By Dr Sapna Bangar
The month of December usually means Christmas cheer, spreading happiness, the cold mist, hot chocolate and marshmallows, school holidays and of course, New Year resolutions. We set goals, make plans and imagine ways that we can do better in the year to come.
As parents, one thing we probably are not good at is receiving feedback on our parenting skills, particularly when it comes from our children, who may demand unlimited screen time or a bagful of chocolates and no rules. The 3Cs of parenting, however, are consistency, caring and consequences.
Consistency is most important when dealing with children. So every time they do something they are not supposed to, they need to be told so. Inconsistency leads to confusion. Another thing children are really good at is trying to create a split between parents or parents and grandparents. So if a mother has said ‘No’ to having an extra biscuit or going to a party, they will go to dad or grandparents to get a ‘Yes’. So it is very important to be on the same page with the child to not build resentment for the boundary setting parent.
Caring is the attitude with which most news should be delivered to your children. At times, when parents need to tell their children they have done something wrong, the difference between them feeling shame and feeling understood is how caring the tone is.
Consequences are a necessary evil in parenting. You will see positive results when you learn to deliver your children’s consequences consistently and with a caring tone.
Here are suggestions to make for a happier new year with your children. Don’t be too ambitious. Set goals you can manage, talk as a family, and figure it out together. Even small steps can be steps in the right direction.
Listen to your children
It may sound simple and obvious but you may be surprised with the results that undivided attention to your child may yield. We are all busy and I often am guilty of trying to juggle my groups and messages on social media when I ask my child ‘how was your day?’ Time to sit back and reflect. Just 10 minutes of attention without any disturbance every day means the world to them. The unspoken message is: You are important. I care about what you have to say. Your ideas, thoughts, and opinions are worthy of being heard and so are you. So switch off your mobile, TV or whatever else may distract you and sit with your child, give him or her a hug and really pay attention to what your child is trying to tell you. You may be pleasantly surprised with the close bond and communication channels that this brings out between you and your child.
Eat at least one family meal together
A family that eats together stays together. Family meals are important and a time of togetherness and sharing not just your day but also snippets of your life. Work, homework, and activity schedules can make it hard to get everybody in the same place at the same time, but it’s worth the effort. The point is to be together.
Respond rather than react
Before you say or do something that you may regret later, take a pause, try counting up to 10 backwards and then respond. It will lessen the likelihood of a misfire on your part. We as parents are quick to come up with empty threats ‘If you don’t shut the TV right now, I am never going to get you anymore toys’. Really? Even worse, ‘how can you be so stupid?’ Wouldn’t it be better to say ‘how can you do such a stupid thing?’ so the child does not grow up thinking he or she is stupid.
Take a family holiday or weekend
Make a tradition of having a family holiday every year. Even better if you can leave your gadgets at home! The best childhood memories are made outdoors, getting dirty.
Be good to yourself
Forget the maternal guilt for some time. If you are exhausted, you are no good to anyone, let alone your children. You say things you regret; words once spoken cannot be taken back and may leave a scar on the tiny hearts so treat yourself to a massage, make ‘me time’, rejuvenate and be the parent you always dreamt of being.
(The writer is Psychiatrist Head-Client Care at Mpower.)