Do you get upset when your child doesn’t listen to you?
I can’t blame you if you do. It is inconvenient to have a disobedient child.
But as we enforce rules and discipline – it is important to remember that it can be dangerous and damaging to raise a child who cannot disagree and is unable to revolt and rebel when required.
A child who cannot say "No" is an easy target for bullies
A child who cannot say "No" is an easy target for abusers
A child who cannot say "No" will not be able to stand up to and resist peer pressure.
Suffering through the consequences of bullying, abuse and adverse peer pressure can be much worse than suffering through the inconvenience of being disobeyed.
And therefore – it is important to teach children how to stand up for themselves, for their thoughts ideas and principles.
Children must be taught how to disagree. They must be taught how to say no.
They must be taught how to think. They should be able to argue their point of view in their own minds so that when they say “no” they are taken seriously. They must learn how to argue without being abrasive and how to convince without being crude and discourteous.
When two people – whatever age they may be – live together – they are bound to disagree on certain points. It is a normal, natural consequence of living together.
A two year old who refuses to move or refusing to eat is expressing dissatisfaction and demanding change. A teenager who locks himself in his room or dresses inappropriately – is doing the same.
When we don’t teach children how to express themselves – they resort to socially unacceptable ways of expressing themselves. When children express themselves like this – they often damage themselves – without achieving the change they desire.
Imposing our will on our children by demanding compliance or using brute force saves us precious minutes on busy days but it also discourages thinking. It hampers the development of essential communication skills that are vital for the safety and well-being of our children.
When children are dissatisfied with a particular situation and want to change it – they must be able to express their dissatisfaction and disagreement in a way that will bring about the change that they desire.
They must learn how to speak and express themselves in words
Children model themselves on their parents. They learn how to tackle life situations and deal with disappointments and dissatisfaction from their parents.
If you are a parent – here is what you should do
Lead the way - explain your reasons for making rules
Children must learn how to express themselves in words. And they learn how to use words effectively from their parents.
When children say “Why” or “I won’t” – they are asking us to explain our reasons.
And when they ask for a reason and we say “Because I say so” – it is the equivalent of your teenager slamming the door in your face
Make an honest attempt to explain the reasons behind the rules you make. State all the facts – practice openness in communication. Argue your point until your kid is convinced.
It is only when children learn how to put their point of view across convincingly - can they actually swing adverse situations in their favour.
Allow your child to explain his point of view
Listening is a very important part of effective communication. As parents we rarely listen.
Listening is hard work but if we want our children to listen to us – we must listen to them.
Allow your child to make some decisions
Children rebel and revolt when have no say in what happens. The rebellion may be active and include shouting and aggressive behaviour. Or it may be passive where the child gives up on dressing well, keeping his room clean and not getting school work done.
Be gracious and say “it’s your decision” in some areas of his life. For example - let him make decisions how he would like to spend his pocket money without offering any guidance. Let him learn from his mistakes
Give in sometimes – don’t make everything an ego issue. Some things are not worth an argument
Because we are parents – several times – we insist on being obeyed. We demand obedience on trivial issues that we could easily let go.
Children pick up on this and begin to equate obedience with a loss of face and an injury to their pride and ego
If we want our children to give in to our wishes – we must model gracious surrender for them.
It is important to show them that giving in is not something to be ashamed of – so that they can obey us with their pride intact
Also allow your child to speak and when your child manages to convince you – give in with good grace. Say “I didn’t agree at first but you convinced me”
Focus on presentation – avoid slander. Speak with grace
Treat arguments like organised debates. Speak in a calm composed voice and do not resort to bad language or character assassination.
The way you speak when you announce something – sets the stage for how the rest of the conversation will evolve. Don’t be dictatorial. Your child will learn to speak in the same tone that you use to address him.
Encourage healthy debates on family issues and don’t forget to pause and look at the humorous side of situations
Once a decision has been made the matter should be dropped
Debates should be closed once a decision is made.
Needling a child with an error of judgement made in the past is a mistake and prompts a communication shut down in the future
Encouraging children to express themselves in the safety of their homes is an important step towards letting them know that their opinions matter.
Children must understand that they do not always have to agree.
They need to know that they do not have to do what others say.
All they have to do is – to be able to justify what they want to do - to themselves and to the world – by arguing it out in words.
I don’t want my child to be bullied. Nor do you.
We are afraid of bullying. We are afraid because we know how terrible it feels to be bullied.
We know this because at some stage or the other of our lives – all of us have been bullied.
Childhood bullying is a much talked about topic and so we focus on bullying in schools and playgrounds. But you know as well as I do – that bullying does not end with childhood.
Bullying happens at the workplace, bullying happens in marital relationships. There is the possibility of being bullied in family relationships, in friendships and in every situation in life that involves another person.
No parent ever plans to rear a child who will become an easy victim for a bully. But in many cases without ever intending to – we weave the very characteristics that bullies are looking for into the inner fabric of our child’s personality.
Bullying is a mind game. And if we don’t want our children to be bullied – we must fortify their minds against bullies.
As parents we wield immense power. With our words and actions – brick by brick, we build our children’s personalities.
Be careful not to say the following things because they can create cracks in your child’s personality.
“What is wrong with you? Can’t you ever do anything right? You are useless!”
When we demean and criticise our children like this, criticism becomes their inner voice. Such children begin to believe that there is so much wrong with them that they become easy targets for anyone who wants to bully them. With our unthinkingly uttered words – we destroy their self-esteem.
Make sure you build your child’s self-esteem by emphasizing that life is fun only when we embrace and overcome difficulty and that failure is a part of the journey, not its end.
“Why can’t you do this? Everyone else is able to do it.”
Comparisons that we make with the intention of motivating our children to do better – only makes them feel inferior because they are different. Bullies target those who are ashamed because they are different. And a child who believes that he is inferior because he is different is easy prey for any bully.
Every moment of every parent child interaction must focus on how unique and special children are – because they are different from everyone else
“How could you do this – what will other people say” or “How could you do this – what will other people think”
Bullying is a mental game and one of the commonest ways a bully threatens and coerces a victim into submission - is by playing on his fear of what others will think or what others will say about an incident or a characteristic. Bullies use this fear. But this fear is created and established in the minds of children by their parents.
It is impossible to read the thoughts and minds of others. And teaching children to torture themselves by imagining what someone else is thinking is useless. It is impossible to know what someone else is thinking and even more impossible to change that - so why bother.
Do your bit to eliminate bullying
Bullies are cowards. They never target the strong or the brave.
We can prevent and eliminate bullying. And we can do that by bringing up our children to be strong and brave. We must tell children to love themselves and take pride in who they are and what they have.
Let us teach our children to accept, acknowledge and take pride in their flaws and differences before a bully comes along and convinces them that they should be ashamed.
Let us eliminate bullying by ensuring that there are no more victims.