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Be a model for your kids

Jim and Penny are both working parents, and when they reach home they are exhausted. "It's not just the work, it's the children," says Penny. "Both our kids demand so much attention that frankly, I dread coming home!" adds Jim.

Gulf News

Your child's behaviour depends to a great deal on the kind of interaction you have with him/her. If you shout and bang the desk, or curse in front of your kid, he/she too would do the same


Jim and Penny are both working parents, and when they reach home they are exhausted. "It's not just the work, it's the children," says Penny. "Both our kids demand so much attention that frankly, I dread coming home!" adds Jim.

"Jessica mostly whines which is manageable even though it is annoying. Our real problem is Patrick. He is four years old and is always on the go. When we take him out, he runs around, touching everything in our friends' homes.

"He opens their cupboards, looks inside their fridge, and asks them if he can eat something. This has become very embarrassing because many of our friends don't like it, and think we are bringing up our children to behave badly."

How does one help young children to control their impulsive behaviour? Jim and Penny's problem is one commonly shared by many parents, particularly here in the Gulf where nuclear families lack the support of grandparents, relatives, and close friends.

Time and energy are in short supply and what generally can be described as 'ordinary childish' behaviour turns into a battle between parents and children.

Child expert, Penelope Leach points out that "Children decide they're good if parents treat them as if they are. They are reflected in the mirror of adults' reactions". If parents treat their children as if they are kind, gentle and generous (that a fighting, cheating or stealing incident in school was just an aberration), children will learn to live up to that expectation.

If parents treat their children as if they are aggressive, stupid and troublesome, they will act accordingly. Parents sometimes are too quick to think the worst about their children, and the more they disapprove of their child, the worse his behaviour becomes. Before this vicious cycle becomes ingrained, here are some tips for understanding the pattern, and how to change it.

Most pre-schoolers are very curious about their environment, and when they see something, they just go for it. Some children are born with a personality and temperament which causes them to take a keen interest in their surroundings. Some toddlers just like to meet new people and need to be kept busy.

Most children outgrow their impulsiveness with age. To reassure many parents, it's alright for four and five-year-olds to rush up to greet strangers; or hug a baby. Some young children have self-control problems which may require professional help.

For example, if a three or four-year-old cannot sit still or wait for even a few minutes, he/she is likely to meet with difficulties in school and social life. Sometimes, a hearing problem can cause the child to appear defiant and inattentive.

Sometimes, there can be a clash between the child's personality and his parents. Both Jim and Penny were very authoritative, controlling parents and needed to give Patrick more space and freedom. They did not appreciate the fact that though Patrick was running around the room, he never really touched anything.

He had internalised their instructions and warnings, but they needed to recognise what an effort he was making. Here are some tips for boosting self-control.

* Don't yell. Instead, model for your child the appropriate way to behave. If your child sees you shouting, banging the door, or cursing every time you lose your temper, you're teaching him/her all the wrong ways to behave.

* Find ways to calm yourself down by having a morning out with your friends, watering the garden, answering your e-mails, listening to music... It's when you have no other adult to talk to for long periods that your child's behaviour can become depressing and get on your nerves.

* Make sure he/she is looking at you before you talk.

* Most children get so involved when they are watching television that they tune out the parent completely. Very soon this becomes a habit which is hard to break. Try not to have the television on in the background all the time. Don't have toys on the table while he/she is trying to eat breakfast.

* Examine your own behaviour. As long as children are being 'good', parents tend not to notice them. Only when they start acting up, answering back, or fighting, do they get the 'reward' of adult attention. It is important to reverse this trend. Your child's behaviour will start improving when he/she learns that he/she can get just as much notice from you when he/she's behaving nicely.

* Make yourself available to your child by changing your hours of work, or by spending that time more meaningfully with him/her. Instead of putting on a video to get her out of your hair, ask him/her to come into the kitchen with you and help bake a cake.

Make yourself available to your child... and see his/her behaviour improve.

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