Following on from How To Be a Better Parent in my Strategies For a Better Life article I promised to provide some tips for better parenting.
I guess you were able to identify your own parenting style from my previous article, and hopefully chose the Authoritative Parenting Style as one which you could adopt, keeping in mind that we all slide from one to the other style of parenting at times.
I was reading an article in The Conversation (17/10/2018) entitled “Stressed about managing your child’s behaviour?” Aren’t we all?! But on reflection I had to admit that this period of our lives is usually the most enjoyable, despite the hard work, and the stress, and the worry about whether we are doing the right thing by our children. I know that many of you may not be convinced by that.
There was a recommendation in The Conversation to visit raisingchildren.net.au for tips on how to cope. (This is a good website BTW) Most of the article in The Conversation was about smaller children than I am writing about, so if you have a child or two of that age you could be interested. The article was entitled “Your child may be acting their age, not misbehaving.” That can be true of any age, and it is especially true of children nearing their teenage years.
Another headline was entitled “Praise works better than punishment”. This is a minefield, for how do you navigate praising a clever child while the not so clever one is ignored or not praised because they are not doing anything praiseworthy? Of course one has to agree that punishment is not a good way to go. A rule of thumb with parenting is to choose a method which works, and one about which you feel good. In other words, if you discipline a child by some method and you don’t feel good about it, then it probably isn’t a good method.
I actually prefer encouragement to praise, because with praise the focus is on external control and evaluation, and often self-elevation and personal gain. Praise also is for a job that is complete and for one which is done well.
With encouragement there is more of a focus on recognizing the effort that a child has put into a task, and how he has improved over time. It is good to appreciate a child for his or her abilities, contributions and how the child grows in his or her ability to manage life in a constructive manner. Thus encouragement is good for the clever, or the not so clever child. Just think back on your own life. How different would it have been if you had been encouraged all along the way instead of waiting to be praised and rewarded only if you did a sterling job and managed to finish it?
Remember, children most often can’t do things perfectly, they are learning, as you are in your parenting. Sometimes mistakes are made. Is your parenting choice for you or the child? In other words, do you feel some reflected glory when your clever child does well, and so you offer some praise and tell every one of his or her achievements? I am not talking about being proud here, but how you respond to your child. Encouragement can be spread around generously, and all children can benefit and grow with your ongoing support. And there’s nothing wrong with being proud of them as well.
You can also prepare your children for failure which will happen to them repeatedly during life. Tell them that failure is disappointing, but an opportunity to learn from their mistakes, or from a challenging situation. To learn how to graciously accept failure, whether on the sporting field or in the classroom is vitally important in a child’s growth curve. They learn that it is not the end of the world if they fail. They learn how not to be jealous of another’s success, and they appreciate the ongoing encouragement rather than hope for the praise which didn’t come when they failed.
Think of success as a by-product of whatever the child is learning to do, for example, cooperating with others on a project, or learning new skills, striving to extend herself, becoming self-sufficient and stronger while learning.
I’m going to list some of the ways we can squash any communication with our kids. I have a lot of information about parenting like this but I have no idea where I got it from, so please excuse me.
The most obvious style of an authoritarian parent is:
Ordering a child to do something. “How many times have I told you to…!” “You must do this – or else”… (combined with a dire warning).
Advising ”I think you should do xyz”. “It would be best if…”.
Judging “You are wrong, that’s a stupid way to do that”. “This the correct way to do it…”.
Lecturing and being One-Up “Well, the facts are…” and, “I’ve been around a lot longer than you have, and this is how to do xyz…”. “Just listen and learn…”.
And then of course there are ways of ridiculing and undermining a child, grilling them about where they’ve been, who they’ve been seeing, and why. If you saw the recent French film Custody you may remember the scene where the bully father interrogates his young son at his grandparents’ dinner table. He makes everyone edgy and miserable, and the whole scene ends in a fight. (Excellent film and worth seeing, if somewhat sobering).
Always avoid discouraging your child and help her work towards improving her performance, not perfecting it.
Encourage him to do his best, and enjoy his best steps together with him.
Build on the child’s strengths, and show your faith in the child’s efforts.
Lead and guide your child towards self-sufficiency and self-acceptance.
Be optimistic about your child’s efforts, and teach optimism to your children.
Don’t protect them against painful consequences of their own choice, they have to learn the hard way sometimes. But be there for them. Don’t say “I told you so!”
Don’t correct your child in front of others and make them cringe. Chat about the mistake in private.
Always be consistent in your dealings with all children, as other behaviour can be manipulative and confusing.
To get out of nagging and stressing yourself and your child, read my next article on a newish way of managing your child’s behaviour (See below)
Learn to be assertive with your children, and give them choices in a situation.
I think to give a young child two choices, both of which you think are good, helps you feel happier and helps the child realise that he can actually choose for himself without being told what to do. Help him to see the consequence of each choice if this is relevant.
Don’t over-sympathise with the child, try and see what is really going on rather than fobbing her off and trying to get the problem solved as quickly as possible.
Don’t tell them they are silly to be afraid. Talk about their fears which are real to them, and be reassuring and understanding. However, watch to see that the child is not “playing you” for extra sympathy or attention, or more time away from bedtime!
When disciplining a child (discipline means teaching) don’t give an overly harsh consequence that you know you won’t keep. For example, telling a naughty child that he will never watch TV again, or can never have her play station back for a year. You know you will not keep this consequence, and the child will learn that you don’t really mean what you say.
Consequences mean something when they mean something to the child. For example if a child really wants pocket money, then that is your bargaining tool. If he is really sweating on going out with friends on the week-end, then that is your bargaining power. If she doesn’t care about money it’s useless trying to deprive her of it as a consequence for bad behaviour. She doesn’t care. Being deprived of a favourite TV show that particular week and sticking to it will register. If you say you’ll never watch TV again, they won’t believe you. You can be authoritative but also fair.
Thinking about consequences before an event is a good idea, then you are ready with a meaningful one when the time comes. For example if your child dawdles getting dressed for school and you feel exasperated with this behaviour and this is a pattern. Stop and Think. Does the child care about being late. Maybe not, but you care! You need to deposit him at school and get to work on time yourself! What does the child care about? Think! Use whatever this is as leverage to get him or her to cooperate with you to get to school on time.
If your child is at a point where he or she does not care about anything, then you have big problems, and may need expert help. You possibly need to change your parenting style, and your child needs more encouragement to find some meaning in life. Your child could be very depressed and using the non-cooperative behaviour as a cry for help.
In my next article I will be telling you about Stop, Think, Do Parenting which is a conflict resolution method, and works really for the ages of two upwards. With Stop, Think, Do you end up with a cooperative child, and a less stressed parent. As a bonus, the method can be used with adults or in the classroom too.
© Kathleen Crawford 2018 www.coachingpsychologyonline.com Strategies for a Better Life.