Parenting made easy
Anupam Srivastava takes the burden out of parenting by providing us with some expert advice on raising happy and responsible children
Most parents report that there is nothing more frustrating than tackling kids at bedtime or begging children to do their chores or manipulating them to do their homework. We were not taught parenting skills either in school or at home. Thus, raising children seems to be a mystery, but it doesn’t have to be so. We can learn to raise a loving, responsible, and happy child. No kidding.
Learning to be good parents
Parenting is one of the most important responsibilities we will ever take upon us and yet, what training do we receive for this awesome task? School teaches us algebra, history, English, and so on but not how to raise happy and responsible children. We receive no parental guidance training on how to deal with the stress of being parents.
Sometimes, in the process of juggling between the demands of work and taking care of the child, it is natural to feel burdened, and there is always a feeling of uncertainty whether we are doing it the right way. Our lack of preparation is reflected in the condition of our children. They often sulk and glare at us. They fail to carry out the responsibilities we give them. They don’t do their homework. They argue and fight with one another. They carry their problems and bad attitudes to school, where they’re disruptive and irresponsible. And that’s just the beginning!
We have always wanted to be perfect parents, and we expect our children to grow up in a perfect manner. In the process of defining what that ‘perfect’ can be, we end up comparing ourselves to others and get disappointed when the results don’t match our expectations. Being pushy or compelling the child to live up to the demands of society can lead to unwanted stress and anxieties in both, the parent and the child.
Like parent, like child
Our child’s behaviour and conduct in society is largely a reflection of how we have behaved or conducted ourselves with them. For example, it should not be very difficult to understand the fact that my child lies to me or others because I have never allowed my child to make a mistake; my response to their mistake has always been harsh and ridiculing.
A lot of parents suffer from the ‘Atlas syndrome,’ and that is very common. This syndrome gives parents a false notion of their love and responsibilities towards their children. Their child’s emotional and physical dependency on them gives them a false sense of parental satisfaction. Most parents, who are concerned about and struggling with the behaviour and conduct of their children, have always failed to acknowledge the fact that their children have intellect; that they are dynamic beings and are growing wiser by the day. They are far more capable of doing a lot of things in life—without the parents’ help and support—than the parents give them credit for. We are not able to comprehend or digest this fact that our children can have lives independent of us. I call this ‘selfish parenting.’ Our children develop low self-esteem and low confidence because we keep doing things for them and keep advising them what to do and what not to do, rather than allowing them the freedom to work on their own and encourage their independence. The result of selfish parenting often manifests itself in symptoms like your child not confiding in you, intentionally disturbing you, lying to you, having poor self-esteem, and so on.
Seven principles of parenting
Before we explore the cause-and-effect relationship, let us understand a few fundamental principles to comprehend the potent logic within the solutions being offered in this article.
1. The very first principle is that all children are born intelligent. You simply need to change your belief about your child if you have been believing otherwise. The only difference between an adult and a child is the experience of life. This means that your child is capable of understanding and doing everything which is appropriate for their age.
2. The second principle is that you must have a high regard for your own words. You need to say only those things to your child that you really mean, and if you have said something, you must carry it through, no matter how difficult or harmful it might be. For example, parents often say to their children, “If you do this, I will never talk to you (or throw you out).” But the child grows up witnessing that all that never happened and learnt that you are never serious about what you say. You have lost your integrity in their eyes. By implication, you have taught your child not to take you seriously. A lot of parents, in the guise of disciplining their child, express their anger and frustration and say horrible things to their child or scare them with a ghost, monster, or the police. Often, children fall in line due to fear and you get a false idea that this tactic is working. The good news, however, is that it is never too late. You can re-establish your integrity by reflecting over your own behaviour and ensuring that your instructions are followed through. They may not take you seriously initially, but your consistency will start to bring the desired results.
