There is no golden rule to parenting and one model doesn’t fit all; every child is unique and so is every parent and their parenting practices too. However, if there was any such thing as simplifying the parenting protocols, then I would emphasize on the A-B-C of parenting.
Using these three essential principles, one can ensure a smoother parenting journey, irrespective of their child’s age. These three key essentials need to form a part of a parent’s daily interaction with their child or teenager.
A stands for Acceptance. When we talk about acceptance in a parent-child equation, it refers to identifying & acknowledging the struggles that a young person goes through while trying to adapt to not only this ever-changing world, but also adapt to the internal changes in one’s thought processes, body, mood, perception, and more; all of which a young person is exposed to at every juncture of life.
It is only when parents are able to look at the world from the lens of their children, in the day & age that their children are experiencing it, will these struggles become real. Very often, parents view their children’s struggles during the growing up years, from the lens of the times that they were growing up in, and this “hamare zaamane mein” attitude to understand and deal with one’s child’s problems is the first deal-breaker, which brings about a massive distance between parents, and children.
Acceptance on the parents part, therefore, demands that the parents acknowledge their child’s struggles, and view the problem behaviour as not just that (that is, as not the problem), but an adjustment mechanism toward these struggles; a mechanism through which a young person is trying to make sense of their world and yet, trying to hold their identity intact.
If parents are able to display this genuine acceptance toward their child, irrespective of their age, barriers can be broken down. There will also be a very strong possibility that the parent will, thereafter, be made a part of their child’s adaptive mechanisms and instead of fighting the battle alone, the child will now have the guidance and support of the parent. And isn’t that something that all parents want? That their children would pay heed to their suggestions? It’s just that guidance without accepting & acknowledging the true struggles of your child, will be empty. Children and adolescents who are extremely receptive to people’s emotions and reactions, will close up and barriers would be erected rather than broken down.
B stands for Belief. Very often the parents who visit me in the clinic set up for family counselling sessions or for sessions related to their child or adolescent, have this firm belief that they are right and their child is wrong. In line with the explanation provided above regarding acceptance, belief is a very critical aspect that makes or breaks a parent-child relationship.
Imagine when a 3-year old comes and tells their parent, that the caretaker was hitting them, and the parent goes to say that the child is lying. What kind of an impact will it have on the young child, who cannot even trust their own parent?
Imagine a 14 yr. the old girl who tells her parents that her maternal uncle tried to touch her inappropriately and the parents instead, accuse the girl of wearing bad clothes, or enticing the maternal uncle? Once again, who should this young person trust? And then let’s say that this boy and that girl, grow up to have severe difficulties in their personal relationships, or become a bully at school, how will the parents mend the damage already done?
It doesn’t matter whether your child is saying the truth or sharing their version of it, but it matters a whole lot, whether you as parents display trust in your child. Even if the child is not saying the complete truth, when a parent shows complete trust in the child, there is a high possibility that the child may refrain from twisting facts.
If you display belief in your children, it will also go a long way in ensuring that they will feel accountable about betraying that belief. In essence, if parents believe their children, instead of automatically questioning the authenticity of what is being shared, children also learn to believe back. Belief, therefore, is at the crux of a healthy relationship.
C stands for Communication. If at all you have been following my columns, you know that I always emphasize on communication. A whole generation of millennials, often complains about having parents who didn’t value or emphasize communication. Indeed, a bulk of the clientele I work with belong to this group, and somehow a lot of present concerns are traced back to a lack of open conversations at home.
Communication is the foundation for everything else in any relationship and is certainly most important in the relationship between a parent and child. If parents don’t communicate with their children, how will any problem ever get resolved? If there is no communication, how will parents understand the perspectives of their children, and vice-versa?
It actually doesn’t take much to communicate; all it needs is the will. If you haven’t ever addressed feelings or acknowledged the different perspectives with your 17-year-old for all these many years of their life, you certainly can’t expect them to be receptive towards the idea of communicating with you, right away.
Keep trying though and gradually, they may open up to this. But what is particularly important is that, from a very young age, just start talking to your child about anything and everything. The more open and honest a conversation exists within the household among different members, the more conducive it is for the young child’s growth.
I hope that you will remember the ABC of parenting. In the next article, we will look at some suggestions which parents can use to improve communication with their children.