Parenting is something we all have experienced. Our parents parenting us; we parenting our children. And although many people teach about parenting, the fact is that in today’s fast-paced technological society, relatively few do well when it comes to handling their own children.
Having a child is a privilege because it is life happening through us. However, many times as parents we knowingly or unknowingly take wrongful advantage of this privilege.
There is no rule or compulsion for anyone to produce a child. But if we choose to do so, it is important to be committed and understand, that it is completely our responsibility that this life we bring into this world is going to be a happy and positive contribution to this planet.
“Be the kind of person you want to raise.”
50 Years to a Decade Ago:
Parenting was something hardwired and instinctual. The likely hardships for parents would have been to ensure physical wellbeing, with a limited thought about the inner emotional world of children and how it developed.
In Spite of so many guides, books, and manuals available on childcare and parenting, we as parents are grappling with the responsibility of guiding our child from infancy into adulthood in a gracious manner. In fact, the explosion of information is making it harder to parent today. So, parenting feels like an overwhelming task.
So many children of today are going through chronic stress. The number of cases where children as young as 12-13 years of age falling into addictive and self-destructive behaviours are increasing. We have been needlessly losing our children although we could have saved them all. Why haven’t we fixed this? Maybe we are missing the root cause of this despair.
Were you ever curious as to why you act the way you do? Why did you turn out the way you did?
Most people do not understand that the bond between a parent and child has an everlasting impact on the child’s life. This unique relationship is created during the first couple of years in the child’s life. The ability of parents to influence is more significant in childhood than in adolescence.
Many individuals tend to parent in ways that reflect their own upbringing. Our parents would have been careless or bossy. But, we don’t necessarily have to blame them since that won’t lead to any positive outcome. It is better to be compassionate and understand that while they were doing the best they could for us, they were just influenced by what they were exposed to in their childhood; after all, that’s where it all begins.
“Adults are just outdated children.” – Dr. Seuss
However, it is never too late to change approaches and adopt more responsible parenting strategies.
Parenting starts with ourselves. If we struggle to regulate our own emotional experience how can we help our children learn to regulate theirs? And if we didn’t have parents who did that for us…it’s easy to find ourselves without tools. Compassion allows us space to dive in and reflect. When we reflect we can see those holes in our own childhood. Curiosity allows us to understand them and again, compassion helps us heal.
“Children are our second chance of having a great parent-child relationship.” –Laura Schlesinger
The best parenting you can do is to first and foremost raise yourself before raising your child. Straighten yourself up. Children in their developing years are always observing how you talk and react to things. Your personality and responsiveness to them and to the people around you will influence how they turn into as adults. In many ways, you are the biggest source of imitation for your child. Although children are exposed to many other sources of imitation, you can at least do your part.
“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum
Perfect parenting is neither necessary nor possible. There is no perfect parent; just be a real one. The best thing a parent can do is to create an atmosphere of joy, love, care, openness, and discipline, for yourself and for your child/children and they should turn out well. Just lead by example.
“It’s NOT WHAT YOU DO for your children BUT what you have TAUGHT them TO DO FOR THEMSELVES, that will make them SUCCESSFUL human beings.” – Ann Landers
Definitely, we will want to provide opportunities for them as per what is available to us, but the important thing is, what kind of adults are we raising them to be. For that, we need to look at what kind of a human being we are ourselves. Since children have highly impressionable minds, frequent exposure to negative behaviours can be detrimental to the child’s development.
“Children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate”
Negative Parenting Styles:
Neglectful Parenting: Parents are too immersed in their work, mobile, internet, and social interactions and don’t have much time to give their child. They lack involvement in their child’s life. We are all very busy, stressed, and distracted. It is so easy to numb ourselves out in today’s world with gadgets, food, alcohol, etc. Lack of parental empathy can lead to parent-child disconnect, so children are unable to look up to their parents for help when in need.
On the flip side of neglect, too much involvement of parents in their child’s life can make the child grow into a diffident adult and always dependent. Some parents are obsessed with keeping their children safe from any harm. In the process, they want to take all the decisions for their growing child and refuse to let their child take part in any kind of decision making. When parents do too much for their children, the children will seldom do much for themselves. It is like raising children to be like wingless birds.
