Be aware that even though you feel you are doing your very best raising your child, sometimes your parenting strategies can be damaging to your child’s self-esteem and the parent-child relationship. Your child needs to grow up with a healthy level of self-esteem to be more resilient to the lessons learnt and the knocks taken in life. A good self-esteem enables your child in decision making, having confidence in the judgements she makes, knowing what is right and wrong and having an ability to ‘bounce back’ after a knock. Healthy self-esteem is especially important during your child’s adolescent years when the chances are she will experience peer pressure to experiment with cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.
When thinking about your parenting tactics consider the following:
- Do you bribe your child? Rewarding and praising children for admirable things they have done is good but using the short cut of bribing them is not. For example, if you say ‘if you do the washing up I’ll give you your pocket money’, it is not helpful because your child needs to understand from an early age that she is an important and responsible member of the family who needs to carry out everyday domestic tasks just like everyone else. Your child should not feel that she should be paid to do these things. Instead encourage her to take responsibility for certain duties as early as you can so that it just becomes second nature to her. Leaving this encouragement too late can make things very difficult. Even with small infants you can teach them the importance of tidying up after play time or putting away crayons after drawing activities
- Do you use threats to try and control? For example, ‘If you do not put your clothes away, you will not be going out to play this afternoon’. Threats are no more useful than bribes simply because they are incredibly hard to stand by and more often than not you renege on the threat allowing your child to get away with whatever it is they have or have not done. Your child soon learns that there is no meaning in your threats. Future threats become irrelevant to your child. If you really want to use a threat then you have to stand by it. Make it crystal clear that this is a final warning and then if you need to carry out the threatened form of punishment make sure that you do. This way you will less likely have to issue threats in the future
- Do you nag your child? If you find that you are nagging your child by constantly asking her if she has completed a task you soon find that you are assuming responsibility for her. Your child never realises that she is responsible for her own actions which is fundamental in building her self-esteem. Mum and Dad are always there to do what she should; she never accepts responsibility for things. When a child or teenager does not carry out an important task, for example getting up on time to get to school or a Saturday job, you should do nothing! Your child will soon learn that there will be a natural consequence to her failure like being scolded by a teacher or employer. The embarrassment she suffers at being reprimanded will be a lot more effective in her taking responsibility for herself than you repeatedly reminding her to do things (nagging!)
- How helpful is it to criticise? Usually it just leads to your child building up resentment, even though you are only trying to teach her the right way of doing things. To enhance your child’s self-esteem concentrate on trying to catch her doing something positive that you can praise. More positive recognition is required rather than negative
Other tactics to avoid are passing the buck – ‘Wait until your father get’s home!’ Deal with punishments in the moment. Smacking – it usually leads to rebellion. Insincere praise – is easily detected even by small infants. Find something to genuinely praise your child for.
By Eirian Hallinan