Amidst this fast changing world, the only thing that doesn’t seem to change is human emotion: shock, anger, remorse, sadness, jealousy, surprise, ecstasy, and pride are in every single soul around us. But what makes a person different is the expression. People express their emotions according to their conditioning; this conditioning starts in early childhood and is shaped by parents, teachers, friends and those around us.
This is what makes parenting such a challenging task. Parents want their children to become a balanced individual when they grow up. As parents, we also know that childhood forms the foundation for the exceptional personality we hope our children will develop. That's why we strive to do our best for our kids.
Parenting styles have never been under so much scrutiny as today. Parents are constantly searching for proven methods of parenting. Sometimes it's mind-boggling to come across so many methods and contrasting ideas. Isn’t there something called simplicity? Unfortunately, one size doesn’t fit all. Parents have to constantly re-think and change their methods of discipline to suit their family atmosphere. And what worked well for the first child doesn’t always work well for the second.
With divorces, teen pregnancies, suicides, depression, and school shootings, it's time to put more energy into parenting. We have seen that the elderly generation is more grounded compared to our current adult generation. Maybe we should take a cue or two from them and re-adopt some outdated ways for enforcing discipline.
15 Be A Parent Not A Friend
It's been advertised too many times that a parent should be a friend to the child. Many parents swell with pride when they tell others that their child shares everything with them and always tells the truth. However, these parents forget that, until their teen years, a child is more in need of a parent than a friend. Especially once the child reaches 5, it's time to be firm - you're reaching the last few months to instil good behavior and proper conditioning. Emotions should take a back seat.
Healthy habits formed in childhood stay for a lifetime. It's well known that all successful people are highly disciplined, and self-discipline is usually cultivated in a child's early years. There are two ways of inculcating discipline; first, children follow or imitate their parents, so there's a lot of pressure on parents to be good role models, and secondly, some strictness in terms of positive and negative reinforcements goes a long way in setting a strong foundation for a disciplined life.
14 No Pocket Money
There is no doubt that giving pocket money to children has many advantages. Pocket money teaches them to be responsible with money. However, it also teaches them that ONLY money has value. Simply giving money to kids can give the impression that they deserve getting something for nothing, which every adult knows all too well isn’t how the world works. But making children do chores for pocket money instead makes the chores an avenue for earning money, all the while instilling a sense of responsibility and accomplishment in the child.
Traditionally, there was no concept of pocket money. Parents used to buy things for their children either when they needed it or at appropriate times (i.e. Birthdays and Holidays). And most self-made men and women didn't get any pocket money during their youth - and now, it's our responsibility to make sure that our children don't get spoiled by getting easy money either.
13 No Deals, Bargains, Or Bribes
When children are not agreeable or cooperative, it's common to see that some parents resort to offers, deals or bargains, “Eat your food and you'll get your ice-cream.” This saves time for busy parents when they're in a hurry. In the short run these deals seem to work, but in long run, it may not be healthy for kids to expect any deals for correct behavior.
In earlier generations, parents didn’t coddle children and bargain with them to behave. It was either they did what they were supposed to, or they were punished: “Eat your food. Period.” If they didn’t eat their food, they either sat at the table until they did, or it was taken away and they went hungry. Once children get used to bargains, they'll apply the same mentality later in their lives. They'll expect a favor in return for acceptable behavior. Parent shouldn’t yield to a tantrum; this may be difficult because, as parents, we melt and give leeway to our children. But then the child can see the parent's weakness and it will continue to happen. Avoid falling into this trap - don't make deals with your kids.
12 Don’t Let The Child Feel Like A Demigod
A bitter truth! But it's a fact that modern parenting gives so much to children even before they ask. Parents go out of their way, right after the baby is born, to provide more than they can. They say 'yes' to almost everything and give in to their children's demands, wanting to avoid the slightest conflict. Some parents do everything to make their child feel like the center of the universe. The stark reality is that children are growing up self-centered and predominantly concerned with, “What’s in it for me?”
Traditionally, parents knew they would have to hurt their child’s feelings by saying 'no' once in a while. They weren't afraid of conflict. Though no parent wants to hurt their child’s feelings, it's important for them to learn that nothing in life is simply going to be handed to them. Modern kids are more engrossed in their possessions. Older generations were very lucky to have more than a few toys and had, overall, very few possessions. Expensive gifts were given only on birthdays, but today, with all the latest gadgets and trends, they get new and expensive things every few months. It's important to teach the difference between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’.