No matter how flawed their child’s behaviour, they put their child on a pedestal and pamper them, being blind to their mistakes. Children can grow up to become narcissists.
Parents who exhibit this style, make relatively few demands on their children because they have low expectations for self-control and maturity and discipline is a rarity. Children raised by permissive parents tend to lack self-discipline, possess poor social skills, maybe self-involved and demanding and may feel insecure due to the lack of boundaries and guidance.
A child can be exposed to abusive parenting in many ways. For example parents with a volatile temper, misuse of alcohol or drugs, using criticism and sarcasm, blaming children for miseries of their own. Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.
They can be restrictive and rigid, demanding absolute obedience, often in a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ style of parenting. Authoritarian parenting suppresses a child’s intellectual growth and creativity. It encourages children to either rebel against their parents, or to become submissive toward life in general.
Every parent wants their child to grow up to be happy and to achieve success in life. While these are good and worthy intentions, parents need more than good intentions to achieve the goal of raising successful children. Childhood needs to teach our children, how to love and they can’t love others if they don’t first love themselves and they won’t love themselves if we can’t offer them, unconditional love. That being said, the love has to be a liberating experience and not an entangling one.
Children will only grow to feel miserable and helpless if they are smothered with your love.
The foundation we lay for them in their early years from infancy to adolescence is very important in order to ensure their well-rounded development. As they get into the adolescent phase they become more independent but can continue to have one-on-one opportunities to maintain close relationships with parents depending on the interactions between them.
Adolescence – The Turning Point:
Early adolescence marks an important turning point in the parent-child relationship. As the child enters adolescence, the biological, cognitive, and emotional changes of the period spark transformations in the parent-child relationship. In many families, the transition into adolescence coincides with the parent’s transition into mid-life, and this, too, may introduce additional challenges into the family system that spill over into the parent-child relationship. Adolescents fare best, and their family relationships are happiest, in households in which parents are both supportive and are accepting of the child’s needs for more psychological independence.
Positive Parenting Tips:
Provide them with their basic needs:
- Joyful loving space.
- Basic physical needs along with safety and security.
- Good education.
- Respect them as individuals.
- Teach them Self-efficacy.
Express your Love and Care:
- Physical affection
- Mindful presence with them, listening and talking to them about their observations and answering their questions in an age-appropriate manner.
- Refrain from instilling fear and using a bribe to get them to do or not to do something.
- Make them feel important but not so important that their agenda always supersedes that of the parent.
Ensure healthy boundaries and discipline:
- Children learn what behaviour is acceptable by what you allow them. So, set limits and reasonable boundaries and stick to them.
- When your child comes to you with a problem you know he/she is capable of solving on his/her own, offer clues instead of solutions. Be available to help your child brainstorm, but avoid giving an answer outright.
- Don’t absolve your child of doing any household chores.
- Don’t hesitate to apologise if you make a mistake.
Adapt your parenting based on your child’s development:
- Understand that every child is unique.
- Don’t compare your child with others.
- Consider how age is affecting your child’s behaviour and be patient during transitions.
- Understand that your role as a parent will change over time.
- Take a step back as your child takes on more advanced tasks and chores as she/he gets older.
- Validate emotions and go forward positively.
Be a Good Role Model:
- Imbibe honesty, kindness, compassion, and integrity by being a role model yourself.
- Take care of yourself. Being your best starts with taking good care of yourself — getting enough sleep, making time to exercise, eating good food and finding healthy ways to manage negative emotions without lashing out.
- Model dependability and have open discussions. Listen attentively and be loyal. It helps ensure trust and they will look up to you for trusted advice, in times of trouble.
In Spite of doing your best as a parent, there will be times when your child is doing well and times when he/she is really struggling. That is not a reflection on you, it just is. Don’t blame yourself if this happens. Focus on finding positive ways to cope, look for something new to try to help your child effectively, or get some local support.
Children face stress and failures too. It is perfectly normal. Offer verbal guidance and encouragement, while giving them space to figure things out on their own. It equips them to face life and its challenges positively.
We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that she/he is someone today.