As a parent, you’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that all of your children’s needs are met and to instil good habits, values and behaviour in them. But we all know that this is easier said than done, especially on days when our children seem to be doing all that they can to test our patience. As a result, we might do or say things that would lead to problematic behaviours in our children.
So, what can you do to stay on the path of good parenting and help your child learn and grow in the best possible ways?
Here, we list down some simple rules to abide in order to be a better parent to your children, courtesy of top parenting and psychology experts:
1. Avoid comparisons and labels
For families with multiple children, there is a tendency to compare one child to the other, which can lead to labels. For example, you might refer to your studious child as “the scholar” and his/her energetic sibling as “the wild one”.
The problem with labelling children based on their personalities and abilities is that it creates problems and often strains the relationship among siblings. When one sibling feels that his/her brother “owns” the athlete label, he/she will most probably not try to excel in the same arena due to the fear of falling short. On the other hand, giving your child the picky eater label may very well encourage that very behaviour that you hope to put an end to.
Dr Harvey Karp, a renowned American paediatrician and author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block, advises parents to be mindful of their choice of words when acknowledging their children’s unique traits. For example, try “energetic” instead of “wild”, “spirited” instead of “hyper” and “careful” instead of “shy”.
2. Walk the talk
Studies have shown that very young children learn from observing their parents’ every move, which proves that parental behaviour is far more powerful than words.
In her book, The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behaviour without Whining, Tantrums & Tears, Elizabeth Pantley says that parents are teaching their children something every minute of the day, whether they intend to pass along that lesson or not. “From how you handle stress to how you celebrate success to how you greet a neighbour, [your child] is observing you and finding out how to respond in various situations,” she shares.
With this revelation, do make a conscious effort to think through your actions first to avoid reacting on the spur of the moment. In a WebMD article, Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., author of The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, suggests that you overcome this by asking yourself, ‘What do I want to accomplish, and is this likely to produce that result?’
3. Allow your child to learn from their mistakes
When your child builds a block tower and is about to place a piece on top that will send the structure crashing, do you allow him/her to carry on and deal with a meltdown later or stop him/her from adding the block with an explanation of the outcome?
Dr Christopher Lucas, an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine, says that while it is natural for parents to protect their children from incidents that could cause harm, it is beneficial for children to learn from their errors as it instils the lesson at hand better than an explanation ever could.
“At a very basic level, this kind of mistake helps a child understand cause and effect. But it’s also more emotionally healthy to let your child experience disappointment sometimes – especially in the form of a toppled block tower – instead of shielding him from any and all negative events,” Dr Lucas adds.
4. Be involved in your child’s life
According to Steinberg, being an involved parent takes time and effort, and it often requires one to rethink and rearrange their priorities. “It frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your child needs to do. Be there mentally as well as physically,” adds Steinberg.
5. Establish rules
One of the most crucial parts of parenting involves drawing up rules which will serve as a guideline for your child on what constitutes acceptable behaviour. At any time of the day or night, you should be able to answer these three questions:
- Where is my child?
- Who is with my child?
- What is my child doing?
“If you don’t manage your child’s behaviour when he is young, he will have a hard time learning how to manage himself when he is older and you aren’t around,” Steinberg adds. The rules your child learns from you will shape the principles he/she applies to himself/herself and determine the type of person that he/she will grow up to become in the future.
At the same time, Steinberg warns against micromanaging your child during the teen years. In order to help your child develop resilience to deal with the challenges of life, we need to “let the child do their own homework, make their own choices and not intervene”.
Encouraging your child to be independent and being consistent with your actions are some things you can do to be a better parent. More details on the next page…