and ideals is a good idea.  Another good idea is to avoid being inebriated when you make these important decisions!

              Don’t make such a song and dance about everything.

                
              horse and buggy going uphill

                The way we interpret a problem influences how we deal with it.   This adage might be a useful tip for parents or teachers who are tired of hearing everything little thing that happened, every wrongful accusation and every crime done unto their little ones.  Of course, it should be remembered that kids need to vent their woes and they need someone to listen to them.  They need to know that how they think and feel about things matters.  But here’s the kicker, the way we interpret an event influences how we go forward.

                How do some people face severe adversity and trauma and come through to the other side as successful and productive human beings? It definitely has to do with how resilient that person is, but it probably also has something to do with the way they interpreted the situation in the first place.  It has to do with how they “told their story” and if they made the trauma/adversity the central feature of the rest of their lives’ story then they can remain stuck there and cannot move on.  If, on the other hand, the trauma was only one part of a greater life story and if it was interpreted as a “mountain I must climb” rather than “something I cannot accept or cannot overcome”, then it is very likely that person is still engaged with the trauma, rather than moving on to the next chapter.

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                Of course, I am in no way minimizing trauma or adversity.  Horrible and painful things happen every day and these stories need to be told.  But know this – how you write the story will dictate the next chapter.  Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) practitioners view suffering as universal and report that the primary cause of human suffering is the intrusion of language into areas where it is not functional (see Hayes, Strosahl & Wilson 1999).  In other words, if we “think trauma” all the time, this is not functional and it is not helpful and it will not move us forward.  Rather, we can get stuck here because our mind tells us “this is trauma” and we react accordingly.  So it is our interpretation of the event, rather than the event itself that causes the situation to seem unbearable.  So it seems like the old adage, Don’t make such a song and dance about it, is a helpful one as it may help us to move on from difficult situations in life by reminding us not to get wrapped up in every single event in our lives.

                Don’t argue with fools or drunks.

                argument on street

                  If someone is very drunk or very foolish, the chances are, they may not be making sense.  So you could make some very well thought out and meaningful contributions to an argument.  In fact, hands down, you could win that argument! But what difference will it make?  Someone with very little intellectual capacity (whether that be related to too much alcohol or intellectual disadvantage) may not understand or remember your golden nuggets of truth.  So don’t waste your time.  Grab a good book instead.

                  Respect yourself.

                  parents holding childrens hands

                    We all hear about boundaries and how we need to set them for children.  Rules and boundaries are useful for a number of reasons when you are working with small children, but they are also important for the parents themselves.  In the 1960’s,

                    Psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted some research on parenting and parenting styles which is still widely considered to be of paramount importance in the parenting literature.  Baumrind suggested that there are three main types of parenting.  These types were authoritarian, authoritative and permissive.  Macoby and Martin added a fourth type (un-involved) in 1983.  Time and time again, the authoritative type of parenting has yielded the best outcomes for children in relation to academic and social and emotional success.

                    This is largely down to the fact that this type of parenting involves rules and guidelines to be followed, but parents continue to be warm and supportive.  This type of parenting lets children know where they stand, what is expected of them and what will happen if they fail to comply, but it also models compassion, flexibility and respect.  So these parents are respectful of their own children and respectful of their own needs as people too.  So they are modelling the very type of behavior that they expect and in so doing, teaching their children to treat people (and rules) with respect.  Because children of authoritative parents know what the rules are, they are also more likely to recognize when those same rules are being broken later on in life when they are involved in friendships, romantic relationships and when they are involved professionally with work colleagues.  So these same children will have the confidence to respectfully decline to be involved with people who treat them poorly as they grow into their adult selves.

                    Eat your vegetables.

                    vegetables

                      Eating well not only makes you healthier, it makes you smarter!  Well we all know that what you eat makes a difference to your weight, but why else should we eat our vegetables?  Well, my Dad often told me that eating carrots would help me to see in the dark.  It’s nearly 40 years later and I still don’t have night vision! But that aside, good nutrition which includes a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats seems to be a common theme even in the faddy diets of celebrities and superstars.  Why is this?  What properties or health benefits does having a healthy and balanced diet confer upon us?

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                      It turns out that eating well isn’t just about our waistline and it’s not just about physical health.  Eating well can also support your brain health.  It can stimulate intellectual development in a way that the fast food life style just cannot support.  One study, led by Arthur Agatson (cardiologist and creator of the popular South Beach diet) has published findings (along with colleagues Hollar, Messiah, Lopez-Mitnik, T Hollar & Almon) showing that improving the nutritional quality of school meals bolstered the academic performance of students over a two year period, in addition to lowering their weight and blood pressure.  Mathematics scores also improved for this group.  So eating healthy is not just important for your physical health, but it is also important for your brain health and academic development.

                      Don’t drive there when you can walk there.

                      girls playing soccer

                        Being physically healthy is good for you body and mind. It is pretty commonly known now that we all need to exercise more.  But this does not have to mean a gym membership.  There are many things that we can do in our every-day lives to increase our cardiac activity and one of these is walking places, instead of driving, whenever possible.  This also includes taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

                        But what evidence is there that there is a connection between how much we exercise and our overall health and well being?  In 2009, the Department of Health and Human Services released new guidelines surrounding physical fitness for Americans.  These guidelines called for adults between the ages of 18 and 64 to exercise moderately for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week or to exercise vigorously for at least an hour and 15 minutes weekly.  This Department reported that the longer, harder and more often you exercise, the greater the physical health benefits including decreasing risk of cancer and diabetes.  Studies have shown that those who engage in the recommended amount of exercise live an average of three to seven years longer than those who do not.

                        A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that people aged 50 years or older, with memory problems, scored higher on cognitive tests after a 6 month work-out regimen.  This result was 20 percent higher than their sedentary peers and a 10 percent edge was still measured one year after the trial ended.  Thus, exercising helps both your body and your mind. 

                        So where does this leave us? While I don’t advise people to believe everything they hear or everything they read, it looks like lots of the stuff our parents have been telling us is actually true.  And if you don’t believe me, I suggest you go ask your mother.

                        mother and child at lake

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                          Last Updated on March 30, 2020

                          What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

                          What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

                          Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

                          You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

                          This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

                          What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

                          According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

                          Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

                          There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

                          How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

                          When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

                          Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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                          1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

                          One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

                          The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

                          Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

                          2. Be Honest

                          A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

                          If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

                          On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

                          Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

                          3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

                          Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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                          If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

                          4. Succeed at Something

                          When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

                          Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

                          5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

                          Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

                          Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

                          If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

                          If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

                          Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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                          6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

                          Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

                          You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

                          On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

                          You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

                          7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

                          Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

                          Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

                          Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

                          When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

                          Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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                          In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

                          Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

                          It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

                          Final Thoughts

                          When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

                          The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

                          Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

                          Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

                          Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

                          More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

                          Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

                          Reference

                          [1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
                          [2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
                          [3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
                          [4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
                          [5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
                          [6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
                          [7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
                          [8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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