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Raising children

May 9, 2017 | Growth and development

Raising children is one of the most difficult tasks – one you will never feel fully prepared for. However, it is also among the most fulfilling tasks. Here is some advice on responsibilities related to child rearing which is meant to help you feel fulfilled as a parent and enjoy your children even more.

Promote self-confidence among children

Children already begin to develop a sense of self in infancy, when they get to know themselves “through your eyes.” The child registers your voice, body language and each expression. More than anything else, parents’ words and actions are what shape the child’s self-image. Praising children for their accomplishments (no matter how small they are) will foster a sense of pride in them. If you let your children do things by themselves, you will help them feel capable and independent. In contrast, belittling children or comparing them unfavourably to others will make them feel worthless. Avoid sending ambiguous messages or using words as weapons: “How stupid of you!” or “You are more childish than your little brother!” Such comments hurt children “on the inside” the same way that a blow would hurt them “on the outside”. Be sympathetic and choose your words carefully. Help your children understand that everyone makes mistake and you still love them, even if you do not always approve of their actions or behaviour.

Acknowledge the child’s good behaviour

Did you ever wonder how many times a day you negatively respond to your children’s “misbehaviour”? You may find that you criticise more than you praise. How would you feel if your boss was so negative towards you (even if he meant well)? It is much more effective to “catch” the child doing something good: “You made the bed, and I didn’t have to ask you to. That’s great!” or “I was watching you play with the other children and I noticed how patient you were. Mommy is very proud of you!” Unlike severe chastising, comments like this will encourage good behaviour in “the long run”. Try to find something good you can praise every day. Be generous with your rewards: your love, a hug or compliment can do wonders and are often a sufficient reward. You will soon notice that your children are behaving the way you want them to.

Set boundaries and be consistent

Every household needs discipline. Its goal is to help children choose appropriate behaviour and learn self-control. Children are likely to test the boundaries you set, but they are necessary for children to become responsible adults. Setting household rules will help children understand your expectations and develop self-control. These may include: no television before dinner; no fighting or name-calling; no offensive taunting. To successfully enforce these rules, you will need a system “in place” regarding the breaking of these rules: for instance, first a simple warning, then taking away some privileges (watching cartoons, playing in the park), or ending the game. Parents often make the mistake of not being consistent with their “punishments”. You will never discipline your children if your responses to rule-breaking are sporadic. Be consistent with your expectations.

Make time for your children

Due to their numerous obligations, parents and children rarely share meals or spend quality time together. There is probably nothing your child would like more. Wake up 10 minutes earlier to have breakfast with your child, or postpone doing the dishes after dinner and go for a walk together. Children who do not receive the parental attention they crave often behave inappropriately, convinced that this is the way to get attention. Many parents schedule time for their children. For example, tell your children that Tuesday is reserved for a special evening with mum and dad, or let them decide how they want to spend your special time together. Think about other ways in which you can bond with your children: leave them a note or a special toy. It seems that adolescents crave less parental attention than younger children. Since parents and adolescents often have fewer things in common, parents should do their best to be available when their teenagers express the wish to talk or participate in family activities. Attending concerts, playing games and other joint activities will help you develop better communication and find out more about your children and their friends. Do not feel guilty for being a working parent. There are lots of “little things” you can do with your children – such as making popcorn, playing cards, window shopping – which they will remember with fondness.

Be a good role model

Small children learn how to behave primarily by observing you. The younger they are, the more they will follow your lead. Before you lose your temper and start yelling at them, think about whether you want them to act like this when they get angry. Be constantly aware that your children are watching you. Studies have shown that children prone to aggressive behaviour usually witness this type of behaviour in their homes. Demonstrate the traits you want your children to develop: respect, a friendly disposition, kindness, honesty, tolerance, selfless behaviour. Be kind to others, without expecting favours or rewards in return. Thank them and give them compliments. Most of all: treat your child the way you want others to treat you.

prof. dr. sc.  Milivoj Jovančević

General Pediatrics

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