Parenting can be made as one of the most enjoyable, loving and fun-filled stage of our life if we could get to know certain basics of the needs of our kids while they grow up at different stages. For most it’s becoming a challenging and the most risky one especially because we never take care of the three most important aspects of parenting – Listening, Supporting and Non-judgmental. This can be well understood from the fact that our children like grandparents because they knowingly or unknowingly follow these three principles. Parents’ emotional well-being and self-control are keys to successful parenting. Here are few strategies to make parenting a sensible one and help your children blossom.
Help Children Deal with Their Feelings:
While mingling with children always keep in mind that they are independent individuals like us, having their own perceptions, feelings, aspirations and beliefs. Never try to belittle their feelings. Their feelings have to be accepted and respected. Handling their feeling needs a language of empathy or a language of acceptance. Few tips:
Listen with full attention – quietly and attentively.
Acknowledge their feelings with a word – ‘oh’ … ‘Mmm’ ….. ‘I see.’
Give their feelings a name, let it come in your response – ‘oh really you cared.’
Give them their wishes in fantasy – for a demand – ‘I know how much you wish to have it.’
Note: Use the words in your response to show that you understand the feelings. (Don’t question or give advice.)
Engage a Child’s Cooperation:
Most parents complain that their children are not cooperative. To get their cooperation we have to be realistic to their aspirations. Most times without paying heed to this aspect we either blame or accuse or threaten or command or lecture or warn or compare or use sarcasm. All these hurt their self-esteem or create a bad feeling. And I can guarantee they never cooperate by these. We have to look for alternate strategies to engage their cooperation. Few are listed below but every strategy won’t work with everyone. We have to choose by keeping in mind that the chosen strategy is going to create a climate of respect in which the spirit of cooperation can begin to grow.
Describe clearly what you see, or describe the problem – ‘There is a wet towel on the bed.’
Give information – ‘The towel is getting your bed wet.’
Say it with a word – ‘The towel.’ (To avoid feeling of personal attack.)
Describe what you feel – ‘I think, you don’t like sleeping in a wet bed!’
Have a request – ‘Please put back the towel to dry.’
Note: Our purpose while communicating with children should be to engage and develop their intelligence, initiative, sense of responsibility, sense of humour and ability to be sensitive to the needs of others. We have to put an end to talk that wounds the spirit, and search out the language that nourishes self-esteem. We have to demonstrate a kind of respectful communication that we hope our children will use with us – now, during their adolescent years, and ultimately as our adult friends.
Have Alternatives to Punishments:
Punishments generally emanate from conflicting ideas or perceptions. Child does something and as per the parents perception it’s completely wrong and leads to punishment. We can take and deal with conflicts in an entirely different way. Most times during conflicts we pool our energy to win over the other. In parenting winners and losers of a conflict are the same. Hence engage with the child for a solution that respects both our needs as individuals. This will enable them to be active participants in solving the problems that confront them – now, while they are at home, and in the difficult, complex world that awaits them. Few strategies in this direction:
Express your feelings strongly – without attacking character – ‘I am angry that my new screwdriver was left outside to rust in the rain!’
State your expectations – ‘I expect my tools to be returned after they have been borrowed/taken.’
Give the child a choice – ‘You can take my tools and return, or give up the privilege of using them. You decide.’
Take action – Let the tool box be locked and if the child questions the same, tell him/her to explain why it’s locked now.
Problem-solve: Find time to work out with the child to solve the issue by making available the tool for the child and you whenever needed.
Note: The key to problem solving strategy is respect for your child and for you. While going for settling an issue, try to grasp the child’s feelings, feelings within you, mutual point of acceptance, decide ideas you like, you don’t, and you want to put into action. Follow through to reach settlement, never allow the children to blame or accuse you and be firm during the process.
Encourage Autonomy in children:
As parents one of the most important duties is to help our children separate from us, to help them become independent individuals who will one day be able to function on their own without us. Parents are urged not to think of children as little carbon copies of them or extensions of themselves, but as unique human beings with different temperaments, different tastes, different feelings, different desires and different dreams. This spirit itself helps us solve most of the conflicts in parenting. To encourage autonomy adhere to the rules below:
Let children make choices.
Show respect for a child’s struggle to achieve success even in minor aspects.
Don’t pounce with too many questions.
Don’t rush to answer questions – try to elicit from the child.
Encourage children to use sources outside the home. (will help in socializing for a cause)
Don’t take away hope – be always a harbinger of hope and joy.
Note: Remember, ultimate purpose of parenting is to develop a small, helpless kid to a full-fledged person with inner strength and confidence to face the world on his/her own. In this process we worry, plan, comfort, understand, and give our love, our labour, our knowledge and our experience selflessly. Real parenting never expects anything in return!
Praise and Self-esteem:
Parents have great role in creating self-esteem in children. Principles we have discussed earlier certainly will help in creating self-esteem. Praise is another amazing tool, if used with caution, to build a positive and realistic self-image. While going for praise, you have to ensure that you have really looked into, really listened and really noticed the point. Heartfelt and emotionally attached praise only will work, mere lip service is counterproductive. Points to note:
Never go for evaluation, instead describe – ‘I have seen the straight batting, powerful knocks and steadily improving scores. Your off-drives were marvelous! ’
Describe what you feel – ‘It’s a pleasure to watch you play as you played today.’
Sum up the child’s praiseworthy behavior with a word – ‘Fantastic!’
Note: These moments (of great self-image), when his/her best was affirmed, become lifelong touchstones to which a child can return in times of doubt or discouragement.
Freeing Children from Playing Roles:
It’s all about branding and assigning roles to your children. Never brand them or assign roles knowingly or unknowingly. All the psychologists warn us of the dangers of self-fulfilling prophecy. If we label a child as a slow learner or mischievous; he could begin to see himself as a slow learner or mischievous. It has proven beyond doubt that the way parents see their children can influence not only the way children see themselves, but also the way they behave. Here are few measures for any parent who wants to liberate his/her child from playing out a role:
Look for opportunities to show the child a new picture of himself or herself.
Put children in situations where they can see themselves differently.
Let children overhear you say something positive about them.
Model the behavior you would like to see.
Be a storehouse for your child’s special moments.
To conclude, let’s start thinking of ourselves as human beings first, with great potential for growth and change. The process of living or working with children is demanding and exhausting. It requires heart, intelligence, and stamina. When we don’t live up to our expectations –and we won’t always-let’s be as kind to ourselves as we are to our youngsters. If our children deserve a thousand chances, and then one more, let’s give ourselves a thousand chances-and then two more.
Academician – Principal, Teacher Trainer, Motivational Speaker & K-12 Consultant
MH English School
Malappuram, Kerala, India