Parenting is something that is inborn. It is called the maternal or paternal instinct. It is this instinct that causes us to want to bring our own children into this world. But slowly and steadily, our parental instincts take a back seat to the changing demands of today’s environment.
We become more concerned about our children’s intelligence rather than his talents. We focus on results even though it is at the cost of our children’s creativity and happiness.
Children are born to be creative, spontaneous, energetic and mischievous. Sadly, we as parents expect them to do as they are told, say and not say particular things, sit quietly, not ask questions, behave appropriately and not giggle or laugh in public.
Don’t we all sometimes rob our dear children of their very own childhood? It is for us to reflect and decide how we want to bring up our children- as responsible, uptight adults who don’t know what childhood is? Or as caring, wise adults who have lived a wholesome childhood full of joy, play and learning?
Let each one of us as parents, teachers or caretakers of our wonderful angels, reflect honestly on our actions and words towards them and pray to God for constant guidance in bringing up His children.
My son, who is 15 years old, is getting very jittery of late. He cannot sit in one place, is always out with his friends and when he’s not, he’s watching TV at home. He seems to spend all his pocket money on movies and is seemingly bunking his tuition classes too. I don’t know what to do. He is a brilliant student but nowadays, he doesn’t seem to be interested in studies at all. I don’t know his friends and where they go. He does not share much with me. I’m worried whether this is due to his age, company or something else. Please tell me how can I keep track of my son and make sure he is doing the right things? -A confused mother
Your concerns are very apt and reasonable. I appreciate your question and your need to be sure about your child’s welfare. Your son is 15 years old and as you reasoned, it may be his adolescent age, pushing him to do things he has never done before which is leaving you baffled. Let me assure you this pattern of events and behaviour is a part and parcel of growing up. He is learning to assert his independence and try out many new experiences, people, activities and styles of doing things. This is the time when children stop looking to parents for support and rely on their peer group instead. They do whatever the peer group does and that becomes their religion. They ask for more freedom and independence and many times more pocket money. Understand this need of theirs to explore their world and live life king-size. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and then your shoes to decide your reactions and responses. While we need to be alert and responsible as parents, we also need to give our children the necessary means and space to grow and explore.
Even though your child may express that he doesn’t need you, the truth is that he needs you more than ever now. He is confused himself in trying to ape the ways of others, trying to fit in his group, trying to impress, trying to be socially wanted and accepted. Nothing is greater than this for him now. You may feel he doesn’t care about what you say anymore and that is true. He is trying to grow out of his old mould as a child into a social human being, with close bonds even outside home. Being supportive and caring will do better for you rather than being critical and ridiculing. Let him know that you are always there for him even though his friends may leave him.Some adolescent mantras:
Never reprimand or abuse your child, especially in public or in front of his friends. This can be damaging to his personality development as well as your relation with him. Let him know what you did not like, when it is just the two of you and in a calm manner. This will have a better impact.
Always back your instructions and suggestions with reasons. Adolescents need to understand why they are being told something. For example, if you want him to say the truth to you, give him the right reasons for it. Your reasons could be; to know and guide him wherever required, to ensure his safety, and to be there for him if anything goes wrong, for your mental peace that you know what is up with him, to avoid the tension of being ignorant about the truth. Give him your reasons.
Remember to be calm and patient, instead of blowing your top on little things. Leave the sternness for more important issues. If he trusts you to take things calmly, he may even confide in you. So work towards being his friend now. You can keep aside some ‘bonding time’ regularly, for both of you or as a family and do something enjoyable together, like walking along the beach, or going for a long drive. Keeping the environment friendly and devoid of negative emotions, allow for discussions on personal matters and sharing of experiences. Listen to what your child really thinks and feels and respect his point of view. This way you will also get to know about his friends, what they do, how your child is within the group, etc. Then you may share your valuable views and suggestions, without expecting him to follow them. It is objective, heart to heart sharing. You can tell him how you feel about him, your love, your concerns, your experiences, etc. Make it a time of friendly bonding, where anyone can say anything to anyone.
Talk to him about sensitive and important topics such as drugs, sex, AIDS, alcohol, etc. Let him know what your views are on this topic. Explain to him about the horrible consequences of drug and alcohol abuse. You can even plan a visit with your son and his friends to the drug rehabilitation centre nearby, so that they can see for the consequences for themselves. Talk to them about sex in terms of; the right age and maturity to have sex, the emotional and physical implications of having sex, such as emotional closeness and security with the sexual partner, risk of pregnancy and with that having to take responsibility of being a parent and provider, the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS (which breaks down the body’s immune system and causes slow and progressive health deterioration), and the use of the necessary precautions.
Be a good role model yourself and practice what you preach.
During discussion, show him both the points of view and leave the decision to him.This will help him to decide what is good for him in the long run. Let him make his mistakes.
