Steps to Effective Parenting

Being a parent is not an easy job, and bringing up the children in a proper way is even more difficult. Most of the parents are least prepared and often confused about this. For the parents who want to bring up their children more properly and effectively, here are certain steps to effective parenting.

Nurture Your Child’s Self-respect

The way you talk or behave with your child plays an important role in developing his/her self-esteem. Praise your child for his/her achievements and allow him to do the things for himself. This will help him/her in developing self-confidence. Never underestimate him/her or pass any bad comments. And the most important one is, do not ever compare him/her with other children.

Try to be a Good Role Model

Remember, your child learns a lot just by observing you. He/she tries to behave or act like you, and this possibility increases when he/she is younger. Therefore, it is necessary that you model the qualities you want to develop in your child. “ACTION SPEAKS LOUDER THAN THE WORDS”, and therefore, instead of speaking, you can teach him/her the qualities like respect, honesty, friendliness, kindness, trust, and tolerance simply by your actions. Do not use aggressive words or express your anger in front of him/her.

Appreciate Your Child for Being Good

Praise and appreciate your child for his/her good behavior. Catch him/her while doing something right and pass some positive comments. Compliment him/her every day, however small the reason may be. The comments like “You behave very nicely with elder people” or “You are very good at drawing” will encourage him/her in doing right things. Remember that your compliments, love, and kindness are the greatest gifts that you can offer to your child. Never give negative comments or repeated scolding.

Give the Child Your Undivided Time

In today’s world where both the parents work, it often becomes difficult to give time for the children, which is the greatest gift you can give your child. All the children like being observed and try to do the things by which they can gain others’ attention. But when these children do not get that, they often misbehave as they feel that this is the easiest and quickest way to gain attention. For this reason, it is very important to give some of your quality time to your child. Spend a day with him/her. You can take him/her to a garden or a restaurant once in a week, probably on weekends. You can even have a breakfast or a dinner with him/her if possible.

Make Clear Communication

Try to make communication your first priority. Be clear with your words. As a parent, you expect a lot from your child, so make your expectations clear. Let your child know what you expect from him/her and why you want him/her to do so. If there are some problems, you should be able to explain it to your child or even ask him/her for suggestions. Let your child participate in the decisions.

Be Flexible and Try to Adjust Your Parenting Style

No child is the same and you have to adjust your parenting style accordingly. Every child grows at different speeds; one child may have fast growth while the other may have slow. Comparing the two children or keeping high expectations from them may result in frustration. Therefore, a single parenting style may not work, and you may have to change it according to the child’s growth. What works now may not work later, so be flexible.

Ensure that the Child Knows that Your Love is Unconditional

Let your child know that your love is unconditional, and that even if he/she misbehaves, your love will not change. But this does not mean that he/she can carry over this misbehavior. It is your responsibility as a parent to correct and guide your child properly. The way you do this also makes a difference. Never blame or criticize your child, instead tell him/her in such a way that he/she knows that even if you expect better next time, your love is still there.

Parenting Styles

“When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness’ sake. But, don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ’em.”

“Bad language is a stage all children go through, and it dies with time, when they learn they’re not attracting attention with it.” ― Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird)

If you have read this book, then one of the things that will strike you the most is the bond shared by Atticus, a single parent, and his children, Scout and Jim. Most of the lines are memorable, and express a lot about parenting, with immense simplicity. True parenting is about sharing a bond that provides the right amount of affection and love unconditionally, and instills a sense of responsibility and humanity in your offspring.

It is about respecting your kids, and teaching them the essentials of life in a way that doesn’t seem didactic. It is being the child’s friend and mentor, without one role overpowering the other. Parenting is one of the most fulfilling and yet, one of the most difficult tasks in life. Every parent deals with his/her child in their individual way, yet a parenting style is always evident within each one’s pattern of action.

Authoritarian parenting style is the one in which the parents always try to be in control of their kids. Usually, these are the sorts who try to impose rigid rules and restrictions on their kids, in order to keep a tab on them. These parents often believe that children should show no signs of negative emotions like crying, since it makes them appear weak. Hence, you find these parents constantly warning their kids about it. Those who have authoritarian parents, always struggle to keep up with their parents’ expectations, and often end up feeling a lack of affection in the child-parent bond. These parents often fail to explain to their kids the reason behind imposing the rules and restrictions. Kids with authoritative parents often have trouble being independent individuals who think on their own, and have difficulty in trusting their own judgment. They can grow up feeling lonely, emotionally distressed, and can have trouble in learning new concepts and getting along with peers.

