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Parenting advice and resources
Tune the Tiny
A parenting article by Rajatha Sarkar – Online Counselor and Therapist
Do we experience the joy with them who made us wonderful parents? Let us walk down the memory lane …… Let us go back to the day our child was born… And then, First day at school!!!!
Aren’t we proud?
We renew our youth with our children as we share with them the journey of life.
And in this journey, where we wish the best for them and try preparing them for it.
There is one important question we all need to ask ourselves as parents: “What is parenting?”, which may then lead us to two more: Does parenting have a style? If so, what is our style? Parenting is a gift of god, parenting is a labor of love and giving unconditional love, Practically speaking: parenting is meeting the child’s needs to age 18 or sometimes longer , guiding the child toward the goal of becoming a competent adult.
Yes, we as parents need to think about parenting seriously. We need to understand how good we are at it and then think about the steps that we can take to be better. We all parents know that for us our ‘child is always a child’. No matter their age, we all want to cradle, hug, and shower our warmth and affection on our children and live a life of good bonding with them. But is this enough to prepare them for their future – especially in this increasingly competitive world?
Children grow up to be an adult inculcating various habits and behaviour that they observe and perceive around them, especially from those who influence them the most. The most fundamental of these behavioural patterns are established in early childhood. So, it is important for a child’s psychological development that only the right behaviour is adapted and strengthened and any deficiencies are corrected as early as possible in the childhood.
As time passes by, these fundamental behavioural patterns are established so deeply that they cannot be changed easily. If any undesirable behaviour is not corrected early in the childhood, it may lead to larger psychological issues later in adulthood.
Sometimes, we wonder why there is a drastic change in our child’s behavior. However, the fact is that nothing about their behaviour is sudden — it develops gradually. And, for such a development we ourselves are generally responsible – directly or indirectly.
We as parents may sometimes find it easy to blame external influences for ourchild’s inappropriate behaviour, which when allowed to go uncorrected surface as larger psychological issues later. But do we ever think what our responsibility is as a parent under such circumstances?
For better personality development of a child, presence and support of parents is required throughout its childhood. Many of us are aware of this fact, even though we may not have thought about it consciously in the context of parenting.
Yes, that is true. when we succeed, something don’t we all say: “whatever we are today, it’s because of our parents.”
So, for our children’s sake we need to know how good we are as parents and how to be better.
To be a better parent we need to work on our style of parenting. Here are some of the most common parenting styles and its characteristics:
Authoritarian parenting: this style is characterized by the parents’ need for control, and their lack of empathy and warmth towards their child. The authoritarian parents definitely see themselves as “the Boss”. The style further reflects the following characteristic features:
- Fixed Rules
- Obedience is a Virtue
- Punishment/ You Do OnlyWhat I Say/ My Word Is Final!
Permissive parenting: this style is characterized by the parent’s high degree of warmth and responsiveness and lack of control of their child.
The uninvolved parenting style is characterized by a low level of control and a lack of responsiveness to the child. The style further reflects the following characteristic
- “Do What You Like”
- “I’m Busy”
Authoritative parenting: this style is characterized by a high level of responsiveness. It is a style most beneficial to children and is recommended by experts. High levels of warmth and moderate levels of control is best suited to teachchildren things about a situation, which will enable them to take better decisions. The style further reflects the following characteristic features:
- Let’s Sort This Problem Out
- OK, What Do You Think?
- This Is What I Think
- I Need You to Do This Now, But We Can Do That Later
If these are styles of parenting, let us think for a while which of these suit our families…
But before deciding let us also consider some of the important aspects the parenting style adopted needs to address.
Role of parent as a teacher: Normally, we say “mother is the best teacher for a child”. But, at present, how many of us really believe ininculcating this idea in our families? Is it not now becoming common that once a child starts crawling, it is left in play homes? This way it hardly gets to learn anything from its parents. Actually, this is a stage where a child observes and learns the most from its surroundings. It is a stage which provides immense opportunities for us to give our children the right exposure and contribute positively in their personality development.
For example, when we take children along for shopping, we not only show them around places and people but also teach them how to react and respond to situations.
If we are conscious of this fact, we can teach our children appropriate behaviour and prepare them to face situations. This could include for instance teaching them good habits; importance of disciplined behaviour, keeping things in the right place, or evenusing kind words like ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ in social conversations. Our personal involvement in this manner is likely to not only create an interest in children to know and learn more but also to strengthen our rapport with them. In fact, such a rapport is important to keep an open communication with them that is essential for their learning as well as their insulation from negative influences.
Communication is a valuable socialtool, but how well are our children exposed to use it in their favour? Many times, children are hardly given time to speak, instead we parents order them and want them to hear us. This way they are ill prepared with this skill on many occasions. They are either unable to communicate effectively or do it inappropriately, speaking out of context or without understanding implications.
