Today’s blog is for all the parents who want to succeed in parenting.
It is not easy to raise a child, especially nowadays. Do you remember the last time you bought a car? That car came with a manual no matter what was the model or the brand. In that user manual, it was prescribed what must be done if the oil must be changed, if it had engine problems or any other situation. It is all written there.
When my daughter Jasmin was born, I did not have such manual. And, neither did you when you had your kids. I had to figure out what to do in order to solve the situations I faced. A year after Jasmin was born Samuel came to our lives. And, I said: well, now I have a year of experience as a father. With Samuel it is going to be a little easier because I already “have experience”. How wrong I was! Samuel had a completely different personality from that of his sister Jasmin. The manual I used for Jasmin did not work with Samuel.
My strategy regarding raising the kids has been one of creating a relationship with them based on collaboration instead of power. And I know that for many parents it is not the conventional way, but remember that unconsciously we have had a relationship of collaboration with our children throughout the years. For example, when Jasmin or Samuel cried, we tried to figure out what was happening to them so that we could help them stop crying. If the method we used was not working, we used another method until we found the most effective one to help them stop crying.
Ideally, we continue to do this almost every day. It is simply to try to understand and focus on some of the most important aspects of being parents: to understand our children’s worries, perspective and opinions; considering what troubles them and their point of view, and working together to find realistic solutions that are mutually satisfactory.
Science, nowadays, has provided many studies that support this line of thought. Studies to which we have held on in the las few years as parents, and in my case as a therapist, in order to help those parents who need orientation in this area. One of the authors of those studies who has made contributions to this area is the Clinical Psychologist Ross Greene.
I like this thought written by Helen G. White in her book Child Guidance: “The object of discipline is to educate the child so he can govern himself. Self-confidence must be taught and self-control”. We must help them accomplish the goals by themselves, with our help and under our supervision.
Children do fine if they can. If they can handle the crisis in which they are or if they have the tools needed in order to do certain task or to meet an expectation, they will do fine. There are many situations that are out of children’s control and that may lead them to develop difficult behaviors. The truth is that maybe they do not have the needed tools to deal with those situations.
It is not easy for children to deal with certain situations, such as stress produced by the events life presents. If I, who am more than 50 years old, many times do not know how to deal with stress produced by happenings I face in my life, do you think a child is going to be able to know how to handle stress?
Other situations children may not know how to handle may be the raising techniques their parents have. There are children who are suffering due to the stress and consequences of a rough, hard, strict, difficult and abusive raising style. There are parents who want to raise their children the same way they were raised: disciplined with a stick, yelling and punches. That is abusive. This creates levels of stress and anxiety in the child and has consequences in the long term which can be difficult for the child.
Another situation that maybe children may not know how to handle could be their nervous system’s functioning. Maybe the child is being rebel due to a psychiatric condition that he/she may have, and if that is the case, that condition needs to be diagnosed and treated. Some of those conducts may be: Oppositional defiant disorder, Intermittent explosive disorder, Conduct disorder and Antisocial personality disorder. There are many other disorders that the child might have. If that was the case, until the child gets proper treatment, he/she will not be able to behave correctly because he/she just will not know to do it.
Perhaps the child, simply, does not know how to handle his/her temper. And, as parents, we need to help him/her achieve it and develop emotional intelligence, and also, how to handle his/her emotions. All of this will teach the child to handle his/her inner world in a successful way, so he/she can deal with the exterior world.
Many times, we think the problem our child has is a motivation problem. This is something we cannot just assume. Unless the child has a condition or disorder that allows him/her to have an adequate behavior, it is very rare to assume that he/she is not meeting an expectation because he/she lacks motivation. Very often, skill are the motor of the train and motivation the caboose.
Allow me to share with you 7 steps we can follow in order to raise happy children:
1. Teach them to know God
The first task we must fulfill as parents is to teach our children to know God. He said to the people of Israel in Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”. There is no higher responsibility for parents than this one: to teach their children to know God. God will not ask you to give an account of how much money you invested in your son’s or daughter’s career, but how you prepared them for eternity.
2. Set boundaries
There are boundaries in life. God set boundaries for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Establishing clear boundaries protects relationships and keep them healthy. When these are broken, relationships are affected. Boundaries protect both parts. Children who are not raised with boundaries are children who later will violate other people’s boundaries and will develop conflictive relationships later in their lives.
3. Teach them to have emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is learned in our homes. Currently, it has been proven that a person’s success lies in his/her emotional intelligence and not just in the intelligence quotient. Emotionally intelligent parents teach their children to handle their emotions since a very young age. They do this task by emulating a correct management of emotions and taking advantage of every opportunity possible to help the child identify the emotion he/she is experiencing so he/she can be able to manage it correctly.
4. Teach them how to love
Loving is something we learn. It is learned in our homes, especially in the first 12 months of children’s lives. The way the father or mother develop an emotional connection with their children from a very young age will determine the mindset they are going to develop later in life to express love to other people. Parents can develop a secure attachment with the child that will allow him/her to identify a range of emotions that will show him/her how to receive and give love. On the contrary, if parents have developed an insecure attachment, it will show the child that primary caregivers are not to be trusted, therefore, they will lack of love and affection and their ability to receive and give love will be greatly affected.
If you have heard about the five languages of love, then, try to speak the same love language your child speaks: express affirmative words, share quality time, give physical touch the importance that it has, give him/her gifts and be helpful. This way your child will understand you love him/her and will express love to others.
5. Be aware of your own needs and limitations as a parent
The problem many parents have is that they are not aware of their own limitations. Children are really hurt when we, as parents, do not acknowledge the limitations we may have. Every parent must ask himself/herself, what limitations do I have in the raising of my children? It is imperative that we as parents understand that the raising style we are using to raise our children is very connected to the way we were raised by our parents in our families of origin. We unconsciously project in our children the traumatic experiences we have lived in the past. A parent who is aware recognizes his/her limitations when raising the children and seeks professional help and psychoeducation in order to do it in an optimal way and with love.6.Identify the limitations your children have regarding certain skills
Dr. Greene suggests that parents must begin by identifying the challenges their children face. There is a term, “lagged skills”, that are those skills that make difficult for children to adapt to the daily challenges in life at a cognitive level. Identifying when the child finds things difficult may help parents begin to understand why they behave the way they do. Besides, it will help them understand that the child cannot do it in a different way until he/she receives help in order to grow in these lagged skills.
Several researches performed in the last 40 or 50 years tell us that children who defy good behaviors lack of important skills, especially flexibility/adaptability, tolerance to frustration and problem solving. This is why they explode or display defying behaviors when certain situations demand those skills. A wise parent works very hard to help his/her children overcome those limitations.
7. Solve problems with your children in a collaborative way
Many parents solve their children’s behavioral problems in a unilateral way, imposing rules and high expectations. And, when children do not meet those expectations, parents get frustrated and they call their children undisciplined and rebel, sometimes even committing emotional abuse. There are studies which prove that success can be reached if you and your children solve problems together. When it is done this way, both become partners, teammates and not enemies or adversaries.
My desire as a parent is reflected in this prayer I read a while ago and that I want to share with you:
Father in heaven, make me a better parent.
Teach me how to understand my children, to patiently listen what they say, and to kindly answer their questions.
Help me not to interrupt them or contradict them.
Make me be polite towards them in the same way I want them to be towards me.
Prevent me from laughing at their mistakes or ridiculing them when they do not do what I like them to do.
Bless me with the greatness of giving them all their reasonable requests, and the courage to deny the privileges I know will hurt them.
Make me fair and kind.
And help me, oh Lord, be loved and respected, and imitated by my children, amen.