11 No Opportunistic Parenting
As parents, we know all the likes and dislikes of our children. Unfortunately, some things our kids enjoy are not good for them, for example, excessive screen time and junk food. We know that our child may be spending too much time in front of the TV or computer screen, but we don't have time to engage him or her in other productive activities. We let him or her overindulge and we might not be aware of how much time passes because we finally have time to catch up with our To-Do lists. Like it or not, we tend to take advantage of that.
When it's time for punishment we negotiate over screen time enjoyed by our kids. Overindulgence should be monitored closely and strictly. It's best to set household rules and refrain from changing them. For example, if the child can only be allowed to watch TV for an hour every day, there shouldn't be any negotiation for extended TV time, nor should TV time be used as a reward or punishment. They ought to learn as early as possible that no means no!
10 Letting Them Fall And Fail
As parents, our protective instincts make us want to rescue our child quite too often. A child who is learning to walk is bound to fall, but sure to get up. Children learn from their mistakes on their own. But sometimes they may need guidance when they're in unchartered waters. Finding out the right time and situation, to stay away or jump in, may not be easy, but it's important to think before we jump in to help.
Children need to learn how to solve their own problems. If parents protect their children every time they get into trouble, they may not ever try to solve a problem on their own. It can eventually lead to escapist tendencies when they grow up. They may just be engulfed in the problem instead of trying to find a solution. Additionally, a problem often brings with it a lot of different emotions. The inability of dealing with a problem may later lead to other issues such as low self-esteem. Children need to learn to fail so they know what success is.
9 Teach Acceptance
There are times when kids are left with their grandparents. Grandparents are usually less lenient and softer with their grandkids, so kids can often take them for a ride. But grandpa or grandma may also have to reward or punish the little ones for their deeds. Some parents don't agree with the ways of grandparents so they might freak out if some discipline is required when they're not there to do it. Grandparents may follow old-school methods for disciplining kids which may not be as easily accepted today.
Parents should always keep in mind that they should never disrespect the grandparents when they have a disagreement. Remember that kids are watching. Once they see that you don't approve of their grandparents' methods, they may lose respect for you and may stop listening to you and their grandparents altogether. Instead, give some liberty to grandparents and teach the kids to cope with a different system. In fact, it may be a good thing for children to get exposed to different parenting styles.
8 Discipline Through Trusted Friends and Relatives
Getting the child into certain habits and shaping his behavior cannot be handled by parents alone. School plays a huge role, but only to a certain extent. When we were children we learned a great deal from our immediate family. Older generations admired their grandparents and aunts and uncles a great deal. Each one had a different role in shaping us. We don't find that happening these days with families shrinking in size or relocating to far-off cities.
Undoubtedly, most children may not always pay heed to a parent, but they try their best to play up to the expectations of an aunt or uncle who they admire. A good tip is to try and involve a trusted friend or family member into the child's upbringing who the child can look up to. A good tip is to plan get-togethers with extended family where the child can interact more with this person, or these people, and is more exposed to good habits and bahaviors.
7 Strict During Meal Time
Nowadays unfortunately, kids have too many options for eating unhealthy foods. But parents can find creative ways of preparing healthy foods that are fun for children. It definitely adds extra pressure for checking out recipes and going that extra mile to make the child eat his or her veggies. But years ago, there weren’t so many options. We just had to eat whatever was served.
What NOT to do when kids refuse to eat a meal:
- Give them another option to eat.
- Insist that if they eat, they will later get their favorite dessert.
- Tell them firmly that they need to eat and start yelling when they don't.
Instead, quietly remove the plate and go about your business. Option A will make the child the boss and get things done his own way. Giving a bribe may not be a good idea as the parent will soon see more demands coming. And yelling will beget aggressive behavior and the child may even throw the plate away. Conversely, a calm yet firm parent can get things done and help promote positive conditioning. There may be a few hiccups in the beginning, especially if the child is used to a different style of parenting, but children adapt quickly and will get used to the new rules in a matter of days.
