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Parenting is definitely a challenging task as all of us want our children to be better versions of us. Every parent aims to ensure their child’s health and safety, to groom them into confident adults and to prepare them for the future. We have seen our parents struggle to make us what we are today and we are now doing the same for our children. However, these days this struggle seems to get more difficult due the kind of lives we lead as it requires a need to balance between multiple roles (for eg., role of a parent, a mother/father and a professional), at the same time taking care of many other factors (such as increased exposure to media, peers and social environment) that interact with our child’s growth and development. It can be said that raising family while keeping life balanced is really an art. Thus, let us have a quick look at some tips that can help us in this process of maintaining balance:
1) Changing parenting style with age: The way in which parents decide to raise their children has an important impact on their personality and overall development. All of us may broadly fall into one of the following parenting style categories:
a) Authoritarian: Strict discipline or using aggression and scolding as a major part of disciplining their children.
b) Authoritative: A balance of discipline and love. Such parents use discussion and positive reinforcement as a part of parenting instead of being punitive or instead of using punishers.
c) Permissive: Warm and loving but do not set any limits or rules for their children.
d) Neglectful: Non-demanding, non-responsive and provide little warmth and emotional support.
Every parent may not fall specifically in anyone category but these styles generally correspond to the type of discipline practices parents adopt with their children. It is very important to change your style of parenting with the child’s age; while younger children will benefit from instructional and guided parenting but older children require more of mutual decision making, mutual setting of rules instead of being dominated.
2) Inconsistent rules and inconsistency among parents should stop. Both parents need to lay down consistent rules in the family in order to avoid confusion and increase compliance. Moreover, children may also take advantage of any inconsistency between parents due to which they may become manipulative, disorganized and may have difficulty in distinguishing between right and wrong. I have often seen parents fighting on what is right and wrong for the child Infront oftheir children, never do this because children are very smart and they may take advantage of the situation.
3) Spending more time with children. However this time should not include any other work or other things that need to be taken care of. It should only be directed towards talking, sharing and playing with children. This will encourage children to open up with parents instead of finding an external source.
4) Acknowledging their feelings and opinions is very important. Many times we tend to ignore opinions of children as we consider them to be childish, however giving value to these opinions will play a significant role in developing self-confidence and a positive personality. So next time when your child shares his opinions with you encourage him, at the same time give him other alternative solutions that he can look into. This will helpin improving upon his problem solving and coping skills.
5) Acknowledging their strengths, avoiding comparison and criticism. This will help in enhancing child’s self-confidence and make them more willing to change. If we want children to improve upon their weakness criticism needs to be avoided, and positive reinforcement along with focus on strengths and healthy discussions should instead be used as a tool. Through this, children will understand the reason to improve and they will also be able to work on their negatives easily without getting anxious.
6) Frequent use of reinforcement instead of punishment to shape behaviour. Punishment such as hitting and shouting does not provide your child with solutions;instead it may make them more anxious, nervous or aggressive. Moreover, they may start screening your comments out or may also react aggressively with others around them. This does not mean that you ignore their negative behaviours, you can always use other methods such as giving them one token or starper day as a reward for appropriate behaviour and give them something good once they have collected a set number of stars or tokens.
7) Never use guilt or shame as a tool of shaping behaviour. Many times we may unintentionally make children feel responsible for our added burden or frustration ( fore.g., by saying I already have so much work can’t you take care of this on your own, or you can’t even do this?). Such interactions can lead to development of negative feelings such as guilt or self blame in the child.
8) Be good role models. Once I was sitting in my OPD waiting for my next client who turned out to be a 6 year old, his parents were troubled by his recently developed aggressive behaviours at home. On interviewing them further we realised that the child was a witness of many fights at home between his grandparents as well as parents. Ever wondered where did this child pick up his aggression from? I am not blaming the parents here, but at times we unintentionally engage in behaviours which can adversely affect our child's development. So we must keep in mind that during their early ages children observe parents very closely and end up picking a lot of their behaviours from us. Thus, let's be better role models to make our children better versions of us.
9) Get support if you need it. If we feel that some aspects of our children are getting out of control and have started to impact their personality, emotions and their social and academic life you can consider consulting a professional.