The Charms and Challenges of Raising Happy Kids
The title of today’s blog is self-explanatory. Raising kids is charming as well as challenging. The moment we utter the word charming, we are instantly reminded of the time when the first announcement or breaking news happens. The moment we hear news about any baby's arrival, we are all excited. Recently, the whole country was elated to get the news about Aishwarya’s pregnancy. Amitabh Bacchan announced it on Twitter. The point is, it is indeed an exciting event.
Before a baby is born, parents often don’t think about all the problems that can occur in raising a child. Planning for the baby can be such fun – picking out names, decorating the nursery, baby showers, and unending anticipation. And then it happens... the baby is born. All the pain the mother had to undergo is forgotten. All are happy. Once you hold the baby in your arms, he or she is instantly the most wonderful creature on earth. The baby looks at you with half-opened eyes and we belong to them forever.
And so the process begins, the baby comes home from the hospital, and through a variety of information sources- mother, mother-in-law, pediatrician, latest baby book, Google- we do our best to raise our kids.
The baby gradually crosses the child development stages of infancy, babyhood, and toddler and then childhood begins at age three. The problems crop up at each stage but they seem to be manageable.
From two onwards the self-questioning begins - Am I being a good parent to my child? This is the question that crosses most of the parent’s minds.
Sometimes this becomes a very tough subject, particularly if things escape from your hand with your parenting ways.
Even if you try hard to give it your best, still you find yourself in the middle of uncontrolled kids and discouraging methods of discipline. Here the B part of the title begins, the Challenges of parenting.
Every parent wishes to give the best to their kids. They wish to make their children happy. Nobody wants a frightened, shy, arrogant, or adamant child. But, somewhere something does go wrong and children do not turn out to be the way we want them.
I think this is the time for you to try parenting differently. It is called the positive parenting way. The moment the baby is born, the couple turns into father and mother. But parenting is an art and it has to be learned. It is a skill to be mastered. Positive parenting will bring back the charms of raising kids.
You may face comments like 'What’s the big deal? Our parents never talked about such things, this is all western hype, nowadays too much Psychology is quoted.'
But my dear friends, we have all now realized that our lives are on the fast track, there is a flooding of information, and we are surrounded by competition. We may not like to be a part of all this rushing and running. But we have to accept the change and equip ourselves and our children to face these challenges. We have to learn to handle the situations. We have to show faith that we can do it.
The question is, How are we going to do it? We have to start by learning the new language of parenting. First, we have to be aware of ourselves. How are we as parents? What are our parenting styles?
Are we Authoritarian? Orders to be obeyed without explanation?
Are we authoritative? Laying down rules but still being democratic and listening? Assertive but not aggressive?
Are we Permissive? Indulgent of their whims and discipline rarely?
Are we Uninvolved? Rejecting or neglecting children?
Why do our parenting styles vary?
Due to differences in culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level, and religion, finally, each parent has their style.
Impact on the children due to different styles
The authoritarian parenting style leads to children who are obedient and proficient but who rank lower in happiness, social competence, and self-esteem.
The authoritative parenting style tends to result in children who are happy, capable, and successful.
In the permissive parenting style, children rank low in happiness and self-regulation. Children are likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.
With uninvolved parents, children lack self-control, have low self-esteem, and are less competent.
Parents who are too involved, or as they are called 'Helicopter parents' are constantly supervising, instructing all the time, and hovering over the child.
Communication: The Bedrock of Good Parenting
Most of us will agree that good communication between parent and child is one of the keys to good parenting. Though it is easier said than done. Good communication is important not only for a current relationship but throughout our life.
The Golden rule -
1. Listen, don't just hear. Talk and listen to your child. It is important to make eye contact and use gentle touch while communicating with your child. For example, you may be busy reading the newspaper or doing household chores while your child is enthusiastically narrating something and you just nod and say hmm. Sometimes when the child is telling you what happened in school, then you might react similarly. Instead, we have to concentrate and listen to what the child is saying and respond --- this is called listening. Otherwise, it's just hearing.
2. Foster trust in the child. Let the child understand that you are there for them and encourage your child to ask questions.
3. 'Because I said so', is not a good answer, a reasonable explanation must be given.
4. Avoid making a joke at the expense of the child. Avoid speaking negatively in front of the child, avoid comparing, and praise their good points.
