In some ways, I suppose the teenage years can be likened to the toddler years. Both stages of life are a time of significant developmental change. Toddlers and teens alike experience significant body and mind development that can have them behaving in ways you have never seen. Just as they are figuring out who they are, we, as parents, struggle to understand the child we once thought we knew inside out.
So I guess it follows, logically, that you need to demonstrate acceptance and understanding on a daily basis, to foster open relationships with your children while they are toddlers, so that they can come to you with any problems they may encounter as teenagers.
An article written by teacher, Kate Russell, and published on the Peaceful Parents, Confident Kids (PPCK) website, explores this subject in-depth.
Russell writes: “The way we interact with our young children, the words we use, the intonation in our voice and even our body language can have a huge impact on whether they will feel comfortable talking to us about the big issues they will inevitably face as teens. If we are not empathetic and understanding to the ‘little things’ they face in their early years (which are actually big things to them) then the chances are they will have a hard time opening up about the big things when they grow.
“You see, in a well-intended, concerted effort to ensure their children are raised to be upstanding members of society, many parents use punitive, disconnecting discipline techniques. Methods such as time-outs, removal of privileges, shaming and spanking are among the most common of these methods.
“They, coupled with achievement-based rewards and praise, unwittingly send the message that with achievement comes love and with misbehaviour comes reprehension. This can effectively close the doors for a trusting, honest and communicative relationship with their children into the future,” she continues.
So, how do we avoid creating an approval-based relationship?
Russell explains: “As children grow and develop it can be tempting to push them beyond their capabilities in an effort to help them achieve milestones and learn new skills. When a child begins to pull themselves up on couches, for example, it might prompt us to take their hand and show them they can walk across the room. This achievement is celebrated by enthusiastic parents who might clap their hands and coo ‘Good boy!’ to their child.
“The message this sends the child is that just pulling themselves up on the couch is not good enough. It plants a seed of self-doubt as they question the worthiness of their actual capabilities and get drawn towards the prospect of more attention and praise if they could just take those extra few steps.
“Accepting that a child’s skills, abilities, behaviours, emotions etc. on any given day are perfect for that child at that time takes a significant change in ideals and perceptions but what it does do is create an environment for our children to become contentedly and innately driven to learn, achieve, grow and develop along a natural pathway. A child who feels their worth is measured by results, achievements and good behaviour will soon need to see, hear and feel parental approval to gain confidence and continue moving forward.”
Basically, as parents, we need to show our children unconditional love and understanding. This will hopefully give them the confidence they need to be able to confide in us if or when their lives get tough. As Russell says, they need to know that: “When they hurt, we will empathise. When they scream, we will listen. When they make mistakes, we will support them. When they reject us, we will understand and love them. When they fall down, we will let them know they are still loved as they pick themselves back up again and move on. This must be our pledge to our children.”
This parenting thing is not for sissies … but just like most things in life that require hard work and perseverance, it’s worth it in the end.
I am a frazzled working mom who loves her husband and her children. All six of them – two human, two canine and two feline. I spend most of my day managing the crazy chaos that is my awesome life, and what’s left, writing about it … Read more