PARENTING AND DISCIPLINE
Are you a make shift parent or a conscious one…?
Raising children in a way that they remain well mannered and disciplined is everyone’s dream. At the same time teaching children what we expect from them as parents is an everyday task… Hence it’s very important that we accept that child rearing is a consistent and continuous task which requires parents to develop parenting skills throughout every life phase. Sometimes we are able to learn through our experiences or talking to friends, but some other times there is no harm in calling in for help or researching on the problem you are facing.
Younger children do not have well developed logic, that is also why they do not have good control over their behaviour. Their actions are usually motivated by pleasure, needs, emotions or impulses. Therefore getting into long conversations with them is futile.
I am sure we all wonder “why does my child behave badly?” The child behaves the way he/she learns to behave. We will see below how this learning happens, and I will give you 10 parenting tips that you can choose to implement to improve your parenting skills.
• Imitation is a crucial part of the parent child relationship: Children imitate whatever reactions they observe starting from home, peer groups, media and usually act it out, out of the context in which they saw the behaviour. They just imitate implusively, it does not matter to them in which context they picked it up. So we should be very careful with our language, moods, actions etc; as you never know which of this is accumulating in your child’s mind. It is also important that the patterns of communication among other family members are controlled as children immediately and naturally speak to others in a similar manner. Couples who speak to each other critically, reactively or in a complaining manner, subtly teach their children similar patterns. On the other hand, couples who listen to each other and take turns speaking unconsciously teach the children same controlled way of communicating. As adults while facing problems among us we should display problem solving skills as our attitudes, behaviours, attributions, language everything is subtly learn by the child. If you’re over anxious, you will pass on your anxieties to your child and the result will be an over dependent child. If you suffer from anxiety, you can read my article on how to overcome anxiety.
• Reinforcement and attribution: We usually give energy to acting out displayed by children while they are behaving negatively either by criticising, shouting, sometimes hitting, or also at times by giving in to their demands abruptly. Energising behaviour with strong response of any kind will act as reinforcement and increases the chances that the behaviour will repeat itself again. Hence, we should energise the behaviour that we want children to learn by appreciating these behaviours specifically. You might think that you praise your children, but are you specific or you just speak out vague words like “good”, “nice”, “well done”? This way you are not energising good behaviour. You can energise the good behaviour by saying things like “I can see you have put in a lot of efforts in your project”, or “your room looks much organised, you have worked very hard”. In this way you are energising and creating good behaviour. It should also be coupled with a smile, eye contact or a pat. This will further act as reinforcement with your child and he/she will attribute this reinforcement with expected behaviour. Give your time to your child in creating good behaviour. Be reasonable when you need to ground your child. Do not give out any consequence without pre reflection along with your child. You have to choose whether you want to sow the seeds of negative emotions in your child (like anger, rage or rebellion) or the positive seeds of love, compassion and growth. The emotions you attribute and energise will pan out in your child significantly.
• Structure is important in child rearing: If your child has a loosely structured day, it creates anxiety in him/her. The anxiety leads to acting out and gives into bad behaviour. To keep your child calm and develop self control it’s good to assign routine habits and tasks. Habits of any kind as well as learning of any kind can be formed with consistency and following up with the child firmly; at the same time it’s important to involve the child in a discussion on what his/her day will be like. This will add a sense of responsibility in the child as he/she is involved in the process of making a choice. You need to stay calm and step back when things go wrong and help your child visualise why this happened and if this stayed then what would he/she face. Children cannot think long term we need to help them out. The structure is easier achieved if there is clear difference in what is negotiable and what is not.
• Consistent parenting style: Consistent parenting styles: If you and other members of your family do not attribute the same behaviours with approval and disapproval then the child does not get clear reinforcement and the desired behaviour is not learnt. Sometimes a smile, sometimes a praise, sometimes shouting and some other times grounding will go against teaching the child your expected behaviour. There has to be consistency in your patterns of paying attention to your child’s behaviour and also there cannot be a contradiction among other family members and you. When your son/daughter does not score good marks in his/her tests, one parent might say critical things like “we told you, you never listen to us, you will never be able to do well”( this is catastrophising), and another parent might say words like “what do you think went wrong? are you fine with your results?”(reflection, visualisation). Due to inconsistency between parents and other family members on perspectives of child rearing, children get either confused or take liberties. Moreover, as a family, you are not putting efforts in the same direction for creating and energising good behaviour adult expectations. Together as a family, you should silently share your thoughts and consistently create inner behavioural and emotional wealth in your child. This will strenghten the core of your child and help him/her reflect and have a strong sense of self esteem.
