The Essentials Of Parenting
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There are a lot of parenting gurus preaching their messages of how best to raise children. Some advocate a strict approach including controlled crying and even spanking. Some prefer a more child-centric approach, promoting understanding, reasoning with the child, and co-sleeping. When faced with so many different approaches, it can be difficult for a parent to know where to turn, whether their child is a teenager or not even born yet! We all want to do what is the best for our kids, but working out what that is can feel like a mammoth task.
There are many techniques we can try to improve behavior and produce happy, well-rounded kids, but not all of them will work, and some may even make things worse. There is no book that is written specifically about your child. Although we can find good advice from others, the most effective way to improve our parenting is to figure it out for ourselves. This is what we all try to do, but we will be most successful in this if we look at the four main ways we impact on our children:
1. How we set an example
Children mostly learn by imitation, especially when they are still young. We have to work on our self-development to make sure that we are examples we are happy for our children to emulate. Even if we discourage our children from picking up our habits, it is still highly likely that they will pick them up. If we can set an example of personal growth by changing our habits and improving our characters, we can set a good example for them to improve their behavior.
2. What messages we communicate about their worth
What we communicate about our children's worth is of the utmost importance. If we praise them only when they achieve, and belittle them when they don't, we will give them unhealthy messages about their worth. It is important that we affirm our children's inherent value to them and make sure they feel unconditionally loved and secure. When our children misbehave, we can fall prey to the temptation of holding it against them and calling them 'naughty' or 'bad'. We must resist this because it can damage the child's self-esteem and actually lead to their behavior becoming worse.
3. The instructions we give and how we give them
Often we assume that children know how to behave and choose not to. Sometimes this is the case, but a good deal of the time, kids are just not aware of what they should do in a given situation. It can be hard to remember what it was like to be a child, but if you can think back, you can probably remember getting some sort of punishment for something you didn't even know was wrong.
Before we can discipline for misbehavior, we have to make our expectations very clear to our children. When we go to a new place, for example, running through the rules and expected behavior with the children before we get there vastly improves behavior and ensures the kids know what kind of behavior is expected from them. These don't have to just be rules about what is not allowed e.g. 'don't run on the grass', or 'don't hit your brother', but are much more effective if they include character qualities you want them to develop e.g. 'be patient when waiting at the doctors' or 'be kind to Grandma as she doesn't feel very well.'
In a transition to any different place or activity that has different rules from the usual, we should take the time to offer our children specific instructions.
Getting down to the children's level and speaking in a calm, kind and firm tone is effective. Once the kids have confirmed they understand your instructions, a hug or other show of physical affection reminds them of your love.
4. The corrections we give and how we give them
When children are clear of what is expected of them, they misbehave much less. But inevitably misbehavior will still happen and we have to find ways to deal with it. One effective way is to get down to the child's level and explain the wrongdoing in a calm voice. Talking in terms of how their behavior has affected others is useful, and turning it around to ask how they would feel if someone did the same to them can be extremely effective. If necessary, let them know what sanctions you will make or what privileges will be lost. Offer the child a chance to apologize, then offer some physical affection and carry on as normal. Do not bring up the incident or punish the child again. He must feel he is forgiven and has a clean slate.
When our children misbehave, we must consider if we are showing good character ourselves, what messages we are communicating about their worth, and whether we are giving them effective instructions and corrections. It is our own self-development that is the most powerful factor in how our children will turn out.
- Iman Mohiki