Make your boundaries clear and understood, i.e. what is okay and what is not okay with you. Let the home rules be clear like what time to be home by, how much pocket money every month, how much TV time everyday, how much study time everyday, consequence of bunking classes, etc. Once the rules are agreed by your child, make sure that he follows them strictly. With these guidelines, things do get simpler.
Last but not the least, remembering your own childhood and adolescent days, what you felt back then, how you related to people (your friends, parents, siblings), how you wanted people to relate to you, will guide you to deal with such issues much better!
I am the mother of a 6 year old girl and I was blessed with another baby girl 4 months ago. Everything was going fine until my elder daughter started acting weird. She seems to be sad, thoughtful or maybe just more mature. Earlier she used to play with the baby and help with her but now she doesn’t want to even look at her. She hates it when we talk to the baby or play with her. She has also started throwing tantrums for small things. It is getting difficult to handle her and the baby’s needs at the same time. I sometimes even lose my patience and yell at her. My husband comes home from work only at night. He spends some time with her before she sleeps. She is happy then. But till he returns, it is very difficult for me to juggle both the children’s demands. How do I work out things? – concerned mother
Your condition is understandable. It must be very difficult trying to play mummy to kids with such different needs. I’m sure you are doing your best to take care of both of them.
At the same time, your elder daughter’s reactions and mood changes are understandable. She is facing the problem of sharing the attention that was all hers for 6 long years. The sudden shift of your attention towards the new born may be making her jealous of her little sister. Her tantrums seem to be her desperate efforts to gain back the total love of parents that she enjoyed. This is a delicate phase but most elder children grow out of this phase.
Try and identify the immediate reasons for her tantrums or mood shifts. You may realise that something you did or did not do, triggered her to feel hurt or neglected or plain angry. Maybe in your hectic schedule of preparing morning breakfast and feeding the baby, you forgot to give her the box of cookies she had asked for, or scolded her for jumping around you in the kitchen, singing her rhymes (arbitrary examples), or you scolded her for trying to feed the baby, or for making noise, or for watching TV.
These may seem like very insignificant events to you, but to her, it is very big. She is very young to understand that you have ten things to do. All she knows is that she was happy having you around, and you yelled at her. So she may feel that mummy only likes the baby, because she never sees you shouting at the baby. But when you get irritated with her, she ends up feeling feels hurt and unwanted.It could be anything. You scold her once, she feels bad. You yell at her for something else, she feels worse. You rebuke her for not doing something, she feels that maybe you don’t like her anymore after the baby has come. You see the intensity of her feeling goes up each time you lose your patience. Her reactions and tantrums reflect this intensity of feeling. So, you need to end this pattern of events and change the way you normally react to her. All the negatives need to be replaced with positive statements. Find instances to praise and reward her more often.So avoid any negativity towards her in the form of scolding, rebuking, beating or being angry. Think of such instances which have happened. Once you identify these incidents, you can be alert and avoid their recurrence.Make sure you do not miss out on any of her attention needs. If possible, spend some time regularly, where it is just he two of you’ll and play with her or read her favourite story book, etc. Also, let her know that she is still loved by listening when she speaks, by applauding her when she does something good, by remembering to fulfill your promises of doing something with her or taking her for a movie or dinner, etc. Once in a while, do something special for her, like preparing her favourite dish, getting her a new dress, or a box of chocolates, anything that she likes. Never talk negative about her in front of her and as far as possible even behind her back. What you could use for disciplining is a stern look or a stern warning, but never a slap or a mouthful. You could prepare a star chart for her. All you need a bright chart paper and a few neon stars with double sticking tape. Whenever she behaves well, helps you out or plays nicely with the baby, you place a star in front of her name. Whenever she throws a tantrum or disobeys, you remove a star from her chart. This is a handy and smart disciplining tool.Make sure that she socializes enough, has friends, goes to play and has another outlet for emotions, even if it is a grandparent. If not, you can enrol her for hobby classes, society clubs, etc. whatever is available and feasible. If you have a garden near your home, you can take both the children out yourself. You could even send your elder one with her neighbourhood friends to play, if it is safe. At the same time, prepare her joyfully for taking on a new role as a sister. Make helping out with the baby fun, while you sing songs together and change diapers and things like that. Explain to her that you have a lot of work with the baby and not to disturb you when you are in the kitchen or feeding the baby. Make up for that time with her when the baby is asleep or on weekends, when possibly your husband can baby sit your younger one. Make promises to her that you will play with her or be with her at a particular time and stick to your promise. The anticipation of your promised time will keep her happy till then. She will look forward to that time with you. Slowly, she will realise that you also want to spend time with her and have fun with her. If it is possible, get a short time maid to help you with your daily chores.
Taking care of these trifles should help your daughter out. Take it easy, without feeling guilty. I’m sure you will do your best in bringing up two very beautiful human beings!