All parents wish their children to grow up happy, healthy, truthful, hardworking and respectful. But reality is often different from the wish. One of the biggest reasons for this is the role parents themselves play. The way parents respond or don’t respond to a child’s varying needs at each developmental phase has a powerful impact on his personality. Let’s look at these phases, and how parents can best mould their child’s character.
It starts in the womb – Thoughts matter
Parenting begins even before your child is born – it starts from the time the baby is in her mother’s womb. Even though her body is still taking shape, she is capable of absorbing and reacting to her mother’s thoughts and emotions.
- An expectant mother should foster in herself all the attributes she wants to see in her child.
- She should not harbour negative emotions like anger, hatred and jealousy.
- She must be very careful about what she says, hears reads and sees.
- The expectant father’s responsibility is to support his wife in maintaining feelings of peace and harmony.
The first year – Tender loving care
“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” – Paulo Coelho
In the first year of life, a child’s mind is like blotting paper. The words and deeds of parents and caregivers will have a deep impact on him even though he may not be able to understand them.
- Parents, grandparents and other responsible adults should lavish love and care on the young soul.
- As far as possible, do not entrust your little ones to paid help. If doing so is unavoidable, ensure that the person can be trusted to care for your child sensitively.
Early childhood – Appreciation and encouragement
“If you want your children to improve, let them overhear the nice things you say about them to others.” – Haim Ginott
The groundwork of personality is laid in early childhood. It is our privilege as parents to help our children unleash their hidden potential and develop it to the maximum. A child who lives with criticism, ridicule and scolding from parents, teachers and other significant adults will develop an inferiority complex.
- We must remember that each child is unique, with unique capabilities and potential. They need not be the same as our own talents and capabilities.
- As parents, it is imperative that we appreciate, encourage and uplift our child at every opportunity, and so empower her.
The turbulent teens – A listening ear
“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” - Jesse Jackson
Adolescence is a crucial period in a child’s development. It is difficult for both parent and child to navigate.
- Parents need to be well informed about the physical changes and emotional turmoil that occur during adolescence to help their child,
- Parents must be ready to give sufficient time to their children.
- It is counterproductive to flood the house with expensive toys, amenities and gadgets in lieu of spending time with your child.
- Don’t shut off your child’s natural tendency to share with you the incidents in his day-to-day life. This will make him hesitate to confide in you even if he is in a difficult situation. And, when you find out he is in trouble and punish him, it will only widen the rift between you both.
- Adolescents have boundless energy. Help them to channelise this constructively. If your child fails an examination, do not scold or hit her. This will have a detrimental effect. Instead, try to understand and support her so that she will do better next time. Do not force your own ambitions on your child – help him identify his aptitudes and interests, and give him the freedom to choose his own career.
Young adulthood - A light hand
When your child crosses teenage, she enters a stage where she feels overconfident and averse to following orders. It is now better to treat her like a friend.
- Refrain from recalling the incidents of your yesteryear in your child’s hearing. This is likely to put him off.
- Listen to what she has to say with patience.
- Appreciate the qualities in him that are better than yours.
- If you see faults in her, tell her gently that they are weaknesses that can be overcome, and by doing so, she will be able to achieve wonders.
We become parents without knowing that any skills are required. But, as the saying goes, “Life is a continuous learning process.”
When we attain parenthood, we often make the mistake of treating our children as our parents treated us. But that doesn’t really work. We, parents, would do well to keep ourselves abreast of the latest thoughts in the art of parenting, so that we can do our best to raise children the world can be proud of.
“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum
All through the different stages of a child’s life, we parents will do well to remember that the child will more readily do what he sees you doing, than obey you when you tell him to do something. So be sure to practise what you preach. Show him by example how to adhere to a healthy lifestyle and a sound value system. This will hold him in good stead throughout his adult life.
The last word
“Before I got married I had six theories about raising children; now, I have six children and no theories.” – John Wilmot
Well, that’s what parenting is all about – you learn from experience.
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