Permissive parents or those with a laissez-faire parenting approach, tend to give their children a lot of freedom, and have very little control over their lives. Permissive parents rarely make any rules, and if at all they are made, not all the rules are rigorously imposed. Permissive parents love their kids unconditionally, even if it means accepting their unacceptable/objectionable behavior and tantrums. These parents tend to provide abundant choices and options, without ensuring whether the kids are capable of handling the responsibility, and without ensuring whether they are making the correct choice or not.

Democratic parenting is, perhaps, one of the more balanced styles of parenting since it encourages the children to think independently, and take responsibility for their own actions. Democratic parents teach to differentiate between good and bad, but allow the kids to make their own choices and learn to take responsibility for themselves. These parents generally have clear and reasonable expectations from their kids, and also explain why they want particular manners and behavior. They monitor their kids’ behavior to ensure that they are on the right track, but in a way that seems loving and caring, without being intrusive. These parents also encourage their kids to participate in the household chores. The mistakes are appropriately pointed out and corrected, and every mistake is a means to teach them a valuable lesson, rather than an opportunity for punishment. Moreover, good behavior is always appreciated and rewarded by the democratic parents. They often analyze the abilities of their kids, and provide them with suitable options.

Dismissive or neglectful parenting is an essentially harmful method of parenting. These parents generally fail to generate adequate interest for parenting their children. Parents do not interfere in any of the activities and merely provide the basic needs of life. These parents often dismiss the kids’ concerns, and shrug off the responsibility to acknowledge or discuss the problems. Their kids grow up to be rebellious, irresponsible and may show signs of psychological distress.

Emotional coaching is another unique style of parenting, that focuses on nurturing the child’s emotions. Emotional coaching is about getting into the child’s shoes, and empathizing with his/her emotions instead of analyzing or criticizing them. Parents who opt for this style of parenting, try to get to know the emotions of the child. They encourage the expression of emotions, and empathize with these feelings instead of restricting them. They see every moment as an opportunity to converse and strengthen the bond further. They talk to the kids, and guide them towards solving the problem instead of giving the solution. Children of such parents have been observed to have fewer behavioral problems, and handle all sorts of emotions in a much better way in childhood as well as after growing up.

It is not necessary that all the parents might rigidly fall into one of these categories. These are generalized characteristics of prominent parenting styles. Some parents might also show characteristics from more than one of these styles. Parents need to realize the effect of these parenting techniques. They need to be aware of the fact that every step and every action they take, is watched and processed by their children. Kids often try to imitate the habits and characteristics of their parents, and hence, one of the most important elements in parenting is leading by example. Love your kids, respect them, teach them what is good and bad, give them the right to question, encourage independent behavior, and monitor their growth by being a facilitator instead of being a control freak or intruder.

How to Deal with Your Child’s Privacy

As a parent, you might struggle with your child’s privacy. While cleaning his room, the temptation to look at a crumpled stack of papers on the desk, flip through an unlocked diary, or poke around the closet can be too strong to resist. And what do you do if you actually find something? Will you destroy your child’s trust if you admit to an invasion of privacy? These are tough questions.

I believe it is important to respect a child’s right to privacy but only up to a point. Your child’s safety should always remain the primary issue and concern. Thus, you need to be educated about the signs of substance and physical abuse, depression, etc. These include marked changes in behavior or mood, uneven sleeping patterns, drastic changes in appetite, etc. As a responsible parent, you must be observant, but not spy on your child at the same time. Spend time alone with your child, this will provide opportunities for your child to share his feelings.

Remember, teens are scared to discuss certain issues with you. They will talk to you about these issues only if they trust you. The same goes for your child. He’ll open up to you only if he’s assured that you’re not going to judge him harshly. Talk to him about your past; about your life as a teenager. It’s always better to talk to your children, to have a conversation with them, rather than accusing them of things based on your assumptions and asking for explanations.

Privacy is Important, But …

… only up to a certain threshold. Teens want special space, usually their bedroom, which will reflect their moods, interests, and search for a sense of identity. However, as a parent, you need to set some guidelines up front. Tell him that you will let him have his space, just the way he wants; however, if you suspect something to be seriously wrong, the same privacy will be at certain risk.

Open Communication is Always the Priority

However, if there are strong signs that hint of trouble, then you have to be strict and firm. Communicate with him as though you’re his friend, but if you think he’s taking the liberty you give him for granted, be firm while talking to him. At all times, in all situations, and under all circumstances, he is expected to respect you and your rules. He shouldn’t be intimidated by you; don’t stop him from approaching you. At the same time, however, don’t let him take you for granted.

