Thursday, April 26, 2018
PARENTING

RAISING DIFFICULT KIDS

Being a parent can be a tough ask, and sometimes all you wish is to stop. With his brilliant work of scholarship, Stuart Passmore guides us through his book Raising Difficult Kids for the day-to-day challenges that parents face, an excerpt from the same.

Praise is a wonderful teaching tool when it is specific and descriptive and genuine. It is also most impacting when praise is related to the child’s efforts, not just the successes.- Dr Cheryl Rode

Children of all ages need praise, encouragement and recognition. Our children are exposed to so much negativity every day at school and in mainstream and social media that they really don’t need to hear it coming from you too. This chapter is about changing the negativity that can develop in the parent–child relationship by recognizing and encouraging your child’s efforts and compliant behaviour.

This chapter also covers the topic of using basic manners with your child. For instance, parents ought to be mindful to use simple words such as ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ with their child. A simple thank you for completing a task or complying with a demand recognizes the effort your child has made and takes an opportunity to encourage your child.Praise is especially important for a child – for anyone really. It is particularly important for you to be prepared to praise, encourage and recognize your child and their behaviour during the time when the discipline program (see Chapter 9) is being established in your home.

For example, if your child is attempting to control their behaviour – even if they are not completely successful – it is important for you to recognize the effort your child has made in attempting to control their undesirable behaviour. This serves a number of purposes.

First, your child may feel encouraged in their efforts to control their behaviour and will more likely continue to repeat this positive approach to behavioural control. Second, rather than focusing on your child’s negative behaviour, you are beginning to instruct your child on acceptable and appropriate behaviour. Finally, rather than being overwhelmed by the often negative exchanges between you and your child, praise can change the dynamics between the parent and child and serve to strengthen the parent-child relationship.

Everyone likes some form of recognition for their efforts, both in their professional and private lives; adults are not exempt from this general rule. For example, imagine you were asked by a friend to help them move house on a Saturday. You had a fun-filled family day planned, but because your friend was begging for your help, you postponed your family day and agreed to help your friend. You arrive at your friend’s place early Saturday morning and begin packing boxes, loading heavy furniture in to the removalist truck and unloading that same truck at their new home. Finally, after a long day of packing and lifting heavy boxes and furniture you decide it’s time to go home. You approach your friend and tell them how tired you are and that you are going home. But the only thing your friend says to you is, ‘Oh, okay, bye.’ No ‘thank you’ for your help, no recognition at all for the effort you put in, just ‘bye’.

How would you feel? A little put out perhaps, a little offended that your efforts were not recognized? What if this same friend came back to you a week later and asked for your help again, this time to collect more furniture from a storage facility they had used to store their excess furniture. Would you be as willing to rearrange your weekend again to help your friend a second time? The principle of praise and recognition is no different for children. Why should they try so hard to do the right thing all the time without any recognition? One five-year-old child captured this notion at bedtime as he knelt beside his bed for his nightly prayers, saying, ‘Dear God, what’s the point of being good if nobody knows!’

However, it is just as important not to praise your child for their efforts or successes alone. This can send the message to your child that they are only worthy of your attention, your love and admiration, or only acceptable to you, when they do as they are told or continue to achieve. Children can be deeply encouraged by realistic and timely support from their parents. Praise and encouragement can be delivered when your child has not come first in a race or has not achieved the highest results on an exam or might have fallen short of the desired behaviour. You can take the opportunity to comment on your child’s efforts and to confirm unconditional love and acceptance. Praise and encouragement are another way of telling your child ‘I love you and I care about you. I want to share in your successes and your failures. In fact, it’s you I care about most, not your successes or your failures.’

While praise and encouragement are an integral part of parenting and an important part of the child’s life, it must be delivered at an appropriate time as children know when they have not succeeded or completed a task as well as they could have or as well as other children.

Unwarranted praise runs the risk of becoming meaningless. Equally, missing the opportunity to praise or encourage your child means you could be missing an opportunity to support them when they face difficult times. Again, walk in your child’s shoes. Imagine that you were feeling down about a personal project you undertook because the end results were less than satisfactory. After you’d told your spouse how disappointed you felt, you received the response, ‘Oh don’t be silly, you’re really great at that, you did a fantastic job, you should be proud of yourself.’ No doubt you would see right through this and the praise would be meaningless to you. You might even become somewhat frustrated by this meaningless praise. The same principle applies to children.

September-2016