Most parents would agree that parenting entails a good amount of worry -which is possibly a slight understatement!
As parents our main job is to keep our children safe -which has it’s challenging moments when the child is young and being supervised by us or a school teacher or grandparent or childminder or similar ….but it is when our children start making a bid for freedom and hanging out with their peers that most parents worry most. We hope that our children will make good decisions for themselves and keep themselves safe and continue to do so as their independence grows.
So, what as parents, can we do to help our children do this?
Probably the two most important things we can do are:
- Help our children to value themselves
- Teach our children how to make decisions
When it comes to helping our children to value themselves it is logical that if they are constantly criticised then they are less likely to feel good about themselves. However, a part of parenting is wanting our children to be a variety of things -which may include ….having good manners, doing well at school/college/their job, taking responsibility for themselves, being kind, doing well at sport/music/etc, the list may be long …..and in comes some stereotypical nagging! Sometimes it can seem that life has become one long nagging session interspersed with more serious issues to address.
One thing that can make a big difference is how you word the focus of what you say: ‘You are lazy’ ‘I am ashamed of you’ …the criticism of ‘you’ is pretty harsh and can lead to low self esteem/self worth. Alternatively, ‘Your behaviour is lazy’ ‘I am shocked by your behaviour -I know you are worth more’ is a criticism focused on the behaviour of the child and not the child him/herself and can be backed up with ‘I love you, you’re a great person but your behaviour is out of order here’ which is much less likely to be destructive.
How do we teach our children to make good decisions?
We can do this by sharing the reasoning we do when we make a decision so that they can learn to bring in reasoning too. ‘Can I go to a party on Saturday?’ ‘No, you can’t’ ‘Why not, everyone else is going’ ‘Because I say so’ ……is probably not a very helpful conversation. If you share the reasoning on which your decision was based ……which may have been …..’No, because I think there may be drinking going on and I don’t want you to be exposed to that because I fear that you may be pressured by your friends to drink and that could make you vulnerable and you could come to harm’. Sharing this doesn’t make the ‘No’ any more welcome but it does a) show you care, b) demonstrate what you have considered, c) highlight some possible dangers your child may not have considered and d) give the opportunity for the child to explain how they would handle themselves.
It isn’t always realistic to voice your reasoning for every decision you make but the more you do -from an early age -the more the child will learn how to reason and make decisions for themselves that will keep them safe. It can be helpful to do this with a positive decision too: ‘Yes, you can go to that party because although there may be the opportunity to drink excessively, I think you will be wise enough not to do that’( ……obviously if that is what you feel!).
Hope this is helpful and supportive -parenting often has really difficult challenges
Please share your comments …..