Recently I was listening to a conversation between two mothers. It sounded all too familiar. Both of them spared no stone unturned in pouring out their frustrations in dealing with their respective 7 to 8 year old children.
Mother A: Until I show him cartoon on TV, not a morsel of food will enter Hrishikesh’s mouth. He is such a troublesome eater. Not a single day has he eaten without getting a scolding or even a beating from me. Look, look, how innocent he is acting now! [Hrishikesh looking towards his mother and keenly listening to her conversation]
Mother B: Oh, don’t tell me about it Shanta. My boy is no less. Its not only in eating, but also in making him do his homework, waking him up in the morning to go to school. These days he is pestering us to buy him some video game that all his classmates have. My mother says raising her three kids was a breeze as compared to raising this one child. She calls him ‘chota shaitan,’ isn’t it Rohan! [Rohan runs amok in the courtyard screaming, ‘I am chota shaitan….I am chota shaitan.’]
Both the mothers had a good laugh. The conversation went on and each of their child’s not-so-glorious qualities was discussed and then their helplessness in the matter shared. Then they moved on to the glories of children of their own generation and worried about what is in store for mothers of the future and soon they realized that it was time for them to depart. So, they did.
My dear readers, it is the general habit of a mother to complain about her child’s non-cooperative behavior. But if one has the best interest of the child, she will realize that it is the worst thing she can do to cure it, especially to discuss your child’s negative behavior and tendencies in the presence of the child. When the child hears conversations after conversations of his own negative behavior, it has a reinforcement effect. The tendency is to discuss negative behavior most not only with one friend but with as many as we talk to- with other family members such as the husband, parents and in-laws and neighbors too. The child listens to it and absorbs it all the time and it also does not help in building a healthy relationship with your child.
Now, try this exercise. Put your own self in place of the child and imagine someone else (maybe your parent) project you as non-cooperative, disobedient etc and that they are fed up with you. They discuss you negatively in their conversations with family members, friends and neighbors. How will you feel at about it? What happens to your self-esteem? Will feelings of injustice and resentment stir inside you?
As parents, our foremost duty is to think of our child as a human being with feelings and emotions and secondly every action of ours has a deep and indelible impact on the child at every stage of his life. How careful we must be in handling the child!
A child is a god given gift to learn about your own shortcomings and fill those gaps. Parenting is an art. We, the parents, are the sculptors and the child is the sculpture. If we handle the sculpture roughly, the sculpture might break. If we donot chisel it carefully, it might look ugly. So, how we want the sculpture to turn out, is in our hands. We cannot blame to sculpture to have turned ugly on its own, can we?
It is never too late to bring about changes in your child’s behavior.
- Change your attitude towards your child – stop complaining about your child to all and sundry. If you ever want to do it, do it in private either with your spouse or a close friend with the purpose of finding a positive solution. If you are simply pouring it out to someone, you are wasting your time and spreading negative energy.
- Own the child’s responsibility with maturity – check if you respond to the child or you react to the child. Are you able to remain calm and steady and seek a positive solution or are unable to check your own anger. Do you handle the child and his unending demands patiently or are quick to show impatience?
- Bring in your creativity to solve a persistent problem- Eg: The child gives you a hard time to eat his dinner. Change the feeding pattern. Try to include the child (as young as 2 yr old can be included) into preparing the meal and proudly announce to all family members that your child has cooked something delicious today. Lighten up your mood for dinner and narrate a funny story to the child as you feed the child. Or play hide and seek (at the table) or invent a game that interests the child. Make mealtime interesting and not a session where the child gets a mouthful from you every time he has to gulp down a mouth full. Become a creative problem solver.
- Positively reinforce the child: When we speak positively of the child, the child is encouraged to behave positively. Do make it a point to share the good deed of your child with your spouse or your other family members. Eg: when the child completes his homework, tell him you are proud of him. Tell others about it.
- Accept your child with love: Accepting your child doesn’t mean you accept his negative behavior or agree with all of his choices. It does mean that you accept him at a basic level of being human– with his own feelings, flaws and struggles.