Parenting, is a journey of lifelong learning and evolving. It’s almost like growing up all over again with old experiences revisited, stories retold, emotions repeated and memories retraced with the difference that now, we see them from parent’s point of view. How receptive parents need to be towards behavioral changes in a toddler to teenager?
May be that’s the catch! What happens if we start looking at each situation and expectation from the same standpoint as we had seen it years ago as children ourselves? How did we feel when mother wanted us to wear a particular dress which we were not wanting to? And why did we not want to? If I look back in time, I possibly had a reason to not like that but surely I couldn’t explain it to my mother at that point in time.
Many a times we as kids also made choices which were hard to explain and equally hard to understand the parental differences on those. The responsible reasons to our behaviors could be many ranging from need of freedom to emotional needs or simpler needs of clearer communication or more.
Having lived through the 2a.m feedings, it’s could be time for toddler tantrums, back-to-school blues, or handling your teens. Throughout toddler years till teens, it’s a period of intense growth & holistic development in children. Their brains have an immense growth spurt when they are young and by the time they are six, they already have 80-90% of adult size brains. Which is precisely why these days, early learning is stressed on by researchers, educationists & psychologists across the world.
But the child’s brain remodels itself intensely during adolescence continuing through mid-20s. Teens actually experience significant developmental changes within themselves when the unused connections in the thinking & processing part of your child’s brain are ‘pruned’ away while other connections are strengthened. This is the brain’s way of becoming more efficient, based on the ‘use it or lose it’ principle.
With growing years, your child is likely to become more self-conscious about physical appearances, changes and their self-esteem is often influenced by that. And like in toddler years the teen is also continuously learning about consequences of their decisions & actions and are still developing their decision making skills. Parents would also have to be alert of their child’s search for identity which can be influenced by peer group, cultural background and family expectations.
As children grow out of toddlerhood, they start seeking independence in their own little world. And the demand for independence just keeps growing which is likely to influence the decisions your child makes and the relationships your child has with family and friends. The teenagers are likely to engage in more risk-taking behaviour while at the same time, they are still developing control over their impulses.
From pre-teens to teens, you may notice your child’s strong feelings & emotions at various times. Even the mood is fluttering and unpredictable. These ups & downs are partly because your child’s brain is still learning how to cope up and control emotions in a grown-up way. Standing by them and being empathetic to your child is the foundation of compassionate parenting.
The Five pillars of compassionate parenting are – Understanding. Freedom. Love. Expectations. Communications.
Understanding is one of the most important things that we all should learn as a parent. When we understand our children we become more effective in guiding and nurturing them as they blossom into mature individuals. A good way to develop an understanding of your child is to start observing as they sleep, eat, or play and look for the consistent traits, like what activities do they like best or is adjusting to changes easy for them or is she less verbal about things or what’s her way of expression or what’s his interpretation of a feeling and many such details? If not God, surely secrets of good parenting lie in understanding these details.
When our children turn around and tell us we don’t understand them, we get hurt. That’s natural. What isn’t, is, we actually not understanding them. Let me tell you a little story. The other day I heard a little girl (possibly a 5yr old) telling her mother ‘mom you don’t understand, I can do it’ which caught my attention. What could a 5yr old possibly think which a mother can’t understand?
Later I figured the child complained because the mother shut the car door instead of letting the child do it. So the mother was unaware or doubtful about the capacities of the little girl in attempting the activity. The situation could have been different if the mother let the child shut the door and rechecked it herself once done.
Being aware and showing faith in the competencies of our children build their faith in themselves and their faith in us. A pre-schooler would fight over these while a teenager could be fighting to go to a nightclub alone. It becomes imperative to understand the peer pressure the teens go through and communicate the parental fears across before dictating the big ‘NO’. Given the understanding and available choice of decision making, children appreciate the responsibilities be it a toddler or a teen.
From the toddler years, children learn to gain independence through the developing motor skills or any of the developmental milestones. And as parents one of the most important goals is to raise children who become independent and self-reliant. Parents should be mindful of this fact and appreciate the individual space and freedom required to raise such a child.
Freedom & independence doesn’t mean complete free-range parenting or giving in to everything children say. Freedom means offering choices and offering the freedom to choose & decide. Freedom of choice, freedom to attempt activities & even daily tasks, freedom to ask questions, freedom to express, and freedom of decision making are the inherent human expectations which we often miss out considering in children.
Freedom means letting go of decisions which are not critical in a child’s development like it’s ok if your child wants to decide what to wear to a friend’s party or a family gathering or it’s ok if your child decides to finish her studies after the playtime. What’s important is that you offer enough thoughtful choices and let your child know the rationale of your selections.
The parenting need is to find ways & means to offer freedom within set boundaries and keep expanding the boundaries as they grow older. We have to encourage each child to develop a strong positive sense of self and equip them with the skills necessary to live happily and successfully in a changing world.
Parents often forget that sometime or the other, children have to fight their own battles in life. So offering life on a silver platter is just a digression from the realities. Allowing the children these freedom we let them learn better, help them accept their emotions and teach them accountability.
Love never spoils a child, what does is indulgence. Knowing someone loves you unconditionally and will be standing with you through thick & thin makes you so much more confident of self and life overall. Perspectives change. As a child I would be more prone to own up my decisions or mistakes if I know that would not change the love for me or affect my relationships.
But the moment this love makes way for indulgences, it’s no more love. It is convenience. Handing over the TV remote to the child because he/she has been crying or flooring all over and the caregivers does not have the patience to divert the child’s attention is not love. It is immoderation. Unconditional love doesn’t need to prove itself with gifts, toys, chocolates, giving in to every tantrum or through any conditional reaction.
Children, no matter how smart & intelligent they are, they thrive on love. And just loving them isn’t enough. Expression of love is equally important. When we kiss & hug our children when they are asleep, they don’t know, they don’t feel our emotions. But the same expression gives a remarkable boost to their confidence, their emotions when they are awake.
And when we love someone, we also have expectations from them, a lot indeed! Expectations are never ending if we let them be. Setting the realistic hopes for your child is as important as your own. As a parent, it is important to set reasonable expectations that are high without setting your child up for failure or causing undue stress on them when they are unable to achieve those. And it can happen effortlessly when we appreciate them as themselves and can make the appropriate guidelines for them.
Parents should not set expectations based on themselves. If you’d been lousy at a subject doesn’t mean your child should be expected to be lousy and even your aspirations can’t be dumped on the child as potentials. Expectations should be realistic, achievable, long-term, and in sync with the child’s aspirations.
Communicating with each other in this world of virtual flutter and stressful lifestyle is not just important but imperative to stay connected.
Being a child is difficult. Growing up is even more.
So how hard it must be for a child to live through incomprehensible communications & emotions till they reach your age to understand the perspectives. It must be hard enough!
Let’s not make it more difficult by giving them a world of ‘NO’ or a world of ‘FEARS’. Negative fears or negative emotions create long-lasting impressions in a child’s memory, impedes a lot more in growing up than we usually think and thus contributes to the final make of the child to individual. Communicating the reasons behind your ‘no’s’ will be more helpful than dictating a no or instilling a fear to keep the child away from something.
Comprehensible communications with your child about the freedom you gave, about your worries around them, about the expectations, about the limits and that you care for them makes the BIG difference.
Parents need to be aware that they aren’t just raising children but raising future parents and treat them accordingly. If there’s any easier way to parenting children of any generation then I believe parents should never stop returning to their childhood, then expectations & life experiences and not stop learning & adapting. If required always feel free to seek professional help because the child is yours and everything about you is going to impact the child.
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