The way you choose to communicate, respond and attend to your child has a direct impact on their development. Parent responsiveness interactions are the process in which parents are positively present while meeting the child’s emotional, physical and psychological needs. Recent studies have suggested that rich parent responsiveness skills have a weighted influence on the social and cognitive skills of children as well as facilitating the development of positive relationships with others. Giving clear calm instructions, exchanging warmth and encouraging confidence are all examples of rich parent-child interactions. Such methods of communication nurture children’s self-regulatory skills which help to inhibit impulsive behaviour as well as provide the according tools to cooperate with others.
Maintaining a balanced healthy relationship with children is hard. Children are constantly learning and discovering their environment, making a parent’s role that much more challenging to ensure the child feels secure and loved. Their explorative nature more often than not may lead to power struggles, disciplining and several battles.
“Children like to be told what to do rather than what not to do”
Below are 3 set of questions that every parent needs to know and ask themselves right before they choose the words they are about to use with their child, especially during times of low temperament, disagreement and frustration.
1) Am I in control of myself? Am I displaying the qualities I want my child to have: patience, respect, kindness, thoughtfulness, curiousity, and resilience?
This may come to a shock for most but what I have come to realise with experience is that when parents lose their temper and choose to use their ‘strength’ to discipline their child (whether by shouting or using slight physical touch) almost 80% of them have reported that this is when they feel weakest and lack control. This says a lot about how losing our temper really plays with our logical reason. The less you are in control of your reactions, the less you will be able to regulate and guide your child positively.
2) Is this going to strengthen our relationship? Will my child know that she/he is loved?
Setting rules and boundaries is a necessity for children, however this does not contradict with achieving so through constant kindess. It is a common misconception that in order to discipline, one must only be firm when communicating with the child. While firmness is essential, it is only beneficial to your parent-child relationship when coupled with kindness. Go down to eye level when speaking, calm your tone of voice whenever possible, express your understanding of their feelings, remind them they are loved are all examples of showing kindness that do not contradict with your firm guidelines. For example: ‘(eye level) I know you feel sad because you want to play with your friends and I understand you wish you could stay longer, but it’s night and it’s time to sleep. I love you and know this is hard for you but we have to go now.’
3) Am I teaching my child how to do better next time? Am I looking for long-term solutions or looking for blame and expressing my own feelings?
I left the best for last, as I undoubtedly believe this is pivotal. A lot of the times parents come to me with the problem; saying ‘my son/daughter KNOWS it’s wrong but still decides to go back to doing it anyway’. Sound familiar? Rest assured this is by no means simply because your children want to ‘annoy’ you but rather they are seeking guidance from you. Children like to be told what to do rather than what not to do. They like to hear ‘play with your brother gently’ rather than ‘don’t hit your brother’ or ‘walk slowly’ instead of ‘don’t run’ and ‘play in this room’ instead of ‘you are not allowed to play here’. What is the difference in approaches? You are providing solutions and guidance on what you want your child to actually be doing allowing them to form a clearer picture in their head of what is expected of them.
Challenge: Commit to asking yourself these 3 simply questions next time before you are about to lose it and I guarantee your reaction will be one step closer to strengthening your parent-child relationship.