How to Raise a Well-Behaved Child Without Suppressing their Personality?
When raising their child, every parent is at least once faced with a dilemma of thinking about at what moments should they display strictness and disciplinary methods, and at when they should be softer and more relaxed. It is important for everyone to find their balance, depending on their personality, beliefs and opinions on education. Today, we share an upbringing technique that considers being the most successful one, in which discipline does not hinder, but rather assists with the development of a child.
We have previously discussed the topic of child attachment to a parent and a reliable, secure relationship being the basis of its development. Without this support, the child’s brain will be under stress, which inhibits development and redirects attention toward protection and survival.
If a parent wants their child to be well-behaved and accommodating, and at the same time, to develop and grow into a full-fledged individual, it is important to use upbringing methods based on the theory of attachment, as it doesn’t create stress for the child. On the contrary, it rather maintains their feeling of security and a good relationship.
- Which Upbringing Methods Bring More Harm than Benefits?
- Which Upbringing Methods Help with Child Development?
- Why is My Child Resisting and What Could be Done About This?
Which Upbringing Methods Bring More Harm than Benefits?
There are a large number of various upbringing methods, one of the most popular of which is the method of deprivation. It is mostly manifested through conditionals and ‘blackmailing’ techniques, with parents saying: ‘If you behave badly, you will be left home alone’, ‘If you continue screaming, I will lock you in a room until you re-evaluate your behavior’, ‘If you don’t do as I say, I will take your favorite toy away’, etc. The idea of this approach is to limit the child from what they value or love, thereby greatly influencing their behavior—and this method really works! You may notice how quickly the child reacts and starts doing as you said. Nevertheless, this, in fact, leads to only one result: children learn to be convenient for the parent, to the detriment of their needs.
The need for closeness and human interaction is a basic human instinct. Deprivation of contact, separation from what or whom the child is attached to, all trigger severe stress, which is unbearable for the child. The parent controls the child through the most powerful ‘leverage’ tool, which is attachment. It provides short-term benefits for the parent, however, it also hinders the development of the child and prevents the emergence of the right feeling of oneself. The attachment theory explains that such a method does more harm than good.
The extreme and most painful method of education is any physical punishment or humiliation of the child with the aim of getting them to obey their parents. This not only creates extreme stress in a child who cannot yet stand up for themselves but also forms a ‘this could be done to me’ thinking pattern, which further leads to a victim-type behavior in adulthood. Studies show that the victims of domestic violence are most often people who were subjected to violence by their loved ones in their childhood.
For many of us, the dangers of physical child abuse are obvious, however, do we also notice other, more subtle facets of abuse in our parenting practices?
When we are too strict about the upbringing of our child, we create requirements that are not appropriate for their age, use the blackmail punishing method excessively, and also display violence towards our children. Thus, the following question arises: if I am a gentle and compliant parent, how will I tell my child what they need to do and how will I be able to correct their behavior?
No need to fall into either side of the spectrum of full rigidity or full compliance. The truth is always somewhere in the middle. Good parenting has to be associated with a position of strong authority, coupled with a loving and caring relationship.
Which Upbringing Methods Help with Child Development?
A parenting method that fosters development is based on attachment and the formation of a parent’s authoritative figure in the eyes of the child.
If a parent is a leadership figure to the child, the rules that they dictate become valuable and important.
Parents should not be too harsh, however, they also shouldn’t be obliged to become a slave to their children. The task of a good parent is to be responsible and build adequate boundaries for the child, as well as understand their needs and maintain a close and trusting relationship. This is an art that needs to be mastered.
The parent must understand the developmental particularities and the real capabilities of their child in accordance with their age, in order to strive for the right upbringing process.
The human brain is not yet fully formed at birth, it actively grows in the first years of the child’s life. Babies are just learning to control their bodies, whilst children are already learning to control their temper. Every parent strives to have their child be able to behave well and have control over their emotions, however, in order to achieve this, a feeling of self-control must be formed in the child in the first place. The area of the brain responsible for it is the so-called prefrontal cortex, which actively forms from the age of 5 and begins to fully function by about the age of 7–9 years old.
It is only at this age that children are truly able to control their behavior and their emotional outbursts. They are capable of doing this, unless, of course, there were some delays in their development, which can also happen due to incorrect upbringing methods.
