Parenting they’re hungry and until they’re full. If you

Parenting comes with a whole lot of trial and error. And
when the going gets tough, you’ll naturally be tempted to threaten your kids
with punishment, or force them to do certain things, no matter how trivial they
may seem. However, any form of coercion may actually do harm to your child in
the long run. Here are some things that you shouldn’t force on your child and
better practices that you can adopt instead.

1. Play with other children

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Some kids are naturally introverted and may not exactly
enjoy social interaction. Respect your child’s personality and not try to force
them into uncomfortable social situations. If you do, it will only lead to
anxiety and stress. Instead, let your child gradually bond with others at their
own pace. And even though you may not be able to force friendships, you can
sensitise your child to be polite and civil, and there are many ways they can
do this, without having to fix a playdate.

2. Eat when they say
they’re not hungry

Children will eat when they’re hungry and until they’re
full. If you force them to eat more, you’re actually confusing their body’s internal
signals. When kids learn to ignore these cues, they can overeat, and this may
lead to weight issues or even obesity.

If your child has been struggling to finish their food, make
sure they don’t snack up to two hours before a meal. And if they’re reluctant
on eating certain types of food at first, try again another day. It can take up
to a dozen times of introducing a new food before children get accustomed to its
taste. Clinical Psychologist at Think Psychological Services, Vyda S. Chai
says, “Offer them a variety of foods even if they refuse initially. Food neophobia
is the most frequent nutritional problem in toddlers and can be managed by
repeated exposure and modelling.”

3. Be someone they’re
not

Coming to terms with one’s multifaceted identity can take
some time. As parents, you should always ensure that your children feel safe
and comfortable talking to you about issues like gender identity and sexual
orientation. To do this, you have to stop forcing behavioural and identity norms
onto them so that they can develop their own individuality.

Never disallow your child from exploring certain activities
just because of their sex. Dr Natalie Games, Clinical Psychologist at Alliance
Counselling advises, “Teach girls and boys that they are skilled in their own
strengths. Enforcing the same rules and providing the same opportunities to all
children is essential if you do not want them to think they grew up
disadvantaged in certain areas because of their sex.” Chai adds, “Be available
and open-minded. The most important thing is to let your child know that you
love them unconditionally.”

4. Go on a diet

Rather than making your child feel ashamed about his or her
appearance or weight, you want them to cultivate the right eating habits, and
you want this to be a pleasant experience. Dr Games says, “Studies clearly
reveal that when a parent comments on a child’s body to the child, the child
internalises the messages. Instead, parents should take the time to teach
children that any food can be eaten, but in moderation.” Chai adds that because
children learn through modeling behaviours, parents should be eating the same
types of food as the child if they want their eating habits to improve.

5. Apologise

Empathy is one of the last social skills to develop in
children. So it doesn’t come as a surprise that kids find it difficult
comprehending how others are feeling. Some are too young to realise what
they’ve done wrong, and why their actions or words may have hurt someone’s
feelings. And so, they may not be able to grasp what “I’m sorry” means.

Help your children understand the perspective of the person
they’ve unknowingly offended by explaining why their actions may not have been
the best way to handle the situation. Thereafter, guide them through the
process of apologising. Teaching children to understand the concept of apologising
and taking responsibility for their actions reduces the possibility of forced
apologies undermining relationships and even promoting resentment towards their
peers or siblings.

6. Do something
they’re not comfortable with

There is a fine line between pushing your kids to excel at
something, and pushing them to just give it a go. Rather than forcing your
child to take up an extracurricular activity, ask them if there are any that
they may be interested in. Keep the conversation positive, and never force your
own ambitions onto them because their frustration over being forced into any
activity may cloud their judgment when it comes to pursuing it out of enjoyment
and natural passion. Remember to keep the pressure off by ensuring that the
learning process is an enjoyable and positive experience for them.

7. Show physical
affection

Teach your kids the concept of consent from young and be
respectful of their wishes when it comes to body privacy. They should understand
that no one – not even family members – should ever touch them in a way that makes
them feel uncomfortable. Rather than expecting your child to adhere to
established social norms and behaviours, give them alternatives (like extending
a polite greeting instead of a hug). Giving children choices helps them feel
safe.

8. Invalidate their
emotions

Throwing a tantrum is a perfectly natural behaviour for a
child. It’s a way for kids with their limited language and immature cognitive abilities
to express emotion. Punishing such behaviours isn’t the way to go. Instead, empathise
with them (within reason) and show them how they can better express their
negative emotions.

“Emotional suppression usually leads to other deleterious
effects on our overall functioning and happiness. The suppression of negative
feelings ultimately ties up our good feelings too so that we find ourselves
operating in rigid ways that constrict the total personality and sometimes
leave us with inexplicable reactions such as depression or anxiety,” Dr Games
explains. She suggests parents learn how to allow their children to express their
negative feelings without trying to suppress them, before channeling them into
positive activity.