Parenting Skills I – General Principles

This is the first of a series of four articles on parenting skills. These articles are based on my two decades of experience in mental health and psychotherapy. This is the information that my thousands of my clients have given me on what and how they were affected by their parents. The information shared in these articles is NOT academic.

When a baby is born, the first touch that he or she gets is the touch of the mother. This experience sets the basis of lifelong experiences for the baby.

Through the five senses the baby experiences the mother. The more positive the experiences through vision, touch, smell, taste and sound, the safer the baby feels. The need to cling to the mother is highest at this time. The baby is helpless and dependent on another independent and helpful being- the mother. When the father comes into the equation and the experiences are positive, it is like heaven for a baby. After these two wonderful people called parents meet all the physical needs, the sense of safety is of paramount importance. The senses of the baby play the most important role in teaching a baby how the world and the future is going to be. A sense of belonging, being loved and being wanted makes a child feel appreciated.

The language the parents use describing the child, even playfully, has an impact on the subconscious of the child. Love in all its forms and as much as can be given, makes a child into a happy adult. The role of parents is to nurture the child in all ways and means possible. This includes fulfilling as many demands as possible- but within due limits- as the child can make. What spoils a child is too much love and all demands met but without any sense of responsibility. Every demand of a child needs to be met based on an occasion. Birthdays, Christmas, performing well in exams or doing well in extracurricular activities are occasions on which gifts can be given. Any demand that comes ‘beyond’ an occasion needs to be met with a price. The price tag can be anything that the parent wants a child to do or to achieve. For example if a child wants something expensive, then the parent can ask for a certain performance in academics or learning a new skill or cleaning up the room regularly or something that would be teaching the child a sense of responsibility. Once the child achieves what is desired, it is okay to fulfill the promise. At this juncture, it becomes VERY IMPORTANT that the promise is kept. If the promise is not kept then the child loses trust in the parent.

Both the parents need to send the same message to the child about everything that concerns the child. If the parents are having different opinions on any issue then they themselves need to thrash out their differences before conveying the decision to the child. If the child gets different messages from the parents then he or she grows up to be a confused adult who would be unable to take decisions in life. If the child is smart then he or she will be able to play politics between the parents to get the best out of them. In these scenarios, everyone loses. The parents lose respect and the child fails to learn discipline. In order to teach discipline, reward and privileges is the best method. You give rewards and privileges for anything and everything that is worth appreciating and which will make a child feel proud of themselves. Withdrawal of privileges is a better way to express your unhappiness about anything that has been agreed upon. Punishment, especially physical, is not needed at all to change the conduct of a child. In my experience, children create problems when they feel unloved and uncared for. Lack of attention by encouraging indiscipline is a type of neglect by parents.

Parents need to spend A LOT of time with their children. It is the amount of time spent and the activities that they engage in that creates a bond between parents and children. A child, when they will become an adult will be able to forgive the lack of money and even bad habits of parents. But they are unable to forgive lack of time and attention from parents when they grow up. At the end of the day, the emotional baggage that you carry with yourself about your own relationships with your own parents is going to be passed on to your children. Everything that fits into this description is termed ‘genetic’ or ‘hereditary’ by academics. In my view most of the emotional baggage is learnt and so is the behaviour that follows from it.

Copyright- Pradeep K Chadha 2011.