3. The third principle, and the best amongst all, is that you must have an implicit trust is the intelligence and capability of your child. Trust is your conviction that your child can do most age-appropriate things. As they grow, you must treat your child as an adult. Do not shy away from having mature and intelligent discussions with them. Treat them like your friend, allow them to take responsibility and make mistakes, and encourage them by celebrating their successes and achievements publicly. However, do not overlook the mistakes and failures but deal with them in private to help them gain some insight. When you trust your child implicitly, your child’s personality and self-confidence grow and so does their immense respect for you.
4. When your child makes a mistake or misbehaves, make sure that you challenge their actions and behaviour, not them. This fourth principle requires a bit of mindfulness on your part. Tell them that you love them unconditionally, but you do not approve of their behaviour and conduct. This differentiation between the person and their behaviour, though seemingly insignificant, has an extremely profound effect on your child’s sense of self. Failure in making this differentiation damages your child’s self-esteem and confidence. They believe that you do not love them and get locked in a vicious cycle of pleasing you all the time and start making silly mistakes in this pursuit. Your corresponding negative reactions further vitiate their self-image.
5. The fifth principle is that you must live a life that you aspire to and expect your child to have. Values, whether familial, social, civic, or otherwise, unfortunately, cannot be taught; these must be lived by the parents and observed by the children. Children are silent observers and they copy you because you are their hero and role model. Like a sponge, they assimilate whatever they observe. You may think of yourself to be a person of high morals and principles, but every time you do not wear your helmet or argue against wearing a seat-belt, drive on the wrong side of the road, talk disrespectfully to people around you, particularly to and about older people, your child is imbibing all that, and their personality is being shaped.
6. The sixth principle concerns your perspective in life, which emanates from the ‘Atlas syndrome’ discussed before. While ensuring a secure future for your child, do not forget to lay a strong cultural foundation in their present. Your own psychological insecurities make you concerned about securing a better future for your children. In this pursuit, most parents, unfortunately, forget to lay the cultural foundation, built with the bricks of values. Values of life are the very foundation on which the personality of your child is built. If you invest all your mental energies in laying a stronger cultural foundation, they will inevitably grow into stronger personalities and will carve out a beautiful and satisfying career and a secure future for themselves.
7. The seventh principle is to avoid going on a guilt trip. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, you must seriously consider your situation and take charge of it. Whatever may have gone wrong, you did not plan it intentionally. Whatever you did or avoided doing was because it was in the best interest of your child. Your child has learnt these behaviours and they can be easily unlearned. Solutions are simple but we complicate the situation mostly due to our insecurities. It would not be far-fetched to suggest that our children are, in fact, victims of our insecurities.
These solutions are reflective in nature and experiential in learning and are structured to offer simple and practical solutions to what appears to be a complex prospect called ‘parenting.’ The simple science of a cause-and-effect relationship behind behaviour development and management will help parents gain insight and mindfulness, wherein lie the answers to positive and effective parenting.
Symptoms and their causes
• If your child is not taught to confide in you about their mistakes, you’ve lost them.
• If your child does not respect other people’s feelings, it is because instead of speaking to your child, you order and command them.
• If your child does not stand up for themself, it is because, from a young age, you have disciplined them regularly in public.
• If your child doesn’t listen to you but listens to others, it is because you are too quick to jump to conclusions.
• If your child has poor self-esteem, it is because you advise them more than you encourage them.
• If your child intentionally disturbs you, it is because you are not physically affectionate enough.
• If your child is excessively jealous, it is because you only congratulate them when they successfully complete something and not when they improve at something, even if they don’t successfully complete it.
• If your child is openly defiant, it is because you openly threaten to do something but don’t follow it through.
• If your child is secretive, it is because they don’t trust that you won’t blow things out of proportion.
• If your child is too quick to anger, it is because you give too much attention to misbehaviour and too little to good behaviour.
• If your child lies to you often, it is because you overreact too harshly to their inappropriate behaviour.
• If your child rebels, it is because they know you care more about what others think than what is right.
• If your child takes things that do not belong to them, it is because when you buy them things, you don’t let them choose what they want.
• If your child is cowardly, it is because you help them too quickly.
• If your child talks back to you, it is because they watch you do it to others and think its normal behaviour.
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