But I’m Just a Kid

My seven year old refuses to make her bed. The reason? I’m too young. Who, I demand to know, has told her she’s too young? But the question lingers with no answer, perhaps it was me who encouraged her to loiter in her babyhood for more number of years than necessary. Perhaps, it is her perception of herself that is doing it. Whatever it may be, how healthy is the concept of a prolonged childhood, or an irresponsible manner of growing up, one that entails no duties and expectations from a child, because she is TOO YOUNG???

Many parents believe that smothering a child with love will make loving and caring individuals out of them. How true is that? In my assessment, a child who has seen nothing but all accepting, encompassing love never learns to be responsible for his or her actions. He or she grows up being forgiven and accepted for everything they do… now how healthy is that?

Of course, severely admonishing or frightening toddlers is also out, but then, at what stage in childhood should children be made to understand that they are no more babies, and that they are on their way to growing up, and will, one day be as old as Mummy and Daddy too. Experts insist that thrusting adulthood on the child isn’t healthy either. So they should be allowed to come to terms with the fact of their growing up, in a manner they are comfortable with. Then, what is the role of parents? We cannot be just bystanders, watching as if from the sidelines.

Today, most of the parents of pre-teens, are struggling with their own mid-life crisis biological or professional. It is a cultural fact of our times that becoming parents is not the top item on our list of life’s priorities. A paying career, a professional standing, maybe a house and some money in the bank are the factors that come first. Later, we plan for kids. It goes without saying that unlike the parents of fifty years ago, our distractions from the path of parenthood are many.

Women, particularly, are not keeping the sole aim of life as a happy family, a good man to marry and ‘lots’ of kids. It is, but natural that the process of bringing up a child is no longer one that was best left to nature. Today, bringing up a child is a professional’s job, too much or too little of anything, to early or too late, everything rebounds. The parents of our generation are walking a constant tightrope of prudence, am I being too lavish? Or too strict? Or too lenient? It is difficult to imagine that fifty years ago, parents had a natural instinct to guide them, in bringing up their kids. Today, we seem to be doing it only by the book.

Maybe that’s what our problem is. Many of us have handed over our toddlers, who are barely potty trained, to the care of playschools or trained kindergarten teachers. We have assumed that a trained teacher will be able to guide our children in a manner we won’t. Too much to expect? What can a complete stranger give to your child that you can’t? Not traditional wisdom, this is common sense, the instinctive development of a child is not on love alone, agreed, but it is equally true that a child learns to emulate the adults he or she interacts with the most.

As they grow up, they learn that the love and affection they get is their birthright, they will get it, come what may, but they also have to do certain other things to become as good as Mama or Papa. This is not forced maturity, this is self awareness, I want to be as well turned out as my Dad; or I want to be as tidy as Mama. Often the earliest ideals carry an individual through a lifetime of stressful demands.

What then, is the secret of bringing up a child well? Its simple, the parents have to be role models. A child, who sees her Mom or Dad doing their work everyday, all the time, will learn to appreciate the value of doing one’s work early on in life. Sloppy, irresponsible or uncaring parents cannot be role models for great, well behaved and responsible children. This will not be forced maturity, merely awareness, and then she will need no scolding and reminders to be good at managing her life.

To make sure the child grows up and behaves sensibly, we have to grow up and behave sensibly first. A pampered mother, spoiled by choices will bring up only a sullen and disrespectful young child, who thinks the world was formed to cater to his or her needs. The mother then has no one, but herself, to blame for the way the child’s future shapes up. All learning (including the alphabet) begins at home, and we, as parents, need to realize this before the die is cast. We cannot bully a child in becoming a perfect child, when we ourselves are less than perfect parents. It’s a perfectly natural symbiosis.

Parenting – Key to being a Patient Parent

Patience is probably the key skill that a parent needs to master when it comes to dealing with kids. It always seems so simple and easy to lose patience, and yet so difficult and sometimes almost impossible to find more of it. Here’s some help…

Communicate: Poor communication sabotages any relationship. Talk, explain, report, and discuss your day-to-day happenings, just as you expect them to. Communicate to them in a language they can comprehend. Communicate to them in a language they can learn life’s wise sayings.

Have Foresight: Reduce your pace so as to keep up with your toddlers. Find workarounds which allows you to have it their way as well as yours. If your kid insists on tying his own shoe laces, and in the morning rush hours you have no time for this insistence, ask your child to continue tying the laces while you drive him to school.

Stay Cool and Calm: Well, we are talking about patience, so staying cool and calm comes without saying. The key to staying cool and calm is not to react in the moment, if you tend to react in the moment, you can easily be carried away by frustration. Back off, think through the topic, and decide what you can say and do, and then do it. Set aside some time when you can composedly let your child know what you feel, and why you feel so.