6 Let The Child Cry
Consider this scenario: parents need to go out unexpectedly and a family relative or friend offers to babysit. But the child refuses and says she doesn’t like it there because it’s boring. What would you do?
- Take the child along even if it means more delays.
- Arrange for another babysitter.
- Insist that the child listens and mama will be back soon.
- Simply take the child and leave him at the friend’s.
We all know the best possibility is option D to make the child realize that tantrums won't work. But how many of us let the child go through this?
Some parents have a hard time seeing their children cry. They don’t want to create a situation where the child feels vulnerable or upset, and we always try our best to keep the child happy. There's a misconception that the parent is doing a good job raising the kid if he or she doesn’t cry much. However, a child who doesn’t cry usually means that the child is being protected too much.
5 Enforcing Niceties
It has become a common to see children arguing with their elders. The new idea of giving freedom to children to voice their opinions has turned children into a rebellious generation that has no respect for others. Some parents fail to make children understand that there is a difference between voicing their opinions and being disrespectful. There has been a huge change in culture, especially when it comes to common courtesies. Earlier, it was heavily reinforced at home. Now, the attitude had become more relaxed to the point of discourtesy.
Unfortunately, this is culminating into a generation of children who are consequently lagging behind in effective communication skills. Good manners don't just enhance communication skills but also helps build confidence. This kind of upbringing ensures that the child thrives in social situations.
4 Praising Only When It's Deserved
Every parent wants to show appreciation for their children when their kids do something they're proud of. Even the worst drawing ever goes up on the refrigerator for all to see, and this can be a great way to build a child’s confidence and self-worth. However, it can go too far where the child is never criticized for anything, leading to an over-inflated ego.
Too much unnecessary praise may have two consequences. One, the child may start developing a false sense of pride and may start thinking that he's better than everyone else. He may also start looking for more attention and appreciation every time he does something, and he may not be able to take criticism in the future. Secondly, he may not be able to work in a team as his overinflated ego tells him he can do anything all on his own, and he may feel unwarranted jealousy when others are appreciated for their work. It's okay to let children know that their skills can use some improvement, and when they really do something correctly, that’s the time to lay on the praise.
3 Don’t Always Say No To A Kid Below 5
A toddler is running around the back yard aiming for a mud puddle. It's natural for mom to yell “NO.” Decades ago, children below 5 were were less regulated. They were free birds who got dirty and explored, were raised with lots more attention since moms were often stay-at-home, and were allowed to make mistakes without being reprimanded. Parents didn't yell at their small children as it was generally understood that they were too young to willingly be involved in bad behavior. It was believed that children were born innocent and therefore didn't harm anyone intentionally.
Traditionally, kids were raised to be fearless until they were 5. Parents didn't harshly discipline their kids until they started school. It may be difficult to leave the child to create a mess at home today since both parents are often working all day, and the last thing they want is to have to clean up their kids' mess. But there are ways to gently help the child without any harsh tones or asserting authoritative behavior. Of course, it's still important to set limits to avoid dangerous situations.
2 Don’t Over Control Play Time
There were times when kids used to engage in free play in the courtyard with their friends. They used to roll in sand, build castles and play hide and seek. Parents used to let the children go out on their own for some time with minimal supervision. But now, kids' playtime is highly structured from school to soccer practice, music, screen time and studies. There's hardly any time allocated for free play.
Of course, child predators, bullies, crime and traffic are real and parents need to protect their children. But it's equally important to make arrangements where the child can safely have some fun play time with friends without any gadgets. A German study recently found that unstructured play time helps the child deal with change and make them more dynamic. It also encourages them to be more adaptable to different environments. Free play also reduces the chances of kids succumbing to mental disorder and depression.
1 Don’t Compare
In the modern world, an unhappy, misbehaving and bored child raises many criticisms to his or her parents. Some parents just want to be the best and leave no stone unturned to keep the child happy all the time. This puts pressure on parents who know they have to let their children cry sometimes. Parents ought to hold themselves back before shooting advice to other parents - especially if they haven't asked for it. Everyone is different and so is their discipling style. Each child responds better to certain methods, so what works for one child or family may not work for another. There's no need to compete for being the best - and parents will likely drive themselves crazy trying to do so.