A child learns through imitation till the age of 7, reflecting the actions, language, culture et al of parents and immediate family. For example, if a child is born in a family that prays before meals, the child too learns the same; if there are loving exchanges among the family members, the child learns how to exchange love with others; if the members of the household pick up fights with each other, the child learns to fend for himself or herself through fights. Therefore, the home environment is the primary source of learning in these formative years.
So, when we deal with our child’s problem, more than correcting the child’s behavior, we have to first look at what the environment is. As parents, we have to closely look at our thoughts, our actions and our outlook in life, which the child is closely observing and absorbing every second of the day, before we can conclude where the problem is.
Let’s look at what are the needs of a child. A child needs two primary things from parents: love and attention.
A child naturally seeks love from the parents. Love is the basic need, not only of a child but of human beings at large. What it means for a child is not that you buy the next toy demanded, but that the child needs to know you really care. It could be that you set aside some time that you will spend with the child, like playing with the child every day, reading a bedtime story, cooking meal that the child likes with the child on your side etc.; basically, spending some time exclusively with your child. You can figure out how your child wants you to spend time with him or her in specific, and make it happen for the child. Mind you, the child looks for attention from both the parents, so both have to put in that effort. The child has the intelligence to perceive how much effort you put to take your precious time out to spend with the child and the child will value it. When the child values you, the child will listen to you and make an attempt to understand what you are saying.
Love also means a lot of physical closeness with the child – hugging, kissing, cuddling, snuggling etc. from both the parents. You might think your 10 year old is a grown up boy now and might have weaned out of physical affection of the parents. That is unfortunately not the truth. Every child (unless there is a medical condition needing therapy or intervention) needs physical affection of the parents. It reassures the child and builds his or her sense of security. And only the parents can give this through their affection and attention.
A child seeks parents’ attention as it is his or her birthright and when the parents get busy with other priorities in their life, the attention seeking child resorts to negative tactics to gain the attention of the parents—crying, bawling, breaking things, not listening to instructions, nagging and even anti-social behavior, the list is a long one! When this happens, repairing the situation means to really take a deeper look at your priorities in life and see how you can make changes in your lifestyle to accommodate the needs of the child.
Upbringing of your child is an art and a long term investment of time and effort. There are no shortcuts to it. Recently, one of our family friends applied for one year leave to take care of his new born child. This is his second child. He had previously quit his job to take care of his 1st born child as well. He wants to invest time and effort in bringing up his children in the most loving environment and that is the secret of getting your child’s attention.
As parents, you have the prerogative to create a healthy environment for your child so your child has the opportunity to blossom under your loving care.
In the next few articles, we will discuss how your listening skills can affect the child and what undivided attention really means; when to say ‘no’ to your child and how to say it; and how to create a nurturing environment of love and care for your child.