WHO’S IN CHARGE?

Do you ig­nore your preschooler’s tantrums in the hope that he’ll stop soon enough? You just might be do­ing more bad than good, par­ent­ing ex­perts tell JASSMIN PETER-BERNTZEN.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - Contents -

Do you ig­nore your preschooler’s tantrums in the hope that he’ll stop soon enough? You just might be do­ing more bad than good.

When Jolin Chua be­came a mum, her top pri­or­ity was to en­sure she raised a happy and healthy child.

Her son, Keiran, now four, was her pre­cious gift af­ter many years of in­fer­til­ity, so all she wanted to do was put a smile on his face.

“I was ob­sessed with keep­ing him happy all the time. I equated cry­ing and fuss­ing to some­thing neg­a­tive and wanted to cor­rect it im­me­di­ately by giv­ing in to his re­quests,” the 40-year-old sales man­ager re­calls.

“It was suc­cess­ful in the be­gin­ning, but once he started grow­ing up and be­com­ing more vo­cal, I re­alised giv­ing in con­stantly does come with con­se­quences.”

Not only did lit­tle Keiran ex­pect to get his way all the time at home or with his par­ents, he also ex­pected the same treat­ment at the child­care cen­tre and dur­ing play­dates.

When things didn’t work out the way he wanted them to, Keiran would throw ma­jor tantrums. It was also at this time that Jolin no­ticed that he was strug­gling to set­tle into school and didn’t have a lot of friends.

“By putting my son’s hap­pi­ness at the top of my pri­or­ity list, I for­got to teach him how to fol­low rules or be kind,” Jolin adds.

“I re­alised I wasn’t set­ting him up for suc­cess, be­cause in the real world, you can’t ex­pect every­one to make you happy all the time.”

As par­ents, we only want the best for our kids. But in our quest to give them that, we some­times don’t re­alise that the well-mean­ing things we say or do can do more harm than good.

Young Par­ents speaks to par­ent­ing and aca­demic ex­perts on what mums and dads are do­ing that un­wit­tingly fuel bad be­hav­iour in their preschool­ers.

YOU IG­NORE THEIR TANTRUMS

We’ve all been there. Our kid starts a ma­jor tantrum in the mid­dle of a fam­ily gath­er­ing or su­per­mar­ket trip.

We look the other way, hop­ing that by not giv­ing them any at­ten­tion, the drama will die down even­tu­ally. When it does work, we think we’ve finally cracked the par­ent­ing code.

But have we, though?

“Some re­spect­ful par­ents claim that this way, the chil­dren will learn how to feel the full emo­tion,” says par­ent­ing ex­pert Cor­nelia Dahin­ten.

“But it might be a mis­take be­cause the kids do not yet have the brain func­tion to calm down by them­selves. They need lov­ing sup­port.”

WHAT TO DO IN­STEAD Tantrums are a cry for help. Your child is try­ing to say some­thing, but isn’t able to fully ver­balise it. In such cases, ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key.

Jer­ine Ang, prin­ci­pal at Pat’s School­house Sem­bawang Coun­try Club, shares a great tip: “Help your child ex­press him­self by mak­ing ‘I’ state­ments such as, ‘I feel up­set’. Then en­cour­age him to put his feel­ings into words by ask­ing him ques­tions.

“For ex­am­ple, if he’s yelling at his younger brother, ask him: ‘You sound re­ally mad to me. Can you tell me what’s go­ing on just now while you two were play­ing to­gether?’.

What you’re do­ing here is ac­knowl­edg­ing your child’s feel­ings, con­nect­ing, em­pathis­ing and of­fer­ing a so­lu­tion. Talk­ing it out teaches your child a pos­i­tive way to reg­u­late his be­hav­iour and ex­press his emo­tions.

“It also sends the mes­sage that while it’s nat­u­ral to feel an­gry or frus­trated, that doesn’t make it okay to dis­play bad man­ners of scream­ing and shout­ing, es­pe­cially in pub­lic,” Jer­ine adds.

Some­times if there’s no so­lu­tion, just be­ing there for your child and of­fer­ing a lov­ing space to let out the emo­tion can also do won­ders.

YOU’RE TOO PER­MIS­SIVE

Hav­ing grown up in an au­thor­i­tar­ian en­vi­ron­ment, some par­ents to­day have de­cided that they don’t want to raise their kids in the same man­ner. But at the same time, they lack the in­ner com­pass to find an al­ter­na­tive par­ent­ing method.

“This of­ten re­sults in per­mis­sive par­ent­ing or er­ratic re­ac­tions,” Cor­nelia says. “Both are not very help­ful, and can con­fuse the child and par­ent.”

Be­ing more of a friend to your kid in the hope of main­tain­ing a close bond with them can also back­fire, be­cause your child doesn’t have a good model to learn from. WHAT TO DO IN­STEAD As a par­ent, you need to ac­cept that you will not be liked all the time by your kids. Also ex­pect­ing chil­dren to be con­stantly happy is a par­ent trap that leads to per­mis­sive par­ent­ing.

So, in­stead of al­ways try­ing to fix things for your kids or let­ting them get their way, what’s more im­por­tant is to teach them how to over­come neg­a­tive emo­tions so they learn how to be happy.

YOU START DIS­CI­PLINE TOO LATE

You let your preschooler’s bad be­hav­iour slide be­cause you think he’s still young and doesn’t have the ma­tu­rity to grasp such con­cepts.

How­ever, Cor­nelia points out that hu­mans are pat­tern seek­ers. To learn a new pat­tern of be­hav­iour, we need to come into con­stant in­ter­ac­tion with it.

“If we do not start early, we are con­fus­ing this pat­tern. It is not the value sys­tem that changes with age, it’s how well we’re able to adapt and ex­e­cute through­out our de­vel­op­ment,” Cor­nelia adds.

WHAT TO DO IN­STEAD Start early – as young as 18 months old, Jer­ine says.

At this age, tots can al­ready un­der­stand that other peo­ple have feel­ings just like them and this is in fact the best time to start teach­ing them that their own be­hav­iour can af­fect oth­ers.

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