It is impossible to expect perfect behavior and full emotional control from young children and children of preschool age, especially if these emotions are running very high.
The task of the parent is to help the child to get acquainted with their feelings in order to learn how to manage them and correct their own behavior in the future.
The Main Principles of Maintaining Good Discipline in Your Child
Having good discipline together with fostering child development and maintaining a healthy relationship is based on two principles:
- Teaching good behavior principles through one’s own example and directing the behavior of the child in the right way.
- Using games to achieve results.
Leading by Example
A small child learns through repetitive actions. Think about the second level of attachment, which is imitation. To help a child behave correctly and teach them the right things, you need to lead by example and do everything together.
For instance, let’s say you’ve encountered some problematic behavior of your child on the playground, with your child fighting with their peers. Instead of scolding and punishing them, it’s better to point the child in the right direction, for example, by saying, ‘Let’s take your toy car and go to that boy to play with him.’ Then you’ll need to do what you said together with the child and support them, by saying,’”Take the car, boy.’ The parent is acting like a ‘director’ in this situation, by pointing the child towards the right actions. This kind of help would be highly useful in the beginning. After this, when the child learns to cope on their own, they will no longer need so much of your help.
It is important to use this technique in difficult situations or new circumstances when the child is lost, shy, or afraid. This is particularly useful if you suspect that the child may behave in an undesirable way. Take the time to guide them and show them how to behave, instead of scolding or pitying them after the fact. Young children of the age of 3-4 years old understand actions much better than words, thus a demonstration would always be more effective.
In order for this to work out well, you need to capture the attention of your child. This is done not just by dragging them by the hand and telling them what to do, but rather by establishing eye contact and cheering them up with a smile. This allows the child to ‘tune in’ to the adult. In other words, it activates the attachment instinct and has the child follow the adult.
Teaching Through Playing
Play is the most important tool for good discipline. This is an easy way to get to the desired child’s behavior.
For example, you’ve dressed the child in clean clothes to go and see your friends, but there is a large number of dirty puddles between your house entrance and the car. You can say ‘Do not try to jump into a puddle’ to the child in a strict and firm voice, or you can get them scared, by saying, ‘If you jump into the puddles, you will be left home.’ The child will react to this, however, they will become stressed, quiet, and submissive, and the parent will achieve a result at the cost of the child’s future well-being. However, the opposite situation may also occur. If the child is rather stubborn and has behavioral problems, such a ban will become a temptation and a kind of call to action for them to again break the rules again.
What could be done in this case? Game mode is on! Say, ‘You and I have a mission. Look, there are puddles on the road, and there are also some dry areas. You and I will now turn into gingerbread people, so if we step into the water, we will get wet and fall apart. Therefore, we need to move through the dry places, so let’s jump.’
This story and this game will instantly put the child into a playful mood, which is vital for childhood, and in which the child will follow the parent. The more often and more actively a parent uses this technique, the easier their life will be.
Here are the methods of games that I have been recently using with my son of 3 years old:
- Brushing teeth: catching invisible worms in the mouth. The child turns on their imagination and their interest in something unusual allows them to switch their attention from resistance to interest.
- Putting on trousers: fly into the tunnels. It’s great to play out some simple actions that the child doesn’t want to perform, in order to make the process faster and easier.
- Cleaning up and organizing toys: putting them to bed and sending them to their houses. You can come up with interesting stories for each of the child’s chores.
Instead of Screaming and Tantrums: Methods that Develop Inner Discipline in the Child
1. Outline what is going on for yourself and your child
If a small child starts expressing their emotions, formulating demands and throwing tantrums, it would be wrong to immediately punish or isolate them, as this will cause stress. Yes, the child is likely to calm down out of fear, however, it is unlikely that they will understand what was required of them, and will not be able to control themselves in the future.
It would be right to talk about the child’s emotions and needs, by saying ‘I see that you want this candy’, ‘I know that you are angry now’, etc. This will not only help the child to understand themselves and their needs better in the future but will also allow them to feel heard and understood, which is of utmost importance for every child.