5. Break the cycle of arguments. Tell the child we will discuss it when you are out of whine mode.
6. Take a time out for a few seconds, and allow frayed tempers to cool.
7. Consider the child’s perspective, and cherish their individuality. Support your child’s interest and talent.
8. Encourage a child to take appropriate risks, they may make mistakes but don’t say 'I told u so'.
Developing Emotional Intelligence
You must have already heard about the concept of emotional intelligence. EQ is as important as IQ. While IQ is innate, EQ can be developed. Why is EQ is important?
I will give you an example, we see highly intelligent people around us, but we also see times when they are not able to handle their emotions properly. So we see high tempers, violence, fear, sadness turning into depression, and many more behavior patterns which are not appropriate to their age or stage of life. Controlling impulsive behavior means managing emotional reactions and learning to maintain balance.
So how do we develop EQ?
Let us start from the very beginning – right from the infant stage, emotional security is an important factor (Even at the fetal stage the mother has to be happy and secure. Only then is an emotionally secure infant born). The attention and affection provided in this stage matter a lot. Here, I mean 'required attention', do not mistake this for me saying you should lift the baby and keep it on your lap all the time. Cuddles and hugs have their place at every stage of life. Physical closeness matters for the baby. As the child grows, a stage comes when they have to meet strangers, or go to school. Stranger anxiety and separation anxiety sets in. This anxiety needs to be addressed and not neglected. Do not become angry and irritated when children show clinginess. It is only natural that your child wants to be with you always. This has to be handled properly. You have to spend Quality time with your children.
'Quality time' is often quoted by psychologists. So how do we spend quality time with children? Here the role of play in the child’s life is crucial. You have to play with the child.
PLAY is how children experience their world and bring meaning to it. It is through play that children learn best. Playing helps in calming emotions. Play develops physical skills, cognitive steps, language skills, social skills-like co-operation, negotiation, taking turns, and playing by the rules.
In this new era of technological advancement, the world of toys has undergone a sea change. The toys are based on innovative concepts, a variety of materials, attractive colors, and excellent quality wood and plastic. Not only children but adults are also attracted to the world of toys. These toys serve the purpose of fulfilling the creative needs of the children. Also with the help of the toys parents can share quality time with their children.
In the formative years of the 3 to 5 age group, the toys help in language development, enhance mathematical skills, and introduction to scientific concepts. They help eye-hand coordination, and motor and muscle development. Solving jigsaw puzzles helps in increasing concentration.
Here I want to make one clarification, I am suggesting to parents to spend quality time with the children and not all their time with children. While parenting the boundary and limits are to be set parallel. Otherwise, children are manipulative, they will take undue advantage. Never underestimate the child. Whatever we do has to be done judiciously.
Spend time with the child by visiting libraries, museums, zoos, and other places of interest. When the weather permits, outdoor play is a must. Especially, jungle gyms, climbing ladders, etc. It is a child’s birthright to claim their parents' time. We are not obliging them by giving them time.
Children have an innate sense of discovery and wonder that can be brought to the forefront and nurtured with the right kind of structured play. Playtime can easily be productive as well as joyful depending on the specific activity being undertaken or the toy being played with.
Setting aside time to read with your child can help them to develop their reading skills from a young age. Show interest when a child is reading, help to correct mistakes but don’t scold. Correct gently otherwise children resent reading with parents. Reading programs in the library are very useful.
Never think that child is wasting time while playing. Through play, the child learns many skills useful for life.
Kids are not born with self-discipline, cooperative attitudes, or healthy value systems. They need to be taught these things and their primary teacher is you the mother and father. This point will remind you of the parenting styles mentioned earlier. Don’t be afraid to discipline. Discipline should be consistent, fair, appropriate, and flexible. Reward and punishments have to be appropriately used. Both parents should agree on disciplining methods.
General Parenting Tips
Last but not least, take care of yourself and your needs. Take a break from parenting sometimes. Parents need time for each other. There is a tendency in parents that as soon as their kids are born, go overboard and devote all waking hours only to cater to the needs of their children. But parents are human and they need to express themselves. They need to do independent activities without kids. This keeps their communication ever fresh with the children. Otherwise boredom, frustration, and stress set in. Raising kids would be charming despite the challenges.
Happy parents make happy kids.