All parents have positive intentions for their child. However, things go awry in a family when these intentions either do not get communicated in the right manner or are misunderstood by the receiver.
Raising children is a bit like nurturing a sapling till it becomes strong enough to withstand the trials of the environment it is planted in. In recent times, it has become even more complicated as your child might be born in a particular city, schooled between two to four different institutions in another country and attends university in another continent and works in another. Add to this the advancement in technology and social media. Your child’s environment and exposure is like an evolving canvas where the final piece of art is the result of his palette of values, beliefs, experiences, culture and languages he or she has chosen.
This guideline for parenting is based on the most common topics I have attended to in parents and children in the past year.
1) Let the child face flak
During a coaching session, a mother complained to me how the school had given her child a harsher punishment when he was caught cheating during an exam versus other kids found doing the same and she wanted to go to the principal to express her view.
Parents, when your child fails, makes a mistake or breaks a rule, it is important for you to allow your child to face the consequences so that he or she grows up to be a resilient young adult who heeds the rules and is aware of the price one needs to pay for breaking them.
2) Let it go
Another gentle-hearted mother explained how she kept advising her son daily on how to make new friends — and even went to school to check if he was OK — when he came home each day complaining bitterly about how his friends at school were excluding him from playing with them during lunch break. The child, however, stopped communicating his issues to her anymore.
Parents, when your child shares an issue with you (not the extreme cases), do offer an ear and some loving advice if necessary. It’s OK to follow up for a day but beyond that, let it go. This child confided in me that his mother worried too much and kept reminding him of something that he no longer wanted to remember. Don’t forget, kids have short memory, especially for bad experiences.
3) Teach to think positive
Coaching a young girl who is almost ready to go to college, I found her biggest struggle is she doesn’t like school because she finds it difficult to make friends and is shunned by her peers. She’d already moved four schools.
I uncovered layers and layers of negative beliefs she had about herself and her world starting from the time she was severely bullied in school. Please infuse your child with positive beliefs. Your child needs a foundation of strong and positive self-esteem to face life. ‘I am enough. I am strong. I am able. I am loving and kind and am surrounded by loving people,’ is the mantra that everyone on the planet needs to believe in.
4) Make them do chores
By getting your child involved in daily activities at home, you will inculcate a sense of responsibility and independence in him or her. Smaller children get the message that you feel confident enough to have them involved in tasks, building their self-esteem. You are also teaching them how to live in the real world when they have to do chores in college and life beyond that. Help maybe available easily. But what your child needs to understand is that help is exactly that — help. It is by no means a substitute for them, and it’s not advisable to become dependent on someone whose absence brings their life to a standstill.
5) Keep realistic expectations
I was coaching a stressed parent of a 15-year-old whose strength did not lie in academics. I asked the mother to prepare a timetable for him to study for the impending final exams. She came back to me with a 15-hour study log saying that’s what the other parents had recommended. There was no way her son was going to follow that. Only you know your child well. Every child has to be parented based on his individual requirements and interests. You cannot copy what other parents do with their children.
6) Friends for friendship
I had this teenage girl who was quite embarrassed about how her parents were participative and forthcoming when her friends came over. They also wanted to be cool parents and encouraged her to share everything in her life. She loved her parents but wanted them to understand that she was not comfortable sharing everything that she shared with her friends.
Parents’ primary job is to create boundaries for their child and an environment of mutual respect and open communication. They should help the child gain self-confidence, a sense of security and values. At the same time, they need to realise that they need to play the role of a parent first, as that’s what is needed for their child to grow into a mature and successful adult. Leave friendship to the child’s friends.
7) Teach them to learn
As a parent, it is important that you are curious of the world around you — how do rainbows appear, why do leaves change colours and how does the lady on Google maps know there is traffic in front of you?
The more you question the world around you and learn new things, you model for your child to keep an open mind to be a learner for life. You prevent the ‘I know’ symptom that stops many a child from learning and growing when you make it a norm that even you as a parent don’t have all the answers and still enjoy asking questions. You will encourage your child to be curious and to learn that the true reason of success is this, rather than the mask of failure.
8) Be tech-savvy
I coached a family where the teenage son had become addicted to not only online gaming but also social networking sites — to a point where he started missing school and his grades plummeted. His parents had no clue of what he had been doing on his laptop till the half-yearly reports came in. When I sat with them they said they thought he was studying or doing his projects as they were not very knowledgeable about computer games or social networking sites.
There are no marks for staying in the dark in a world that has advanced leaps and bounds in this sphere. Parents need not necessarily master it but must be aware of what’s on the internet and on social network that the child may be using.
9) Take responsibility
When things go wrong or you make a mistake, own up. It’s not about blame but a shift in perspective to taking responsibility and agreeing to be vulnerable.
Your child will learn that it’s OK to make mistakes and he does not chase an imaginary goal of perfection. Your child learns that he is responsible for the result of his words and actions and in case they are not right, he must take responsibility and make amends.
10) Be an inspiration
Many mothers give up successful careers to take care of children and in many cases, at the time, it might be the right decision. However, I have coached several mothers who after becoming the caring parent, begin to feel a loss of identity and purpose. This often percolates into the family life as frustration and anger. I’m currently working with a mother who is frustrated with her children and feels that she lacks support from her husband. When we got to the core of the issue — it turned out that she was playing a much smaller version of her true self who is an intelligent and ambitious woman.
When you pursue your passion, you are fuelling your being. You grow as a person and bring more of yourself to the family. Your child learns that it is not selfish, but self-love when you pursue your passion and dream to be the highest version of yourself. It also gives them permission to do the same.
— Sunaina Vohra is a certified Youth and Family Life Coach at Athena Life Coaching in Dubai. For more information log on to athenalifecoaching.com or call 056-1399033. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a query on parenting skills and child behaviour.