Guide to effective modern parenting: Ways to be a fantastic parent
Parenting varies from person to person, but what makes someone a good parent and another a lesser one? What are those essential skills that one needs to inculcate in their child so that they grow up healthy, happy and secure? Parenting skills are not something that is acquired overnight. Neither is it something that can be taught or learnt. It is rather a list of practices that one has to learn to follow on their own and put their mind and soul into. Each stage of a child’s growth has its own challenges and struggles and parenting skills for these stages differ accordingly. Moreover, there is nothing such as good parenting or bad parenting, rather it is all about discovering positive parenting practices that will aid you to face the challenges posed at each stage of a child’s development.
It is a common misconception that the hardest stage of parenting is the initial five years of the child’s life. It is easy to see why many believe so, considering how the new parents have to learn to accommodate a new person in their life – a tiny human wholly dependent on you. Once the child enters the toddler stage, parents think they can breathe a sigh of relief.
But now you have a waddling tiny tot bursting with energy, walking into anything and everything, putting things into their mouth the moment you look away, and badgering you with questions about everything. And then you think, once they start schooling, life will get easier. But is it really so?
While every stage of parenting comes with its own challenges, statistics show that a larger percentage of parents face their biggest challenges when their child turns an adolescent. School life brings a volley of academic and social challenges and parents have to navigate through it right along with their children. Once teenage years are around the corner, you often get caught in a battle against the child instead of battling the world along with them.
But why is adolescence such a stressful period?
Adolescence is a period full of changes and uncertainty for the child. The age sees the child go through hormonal changes due to puberty. It is also the time when they begin to form their own independent identity. They can be swinging between insecure and moody to energetic and vivacious within a span of hours. It is also the age where they begin to navigate the complex webs of social hierarchy and seek to find their own place in the world.
Adolescents are opinionated and argumentative, and you often discover that your word is no longer the law for them as before. They start questioning everything, even your own actions and choices, and soon the home becomes chaotic with disagreements.
The phase is often romanticised as ‘teen rebellion’ and is showcased through novels and films as a period of recklessness and angst that kids go through as they pass through the tumultuous period of age 12 to 16 years. While in most cases, it is indeed ‘just a phase’ that most kids grow out of, the acting out, the anger, the anxiety and the insecurities should not be invalidated.
Today, 20% of adolescents suffer from depression by the time they reach adulthood. One in every five adolescents experiences depression at some point in their teen life. Teenage depression does not have a definitive cause but there are a number of biological, psychological and environmental risk factors. In such a situation, how does a parent understand their child who seems to be growing increasingly distant from them? How can you be there for your child during these growth spurts and their struggle to find their own space?
Every child is different and is moulded as they grow by their individual experiences. So, there is no foolproof way that will work for one and all. But there are a few things you can do to create a better environment for your child.
TIPS TO BE A GOOD PARENT
Be a friend rather than a rule-maker
All parenting experts advocate this statement. But how exactly do you do this? How does one manage to be a friend to their child, but also be respected and obeyed?
Just like any other friendship, a parent–child friendship is built over time. So, work on it from the beginning. If you suddenly declare one fine morning that you will be their friend, your child is not going to believe you. In fact, it might just make them more mistrustful of you.
Take time out from your schedule to be with your child. Many parents complain that their child does not listen to them, but how many of these parents listen to what the child has to say? So, make time for your kid, do an activity together, and have friendly chats, asking them about their day, their friends or just about any topic of interest.
Talk to your child regularly
Talking and listening to your child on a regular basis goes a long way in building their emotional skills while also making them more confident to face the world.
Growing up, my dad made it a point to have regular one-on-one chats with me. I wasn’t always the most receptive, but over time he won me over. If he was busy and couldn’t catch up with me during dinner time, he would later come to my room and sit with me to talk about books, my classes, my friends and just about anything I was in the mood to ramble about. This practice continues to date when I visit my home and I can truly say that he is one of my closest friends, despite the innumerable times we were at horns with each other while growing up.
Try not to say an abrupt ‘No’
Sometimes your child comes up with the most whimsical and crazy ideas that might make your blood pressure rise with worry. But remember that an immediate negative response will only stir a desire in them to rebel and there could be a greater chance of them sneaking around behind your back.
Instead of shutting down their demands, ask them more details and tell them that you will think about it and get back. While you might have already made up your mind to say no, it is always good to put yourself in your child’s shoes and review your decision. Even if the answer still remains a no, your child is more likely to be convinced when talked about it at a later point when you are both more collected. It will also show that you haven’t blindly disregarded their suggestion but carefully considered it and made the decision. Explaining to them the reason behind your decision will further convince them and help them understand your side of the argument.
Give them space to grow
While it is important to be involved in your child’s life, it is also necessary that you give them space and freedom to explore and grow by themselves. Being a tyrant who controls every aspect of their life will do more harm than good. Some mistakes are theirs to make and learn from, and it is a necessary part of growing up.
Many parents try to validate their line of argument by saying that they trust their child but not the world. Yes, the world is a dangerous place, filled with myriad hidden and unhidden evils. But at the end of the day, your child has to grow up and face the world.
So, the best course of action that you can take is hold their hand as they make their first steps into the world instead of barricading them within the walls of your house. While it is not easy to let go of your fears and allow your child to have their own experiences, it is the only way for them to grow.
