Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fear of Making Mistakes

Fear of making mistakes, fear of being laughed at, fear of rejection, fear of judgment, fear of not being good enough, or any other fears are all real and should be acknowledged, but many of them, if not all of them, are unreasonable.

One of the many possible reasons why those fears are unreasonable is because they stem from having an unrealistic expectation of themselves, of others, and/or of life in general.

These are among the many unrealistic expectations people can have:

1. They expect from themselves to be perfect.

This is an unrealistic expectation of themselves. No expert started off perfect. David Beckham probably missed a few kicks when he first started, Albert Einstein probably didn’t know how to calculate 2+2 at some point, William Shakespeare probably struggled with saying his first English word, and you most definitely fell down the first time you tried to walk. It is perfectly normal to expect imperfections.

The first time you do something will be decorated with many mistakes and shortcomings. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Making mistakes is a normal part of the learning process. We should not fear mistakes, in fact we should welcome them. I am not saying let us all make mistakes intentionally.

What I meant was when mistakes happen (and they most probably will), we need to accept them and learn from them. It is through learning from mistakes that we grow into a better person.

2. They expect others to always be nice and kind.

It is a positive thing to think good of people and that should remain the default position. However, we cannot run away from the simple fact that there are naughty people out there.

There will be people who will intentionally or unintentionally demotivate you when you want to do something good. There will be naysayers and disbelievers in the greatness that you can achieve.

Though we do not judge their hearts because we don’t know for sure what’s in them, we should avoid paying attention to these people. If the things that they say and do don’t add value to your life, then it is not worth it to invest your time and energy in them.

You may not have the power to shut them up or to control what they say, but you do have the power to control how you react. People cannot harm you with their words unless you allow them to.

3. They expect life to be relatively smooth and easy.

It is a given that life is full of difficulties and challenges. Each of us has our own fair share of them. To expect life to always be convenient to you is to expect fairy tales to come true.

Once we realise that life is difficult, then at that point life becomes easier. It becomes easier because we no longer carry unrealistic expectations on our shoulders.

Unrealistic expectations will almost definitely result in unnecessary stress and disappointment. I called it “unnecessary” because it can be avoided. Plus, life without difficulties and challenges will turn out to be a very boring life.

So, what now?

Manage your expectation well and you will save yourself a lot of unnecessary heartaches. This is not to say that with the right expectation, suddenly everything will be candies and rainbows.

The right expectation helps us to focus on what matters more and on what matters most, and to ignore what is essentially a waste of time and energy.

Be confident in yourself by believing in yourself. At the very least, you should believe that you can try your best. After all, what more can people ask from you than your very best? Before you can expect people to have a reasonable expectation of you, you first have to have a reasonable expectation of yourself.

Confidence lies in the mindset that you have chosen, particularly in what you think of yourself. The mind is so powerful such that it can create a reality based on what you think and how you think.

How is that so? Well, to simplify, your mind will lead you to find every conceivable evidence to prove that what you think is true.

So, whether you think you can or you cannot, you are absolutely right.


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Saturday, April 09, 2016

Does Your Child Scream Like Crazy in Public?

That's called a tantrum. No, your child is not possessed.

Last Sunday, my wife and I (together with our 9-month-old son) went to a parenting seminar in Shah Alam. The seminar was about children's mental wellbeing, a topic which doesn't get a lot of attention from the society.

Perhaps because the topic of mental health still has a lot of taboo associated with it. But I'm glad that we are slowing overcoming it, because we need to talk about it. It is like smelling smoke in the room, but no one has the guts to say anything about it.

The seminar covered a lot of the important basics, setting up a good foundation to understand mental wellbeing. Among the topics discussed were the definition of mental illness, the different domains of a human's wellbeing, and the differences between the different professionals in the mental health field (e.g. the difference between a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist).

During Q&A, I took the opportunity to ask a question important to me and perhaps to many other parents out there: a question about tantrum. Many parents are dealing with children with explosive attitudes, especially when the children don't get what they wanted.

I asked one of the invited panelists, a clinical psychologist, and below was a summary of our brief conversation:

"What causes a child's tantrum and what can we do to overcome this challenge?", I asked him.

"A tantrum is a type of negative attention-seeking behaviour. The best thing to do is to ignore the tantrum, because if you succumb to it then the child will learn that the way to get your attention is to make noises", he responded.

"Is it normal?"

"It is normal to get upset when you don't get what you wanted. Even adults get upset. But you have to teach your child to find a better way of asking, and to not associate bad behaviour with getting your attention."

My son is 9-month-old now. Thankfully, he doesn't exhibit any behaviour that would qualify as a tantrum. But the possibility of him developing the behaviour is always there, and it is a direct reflection of my own parenting.

Like what the clinical psychologist said, tantrum is a negative attention-seeking behaviour. To put it in another way, the child wants your attention. The child needs your attention. So he will find a way to get it.

When you only give attention to him whenever he exhibits a bad behaviour, the child is making an association between doing bad behaviour and getting your attention. It is a negative association, but if that is what it takes to get your attention, the child doesn't really care about anything else.

If or when you (I'm talking to myself too) are in such a situation, what should you do? You should ignore the child's bad behaviours. As a substitute, you should pay as much as attention as you can to his good behaviours. The goal is to associate parental attention with good behaviours.

We want the child to learn that the way to get the attention he wants and needs is to exhibit good behaviours. When good behaviours are acknowledged and appreciated, the child would feel good about it and it is more likely that he will repeat the good behaviours in the future.

It is theoretically simple, but practically challenging. Imagine if you child threw a tantrum in a restaurant, or in a mall, or in a mosque. Perhaps many don't have to imagine it. It is a humiliating experience, right? People are staring, perhaps even judging.

At that moment, you just want your child to quiet down. So the easiest thing to do is to simply surrender to his demands and give him what he wants. You would think that would satisfy your child. Yes, but only in the short term.

In the long term, he will learn something powerful: "In order to get my parents' attention, I have to behave badly. So I'm going to do this again next time." So next time, there it is again - the tantrum. There you are again - surrendering. Hence, the wheel begins to turn and it will continue to turn until you stop it.

A child has no evil intention. The child is not out to get you. He simply wants attention and he is constantly finding ways to get it. If you don't acknowledge his presence and his value when he behaves well and you only look him in the eyes whenever he behaves badly, then who should you blame for his tantrum?

If we want the child to change, then the adult should change first.