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The 10 commandments of good parenting

Don’t pamper your kids, but don’t punish them either. Be their friend, but discipline them too. And remember you’re always their role model. Here’s the best way to raise your babies.

india Updated: Oct 23, 2010 19:53 IST
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi

Bringing up kids is not really the toughest thing to do – but in their zealous attempts to bring out the best in their children, parents often lose the plot. Films like Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots and the very latest, Udaan, have all demonstrated how well-meaning parents can get it wrong when it comes to motivating their kids and setting a good example for them. So, if you despair of getting it right, read on:

1. Be loving
It’s a cliché, but the ultimate truth. Nothing works like love for adults, and definitely more so for children. “Absolutely,” says Dr Chhavi Khanna, a clinical psychologist at Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai. “In fact, no amount of either discipline or sweet talking can match the kind of difference that genuine love makes to a child’s personality.” She adds, “Love helps not just in making the parent-child bond that much stronger, but also shapes the child’s personality.”

However, experts caution that one shouldn’t overload a child with too much love. “Most indulgent parents make this mistake. They take the theories of love far too literally and are unable to control this emotion,” explains psychologist Dr Ravi Bajaj. He adds, “Children must understand that every demand will not be met. And parents must get their priorities straight. Give in to some of your child’s demands, but not to all of them, and most definitely not the ones that sound unreasonable – such as not listening to their elders, misbehaving or asking for more of something when he or she has had enough of it already.” According to Dr Bajaj, it is necessary to maintain a fine balance. “Too much love should not spoil and make a child a nuisance to other people,” he adds.

Dr Khanna adds another warning. “Don’t shower your child with affection in the form of expensive gifts all the time as she or he may not learn the value of effort and money,” she explains.

Parenting2. Be involved in your child’s life

When you are with your children, be present mentally and physically, and be attentive to them and their needs. "It’s always a good idea for a child to know that the parent cares about him or her," says teacher Rachna Dubey. With her own experience as a parent of three kids – aged two, three and seven – and as a teacher of teens, Dubey adds that it is very important for a parent to know what is going on in a child’s life. "Whether it is school, home or extra-curricular activities, a parent must be aware of everything. From their performance in school to the friends that they make, every part is an important aspect of a child’s life and should be equally important for the parent," she says.

However, a parent must also encourage independence in a child. According to experts, being involved does not mean making the child completely dependent on the parent. While the parents must look through the child’s homework once he or she comes back from school, they should encourage the kids to finish it on their own. Making scrapbooks or finishing their projects for them will only hamper children’s learning abilities.

“A parent should also encourage a child in doing different daily tasks, like tidying one’s room, laying the table or cleaning it after a meal. This not only involves the child in the household but also brings in a sense of responsibility,” says Dubey.

3. Establish rules
This one is a must. Every household functions with a set of dos and don’ts, so make sure your child understands and appreciates these rules. They could be as basic as talking politely to everybody, adhering to time or finishing school work. However, do not impose these rules with extreme rigidity – leave scope for some leeway. “A child often functions on moods and whims. A parent should make concessions sometimes. It’s all right as long as the child does not make a habit of breaking rules,” says Dubey.

4. Be strict when required
Tell your children what is right and what is wrong. Make them understand the good from the bad. Scolding or enforcing discipline mildly is okay. Take actions like banning television or going out to play or any other thing that the child enjoys for some time in case of any misbehaviour.

Also, monitor your child at all times. “Instead of restricting your child from doing certain activities like watching TV, etc, monitor, supervise and watch the programmes with him or her,” says Dr Khanna.

However, avoid any form of harsh discipline. “Avoid physical punishment or any other form of verbal abuse as this may seriously harm your child’s self-esteem and he or she may retreat inward or may adopt aggression as a way of life. Use discussion as an alternate method,” explains Dr Khanna.

5. Treat your child with respect
Give your child the kind of respect you want for yourself, say experts. “Children have very fragile sensibilities. They can be hurt very easily and need to be nurtured with care,” says child counsellor Richa Pant. She adds, “Whether it is your manner of speaking or general behaviour, pay your children the same courtesies you would give to anyone else. Speak to them politely, respect their opinions and pay attention when they are speaking to you. Remember that children treat others the way their parents treat them. Your relationship with your children is the foundation for their relationships with others.”

Also, do not scold your children in public. Experts say that children who are reprimanded in public get more offended. “If you need to tell your child to behave better, take him or her away from the others and say so politely. Better still, reprimand them later at home and tell them to make sure that such behaviour is never repeated,” says Pant.

6. Encourage your child to do well
This is a must for every parent. Even a basic statement like ‘well done’ can do wonders for a child’s confidence. “Even adults thrive on a little appreciation or a small compliment,” explains Pant. “Children obviously look to their parents for approval. And once that is given, they blossom into secure, confident individuals with the right encouragement.”

However, avoid putting undue pressure on the child. According to the experts, a push or a little pumping up of confidence is good, but make sure you do not turn the push into a shove. Do not put undue pressure on your kids at all. They must do well, but they should also be told that it’s okay if they are not the best at all times and that there is always a second chance.

7. Appreciate other kids as well
Experts feel that it is always a good idea to appreciate others around you. Whether it is adults or the child’s peers, the child must know and understand that other people are and can be good and should be treated equally. “This is very necessary, otherwise the child may grow up thinking he or she is the best and not respect those around them,” says Dr Ravi Bajaj.

But never compare your child to anyone else. According to experts, this involves walking a fine line. While parents must make sure that kids learn to appreciate people around them, especially their peers, they must remember never to compare them to anybody who may be doing better. “Children are very sensitive about what their parents think of them. So never tell them that they are less than anybody. That can cause huge damage to their self esteem,” warns Dr Bajaj.

8. Always be encouraging
Every little thing that a child does deserves appreciation, whether it is cleaning their cupboard, topping their class, tidying a room or winning a competition. Be there to applaud your kids every time they do something good as this will help develop their personalities better.

However, stay away from negative goading such as, “You can’t do that” or “You are not capable enough”. This can mar your child’s personality. Do not use the ‘challenge’ tactic. Positive appreciation helps much better.

9. Indulge your child’s interests
Whether it is reading, writing, singing, dancing or sports, encourage your child to have a wide variety of extra-curricular interests. It helps them garner an overall knowledge base and develop varied interests and viewpoints.

However, do not impose your interests, likes and dislikes on your kids. “That is the mistake that most parents make very often,” says Dr Khanna.

Rachna Dubey agrees, saying, “In the name of encouraging kids, most parents impose their interests or unrequited ambitions on their kids. A father I know did every possible thing to make his son learn singing when the poor kid had absolutely no ear for music. He wanted to be a photographer, but the father wouldn’t listen. The child turned into a nervous wreck, because every time he couldn’t sing his father would fly into a mad rage.”

10. Remember that your child learns everything from you
Mind what you say and the way you behave in front of your kids. From a conversation with your spouse or family members to your general behaviour in public, your child picks up everything from you. You are your child’s first teacher. So stay away from bad habits because whatever you do, your child will learn the same behaviours.