Having and raising children can not only be one of the most joyful experiences but one of the most challenging as well. There is no ' formula' for parenting and all of us are bound to mess up in varying degrees. What we can try and do is communicate correctly with our kids so that they understand us.
Here are some pointers to help you improve your communication with your little ones.
Try to understand them.
Listen to the child patiently and let them finish what they have to say, without correcting or interrupting.
What appears trivial to you may be very important for him/ her.
Respond, not react:
Instead of reacting immediately to whatever the child says or does, take a few moments to pause and then respond calmly.
Recently a couple came in for therapy with their child who was lying pretty often. During counselling we got to know that the father ran a business from home for which he had to ' manipulate the truth' while talking to suppliers and clients.
Behave in the manner you want your child to behave with others.
The old adage that ' the child learns what he sees, not what he hears' is true. Biologically, our brains are
hardwired to learn through mimicking. So, whether we actually perform an action or we simply watch the action being performed by another, our brain fires the same neurons. For example, when you want your child to calm down, shouting at him/ her is not going to help. Speak to them in a normal voice. Demonstrate calmness through your behaviour with others.
Set an example, rather than preach.
If you want your children to do something other than what they are doing, join them in their activity for a while and then gently ask them to stop it. For example, instead of commanding ' turn off the TV, it's time for dinner', go to the room where your child is watching TV, join him/ her for a few minutes and then, during a commercial break, have him/ her turn off the TV.
Reward your child:
When rewarding the child, try to focus on non- materialistic things,
like a picnic, a family outing or a game together, rather than objects.
Instead of punishing the child when you're angry, wait till you're calmer. Don't take out your anger on your child in the name of correcting him/ her. Punishment is meant to encourage positive behaviour in the child.
When instructing or telling your child to do something, keep it short and simple. The younger the child, the shorter their attention span. You may have to remind them, but avoid nagging while reminding. Try and offer choices wherever possible. Instead of saying, ' change your pyjamas and brush your teeth', ask ' would you like to change your pyjamas first or brush your teeth?'
Follow the rule of two- and- a- half minutes:
When pointing out your child's mistake, try to wrap it up in twoand- a- half minutes. Tell them you want to talk about something very important. In the first 60 seconds, say what he/ she is doing right and how happy you feel about it. For example, ' I am very happy that you shared your chocolate with your sister.' In the next 60 seconds, talk about the problem as a ' scope for improvement'. In the last 30 seconds, tell them that you love them and again praise them for
what they are doing right. If your child is less than six, finish it in one- and- a- half minutes but in the same sequence and proportions.
Expect age appropriate behaviour:
Expecting the child to ' behave maturely' or to ' think about the future', especially when they are less than 10 years old, does not help.
These concepts are alien to them as they live in the present. The logic that parents work very hard and therefore children should study hard holds no meaning for them.
Let children enjoy:
You want to raise a happy child, not a successful robot. Let them enjoy the process rather than the competition. Teach them to take defeat and limitations gracefully.
Let your child see that you are happy. Spend leisure time with them and avoid turning it into teaching time. Limit the exposure to electronic media, TV, iPad, cell phone or video games. Instead interact with them, spend time with them, and try to understand them.
Parenting is an ongoing learning project. If you are open and flexible, it can teach you many things about yourself and about life.
Happy parenting this New Year!
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Share your problems with them at dr. sangbarta@ gmail. com.