Children, Choices And Rules

As parents, it is only natural to take a dictatorial approach as far as our children are concerned. There is no manual or handbook on parenting, and, believe it or not, children have personalities, even when they are very young. We all want to be the best parents we can be. Hopefully even better than our own parents were to us. Having said that, we can sometime be a little overbearing. Ok, a lot even.

Parents assume that children do not know what they are doing or what they want. A common pitfall, which even I fall into from time to time. Having dealt with children from different backgrounds at the Kids Book Club, my general parenting methods have come into question. Not a bad thing, as I have learnt so much, and continue to learn.

The 3 major things I’ve learnt through parenting and caregiving are:

Be A Facilitator

Children are not mindless creatures or machines that are waiting for us to feed them commands. They come fully loaded with their own programs, and our jobs as parents or caregivers is to help them put these programs or personalities in modes that they can understand and follow, without feeling overwhelmed. The best way to do this is provide rules, guidelines and choices. When you want a child to do something, let them know that they can make a choice. Teach them to make choices as early as you possibly can. For example, you decide you want your child to have a new toy. Carry them along. Depending on how young they are, start with 3 toy choices. Tell them they can pick whichever they like. At first, the child will want all of them, and it may even be a struggle. Gently, but firmly, inform them they can have either one toy or none at all. Stand aside, and only intervene when the child requires you to. In the end, they will pick one. With time, they will develop their own ‘choice’ mechanism and in the process, they will not feel stifled, and you will not keep wondering what your child likes.

Accept That Children Will Have Good Days And Bad Days

As an adult, you sometimes wake up feeling out of sorts. Overwhelmed even. Tired, like you have not slept for days. This also applies for children. They will wake up cranky. They do not know what is happening, as these may sometimes be new experiences for them. You are not doing yourself or the child any favors by yelling at them, or forcing them to be a certain way, or trying to cheer them up in annoying ways. Try reversing the roles and imagine your friend or your spouse or partner trying these stunts on you when you are in a funky mood. Your every instinct will be to punch the lights out of them! Be there for your child. Speak kindly and when they scream, don’t join in the match to see who can yell the loudest. Speak in a firm, soft tone and inform them that they need to sit down and only talk to you when they can do it in a reasonable manner so that you can understand what they are saying. I have done this on a continuous basis with my son and at the Kids Book Club so I know how well it works.

Lead By Example

Let’s take the above scenario as an example. Your child is in a cranky mood. That means that they will yell or cry at the drop of a hat. You decide to take the approach of yelling back. Do you see that going anywhere productive? Let’s even go further and say you are in a cranky mood yourself. You go around kicking everything in site, including the cat, and yelling at your child when they come trying to talk to you. What has the poor cat done to you? What has the poor child done to you? Are they really the cause of your foul mood? What if, instead, when your child comes to you, you gently let them that mommy or daddy is not feeling very nice today and you would like a few minutes to relax? And of course, steer away from the cat? If you have already set good communication between you and your children, you will be surprised at how willing they are to help you get back to feeling good and they will leave you alone, even for 15 minutes stretches at a time before coming to check on you. For some reason, this show of concern by a child is so endearing, you will find yourself back into a close to normal mood in no time.


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