Parenting comes with a whole lot of trial and error.
Andwhen the going gets tough, you’ll naturally be tempted to threaten your kidswith punishment, or force them to do certain things, no matter how trivial theymay seem. However, any form of coercion may actually do harm to your child inthe long run. Here are some things that you shouldn’t force on your child andbetter practices that you can adopt instead.1. Play with other childrenSome kids are naturally introverted and may not exactlyenjoy social interaction. Respect your child’s personality and not try to forcethem into uncomfortable social situations. If you do, it will only lead toanxiety and stress.
Instead, let your child gradually bond with others at theirown pace. And even though you may not be able to force friendships, you cansensitise your child to be polite and civil, and there are many ways they cando this, without having to fix a playdate.2. Eat when they saythey’re not hungryChildren will eat when they’re hungry and until they’refull. If you force them to eat more, you’re actually confusing their body’s internalsignals. When kids learn to ignore these cues, they can overeat, and this maylead to weight issues or even obesity.If your child has been struggling to finish their food, makesure they don’t snack up to two hours before a meal.
And if they’re reluctanton eating certain types of food at first, try again another day. It can take upto a dozen times of introducing a new food before children get accustomed to itstaste. Clinical Psychologist at Think Psychological Services, Vyda S. Chaisays, “Offer them a variety of foods even if they refuse initially. Food neophobiais the most frequent nutritional problem in toddlers and can be managed byrepeated exposure and modelling.”3. Be someone they’renotComing to terms with one’s multifaceted identity can takesome time. As parents, you should always ensure that your children feel safeand comfortable talking to you about issues like gender identity and sexualorientation.
To do this, you have to stop forcing behavioural and identity normsonto them so that they can develop their own individuality.Never disallow your child from exploring certain activitiesjust because of their sex. Dr Natalie Games, Clinical Psychologist at AllianceCounselling advises, “Teach girls and boys that they are skilled in their ownstrengths. Enforcing the same rules and providing the same opportunities to allchildren is essential if you do not want them to think they grew updisadvantaged in certain areas because of their sex.” Chai adds, “Be availableand open-minded.
The most important thing is to let your child know that youlove them unconditionally.”4. Go on a dietRather than making your child feel ashamed about his or herappearance or weight, you want them to cultivate the right eating habits, andyou want this to be a pleasant experience.
Dr Games says, “Studies clearlyreveal that when a parent comments on a child’s body to the child, the childinternalises the messages. Instead, parents should take the time to teachchildren that any food can be eaten, but in moderation.” Chai adds that becausechildren learn through modeling behaviours, parents should be eating the sametypes of food as the child if they want their eating habits to improve.5. ApologiseEmpathy is one of the last social skills to develop inchildren.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that kids find it difficultcomprehending how others are feeling. Some are too young to realise whatthey’ve done wrong, and why their actions or words may have hurt someone’sfeelings. And so, they may not be able to grasp what “I’m sorry” means.Help your children understand the perspective of the personthey’ve unknowingly offended by explaining why their actions may not have beenthe best way to handle the situation. Thereafter, guide them through theprocess of apologising. Teaching children to understand the concept of apologisingand taking responsibility for their actions reduces the possibility of forcedapologies undermining relationships and even promoting resentment towards theirpeers or siblings.6.
Do somethingthey’re not comfortable withThere is a fine line between pushing your kids to excel atsomething, and pushing them to just give it a go. Rather than forcing yourchild to take up an extracurricular activity, ask them if there are any thatthey may be interested in. Keep the conversation positive, and never force yourown ambitions onto them because their frustration over being forced into anyactivity may cloud their judgment when it comes to pursuing it out of enjoymentand natural passion. Remember to keep the pressure off by ensuring that thelearning process is an enjoyable and positive experience for them.
7. Show physicalaffectionTeach your kids the concept of consent from young and berespectful of their wishes when it comes to body privacy. They should understandthat no one – not even family members – should ever touch them in a way that makesthem feel uncomfortable. Rather than expecting your child to adhere toestablished social norms and behaviours, give them alternatives (like extendinga polite greeting instead of a hug). Giving children choices helps them feelsafe.8. Invalidate theiremotionsThrowing a tantrum is a perfectly natural behaviour for achild.
It’s a way for kids with their limited language and immature cognitive abilitiesto express emotion. Punishing such behaviours isn’t the way to go. Instead, empathisewith them (within reason) and show them how they can better express theirnegative emotions.”Emotional suppression usually leads to other deleteriouseffects on our overall functioning and happiness. The suppression of negativefeelings ultimately ties up our good feelings too so that we find ourselvesoperating in rigid ways that constrict the total personality and sometimesleave us with inexplicable reactions such as depression or anxiety,” Dr Gamesexplains.
She suggests parents learn how to allow their children to express theirnegative feelings without trying to suppress them, before channeling them intopositive activity.