2. Set up some normal boundaries
The parent should set some boundaries or rules that should be essential as they ensure the safety of the child. This, of course, largely depends on the perception of the parent and their personal experience. Some parents allow their children to draw on the walls, smear food on a plate and calmly watch the baby explore their physical abilities whilst climbing a steep ladder. Others, on the contrary, put up lots of prohibitions and are constantly worried. This is a matter of personal traits and the psychological state of the parents. When there are some normal boundaries set, they are clearly and openly broadcasted to the child, with phrases such as, ‘No, no more sweets’, ‘I see that you are angry, but you can’t hit your sibling’, etc.
3. Accept the child’s reactions
Restrictions will surely cause a reaction in the child, which will most likely be violent, so it is important to be prepared for this. Having a negative emotional response to something that hurts or offends is a normal manifestation of human nature. In order for the child not to suppress their personality in the future, it is important not to punish them for their emotions, which are created by nature itself and cannot be controlled. Let the child be offended, scream and cry, as much as the situation and your nerves allow.
Accepting the child in their reaction is an important moment that shapes their development, among other things. The child fully explores their nature and learns to understand themselves. In the future, when the prefrontal cortex of their brain is sufficiently formed, they will be able to better control themselves.
Moreover, the parent remains on the same page with the child, and not against them, by supporting them and saying ‘I understand, I also get offended when they don’t give me what I want.’ There are no single correct required phrases here, each parent chooses them for themselves based on an understanding of their child and their age.
4. Come up with a collective decision, whilst remaining on the same page with the child
After the child’s emotion subsides, you can look for a joint solution to the problem. Negotiate with the child, if their age allows for it, by saying something like ‘Eat soup first, and then you can have candy’, etc.
It is impossible to give precise instructions on the formation of the discipline of the child, on the correct phrases and on behavioral patterns in a certain situation. All this should be born in the heart of a parent, from the feelings for their child, understanding them, recognizing their needs, and therefore coming up with the right approach.
Why is My Child Resisting and What Could be Done About This?
The resistance of the child can be called an instinct that shapes their personality. This way, they try to maintain their boundaries and their personality by not agreeing with someone else’s requests. All healthy young children tend to resist the will of others.
In this situation, it is important to respect the formation of the child’s inner will, which later in adulthood will grow into one’s personality, healthy boundaries, the ability to choose and act based on one’s own feelings and needs, and not following someone else’s requests and manipulation. The parent is also actively involved in the formation of all of this.
If the will of the child is directly suppressed and punished for it, this will make their personality highly problematic.
It is necessary to find a healthy balance between accepting the will of the child, and their refusals, and giving them the right to make their own decisions, having taken their age into account. In other matters, you will have to broadcast your adult rules and accept the reaction of the child without using manipulation. This way the child learns to accept the boundaries of other people and set their own, along with the formation of their will.
However, you should not enter into a direct confrontation with the will of the child, as this will only increase their resistance. It is worth setting your boundaries, but having made it as clear as possible for the child and having connected it with a game element. Young children and preschoolers do not understand the logic of ‘you can’t have candy, because sugar is harmful, it can lead to diseases’, etc. For a child of 3-4 years old, this correlation is too complex. Thus, it would be best to use a game element here, as I do, for instance.
If my child is making active demands and putting pressure, I take a soft toy and come up with a story on the go: ‘Here is a bear, he wanted candy so much, but his mother did not allow him, she said that he would become all sticky, but the bear did not believe it and did not obey his mother. He ate sweets and got stuck to a chair’. This funny story makes my child laugh, they understand it, and they agree with their mother. Of course, when the child grows up, they will know that one cannot get stuck to a chair by eating candy, however, by then, they will already be able to find another solution to follow this rule.
Whatever the approach to disciplining a child, the most important thing is not to lose a close bond and to cultivate a relationship of trust and a sense of security around you. If your child is having some problematic behavior traits, it is worth always being on the same side with the child and considering them to be an ally against bad behavior, along with finding and eliminating its multiple causes.
Making sure that the intentions are good and strengthening attachment, are both the main levers for controlling the child’s behavior. After all, every person, including a child, wants to be good for their loved ones. They strive to maintain a healthy relationship and live in peace and love. Believing this paves the way from the heart of the parent to the heart of the child.
The picture on the front page: fizkes/Shutterstock.com
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