Positive Parenting

Positive Parenting
Today, with such fast-paced lives and increasing stresses and pressures, it is difficult to implement constructive and positive ways of parenting a child. 'You've got their whole world in your hands' - it's a scary thought, but in some ways it is almost comforting to know that there have been billions of people, who have been bought up by parents and guardians, and generally, have turned out relatively 'normal'......... As parents, our general role is to set an example and provide a beneficial role model for our child to look up to, because as much as we all don't want to believe it, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Yes, you do raise your children in a similar way to your parents, and yes they'll do the same to their children; so perhaps more positive parenting ideas wouldn't go astray considering it looks like they'll be applied for generations to come.

As much as parents don't like to admit it, there are times when their judgment is not perfect and the wrong child goes unpunished, or the crime is wrongly blamed. It takes a lot for most parents to sit down and tell a 6-year-old that they are sorry and were mistaken, but this is precisely what children will appreciate the most. Accept your mistake and apologize to your child -not only are they more likely to forgive if you show this them genuine remorse, but they will also remember in the future the sign of the respect you had for them and are more likely to reciprocate it when they are the ones needing to apologise. Even to teenagers, who are at a stage when they see their 'right' beliefs as the only ones, it may feel defeatist to apologise to a teenager. More often than not, an adolescent will initially get the satisfied, smug grin on their face when you apologise and you can bet that the first thing that flashes through their mind is 'I told you so!'. After the initial superiority surge, though, they will respect you all the more for the apology - for the esteem you have shown them, as well as your ability to treat them as a young adult and admit that you are only human and can too, make mistakes.

The 'N' Word
For anyone who has tried telling a 4-year-old they are not permitted to watch 'Hi-5' until they have packed up the masses of Lego blocks and Barbie heads that are adorning the living room, kitchen, dining room and bathroom floors, having teeth removed is a more comforting thought. Telling a 14-year-old that no, she is not permitted to travel on the train to the city with her best friend at 10pm to watch an exclusive Orlando Bloom movie marathon, makes the 4 year old seem bearable. At least (hopefully) the 4-year-old hasn't discovered the shock value of expletives and the irritating quality angry-gothic-rock music; but no matter what age your child is, as much as positive parenting is about being positive and supportive, it's also just as much about reasonable discipline and boundaries. While it may be quicker to say yes to a child each time to avoid the embarrassing stares of fellow supermarket shoppers or piercing screams resounding throughout the neighbourhood, children need to accept restrictions and boundaries from home, because similar restrictions and rules also exist at school and most other environments they will encounter throughout their lives.

This is not to say compromises can never be reached between parent and child. There are many instances when some negotiation does need to take place. It's hard not to just 'lay down the law' and take the 'like it or lump it' attitude, but finding a middle ground, at which both parties are satisfied, means that you will be both more likely to keep your side of the agreement - so if you've agreed to pick up a teenager at 11pm from a birthday party, arriving at 10:30 and sitting in the car in the driveway and pranking their mobile incessantly to remind them you are there, does not constitute as keeping up your end of the bargain; the same goes for them, if they stumble home after 1am.

Set a good example
Possibly one of the oldest clichés in the parenting manual 'do as I say, not as I do' is deserted from the moment children can hear, see and process basic information. Telling any child that smoking is vile and drinking is unhealthy is useless when followed by your trip to the kitchen to grab cigarettes and a glass of Scotch to relieve the day's stress. Calling your boss numerous expletives to your spouse at the dinner table or to your best friend on the phone, followed by punishing your child for calling their sibling an 'idiot' the next day, again removes the credibility and the work you have done in teaching your child to be a moral, polite individual. Any comments of an intolerant, racist, expletive, derogatory or degrading nature easily penetrate your child's mind and memory. There are influences, such as school, which also play a large role in your child's vocabulary and actions; but the foundations of their manner, tolerance and morality are built in the home.

1 negative - 10 positive
Sometimes in a short, infuriating period of time, 40 negative thoughts may run through a parent's mind, if all these comments are expressed to the child, then 400 positive thoughts are needed to balance it out. Calling a child 'stupid' immediately degrades their belief in their intellect and are retained in their memory in the long-term. Even indirect comments about a child's physical appearance, like 'Your hips have certainly rounded out' to a teenage girl or 'Your arms are rather scrawny' to a teenage boy in the midst of puberty, lead directly to insecurities, the feeling of letting you down, and for not measuring up to society's views of what the 'perfect' body is. Every time a negative comment is directed to a child, they instinctively recall every other disparaging comment that has ever been made about them -bringing them down and weakening the belief they have in themselves. Remind your child every day of their positive attributes, even from very young, so that when they reach they age that media images begin to gnaw away at their self-esteems, they will not have such severe insecurities about themselves, and will not take most of it to heart.

Get them involved!
With studies showing that in during the final years of school, students who are more involved with extra-curricular activities, fare better at the end of the year when they sit their exams; giving a child plenty of opportunity to get involved in numerous creative, athletic and academic activities enables them to utilise more of their mind and abilities. But remember, although you may have been a fanatical ballet dancer or the star ruckman of the local football club does not necessarily mean that your child will follow in your dexterous footsteps in these areas. By all means, find different activities and allow your child to participate in them - and if there is a strong opposition to an activity after several months, find out why. Is it the teacher? Or perhaps the children in the class? Or it may be as simple as the fact that your son was just not meant to be the next Tony Lockett of the Wagga Wagga's Under 7's team.

Disliking an activity does not give the green light to just give up and let them be consumed in front of the television and computer screens. Continue to pursue different activities in search of some that suit your child. If your child is not athletically inclined, still maintain some physical activity they enjoy; if they are not artistically apt don't bombard them with sport and only sport 7 days a week. Allow your child to find activities and sports they like, and stick to them. Going to 2 ballet classes is not allowing a child to fully experience the world of ballet, just as letting your son quit football after 1 game because he didn't kick any goals does not let them build any experiences or interests. Keeping a child interested and involved keeps them away from becoming the permanent dint in the couch and the monotonous robot glued to the computer screen - it also gives them a chance to meet children of similar ages with similar interests.

Not only do extra-curricular activities allow your child to build their unique personality, but they also assist in the development of confidence. Activities that allow a child to feel a sense of accomplishment - whether it is playing in a grand final, performing at a Christmas concert, or having their work pinned up on display, activities that allow a child to feel confident about themselves and their talents and abilities create a child who will have more self-assurance as they progress through life.

While drafting this article, I sent a copy to a close friend for her opinion about what I'd written, to which she replied, "As a parent- I know I make a lot of mistakes, but I also know that I am right most of the time… However, parents really do take time to regroup their beliefs, expectations, ideas and ideals in order to keep in touch with reality...and although we many times see ourselves as our parents, believe you me...many more times I have to shake my head and totally change the way I'm going if I'm anything like my parents...I haven't succeeded yet in all aspects, however I'm working on it...because I'm looking and listening and learning day by day… Parenting skills are acquired one day at a time..."

There is no magical formula to raising the perfect child - because magical formulae and perfect children simply do not exist, but words of encouragement, communication and fostering creativity and independence within a child are sure to provide a more rewarding childhood for them, and a more satisfying parenthood for you.

by Natalie Devitsakis

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