As parents, our goal is to raise happy children and at the same time prepare them to be resilient and ready for the outside world. At times this can feel like an uphill task – how can we equip our children to stand on their own feet and face the realities of life, and yet preserve their innate honesty and optimism? Come what may, the responsibility falls on us adults to nurture their self-confidence, sense of self-worth and positive perspective in life. It is up to us to furnish our children with the skills to cope with future challenges. Children are quick learners and, like sponges, they absorb everything, the bad along with the good. So, presenting yourself as a good role model suddenly becomes of utmost importance. Having said that, parenting is not about being perfect; rather, it’s about embracing each child’s uniqueness and creating a progressive environment to form their character, and converting any mistakes made along the way into positive learning outcomes.
The guiding hand must be firm.
As responsible adults, we are often faced with the dilemma of whether to use the carrot or the stick; whether to raise our voice and call a “time out” when dealing with a temper tantrum or pacify the child and offer an inducement for better behaviour. In my experience, discipline is an important ingredient in building self-control and strong character from an early age. Some may disagree with this for being unnaturally authoritative and imposing your will on the child. But personally, I feel that children benefit from knowing their boundaries and a firm, but gentle will can go a long way in making them future-ready.
Guidance comes from the root word guide. Let us strive to act as a guide for our children to nurture their own internal controls, a positive self-image and problem-solving skills. Children should feel free to approach their parents for direction at any time, without inhibition or fear of being reproached. This allows them to cultivate discretion and become competent in their interactions with others. I offer below a few more tips on how we can provide positive guidance to our children:
- Show respect: This is a two-way street. In order to foster deference towards others, children need to be shown respect too. If we lead by example they are more likely to treat others with the same respect.
- Develop family rules: Introduce some rules to be followed by your family. For instance, you can agree that everyone in the family will sit down for dinner together. Everyone can make an effort to appreciate the food put in front of them and understand the importance of not wasting it. Even while pandering to special requests, try to cultivate a healthy respect for food and good eating habits.
- Create family time: Develop an atmosphere at home that encourages open and candid discussions. Use of mobile phones and other distractions should be dissuaded during family time. In general, conversation, use positive words when describing other people.
- Redirect their energy into creativity: Try to handle children below the age of three with extra care. They are at an age when they are flexing their independence and can be persistent with wayward behaviour. Creating a diversion and transferring their energy and attention to a more creative activity, like storytelling, is ideal on such occasions. This works like a dream with my grandson; with a little patience and a simple chat he’s happy to be diverted into better conduct.
- Maintain set timings: It helps if children are made aware of their time limits for every activity, like work and play. Try to maintain time schedules from the very start so that they realize the value of their productivity. Of course, they will put up resistance and even call you a dictator (only half-jokingly!), but in the long run, this will stand them in good stead, helping them to develop consistency and healthier habits as adults. In any case, a cheat day is always allowed, especially on holidays.
- Lend an ear: Make an effort to be there for your kids. Listen to them patiently. They may not be happy with some of your rules and might question your authority, and you need to hear them out. They might have an alternative idea which may turn out to be better for the family. They have the right to ask questions until they are satisfied with the answer. This will also engender maturity and responsible behaviour if their uncertainties are treated with love and understanding.
- Help them develop inner resolve: Sometimes, despite our reassurance, children feel insecure about major changes in their lives. Even toddlers are known to experience anxiety at such times. There are many techniques to soothe them and allay their fears like story reading, listening to music or playing games. However, in my opinion, if every child were taught yoga, relaxation, and meditation techniques right from the start it would have a hugely beneficial effect. It would improve their overall well-being and build their physical strength and inner resolve. Thus, we can arm them with confidence, competence and integrity to become socially responsible humans full of compassion and empathy for all sentient beings.
Children are inherently cooperative if they are treated equally with respect when their feelings and opinions are heard and guided properly. They shape up into more self-assured and capable adults and are a huge reward for the love and patience you have poured into their upbringing.