Keep Real Expectations: Gary Walters, a psychology professor, says our expectations about behavior can be out of line with what our children are capable of developing mentally. Do not force your expectations on your children, in turn reducing their self-confidence and increasing the feeling of insecurity.

Give Them Space: If children insist on performing certain actions that are against your wishes, express to them the pros and cons of the action, and then give them some space to think calmly what you mean and expect. Expressing and explaining topics to children breed better results as compared to forcing them to perform as you would want them to. A parent needs to be strict to a certain extent, but forcing your opinions on children can yield unwanted results, such as children becoming rebellious.

Remember, how you express your irritation and anger teaches your children about managing and organizing their own feelings and relationships. Help yourself to help your children. Think about the times when we deal with patience with our coworkers or with new acquaintances. If we have the ability and capability to bear such patience, then why do we choose to lose it with our loved ones? Teachings that are taught with patience help children learn thoroughly and quickly.

Winning The Losers

Ever since we’re born, we’re expected to excel. Babies are pressurized to start talking, eating, walking, etc., as fast as possible. Once they reach the toddler stage, they are expected to learn their alphabets and numbers quickly. And the pressure to excel begins! We as a society are obsessed with winning: be it a simple game of soccer in the backyard, a debate competition at school, a local election, or a real war, winning is all that matters!

I remember the lyrics of an ABBA song that summarized it aptly: ‘The winner takes it all..the loser standing small’. We are raised to compete in a vulpine world. Competition is the buzz word and complacency is regarded to be sin. We as a generation are raised on these competitive paradigms – of winning vs. losing. It’s all about coming ‘first’ in every arena of life. Consciously and sub-consciously, it’s drilled into our minds, that if we’re not winners, we’re losers. How sad!

It’s natural for us as parents to want our children to be winners. We compare them with other kids, and in some cases, parents even compare them to their siblings. The under-achievers are at times treated with disdain, loved less, neglected, etc., causing his or her self-confidence to shatter to bits. As if living up to our image of success is imperative! What happens when we imbibe this ‘win at all costs’ attitude in our children? What happens when we push them to the limits of their capacities, in order to top in schools, in extra-curricular activities — some chosen, some forced? Is it really winners vs. losers — is it that simple? Are boundaries between winning and losing that well-defined? Take a look at what the popular American writer, Richard Bach had to say in his book, Bridge Across Forever:

That’s what learning is after all: not whether we lose the game, but how we lose, and how we’ve changed because of it, and what we take away from it that we never had before – to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning.

Idealism! But, the real world is not like that — this is the way we counter any differing opinion on this. Resources and opportunities in the world are always limited, we say. There is room for only a handful, however, it’s wanted by too many aspirants, so you cannot afford to take it lightly, we say. It’s a rat race and if you don’t win, no one will give a damn about you, we say. After all, this is what evolution has taught us – the fittest survive!

However, this makes me wonder, are winners — as we call them — necessarily better off? What does this obsession with winning do to their lives, their value systems, their sensitivities? What does it do to their relationships? When one is obsessed with winning, it doesn’t matter what is it that one wants to win? Every small defeat is a blow, no matter how inconsequential. Why? Because winning matters? Isn’t that a circular argument? The tragedy is, we start running even before we know what we’re running for. The rat race doesn’t stop for you. And by the time we pause to think about it, it’s already too late. Even if we finally win, there is this sudden emptiness: is this what I really wanted? If all we’re going to get at the end is emptiness, then is it the real winning? Do we really have time to think about this? Isn’t that necessary? Instead we treat the symptoms of the disease — depression, anxiety, mid-life crisis, stagnation — the feeling of being stuck-up, broken relationships, broken homes, inferiority complexes in children, … the list is simply exhaustive! But we keep on treating each of these symptoms, while ignoring the disease.

Am I saying we should abandon the quest for winners? Of course not. All that I’m saying is, winning is a very fuzzy concept, and obsession with it should be questioned, especially by parents. Children are naturally competitive – they want all to themselves, they always want to win. It’s a natural human tendency to want to surpass everyone, and excel in everything possible. But growing up is also about learning to take small defeats in one’s stride and move on; it’s also about questioning what one really wants/needs. In short, I think the whole society needs to grow up. It needs to question the rat races everywhere and the exclusive winner/loser way of thinking. And above all, we all need to be more forgiving and understanding to the (so-called) losers — especially to the children and teenagers. Life is difficult enough, for us to put heavy yokes on the shoulders of our little ones. A civilized society knows how to forgive such lapses. We need winners and we’re proud of them. But we will have more of them if we stopped pressing for them!