Parents who make excuses for their children’s bad behaviour only allow themselves to be manipulated

Eight-year-old Ravi’s father came to consult me regarding his behaviour that was causing concern to the whole family. I gave Ravi a piece of paper and a pencil and asked him to write a paragraph about himself. He pushed the chair back, threw the pencil on the floor and started banging his head against the table. The father reacted with fear. He looked at me apologetically and said, “Ravi hates writing.”

“I am sorry Gopi is throwing such a fit today. He must be tired,” said Meena sheepishly to no one in particular. Her five-year-old son lay on the floor of the department store, screaming his head off when she did not yield to his nth demand.

I am amazed at the number of parents who make excuses for their children’s misbehaviour. Tired, anxious or stressed are the common explanations offered when their children whine, scream and cry incessantly or throw tantrums. Many parents play into the hands of their kids, maybe because it is too exhausting for them to discipline them or they are in some way afraid of turning down their demands. When parents condone the immature behaviour of their child, they send the wrong signals to him. The child feels he has power over his parents and manipulates them through his obstinate behaviour.

The modern trend is such that parents neither want to restrain nor restrict their children. It is rare to hear a parent apologise for his or her child’s bad behaviour!

Most of us start parenting the way we were parented and expect our children to react as we did. But it hardly ever happens that way. Every child is different and has a mind of his own!

One of the most important jobs of being a parent is to inculcate good habits in children. Self-control is just one of them. Parental direction of an eight- or nine-year-old often helps the child establish internal control. Perhaps the most effective way of helping your child is to make him aware of behaviour that is not acceptable. Clear communication is very important. Talk it over with him. Think about allowing extra time, warning him, besides being compassionate as you help him through the day. Give him simple strategies to deal with emotions like anger. Sensitise him to leave the room when he is angry and come back when he is calm. Make him take responsibility. Incentivise him. With young children, you might make a chart and place stars, stickers or points on it each time he shows good behaviour. Make it worthwhile for him to be responsible.

Since parents offer opportunities for most first experiences, their power to determine the future cannot be overlooked. The parent’s level of emotional acceptance of the child and their resulting attitude towards him play a leading role in laying the foundation for the type of personality the child will develop. The attitude of the parents is the most potent conditioning factor in the life of the child.

Developing self-control takes time, maturity and practice. But early lessons in self-control will stand him in good stead for a life time. After all, is not a child who has learnt not to breakdown at the slightest provocation, a much happier child than the one who does not?

rajfarida@gmail.com

The writer is a remedial educator