Nowadays, with the help of technology, some of your fears can be taken care of. Numerous applications are now available in the market to help you track the real-time location of their child. So, sit back and relax when your child goes out with their friends. Many of these applications also help you to monitor your child’s calls, messages and social media interactions. With such developments in technology, it has become easier to protect your child from malicious online threats, cyberbullying, etc.
Here is a list of the top 10 parent apps in India which help monitor your child’s activities.
- eKavatch: Provides information on the new apps installed on your child’s phone, time spent on each app, etc. It allows filtering of websites and provides a real-time alert to the parent when the limits set by them are breached.
- Safe Browser: Ensures that the child does not land on the wrong websites.
- ItsMyChild: Provides real-time information about the child’s location with just a click as well as sends alerts to six emergency contacts in case of any danger.
- Children TV: Ensures that your child is watching only appropriate videos on YouTube.
- MamaBear: Creates a private hub for families to interact with social media monitoring, family mapping, alerts about cyber threats, etc.
- Kids Place: A parental control app that launches child lock on the parents’ phone and ensures that the kid cannot access content that might not be age-appropriate.
- Google Family Link: Allows the parent to set screen limits, set day or night usage restrictions, and allow or block apps as per their choice.
- Qustodio: Lets parents monitor smartphone usage and even limit it. They can also block calls and messages, and track the kid’s social media lifestyle and location.
- Spyzie: Tracks calls and SMS, allows parents to set limits on screen time and automatically blocks inappropriate content online.
- mSpy Android Parental Control: Allows parents to monitor all saved media on the child’s phone in addition to calls, messages and contacts. It also provides real-time GPS location tracking and geo-fencing capabilities.
Battle with them, not against them
Just like you have your work stress and struggles, your child also has their own struggles and battles to fight in day-to-day life. It might seem minuscule or irrelevant to you, but to them, it might be a source of immense anxiety and fear. Take the example of exam stress, which you might just write off as something every student has to deal with, but, for them, it is something that eats into them.
The last thing they would want in such stressful times is you adding to their worries. Many a time, children come home from school, stressed over a test or because of a friend. In such a situation, all they want is to cry, rant and let it all out. If the parents begin to criticise them, it would only add more weight to their already burdened shoulders, driving their stress and anxiety to even higher levels.
A few days before my board exams, I remember being struck down by this immense fear of failure. It was so acute that I had a mini meltdown in front of my mother. I told her that I was scared and did not want to write the exam. Obviously, I expected her to accuse me of being silly, or question me about why I did not prepare for it in time. However, she spent over an hour with me, talking about her own experiences, of how it was always better to try and fail than never try at all.
So, talk to your child, listen to their struggles, share your experiences and guide them on how to move ahead. Sometimes, what might seem like a life-ending problem can be resolved in no time by just talking it out. Share your own experiences of similar problems and how you overcame them.
If your child needs more assistance, understand that there is no shame in seeing a therapist and seeking counselling. A healthy mind is important for a healthy living and therefore, it is important that you help lessen their burdens.
Do not compare
While it helps to have your child know about your own struggles at their age, do not use it as a weapon to invalidate their problems. Times have changed drastically and while you might think your child has a much easier life than you ever had, the truth is different. Each generation has its own unique set of challenges and struggles. So, while they do not have to endure the sufferings you did, they have new-age problems to deal with which you will not be able to relate with.
Try your best to understand their perspective. It is not easy to come down a generation or two, but it is a necessary step if you value the friendship that you are trying to create with your child. Adolescence is the time when your child is desperately trying to fit in, keeping up with what’s popular, mimicking it and following it in the hopes of not being the oddball. Encourage them to pursue their true passions, but do not poke fun at them when they try out something new for the sake of their friends.
It is also equally important that you do not compare them with their peers. Each child is unique and have their own talents and skills. So telling them to act more like your neighbour’s son, or study harder like their third cousin isn’t going to help. Rather, it affects their self-esteem, makes them overly conscious of their actions and breeds insecurity. It also creates a sense of resentment in their heart towards that unsuspecting child you use as a grade scale to compare them with.
To sum up, parenting is no easy job. It is a ride full of trials and errors, mistakes and tears, and a lot of joy and sense of fulfilment at achieving something that you aim for. It is not something that can be learnt in a day – there are no hacks or shortcuts. At the end of the day, a lot of it relies on your child’s temperament and needs. But what you can control and work on is yourself and your responses to your child’s actions. It is up to you to decide what kind of a parental figure you want to be – someone your child approaches with fondness or someone they approach with reluctance and fear.
Here is a list of the top five parenting websites which you can check out to get more help:
- Parentingteens.com: Provides highly useful articles about teen depression, bullying, eating disorders, and building good relationships.
- Aha! Parenting: While this provides parenting advice for children of all age groups, the early teen and teenagers sections have some really good articles on positive parenting, connecting with your child, and how to start discussions on topics like college and drug abuse.
- The KidsHealth from Nemours: Provides extensive advice to parents of teens, with articles that help you understand your child better, choosing your battles, knowing the warning signs of trouble, etc.
- Dr Phil: This website tackles serious issues such as domestic violence and birth control. Advice on breaking your teen’s bad habits, steps towards good parenting, etc. can also be found here.
- P&G Everyday: This website provides lighter parenting tips with a Pinterest look and feel. It includes articles for children as well as parents.