Parenting is both a rewarding and challenging task. There is no such thing as a perfect parent; just a well informed good enough parent. Certain parenting behaviours that have been passed down from generation to generation have dire consequences. The current generation has pressure from all directions, academically and socially. It is important that the home is a safe place for everyone in the family to retreat too as parents are also tired and stressed. There is some key point to remember that will ensure a safe and stress-free environment for parents and children. Most of you reading this article, I am sure, know not to treat children as such. However, understanding why we should not engage in certain parenting habits is critical for our children’s future. Here are some typical examples of practices that parents may do but may not realise its effect on children;
Physical punishment is not a good idea.
Children are smaller and weaker than adults, and often feel powerless. When you hit your child or punish them physically, you teach them that the world is not a safe place. This can lead to difficulties for children to develop relationships with peers and other adults. It may also lead to depression, anxiety and in severe cases PTSD. Physical punishment also teaches children that it is ok to physically punish others. This may also result in more aggression at school. Bullies are a prime example of children who are victims of domestic violence. It does not just end at school, in fact, researchers have found a link between men who abuse their wives or girlfriends were most likely exposed to domestic violence as children. (http://psychnews.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/pn.47.1.psychnews_47_1_12-a)
Consequences of neglect.
When you neglect our children physically or emotionally, they are more likely to develop symptoms of depression. Neglected children fail to thrive and have a difficult time finding meaning in life and other relationships. This is because they believe that they are not good enough to be loved. This has severe consequences for a child’s self-esteem. Neglected children tend to achieve less in school, and lose motivation. Neglected children will have a slower brain development, which can lead to poor physical health later in life. When neglected children become adults, they tend to show signs of problems in social skills, learning and cognitive disabilities, and they struggle maintaining relationships.
Consequences of verbal abuse.
Children have an inner dialogue that is a reflection of their parent’s voices. When you tell a child he is lazy, fat, stupid, etc.; he will believe he is lazy, fat or stupid. When a child believes this, they act that way. They lose motivation and their self-esteem drops. Negative self-talks that result from verbal abuse often leads to symptoms of depression and lowers your child’s ability to be resilient. If your child needs to change behaviour, such as grades in school, provide constructive criticism. For example, “You have been doing well this year in English, but we need to figure out how we can improve your math skills. Let’s sit down together and work on your addition.” What many parents may not know is that verbal abuse has long-lasting effects on a child and it can take decades to overcome. It can also affect the child’s brain development. “Born into a safe, attentive, and attuned environment, the child’s brain develops normally; when born into one which is either unsupportive or hostile, the brain does not. Studies show that various parts of the brain are affected by a hostile situation. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/tech-support/201611/the-long-lasting-pain-childhood-verbal-abuse)
Children model behaviour; they will do what you do.
Children learn how to cope with emotions by watching you.If you want your child to speak about their emotions instead of shouting or throwing things, you need to show them how to do this. If you want your child to show you respect, you need to also show your child respect. Children are little people and should be treated like little people. Children are kinesthetic and often feel what you are feeling. When you are angry, they will feel angry. A good rule is to breathe and speak in a calm voice. Children are a blank canvas on which their world would be shaped and seen depending on what you choose to expose them to.
What we can do as parents:
A child will be more resilient and motivated when he feels safe. To create a safe environment, predictability is required. Predictability happens when the child is aware of all of the rules and consequences. If you know that your child will want to pour glue on the table, before you give them glue say, “If you pour this glue on the table I will take it away, and you will have to clean up the mess.” Ask them if they understand before you give them the glue. This way there will be a less likely chance they pour the glue on the table, and if they do, they are less likely to have a temper tantrum when you take the glue away.
A child’s play is his work. When you need them to stop playing, always warn them that they have five minutes left to play before they clean up. This way they are not surprised when it is time to put the toys away.
It is also a good idea to let children know what will be happening that day. Try to keep surprises and unpredictability to a minimum.
Practice self-care and compassion.
Parenting is difficult when you are tired and stressed. Make sure to take time out for yourself; you deserve it. Parents often feel guilty for this, but timeout leads to a more patient and understanding parent.
Dr Monica Borschel is a Clinical Psychologist who specialises in loss and attachment. Get in touch with Dr. Borschel: firstname.lastname@example.org