• Assertiveness in parenting: Assertiveness is a mandatory quality in a care giver or a parent. If you are consistently assertive and not rude, and if you energise good behaviour then half of the achievement is in your hand. It includes a firm voice, gestures, consistency among your attributions.
“Every child is wired and inspired differently. Be sensitive to your child and experience the joy of being the unique parent to your unique child. Celebrate the difference!”
• Emotional connection with children: Emotional connection is formed by spending time playing, eating, games, puzzles, art , craft, reading, going out, etc; Your child will respect your attributions and opinions when they trust you, that will be a positive result of spending time whenever as much as you can. Politeness in communication and timely physical gestures like hugs and pats go a long way in building deep rapport. You should be non-interfering, non-judgemental and supportive, let your child make mistakes while you help him/her reflect and learn what went wrong. Forgiveness is an invaluable key in building trust and attachment. Nurture the goodness in your child, focus on his/her strengths and help your child in building them.
• Child rearing also requires proper communication: Communication is a significant part of establishing both rapport and discipline, as clear communication takes the chaos away from parenting. We feel that why can children not understand that they are not expected to behave in a certain way? More often than not we neither state firmly and specifically what we do expect from the child; and even if we do we do not follow up and do it consistently. So children are not clear about your attributions to their behaviour, hence they do not have clear parental expectations as a standard of behaviour. We should also be open to their questions and try and listen to them and engage with them as often as you can. Acknowledgement of their concerns is essential. This builds healthy patterns of communication which is very important for a child’s emotional health. Further to, we should not compare our children to any other child on any aspect as this would either make your child stubborn or low on self esteem. Communicate in different ways till you feel your words are making sense to your child. It does not have to be done at the same time. Do not be sarcastic with your children, do not catastrophise their mistake by saying things like “how dare you do this!”, “I did not see other children behaving in the same way!” or “You will never be able to do it!”, etc…
• A good parent child relationship requires physical play and social skills: It’s essential that a child does not spend a lot of time in his/her imaginary world but also spend time with other children and indulge in physical play consistently. That implies a child should not spend all his time in pretend play and creating imaginary stories with his toys. His interactions with others is pertinent to his socio-emotional and also linguistic growth. All these aspects could go through developmental delays if this balance is not met atleast after 3 years of a child’s life. If a child is not naturally choosing to interact with others we should provide more opportunities for this connection to develop. Further to its also important that apart from an imaginary world the child does not limit himself/herselt to a virtual screen world, whether its t.v, tablet, laptop or phone. These screens reduce attention span, cause irritation, anxiety and agrresion if the exposure is high and consistent. In addition to this they also impact the childs emotio-socio needs and they grow up to feel lonely and deprived of nurturance.
• Taking care of yourself is also an aspect of parenting skills : If you’re not a happy individual you cannot raise a happy child. You need to take care of yourself, your needs, your emotions, your hobbies, your social life. Your child is your priority, your family is your centre but it’s extremely essential you understand your responsibility towards your own self. You have to strike a balance in nurturing yourself and your family. This tender approach to yourself will bring out the best out of you as a parent. Choose to give time to yourself in order to be a compassionate parent.
• Parenting tips on talking to teenagers: It’s always believed that teens are self centred, rebellious and do not care about their future. Due to these beliefs we do not give them a chance to grow up to be responsible. We always criticize, complain, and keep telling them what to do. This usually makes them do the opposite. Instead you should learn to coach them by understanding them and helping them reach your expectation together with you rather than criticising them. For example, rather than saying to your child “your room is always disorganised”, you could try and ask him/her “what can i do to help you learn to clean your room? let’s begin together”. Also let them make choices, step back, there are chances they will be more responsible. Trust them, help them reflect when they go wrong. Treating teens as responsible will help them behave responsibly.
The goal of discipline is to teach your child, over time, to value the basic rules that are necessary for getting along in the world and to develop the self-control to adhere to them — even when you’re not present. You need to be persistent and patient and sometimes when none of the above work, you need to start reading again and reflect where did you go wrong and start practising how do you think you can align yourself to your child’s needs and build up consistent parenting skills along with your family.
If none of these work, maybe your child has certain development, emotional, social, educational difficulties and you might seek help from a psychologist who has expertise in these domains. Sometimes, an undiagnosed condition can manifest itself into chronic problems. At other times, some expert advices go a long way in helping you adjust to your child and, in turn, help your child maximise his/her emotional, mental and social being. If you feel that child counselling may be helpful to you, please feel free to ask me a question or book an appointment in order to get the proper diagnosis for your kid.