Notes chartered psychologist Dr Penny Tok, “A safe and secure attachment is critical in developing confident and well-adjusted children. This means that your child trusts and feels secure in their own abilities, and adapts well to their circumstances.”
Pointing out that these qualities are developed through everyday exposure and learning opportunities, Dr Tok outlines what parents should refrain from doing if they want their kids to develop optimally. Stop…:
1. … Being a helicopter parent
“Being a helicopter parent refers to someone who hovers and gets involved in every aspect of their child’s development ― which is intrusive, stifling and unnecessary,” Dr Tok explains. “It sends a message that your child is not good enough, given that you always need to be around to help them out.”
“A safe and secure attachment is critical in developing confident and well-adjusted children. This means that your child trusts and feels secure in their own abilities, and adapts well to their circumstances.”
“This will help junior build confidence in his own ability, rather than relying on someone else to step in when things get slightly difficult,” says Dr Tok.
She also advises that parents stop over-structuring their children’s schedules.
2. … Lashing out/Hitting your child
She elaborates, “Hitting a child tells them that ‘I can control you because I am bigger and stronger’, thus shaping behaviour out of fear. This does nothing to meet a child’s needs or teach them more appropriate ways of reacting.”
In contrast, positive discipline is empathetic and focuses on meeting the underlying needs of your child ― that is, what is driving their challenging behaviour. Punishment may work at extinguishing the behaviour, but is not a good long-term strategy as it doesn't identify the root cause of bad behaviour.
Dr Tok advises, “While consequences should be spelled out, parents need to guide junior in making amends, seek to understand why he is acting this way and help him find alternative, more appropriate reactions.”
3. … Being only their friend and not a parent
Though you might wish to be BFFs with your mini-me, bear in mind that your ultimate role is to be their parent. Being a parent comes with a different set of responsibilities, which friendships do not have.
She adds, “Rather than being seen as controlling, children need boundaries to help them understand the world and to develop self-discipline. Just don’t over-do it.”
Of course, this doesn't mean you can’t be your child’s friend. It’s still important to bond with your mini-me, including sharing their joys, listening to their grievances and doing fun activities together.
4. … Neglecting the importance of play
In Singapore, parents are often overly concerned about the rat race. As such, they forget how crucial play is for nurturing a well-rounded child.
No matter how hectic your child’s school life is, make play a part of their regular schedule.
In particular, play that is self-directed (versus structured and adult-led) fosters a child’s natural curiosity and leads them to new discoveries. This, in turn, helps build confidence and a belief in their own abilities, Dr Tok explains.
5. … Ignoring the importance of their physical development
We all know that we cannot function properly if we are not physically well, so a healthy lifestyle is the first step towards increasing a child’s well-being, Dr Tok points out.
So, when your child is stressed out during exam week, remind them to get plenty of rest and ensure that they are eating the right foods. Make it a point to exercise outdoors as a family, and don’t neglect regular health checks.
“Sufficient sleep, a balanced diet and regular exercise are all basic building blocks for well-adjusted children.”
6. … Forcing your child to acquire skills/learn before they are ready
It’s only natural to be worried over whether your mini-me is meeting their milestones. Parents also have a natural tendency to compare their kids to peers around the same age, and get anxious if they don’t “measure up”.
However, Dr Tok cautions against forcing your child to learn a certain skill, especially at a young age, as you should remember that the pace of learning differs from child to child.
“Some skills need to be learned at their own developmental pace, and forcing a child to learn before their brains and bodies are ready can have detrimental effects,” she warns. “So, don't do things like make them hold a pencil to write before they are developmentally ready.”
7. … Lying to your child
But as far as possible, try remaining truthful and transparent with your little ones.
Dr Tok says, “Regular telling of lies to children can unwittingly encourage them to lie in return, because lying becomes normalised. It also creates a sense of distrust as children start second guessing what we say and do.”
This sense of distrust may become increasingly noticeable when your child becomes old enough to track the accuracy of your statements and actions. So, honesty is always the best policy!
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