I am blessed to be a mother of a very loving, intelligent, kind & sincere teenager. Last 15 years, have been the most exciting & fulfilling learning curve. Each day, I have literally learnt & grown, as a parent though I am sure that there is still lot to learn. I have mostly adopted a positive, mindful parenting style till now. Some of the basic strategies that I follow as a parent are –
- RULES WITH MEANING – As children grow, they start becoming very concerned about how they look & with boys its generally the hair which is most important. And my son is no different. When he was about 10 years old, one day after school, he declared that he won’t put hair-oil as it is “uncool”. He told us that our skin already secrets oil and he doesn’t need extra for his hair. But with my experience, I knew that we do not live in ideal natural conditions & with hard water of Gurgaon as well as pollution, he will need to oil his hair from time to time to avoid dryness & dandruff. But I also knew that if I insist or argue with him, he will not agree.
Very early on, I had realized that children do not follow rules that are not meaningful to them. The reason that they just have to obey, isn’t generally enough for the child to follow. Hence I always TELL why a particular rule is good for him / for family / for friends / community at large. A parent has to EMPOWER the child by giving them the bigger picture in relation with the rule. They must EXPLAIN them, the desire or the need that are met by means of a rule. This helps them comprehend and perceive it correctly. But remember, do not tell the reason for the rule when they are asked to follow the rule. You must wait till they are happy, calm & receptive.
So keeping this in my mind, I smiled and said,” Okie.” We went about rest of the day normally and in the evening after some fun time with him, I explained to him about how hard water & pollution makes our scalp dry, leading to dandruff, which in turn leads to acne in teenage. I also explained to him that like he brushes his teeth everyday (in private) to make sure that they are healthy & strong, similarly he can oil his hair from time to time when at home. I also told him, that still its his choice. And like I expected, after 2 days, he asked me if I could do head massage (with oil) every alternate day for him.
- TEACHING BY EXAMPLE – Biologically, we humans like many other mammals are naturally wired to learn by example. I believe that by being who you want your child to be, you can teach more than any expert ever will. You are the most powerful tool. Everything that you do, teaches something or the other to your child. A child observes everything that parents do. They may also take your words more literally than you mean. Hence it becomes very important that you display values & beliefs that you want your child to possess in your actions too.
Most of us, confuse our children very often. We tell them that its healthy to go to bed early & wake up early however, we ourselves sleep late. We tell them that they must go out and engage in physically activity as its healthy instead of playing games or watching videos on i-pad, however we indulge in watching television & chatting on social network instead of doing something physical. So if you want your child to inculcate the habit of reading, start reading & enjoying it. If you do so, you might find your child getting interested in reading himself. Know that you hold the power to influence your child and your actions are way powerful than your words.
- NO NAGGING instead I CONCENTRATE ON LOVE – I used to a fanatic parent, worrying about every little thing about him. Telling him What to do, how to do, when to do, what not to do, etc etc. But soon I realized that it wasn’t helping me or him in any ways. In fact, it was making things more stressful. So I sat down with my husband & streamlined our priorities in relation to him – the most important things or must haves to be sure that he is safe, out of trouble and on the right path. For us, these were – Open communication between us, doing whatever he chooses to do with sincerity & focus, not doing anything violent – verbally or non verbally, commitment to his studies & honesty. This not only allowed him the space and freedom that he needed to bloom into an independent being but also improved our relationship with him and the over all family atmosphere. It also gave us the opportunity to concentrate on what was more important – LOVE.
Sometimes, parents correct a young person in too many ways and expect too many things in too many areas. The child can experience this as a character attack where his/her own identity is at stake. The child may even feel rejected and then they will not give parents the respect & authority that they want. This not only hampers in the proper development of the child however also strains the parent-child relationship. Instead what parents need to do is prioritize the baseline requirements that they ask of their child to 4-5 important things. Here it is important to note that, this list should be mutually agreed upon by both the parents since for a child, parent’s agreement with each other is more important than what they agree on. Also this list can not be rigid & permanent, it needs to change with time.
- NO CROSS-GENERATIONAL COALITION – Every family has a hierarchy of relationship. And for healthy functioning of the family unit, the Parent-Parent must be above the Parents–child / children relationship.
However, when parents do not put each other first, there is a tendency to form what is called a “cross-generational coalition”. It is a coalition between a parent and a child where the other parent feels disempowered and left out. These are conducive to conflict & disturbing behavior, as one of the parent is deliberately empowering a child against the other parent. In long run, this can also be very unhealthy for emotional & psychological growth of the child. In bigger families, we sometimes also see a grandparent- grandchild coalition, which is equally harmful.
The basis of a healthy family is the parent’s co-leadership and guidance of the children, where both parents occupy higher leadership position in the family. The parents need to be in alliance, and for this to happen, the parents have to put each other first.
Remember, even though a child may want to be a parent’s favorite and may even attempt to form such a coalition with one of the parents, but they know that for his/her own sake & for the family’s sake, the parents must put each other first.
So ask yourself, does your partner feel respected & loved above your children? Do your children see you respecting your partner on a daily basis?
The basis of a healthy family, is a firm & loving hierarchy with both parents united in their relationship & in their duty of guiding the children. And as parent you must give this to your child.
- POSITIVE INTENTION: Whatever we humans do or behave has some positive intention behind it. And not only children, however even we adults are govern by our needs. Every child needs to have certain essentials that they can count on no matter what – even if they misbehave. These essential needs for a child are love, own belonging, certainty about their future, their education, safety and most importantly their place in the family. And if there is any threat to these or somehow if the child gets a feeling that you are taking it away, he gets confused & is prone to make bad decision. Of course, you need to understand that the reason behind their so called wrong decision and corresponding misbehavior has the positive intention of defending oneself or the very needs that gives them the feeling f connection & security.
Ask yourself – What is the positive intention or benefit that the child derives out of this conflict. Could it be sense of regularity, stability, repetition, ritual, reassurance or may be connection.
When you get upset or angry with your child, what do you say verbally as well as non verbally? Does your body language or words interrupt their basic certainty and connection? Do you scare your child? Remember that children take your words literally all the time.
Also children are always testing their parents, to see their love & understanding. They often do it by challenging you & watching whether you will get upset or give a loving response. So next time, your child is misbehaving or breaking a rule, ask yourself – What could be the positive intention of your child behind doing this?
Always respond in a loving way while asserting at the same time that you are in charge and that in doing so, you are just taking care of them. As a parent we need to assert our parental authority while still understanding their needs without verbal or physical abuse without violating the child.
What I have realized in all these years is that there is no absolute wrong or right way to raise children. What is important is understanding that parenting is not about the parent, its about the CHILD. And when our parenting emerges from child centric intention, it becomes resourceful for child and gives immense satisfaction to parent in return. So go ahead ENJOY THE BLISS of being a parent!