Child Psychology – Raising Children
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As parents, we are all interested in child psychology – we seek to understand what makes kids the way they are. When raising children, we often look for some particular approach that we can utilize so that we can persuade the kids to fall in line to our way of thinking and do what we what want them to do, and be how we want them to be. Oh, that sounds controlling, doesn’t it? Nonetheless, that’s what we generally do: “I know what’s best for my child.” “He is just a child; he doesn’t know any better.”
We have the noblest of motives. We most definitely want them to grow up right – be respectful, truthful, responsible, kind, helpful, successful, the list goes on… We all want our children to be perfect and we turn to child psychology for ways to make that happen.
Exercise Authority, Not Power
Naturally, as devoted parents, we all want the best for our kids. It is not just our desire but also our responsibility to bring up children in a healthy and well balanced manner. Consequently, looking for the right approach for raising children is not out of order. However, experts in child psychology recommend to first evaluate your beliefs, feelings, and dispositions concerning your children and then to check if these perspectives are helping you or hindering you in your effort of raising children.
Raising children should not be a daily power struggle. You think you want an obedient child. Child psychology experts say, no, you don’t! You want a child to do what you say because he or she trusts you, and not because you are bigger and older than him or her. It is not parental power but parental authority that you want to strive for.
I often have parents who tell me that their child absolutely refuses to do something. The other day, this couple buttonholed me at a party. “Oh, you specialize in child psychology? Then maybe you can help our daughter…” (There must be something about me that says I love to give free advice at the slightest opportunity! But, I digress… this is not about me). Their daughter, all of four years, refuses to do whatever they say. “We have to battle with her daily for every little thing. She is so stubborn… always wants her way or she throws tantrums. She wouldn’t wear the pink princess dress that we chose for her birthday. She prefers to sit in a particular chair. She doesn’t want to eat meat… says she is a “vegan.” Where did she learn that word, anyway?” I stated that without seeing the child I wouldn’t be able to make a judgement; however, it is not uncommon for some children to be strong willed. No child is ever born stubborn. A lot of factors turn a child into one, like a stressful family situations combined with the child’s own temperament.
Strong willed children have great potential, they are fast learners, and if guided properly can turn into leaders. On the other side of the coin, if the parents are too unbending themselves and do not to try to work their way around the child, he or she could grow up to become defiant and aggressive. I told the couple may be they were being too forceful and stubborn themselves; they need to evaluate how they were interacting with their daughter.
Here are some ideas on how to deal with a “problem” child:
-The child may have been left to watch TV too much. Restrict the amount of TV. Research in child psychology indicates that more than two hours of TV per day can affect a child physically, emotionally, and psychologically. The parents could be too busy building their own careers and do not have much time to spare for the child. Naturally, the child wonders why she should accept what they say.
-Throwing tantrums or disobeying could be a cry for attention. Try to spend as much time as possible with the child. Children can be frustrated even when playing, when they are unable to understand how to do something. Parental help during playing can prevent this frustration. The child could be bored too when left alone.
-Often times, little children behave in an annoying manner. Ignore this as long as it does not cause any physical harm. In a while, the child will get tired of acting up.
-Do not get into arguments. Remember, it takes two for a fight. Children, just like the rest of us, hate losing face, and if the child is of a strong temperament, more so. Offer choices. A smart child generally would accept the alternate way.
-Respect the child’s wishes. You don’t always have to get your way. If child doesn’t like pink, then so be it; get her orange or whatever colour she likes.
-Praise – something that most parents take for granted and what a child often craves. Praise is a reward that we can bestow on our child for being “good”. Praising or thanking a child for sharing, working hard or for her good manners is one of the easiest ways to turn a stubborn child around.
On the other hand, some parents revel in their “strong-willed” child. “Oh, she is so smart! She is so passionate! You should have heard what she said the other day!” While it is essential that you don’t crush the spirit of a child, you should lay down some ground rules for behaviour and ensure that he or she sticks to it. A smart child would definitely take advantage of an easy going parent. When the child realises that there is not going to be any consequence for bad behaviour, he will completely ignore the rules set by the parents.
Anger in Children
Another important issue that I have often come across in my work in child psychology is anger. Unresolved anger in children can be self destructive, especially in adolescents.
Anger is a trait shared by almost all children (not just the stubborn ones) who have problems interacting with their parents. Parents tell me it is hard to avoid angering the child; I agree. Parents lay down standards and rules, which they expect the kids to follow. The children become angry at the restrictions, angry when they are grounded for breaking rules, angry at interfering parents, and so on. Even so, we all agree that giving in to a kid in order to avoid angering him or her is bad parenting. There is proven evidence in child psychology that a child that grows up without parental interference is more likely to get into trouble than a child who is constantly monitored by the parents.
The anger that we should strive to avoid when raising children is the one that which is aroused by when exercising power over the child. This brings us back to the basics: Exercise authority and not power when raising children. Use discipline and not punishment in moulding your child.
Anger could also be as a result of insecurity. Fighting parents, alcoholism in the family, or other family stressors can cause a previously normal child to develop problem traits. The child starts losing interest in school activities – has difficulty concentrating leading to poor performance at school, gets into fights, and is typically morose. Parents who are caught up in their own issues usually fail to identify this deviant from normal behaviour until it becomes dominant. By that time, the damage is done; the child is in some form of trouble, and in most cases requires counselling. Spending time daily with your kid is thus most essential for the child’s development.
Quality Time in Raising Children – A Misunderstood Concept
Those parents who juggle their career and life at home raising children know how challenging it is to find quality time with their little ones. How many times have you planned a fun weekend or even a daily family hour only to find work interfering with your plans or simply not having enough energy at the end of the day to be really involved with your child? There goes your “quality time”!
What we can do is make any time with your child a quality time. There is so much time that you are actually with the child – right from the moment you wake him up to when you are dropping him off at school, and later at night before you tuck him in for bed. With some imagination and some pre-planning, you can make this a part of your routine. Whether you are driving or whether it is bath time or dinner time, engage the child, and share stories – ask what’s going on at school and tell him what you did at work. Any time is suitable to inculcate values in your child. Any time is suitable to set an example for your child to follow. Any time is good for raising children!
Child Practitioners at the Centre
Mathew Gaynor is a practitioner at the centre who has experience in treating children.
To get an appointment or to make enquiries, please call (03) 9820-5577.
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