Raising strong, independent kids
1 February 2019 FAMILY
By: Natasha Archary
Parenting is all just a juggling act isn’t it? We all just do the best we can in the situations we’re presented with daily, managing moods and schedules and hoping to the Gods above that we don’t break those little spirits and fail them.
You could be the type of parent who drops everything and rushes to your child if they so much as wince. Or the type who just shrugs and wipes away a bloody knee with a dirty tissue, or the back of their shirts, whichever’s cleaner. The bottom line is that we’re all just trying to get through parenting, hurdle by hurdle.
Lately, I’ve been questioning whether my parenting techniques or lack thereof, are helping my son become independent and strong. Or am I just raising another stereotypical “mommy’s boy”?
This doesn’t mean that girls aren’t mollycoddled. If anything we tend to be more protective of our girls don’t we? And in these times, how can we not be? But, I don’t believe we’re doing our kiddies any good by keeping them in a bubble.
Don’t hit your kids.
Shouting at them causes a flight or fright response that scars them emotionally.
Too much screen time is bad for them.
You’re spoiling them by giving them your attention all the time.
You need to ignore them when they throw tantrums or they will just manipulate you as they get older.
And cue eye-roll. Where do I draw the line between paranoid schizophrenia and near-nervous breakdown? There are way too many restrictions on parents today and this could quite possibly be what’s wrong with the world today.
We’re too lenient on the little lives who need guidance and discipline, structure and education, nurturing and consistency. Instead of being a parent and raising them with integrity in the face of hardship, we spoil them with every want they have because heaven forbid we say no and be labelled a bad parent.
Say no without the guilt
“Mommy, I can’t do this on my own. I need you.”
At three, my son, independent and assertive leader though he was with his peers in class, was a helpless little boy who needed his mommy every second after we got home. I was at my wits end trying to encourage him to sit by himself, in his room full of toys and “make pretend”.
“But I need you.”
For the first two years of his life my son did not hear the dreaded “N” word. And no, I don’t go around using derogatory racial slurs, but “no” was never something I brought myself to saying to him.
I would resort to negotiating and talking him out of his assertion that his demands be met. Yes, my two-year-old held me hostage. It got to a point where he was calling the shots whenever we went shopping or were out dining in public.
Who’s the parent here? I found myself confused for a second until I put my foot down and would no longer tolerate this terrorism.
And there it was, the breakthrough that would set a new course for our relationship forever, his first “NO!”
Raise ‘em strong
He survived. Fellow mommies and daddies, me saying no occasionally did not break my son. If anything it’s helped him voice when something is displeasing and he establishes the types of behavior he now finds intolerable from others.
Strong and independent children are able to express their feelings of uneasiness and discomfort with confidence. A simple, “No, I don’t want to,” when someone oversteps a boundary can go a long way in this day and age.
An independent child will also have no issues with separation. Dropping them off at school is a swift and tear-free procedure because they are certain you will be returning to fetch them at the end of the day.
There’s a level of maturity with kids who are raised to be strong and independent. They don’t rely on caregivers and often show initiative as leaders.
If you have a clingy, fussy toddler who seems to be reattached to you by a limb or two, try one of the suggestions below to attempt to break that habit.
Arrange monitored playdates with other children who are older than your own.
This will give your child a well-rounded social circle. Your child will be more likely to assert himself amongst the older group. Mimicking the behavior patterns of the older kids and their sense of self.
Don’t run to your kids immediately.
If they’re screaming and trying every annoying little thing to grab your attention and you’re busy, don’t drop what you’re doing to rush to their side. They need to learn how to keep themselves preoccupied long enough for you to brush your hair before you head out the door. Unless there’s blood, they’ll survive a few moments of alone time.
Speak to them like you would an adult.
Talking down to kids and using “baby language” or a higher pitch than you would when engaging with an adult undermines your child’s intellectual capabilities. They’re able to pick up on verbal cues and tones from about nine months. From the age of two, try explaining to your child what you expect of them, what you need them to do and share details about your plans for the day. This will set the dynamic for how your child will later engage himself.
Allow alone time.
For an hour every day, children should sit by themselves in a room and play. Whether they have siblings or are an only child. This stimulates their imagination and promotes creative play. Thinking up different worlds and creatures was the most memorable part of my childhood. Every child needs to have that.
Say no every now and then.
This doesn’t make you a mean mommy or naughty daddy. It makes you a parent who is honestly just doing the best you can. If you can’t afford something, if they’re being overly dramatic or you just have had enough, say no.
“No, I’m not going to listen unless you stop your bad behavior.”
Or, “No, Khanyi’s elbow is not in your eye Siya now stop yelling mommy every five seconds or no Paw Patrol when we get home.”
I can’t promise they won’t attach themselves to your ankles every chance they get but it will help them become a tad more assertive. With the fast paced times and in-your-face city culture, having a child who’s found his voice can never be a bad thing.