At times, we are surprised to hear small children utter bad words (abusive language). We wonder from whom they have learnt this, while in reality we ourselves may have been responsible. Should we as parents not exercise caution and watch over our language?
Care should also be taken that we do not insult children. This may have long term psychological impact on them. For instance, instead of using positive means of encouragement, some of us use unkind words like ‘idiot’to scold children when they do not meet our expectations. In fact, all psychologists know this reaction of parents to be responsible for one of the common psychological disorders in their children
Next, It is also important that aspects of decisions making and collaborating withcommunity be taught to the children who start schooling and learn the role of family and extended family. Here too, we as parents have an important role to play. We need to sspend quality time with ourchildren in teaching them importance of community/bondage in the community and helping them to face day to day challenges.
Being consistent and supportive is also important in parenting. Our kids will know what to expect and the consequences of bad behavior. If they are acting out or quieter than usual, we should take some time to talk to them about what is going on in their lives. We should remember not to punish children rather discipline them from their infancy. We should appreciate their hard work and never degrade or compare their capabilities with that of others.
Note; Being the parent of a child with special needs is all the more challenging. We may need to arrange for specific resources or support systems to suit such special needs. We may also need additional set of parenting skills if we have kids who deal with medical or emotional problems. In such circumstances, we should always remember and remind ourselves that there are always ways to deal with difficulties. What matters most is being positive and thinking about the one valuable gift of life that we have in our hands that we need to be careful with.
“Time and tide waits for none”, goes a saying. Every step that our children take in their childhood is very important. We should utilize all opportunities that exists to hold their hand; be a guide; nurture, support and train them to develop their self control, character or orderliness and efficiency.
Dear All! There is a lot to discuss about parenting if we consider the various problems that children face when growing up and the probable ways to handle them. However, through this article my intention has been to convey the importance of parenting in psychological development of children, discuss about various parenting styles and also briefly touch upon some related aspects that parents need to consider in addition to adopting the most suitable style of parenting.
Disclaimer: This article and associated graphics/images are prepared or accomplished by the author in her personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of ProvenTherapy.com or ProgCare Limited.
Relevance of Family Meetings
Expert advice by veteran Family Therapist and Psychologist
I work a lot with children and their families. The biggest complaint I get from parents is about the disrespect and arguing over doing chores. I strongly recommend no arguing with children, especially teenagers. That is a fool’s game. I would tell any child being disrespectful; you can talk to me when you are willing to talk to me respectfully. I would then disengage.
Instead I recommend monthly family meetings, more often if an emergency arises. These meetings are scheduled and everyone in the family attends, and there are no interruptions allowed. This is our time to talk about how the family is doing, and the children have a say.
We talk about who does what. Chores are assigned according to age. Even very little children can take their dirty dishes to the sink. Older children must realize that the little guys cannot do as much as they can, and that the day will come for the little guys as well.
I don’t recommend consequences for young children. I like behaviour charts where the children can mark down when they have completed a chore. This is done with a star or little sticker just to make it more fun. At the end of the week, if the chart is full, they get to pick the Saturday night video or what the family will be having for Saturday night supper. They do not get an expensive gift.
For children with ADHD, sometimes they need to see the reward before they will work for it. For these children I would make up a little treasure chest of things from the dollar store so the child can see the prize. If they complete chores as agreed upon, they get to pick one thing.
There are three things to remember about chores. First, the parent should demonstrate what they are looking for in, for example, a clean bedroom. Too many times, I have had kids tell me that they will clean the bedroom and mum or dad will say, “That’s not good enough”, but never explain why. The parent has to demonstrate what a clean bedroom looks like. Also putting things away properly, and what do they have to do for the parent to decide the bedroom has been cleaned properly. Is a clean bedroom, all the clothes put away properly, and nothing shoved under the bed?
The second thing is how many days a chore has to be done to get the privilege at the end of the week. Is it 5 out of 7, 7 out of 7. This is decided at the family meeting.
Thirdly, a time limit has to be set on the chore. Does the garbage have to be emptied by 6 o’clock in the evening?
We do make exceptions for special occasions. With our own children, mum and dad covered the chores if the child had a party or a concert. However, if the child wants to take on a sport where they need to attend once or twice a week, this has to be decided at the family meeting, so chores can be discussed again.
With older children, we use consequences. By that I mean removed privileges. Consequences need to be immediate and appropriate. We do not tell children that they can’t watch next week’s game. Instead it must be immediate. The consequence has to happen tonight. We don’t take away the European trip they have been planning for two years with the school.
Children get to have a say in what the consequence will be. If it is losing the phone, then the decision is for how long. If it is not playing video games for a day, then the computer, laptops, tablets and phones have to be turned over.
If the parents set consequences, then they must follow through. Parents must never undermine one another. If a consequence has been agreed upon, then both parents must support one another to make sure it happens.
