By: Shreshtha Dhar M.A, M.Phil (Clinical Psychology
Renowned Child And Adolescent Psychologist of Kolkata
Parenting is a very difficult and tiring job. It is a huge responsibility. For first time parents it is all the more stressful. New born babies are like bricks and parents are the blueprint. Childhood experiences crucial, they directly affect an individual’s behaviour, thinking pattern and emotional wellbeing during their adolescence and adulthood. Parenting is a very intricate and delicate work as each and every child is unique.
Parents with difficult children often wonder how their children are always the naughty child in the group, how their children cause all the trouble, it is often embarrassing when their children are most rebuked. This not only affects the parents but also brings down the morale of the child. Parents need to understand that every child has a different temperament, temperament refers to the different nature and characteristic that is unique to every child. Parents with twins have also reported in various studies that both their children behave and react differently in different situations.
Unique characteristics demand unique care and attention. The first step to unique care and attention is listening. Listening is a primary mode of communication, one that provides information about the other individual. Through listening we can understand the other person’s intentions, feelings, needs and motives.
Mindfulness is a practice that includes attending to a particular moment with complete awareness, in the present moment, and non-judgementally. Mindful listening allows the other individual to express themselves without interruption, judgement or refute. One may not agree with what the other person is saying but the intention is to understand and acknowledge another’s feeling and perception.
Before practicing mindful listening with the children it is primary that the parents become aware of themselves, their needs, expectations, goals, challenges and mood. They need to acknowledge whether they are undergoing any difficulty in any domain of their own lives, it can be in the area of work, relationship or financial. These problems have an impact on parent child relationship. Parents have to resist from releasing their stress onto their children. Ideally they should talk about it to their peers, other family members or seek help. Self awareness and care for parents is of utmost importance.
Being an attentive listener As a parent let your child talk, do not interrupt while they speak. Let them finish before placing your words. Listen to every word with care, along with spoken words also take into account the non-verbal features such as facial expressions, gestures, tone of their voice and the volume.
Example 1: If your child does not want to go to school, listen to what your child has to say about the experience in school, if he/she is finding it difficult to make friends or having difficult to understand instructions, finding the classes boring or very difficult, finding the teacher to be harsh, or facing small instances of bully. As a parent it is worrisome, but since every child is unique in their way of expression, the problems that they may face are different and the reaction to the problem will be unique. Before telling the child that they “should go”, or “look how your friends are doing it” give the child ample space to express self. For words and expression will be the key to your child’s feelings.
Non-judgemental acceptance Every human being has tendency to add their own meaning to experiences, as this happens people find it difficult to understand other’s perspective and feelings. However non-judgemental acceptance does not mean permissive parenting. It means understanding your child’s needs and motives better through their expression.
Example 2: Parents often experience that their child is throwing tantrums, asking for expensive gifts, crying and forcing parents till they have no other choice. Parents get exhausted with this behaviour and always end up giving the child what they want. Parents then start describing their children as stubborn, loud or impossible. The parent should focus on what lead to the need of the particular thing that he child is demanding for, if the parent actively listens to the child non judgementally the parent will discover that these needs might have risen though various ways, may be through observing peers or media influence. Rather than criticising the child with harsh judgemental words such as “greedy” or “stubborn”, it is important to teach the child acceptance, which will in turn improve the child’s idea of self.
Along with attentive listening and non judgemental acceptance cultivating empathy is very important. It will help the parent focus and understand the child better. The emotional problems of the child will be addressed, validated and respected.
When one is with their children, keep aside the work, digital gadgets and focus on all the little details of the little one. Mindful listening is a great way to know one’s child, form a better bond with them and also to help them.