Page 27 - Inside pages

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reinforcement is food for the soul. “This is
a basic human need for a child or an adult,”
she says and this means being vigilant for
opportunities to acknowledge the expected
behaviour or even an attempt to meet an
expectation. At the same time, when you see
unwanted behaviour, she strongly suggests
that it is important to address it when you
are alone with your child when possible. “It is
important to relate it back to the expectation
you have and to a previous agreement if there
is one,” she says and if there is a consequence
associated with the unwanted behaviour it
must be enforced consistently. “Consistency
fosters learning, if you can’t maintain this it
is unrealistic to expect change,” she says. Yet
how can parents encourage or praise their
kids without going overboard? It is always
useful to explore both successes and so
called failures, points out Singh. “We tend
to celebrate successes without asking what
contributed to the success,” she says and in
fact, understanding what went well is just
as important as asking what went wrong.
“When you engage in both processes you will
be able to discuss problems with some ease
because your child won’t feel scrutinized for
the negatives,” she says as praise without an
understanding of the basis for success can lead
to ‘empty self-esteem’ because the specific skills
and strengths haven’t been acknowledged or
identified. “Without this, the successes can’t be
re-experienced which can lead to confusion
and disappointment for a child,” she says.
ADVICE
ACCORDING TO SINGH, THE
THREE MOST IMPORTANT
ELEMENTS OF DISCIPLINE ARE:
• STATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
CLEARLY AND FREQUENTLY
• REMEMBER THE
CONSISTENCY OF REWARDS
AND CONSEQUENCES IS
CRITICAL
• MODEL THE VALUES YOU
WISH YOU INCULCATE IN
YOUR CHILD
H
their busy lecturing and workshop programs
and used material from these workshops to
produce this book which clearly and simply
shows how. Their new book gives adults the
theory, the skills and a practical guide on
how to implement what they have learned, at
their own pace. The book contains countless
examples of dialogues which enable parents
to adapt this ‘new language to suit their
own style. Underlying their method of
communication includes ways to live with
each other so that we can feel good about
ourselves and help people we love feel good
about themselves. Also importantly, to find
a way to be respectful of our children’s needs
and to be just as respectful of our own needs
and in turn, find a way that makes it possible
for our children to be caring and responsible.
Communication
Helping children deal with their feelings -
in this chapter the language of empathy is
described as not part of our ‘mother tongue.’
Fluency in this language requires learning
and practice. From insults to personal
attacks, the book directly states that words
can cut like knives. Some can even leave
permanent scars. The search to find new and
more human ways to express the old and
powerful emotion of anger is the work of a
lifetime. Devika Singh, a clinical psychologist
at the Dubai Herbal and Treatment Center
reinforces that the key here is to aim to help
a child recognize their true potential rather
than magnify the impact of their behaviour.
“This definitely requires utmost self-
regulation and often requires slowing down
your thoughts so that you can access the
right words to communicate what happened,
why it is upsetting and what can be done and
more importantly, alternative ways of dealing
with such a situation in the future,” she says.
Guilt
As parents, we often feel guilty, for saying
no, for denying a certain privilege and for
some, even punishing a child when he or she
has done wrong. However, according to the
authors, when a child is given the power to
activate our guilt, it’s like handing him an
atomic bomb. Singh points out that many
parents experience guilt when they assess
their role as a caregiver. “In fact, guilt can
be purposeful in trying to identify parental
expectations and the expectations parents
have of their children,” she says. “However,
when the underlying triggers aren’t explored
and understood, it can lead to resentment
towards a child.” And this, she adds, is
unhealthy and can affect the parent-child
dynamic.
Anger
The book also examines issues of anger
and stresses that “trying to be patient
when you’re angry is like applying the
brake with one foot while the other foot
presses the gas pedal. You wouldn’t abuse
your automobile that way. Be at least as good
to yourself as you are to your car.” Anger,
explains Singh, is a manifestation of an unmet
expectation which then causes frustration.
“This must be expressed, and most definitely
in a calm manner,” she says as you are, after
all, modelling communication to your child
with every interaction. She advises that
finding the right words and articulating your
emotions is critical to this expression and can
communicate anger, hurt and frustration more
effectively than a raised voice which would
only elicit fear and defensiveness in a child.
Punishment
Alternatives to punishment are dealt with
in the book and some of their suggestions
include: state your expectations, show the
child how to make amends, give a choice, take
action and allow the child to experience the
consequences of his misbehaviour. For many
parents, saying no can mean obstructing our
child’s happiness. However according to the
authors of the book, by focusing only upon
a child’s happiness, we do him no favour and
that when we take action to stop a child’s
unacceptable behaviour, we are doing him a
service as we are actually showing him how
to be the kind of adult who can stand up
for what he believes in. Further elaborating,
Singh says that saying ‘no’ encourages a child
to consider alternatives and to learn to self-
soothe when an expectation or demand isn’t
being met. “This is a reality you want your
child to be prepared for,” she says and in fact,
it can be helpful to say ‘no’ and empathize
with your child at the same time. “Letting a
child know you understand why they are upset
is important for maintaining an emotional
bond,” she explains and when a child reacts
strongly to your decision you may need to
enforce a cooling off period before you can
address the issue again.
Self Esteem
The chapter on praise examines what parents
can do to enhance a child’s self esteem.
Praise they say is a ‘tricky
business and brings about
unexpected reactions.
The dangers of praise
are explained, and the
differences between
‘descriptive praise’
and ‘evaluative praise’.
According to Singh,
positive
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