What are the exceptions? If the family has been away for the weekend, having fun at a sport or just doing things together, we do not tell children to do chores the minute they walk in the door. The same goes for a teenager that has just played at a music competition, participated in the science fair or played in a sports tournament; we do not tell them “you’ve had your fun, now do your chores”. We savor the good times with them. Chores can wait until tomorrow, unless the dog needs to go outside.
Although working mothers and fathers are almost as likely to think about family matters throughout the day, only for mothers is this type of mental labor associated with increased stress and negative emotions, according to new research to be presented at the 108th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
“I assume that because mothers bear the major responsibility for childcare and family life, when they think about family matters, they tend to think about the less pleasant aspects of it — such as needing to pick up a child from daycare or having to schedule a doctor’s appointment for a sick kid — and are more likely to be worried,” said study author Shira Offer, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.
Much has been written about the unequal division of household labor and childcare, but the overwhelming majority of studies in this field examine specific behaviors, Offer said. “These studies focus on the physical aspect of tasks and demands, which can be measured and quantified relatively easily,” she said. “However, much of the work we do, both paid and unpaid, takes place in our mind. We are often preoccupied with the things we have to do, we often worry about them, and feel stressed not to forget to do them or to do them on time. These thoughts and concerns — mental labor — can impair our performance, make it difficult to focus on tasks, and even hurt our sleep. This mental labor is the focus of my study.”
The study relies on data from the 500 Family Study, a multi-method investigation of how middle-class families balance family and work experiences. The 500 Family Study collected comprehensive information from 1999 to 2000 on families living in eight urban and suburban communities across the United States. Most parents in the 500 Family Study are highly educated, employed in professional occupations, and work, on average, longer hours and report higher earnings than do middle-class families in other, nationally representative samples. Although the 500 Family Study is not a representative sample of families in the U.S., it reflects one of the most time pressured segments of the population. Offer’s study uses a subsample from the 500 Family Study, consisting of 402 mothers and 291 fathers in dual-earner families who completed a survey and a time diary that collects information about the content and context of individuals’ daily experiences, as well as the emotions associated with them, in the course of a week.
Communicating with your younger ones about your mental health
|The Dilemma of CommunicationMental health patients, in general, do not confide with their children that they were in a psychiatric unit during the past few days or weeks. Instead, they prefer to give some other excuses for being away from the family home. This may be due to their own worries around children becoming over anxious about parents, or their own inability to accept that they are mentally ill, or their own anxieties around the social stigma attached to mental illness among the communities or may be their own fear of being excluded from the crowd.|
Understandably the mental health patients do not want to ‘shock’ their children with the news that they have a diagnosed psychiatric disorder for which they are on treatment.
If you are suffering from mental health difficulties you need to reflect on this very seriously. Is it good to tell your kids about your mental health difficulties? Or would you prefer to keep it with yourself? Or is it still a dilemma?
Playing Hide and Seek
It is easy to play hide and seek. But it is not easy to keep a secret from others eternally. If you don’t tell your children that you are having difficulties around your mental health, someone else will tell them the fact, and very often the reported version would be an exaggerated one than the fact. When someone else tells them that you are mentally ill and they did see you in the psychiatric unit or they saw you visiting the day clinic, it is possible that your children will start thinking why you didn’t tell them. This will only increase their anxiety around how serious the issue is.
Playing hide and seek will always leave room for further doubts. When your children do not have direct information, they will start guessing, which might lead to increased levels of anxiety. Telling the truth might raise some doubts in their minds, but may not be as bad as getting a shocking story from a third party. Moreover, when they see you telling your story, they are getting first hand information and they clearly see you talking to them in real terms, which is more reassuring that you are aware of your difficulties and you are taking steps to deal with it.
The Fair Play
Children, when they are in trouble, look towards parents for support. They seek energy from parents. However, when they get the message that their parent is suffering from mental health disorder they would prefer not to approach you for support or energy, for they understand that their parent is struggling without energy. In other words, they know that the energy reservoir is empty, so there is no point approaching you!
However, when parents disclose their own mental health difficulties with the children they are giving them the positive message that mental health disorder is just like any other medical condition that could be treated with medical and therapeutic support. So, you are making them confident that you are an adult and you know how to manage your difficulties with available support. In this way you are giving the positive message that you are seeking support when you have some difficulties, and in the same way your children could very well approach you for support when they have difficulties. So, it is always good to be straight forward!
Addendum: Some young children develop self blaming for the mental health difficulties of their parent. They might believe that their behavior caused this mental health difficulty to their parent. This self condemnation could be psychologically damaging to them. So, it is important for the children to know that their parents’ mental health disorder is due to their own troubled thinking and it is not caused by anyone else. They also need to be reassured that medication and supportive counseling will fix this and parents are seeking help in this regard.