We all enjoy the comfort of our daily routine when it's just our child and us. But, when a grandparent or a guest is added to the equation, things can change drastically. Even a change in the environment to a family function or a social gathering could make things chaotic for us and our children.
Children have a deep need for order and routine. The predictability in the events of the day makes them feel secure. Often, when their routine is disturbed, we find children feeling distressed or restless. Also, it is hard for parents to manage their children’s behaviour when people around are judging them as ‘good’ or ‘bad ‘parents!
I feel the pressure with Shashi Aunty watching me intently as my children have a meltdown in a gathering. I cringe at the thought of my grandmother admonishing me when I am firm with my children. It’s embarrassing to see my co passenger rolling his eyes when my son jumps from one train berth to another as if playing musical chairs. What’s funny is how different from normal I behave with my children in front of an audience. I find myself snapping at them, scolding and threatening them into compliance.
It makes me wonder - ‘Am I a bad parent?’ Do I really need to appease strangers in a mall when my child is rolling on the floor crying for yet another toy? Do I need to get tough and mean with my children to control their behaviour? Isn’t there a way to set limits without being harsh and humiliating children?
Through the parenting classes, I have learnt about how punishment harms children. When punished, children may not understand their parent’s intention is to stop an unacceptable behaviour which may be causing trouble to those around. Instead their focus is on ‘Amma becomes strict when we go out...she does not want us to enjoy.’
So how could I address my fears and find a way to parent from a place of calm?
No matter what people around me say, it is important for me to keep clear of scolding and shouting at my children. It’s unlikely that my 7 year old who is running about in a restaurant will continue to do so even at 37! So what I need to do right now is to continue using respectful ways of setting limits for my 7 year old. This will ensure my child will grow up to be a mature and balanced person.
What can we parents do to help our children understand and take charge of their own actions? Firstly, we must focus on ourselves to effectively deal with situations that arise.
Being aware of our own emotions:
During these times we could be feeling frustrated, embarrassed, helpless, tired etc. We need to acknowledge our feelings first to ourselves. Research proves that giving our feelings a name help us process our emotions constructively.
Calming down so that we can help our child:
After acknowledging our own feelings, it is important to remind ourselves that the child is acting this way because of an unmet need. A parent certainly cannot help their child if he/she too is in a heightened state of emotion. Actions that help us calm down could range from taking a few deep breaths, making a quick call to our spouse or friend to vent or simply taking a few minutes alone before we think of dealing with the situation.
Part 2 of this article will focus on what we can do to help our children manage their behavior. This will help us parent more effectively and deal with stressful situations with ease.
Author: Prerna Kalra, is a certified parent educator with Parenting Matters, an organization which empowers parents to build deeper connection in families.