I had a very interesting conversation at work last week about how many of my colleagues over 35 are with their original partners (ie; first marriage/defacto relationship). When we thought about it we could only think of 4 or 5. I’m not over 35 but I know I definitely don’t fit into that category, and the statistics on divorce seem to be increasing the more I hear about them. There are so many broken marriages and relationships out there, not to mention the children who have lived in single parent families, from either a marriage break-up or because they lost a parent due to unforeseen circumstances.
It’s hard enough for kids to grow up in a society with bullies, where they have to learn their place and how to fit in, as well as grow emotionally and physically and cope with those changes and continue trying to fit in. Now we have childhood obesity. Is this how children cope with their issues, they find comfort in food? Or is this a family matter whereby parents are over-compensating with food treats because they are easily accesible, it’s an easy fix and even low-income earners can work this way? I have witnessed parents bargaining with their children in moments of desperation, I have seen them bribe children with promises of lollies, cake, dessert… Where do we draw the line? Whatever happened to treats being about rewarding the good behaviour, not just handing them out because the child happened to grace us with some?
I worked in child-care, so I get it. There are parents out there with children who they struggle to control, imagine how hard it is for an outsider when parents can’t issue a set of expectations and stick to them, the kids don’t consider authority with any credibility.
I forever hear “back in my day …” sentences when discussing the behaviour of children today. People are often saying they turned out just fine watching tv all day, and being disciplined with a leather belt, wooden spoon or various other implements. That maybe the case, but what about psychologically? We have a group of parents out there who think they should raise their children the way they were raised, and to some degree that’s right. We should pass on the values and respect we have for our parents, we should set strict guidelines like our parents set for us, but we should not inflict harm on them, we should not do anything to psychologically harm them. There are other ways.
What we should be doing for children is moulding them, moulding their behaviour by demonstrating it to them with our own. When we yell at them, raise our voices or argue with partners, we are showing them how to react to similar situations. We should be giving them the tools to manage their own emotions, and learn self control. We shouldn’t be bribing them for good behaviour, we should set out expectations, and reward their good behaviour without telling them we will if they behave. It should be a spontaneous reward, however praise for good behaviour and achievements it crucial. I think this is where some parenting styles tend to go wrong. I have witnessed parents so frustrated with their uncontrollable children they are hanging by a thread emotionally, they will threaten, yell and bribe with any means necessary. However, I have seen some wonderful parenting ideas that work really well, but again this will not work with all children.
The Basics: You must start from day one!
- Set out clear guidelines
- Speak with very simple instructions/explanations ie: instead of clean up your room, try: put your clothes in the cupboard and toys back in the box
- Never reason with them
- Make it clear what you expect from them – for example around the house it’s expected that everyone helps (unpacking the dishwasher, tidying, setting the table) These tasks can be praised but should not be rewarded with treats
- Pick incentives for children to earn – this is different from what is expected of them around the house
- Treat them with respect, and treat other people around you with respect – don’t use language you don’t want them to repeat
- Teach them to respect each other and encourage team work
- If you are at your wits end, take some time out for a few mins as you would them – teach them that everyone needs some time out (not “timeout”) to think about what has happened and that it’s ok to have some quiet time whenever we need it
- Stick to a routine – it helps them know what to expect, and what you expect and gives their day the same structure they have at school
- Have some “quiet time” in the afternoons (excluding school days – however this may become homework time) quiet time gives you the chance to have a break and them a chance to wind down – you could initiate it by reading them a book and then leaving them a pile to read through quietly to themselves
- Teach them the value of money, the value of earning and the value incentives as they get older by giving them something to work towards – a good idea I saw was a $50 toy and as they do extra things around the house they earned tokens, and they could go up in increments. For example 10 tokens might equal $10 so then they could layby the item and to keep them interested take them in to pay $10 at a time as they continue to earn. I have also seen this done in an adventure style if you’re more creative
- If children are already hard to manage try having a brag book – where they earn stickers for good behaviour with no prompting
- Reward children with quality time and activities – this works well with the brag book, when they have earned a particular amount of stickers they can be rewarded with a trip to the park, a bike ride etc lucky tips also work in this style too but often lead to clutter
- Never threaten something you can’t follow through – you will lose your credibility
Now discipline is a hard topic to talk about as people have differing views. Some believe in time out or thinking time, where as others believe in taking things away. I’m not a parent, and I don’t know what my plans will be for discipline, but I would like to think I could take away the best ideas I’ve learned from different families and implement them. I know I will be firm and consistent, and try to teach them good values. At the end of the day we all want children to be the best they can be, everyone has a different idea on the process, but like keeping the house organised I think we can all learn a thing or two from each other and we can share creative ideas we never would have thought of.
Children have been a bit of a common discussion at my place. My partner often sees parents who struggle with their children and says that turns him away from the idea of having our own some day, but when his sister is here and disciplines her daughter he says she puts too much emphasis on discipline when he wants to let her do something because it’s cute. I have tried to explain to him that we need to be on the same team, and make the decisions together, to develop something that works for us. I have emphasised the importance of discipline and boundaries so we don’t have the kinds of behaviour he’s witnessed that turns him away. Currently I think he’s open to the idea again, but this is a good topic for discussion as there are so many different views, and like organising, I like to hear other people’s ideas.
What works for you? In the past I have always followed the guidelines set out by parents since it was their children I was caring for, but when in doubt about specifics I had to make things up or fob it off until parents were home again. I don’t believe in disciplining other people’s children, I think it’s something very specific and individualised, they are moulding their children in their image.