How often do we feel exhausted by our child’s whining and nagging because they want something that we do not approve of? How often we decide to choose the easy path and eventually give in?
Because I said so vs. Meaningful explanations
Whether it is about having crisps before dinner, getting that toy they have seen in the shop window or it is about your teenage daughter piercing her belly button, we automatically say “No”, at first, aware that we will have to endure the so familiar badminton style exchange of “ Why”-s and “Because I said so”-s. The possible outcomes of this classic power struggle are usually two. We either embrace our capitulation, along with the additional unwelcome perks that come with it - our ground down authority, or we brave the noisy and tearful fall out with our youngsters for a day.
I have decluttered my vocabulary from all parenting answers that induce “but why...” responses back. I have learned to give constructive explanations to my son, if something is not going to happen his way. I make sure I give pro and con examples, discuss the benefits of a different behaviour, or inform him on the positive consequences and negative results. This approach is tried and tested and it works, irrelevant to whether we are talking about a small and insignificant whim or our child grumbles over not been allowed to do something that, say, carries a danger and risk.
Negative talk vs. Positive talk
We are all guilty of seeing the negative, the impossible, the shortcomings in a situation. We inadvertently do so for reasons, which often originate in our own childhood. Many of us are unaware that we get the “don’t”-s, the “shouldn’t”-s and the “can’t”-s from our own parents and now we “torture” our children with them. Leading psychologists confirm that parents unintentionally remodel their kids’ mode of thinking and general way of viewing the world by instilling negative thoughts, which affect their brains' pathways that relate to processing information, decision-making and so forth. Phrases like “No, you can’t jump on the bed!”, “You shouldn’t stare at people” or “You don’t ever talk to strangers!” simply maintain some prefabricated rules that are incomprehensible to a small child.
Personally, I find that omitting the “no”, when I talk to my child, I engage better with him and both of us communicate more effectively. “Some people may feel offended, if you stare at them.” and “When you jump on the bed it may break or you may hurt yourself.”
Dominance vs. Cooperation
No one likes to be bossed about, so why do we sometimes subject our children to hearing orders? “Clean your room!”, “You must wear a hat!”, “The homework needs to be done now and that’s that!” All kids are little rebels at heart. It is in their nature. They are born with an innocent free spirit, which we crush by trying to make them compliant from an early age.
I have learned to ask, for a start, rather than tell my child what to do. By inviting him to cooperate we achieve mutual respect. I would explain to him that it is only fair if we all did our bit around the house, despite having local cleaners every now and again, which do the carpets. I just gently insist that when he puts his toys away, his room looks so much better.
Threats vs. Motivation
When we want our kids to comply, we often dish out the old threats, sometimes stirring in other unhealthy ingredients like blame, shame and guilt. “If you don’t hurry up, you’ll be late for school and I’ll be late for work and then, my boss will get angry and I would loose my job! And then, what are all going to do, hey?” The fear-instilling behaviour on our part is not only damaging to our children’s fragile self-esteem, but it is also often counterproductive. You remember the little rebels?
Instead, try to motivate your children! My favourite trick for a painless and stress-free school run in the morning is to play a game with my son. Whoever wakes up first and gets ready, feeds the pet fish. Other times I would tell him about how great it would be if we walked to school on a sunny day in our beautiful Sydney, rather than using the car. In this way, we would spend more time together and talk. This always works and he is up and ready sometimes even before me.
Ready-made Decisions vs. Choices
We make decisions for our children, but sometimes we tend to overdo it. Naturally, we think that when they are really young, we know best what is good for them.
Experts advise that we should encourage the expression of free will in our kids from a young age by presenting them with a choice. It could be about something unimportant, such as which T-shirt they would like to wear that day. Kids not only cooperate better, when given a choice, but they feel respected by having their opinion valued.
Overprotection vs. Trial and Error
More often than not we deprive our children from the possibility to make mistakes. We know best what would happen if they teased the growling cat too much. They would get scratched, of course. However, by letting our children get hurt sometimes, we are promoting their active learning.
It is not the end of the world if you let your kid go to school without homework, because by „allowing“ your child to go through this, you are helping them learn from the unpleasant consequences that may follow.
We all learn from our experiences. Allow your child to take responsibility for their actions, because only in this way, they will grow into confident and independent adults.