Few people become parents with a comprehensive blueprint of how they will raise their kids – and even when they say they do, a situation of perhaps some quirk in the nature of their kids throws a wrench into good intentions and well-made plans.
The new human beings you created may be averse to good habits you try to instill in them such as brushing their teeth or addressing their elders with respect; they may enjoy playing computer games far too much, to the detriment of their studies; they may venture into an unsafe area of your community, despite your having deemed this place off-limits.[pq]Parenting often presents such challenges, and you may find yourself in a clash of wills with your children and having to deal with tantrums, withdrawal, and disobedience.[/pq]
Whether you like it or not, parenting involves establishing rules in the home and for the family-as well as seeing to it that these rules are met. According to Dr. Honey Carandang, clinical psychologist and professor, each of your kids does not only need rules and limits. “It is also the child’s right to be given limits, or else the child will be confused,” she explains.
“It is the responsibility and duty of the parents to establish limits. If they (children) are clear about their limits, they feel a sense of security. Firm limits [help them] know that something will be there to stop them if they do bad things.
Dr. Carandang shares five elements parents should know about implementing discipline:
Before you can say “no” convincingly, you have to be convinced about the rule that you want your kids to follow. “A child will sense your tentativeness, “ says Dr. Carandang. “Even if you shout, if your face, your body, and your eyes show [hesitation], you can’t say ‘No’ convincingly.”
Whatever rule you set, make sure it is clear, and that you and your children understand it in the same way. Dr. Carandang advises explaining the rule “ at the level of children”- that is, in words, and ways they can understand. Then ask your kids to say the rule in their own words, so you know that what you mean is clear to them.
“Children need to hear [the rule] from the parent consistently,” says Dr. Carandang. “Not just once, but in different situations.” If you show inconsistency, she adds, “Children [will forgive you for that], but they know the trend or pattern” of whether you are firm and consistent about effecting the rules your set. Consistency also means that “both parents (in two-parent families) have to be clear about the rules, the absolute ‘No.’”
“Parents have to be vigilant about [consequences],” says Dr. Carandang. This is because, especially in the Philippines today, consequences for wrongdoing are so little seen outside the home; consider any number of high profile personalities who have lied, cheated, or stolen, and yet remain in power, socially or politically.
Consequences, however, apply not only to wrongdoing but also to “right doing.” Says Dr. Carandang: “Parents always think it’s their duty to correct. It’s also their duty to affirm what is right. That may be what is lacking.”
The key to establishing rules and limits, says Dr. Carandang, is doing so respectfully, without shouting or threatening. “You discipline your child because you care that the child has correct habits,” she says. “[But you] may not be aware that you are not saying it with respect. Underlying all the C’s is Respect.”
She recalls a recent national survey in which third graders, sixth graders, high-school students, and college students were asked if they believe their parents should tell them what is right and wrong, and give them advice. All the young survey respondents answered Yes-but that their parents should tell them so with respect.
Five Important Questions
Parenting is no walk in the park. Truly effective parenting requires much thought and introspection. Ask yourself the following questions which promote self-discovery and reiterate the above mentioned 5 Cs:
1. How was I parented?
“Parenting brings out the issues unresolved in your life,” , says Dr. Carandang. “if you don’t reflect, usually the patterns you have absorbed are repeated from generation to generation. When you become more aware, you have the choice to change the patterns.”
She adds that it is important to “always be aware of how you were parented in order to parent your own children out of choice and in a thoughtful way, a mindful way, not just out of an automatic reaction.”
Also, children absorb not so much what you say as what you do; but most of all “they absorb what you are… because yourself is what you give them.”
2. Do I believe in the rule?
Ask yourself this question about each rule you set in the house. The better to determine your conviction about it, the greater your integrity in setting it and implementing it.
3. Do my kids and I understand the rule in the same way?
Ask this question when you set a new rule or are discussing the rules in your family. It is also a useful question to ask when your kids appear to have broken a rule. Ask them what they thought their limits were, to check if the misconduct actually stems from a difference in their understanding of that particular rule.
4. Do I know my children?
“Parents must know each child, because [each child is] different,” says Dr. Carandang. Knowing each of your children will help you to tailor your communication to the needs and level of each one. Being able to communicate with each of your children in ways they understand will help in maintaining clarity and order in your family.
5. Why are my kids acting this way?
Carandang says that kids don’t do anything without a reason. Therefore, when your kids throw tantrums, ask yourself what could be the underlying reason for it. You can ask your kids, too. “Maybe discipline is inconsistent,” Dr. Carandang suggests, “Or your child wants attention, or this is her way of getting what she wants, or she may fell frustration about expectations she cannot meet.”