“The world is passing through troublesome times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves. They have no reverence for parents or old age. They are impatient of all restraint: they talk as if they alone know everything.”
When were those words penned? Last year by a disgruntled older person? Or recently by a exasperated parent of a troublesome teen? No, actually it was in the 13th century by Matthew Paris, the Benedictine monk and historical writer.
However some of his sentiments hold true today, says parenting and family coach Deirdre McAvinchey.
“These words could have been written for now when many young people challenge the authority structures in their immediate environment, especially parental authority. But, the world of today looks and is much scarier. Our young people face situations that are potentially more dangerous and often with more serious long-term consequences. We see signs of distress - depression, eating disorders, violent behaviour, suicide, self-mutilation, drug and alcohol abuse - and we feel the responsibility for our children’s safety weighing heavily on our shoulders.
“Our world is moving forward so fast that the way we parented our children in the past does not fit in today’s world. The world is developing at great speed and so are our children. We are too busy. We have no time. Our children are exposed to more and more distractions and we get left behind.”
Our childhood experiences shape they way we parent. If we have a deeper understanding and become more conscious of how we parent, we will have more confidence in ourselves as parents, she says.
“We can make sense of the past and its impact on the present and how it shapes our interactions with our children. Parenting today must remodel old values and base itself on positive relationships with our children and have a deeper connection and meaning with them as their lives unfold.”
She believes parenting courses give families valuable tools with which to work. “Today parents are looking for new tools but feel guilty doing so and end up struggling and experience tremendous stress.0 The idea of taking a parenting course seems to be stamped with ‘you are not a good parent.’ That parents ‘cannot do their job properly’.
“ If you think about it training is given for almost every aspect of lifestyle and work skills but for the most important job of raising our children we are too embarrassed to seek support. If parents wait to seek help until their children exhibit challenging behaviours they may miss the chance to build stronger parent-child relationships, which might prevent or reduce their problems. The earlier parents start using healthy, respectful communication and positive discipline, the more likely they and their children will be able to weather the storm of the adolescent years. Prevention starts early.
“Today’s children are being raised in a more democratic and permissive manner than any previous generation. Children have more freedom than their parents did when they were young. As our society became more affluent many parents became more permissive and over-indulgent which had its own challenges. The ones parents face today are often very different from a generation or two ago. Today technology makes it easier to disconnect from those around us. Lives are lived sitting in front of a computer screen and personal connection is at a distance. Focus is fixed on the latest technology and opportunities for people to connect is hugely lost. The stealth of this technocreep is so deceptive that it is hard to count the social and emotional costs. Many feel overwhelmed and need support in what matters most - family life and staying connected to each other.”
Deirdre McAvinchey offers the following tips for enhancing the bond between parents and children:-
1. Give positive attention to your child
Focus on the positive things your children are doing and praise them for their efforts. Children genuinely want to please their parents and will work to get that attention in a positive or negative way. If they do not receive positive attention (praise ), they will seek negative attention (criticism ) by misbehaving, believing it is better than no attention at all.
2. Use positive reinforcement
When children are behaving well parents are often too busy to notice. Become aware of what they are doing when they are quiet, when they are being good and compliment them. This will give them a sense of value and builds their self esteem. A simple positive statement, a hug or a touch is all that’s needed. Behaviour does not have to be perfect to deserve recognition.
3. Praise and encourage your children
When you reinforce good behaviour by praising and giving positive attention it will be more likely to recur. Focus on the positive things they are doing and praise their efforts, especially in front of others. Praise others as well. This is important because they are learning how to evaluate their own motivation strategies. Let your children hear you get excited and happy about something you do.
4. Spend time with them
Spend time with your children, no matter how old they are. The activity is not as important as the time spent together. It is a challenge with a busy lifestyle but is achievable. This quality time gives the child an opportunity to be in control and provide a foundation of security which helps foster trust. Have fun and let your children see your silly side and hear your laughter. When schedules permit eat meals together as often as you can.
Positive communication between parents and children strengthens relationships. Children thrive on words of encouragement and praise. However, it is important to note that what you do is much more powerful than what you say. Research indicates that 90 per cent of all communication is non-verbal. Children take their meaning from your body language (eye contact, gestures, facial expression, tone of voice ). Make eye contact. If they are looking at you they are also listening. Give them a chance to finish speaking before responding. Practicing positive communication will install a sense of security, confidence and self-esteem in your child.
6. Emotion coach your child
Helping a child manage their feelings will reduce challenging behaviour. The more we understand how they are feeling, the more we can help them understand how they feel themselves. When you are feeling what your child is feeling, you are experiencing empathy, the essence of emotion coaching. Listening empathetically helps to validate your child’s feelings and guide them towards positive options. Helping your children to verbalise and label their emotions as they are experiencing them helps them develop a vocabulary with which to express their emotions. It is important for children to know that their feelings are not the problem, their misbehaviour is.
7. Let your children help you
Although your children may not be overly eager to do chores giving them the responsibility will build their self-confidence. This is also a time when you and your child can interact and bond by doing tasks together. Praise them for completing each chore, for the effort they put into it, even if they are unsuccessful. Teaching them to be proud of the things they are doing correctly will help them realise that everything is not always easy.
8. Promote your child’s self esteem
Let them know you have faith in their abilities. A child who is constantly told to be careful or that they will hurt themselves will eventually lose confidence in their abilities. Allow them plenty of opportunities to do things they enjoy and do well. Feeling competent builds self-esteem. Praise their efforts, not just their results. A child needs to know that it is OK to fail. Avoid constantly correcting your child’s mistakes. Trial and error are part of life.
9. Be Consistent
Consistency is the key to being a successful parent, showing your children that you are reliable and serious about the rules you set. They will consistently test the boundaries to see if there is any “give”. By standing firm you are showing there is not and that you expect them to do take responsibility for their actions.
Know what makes you angry so that you will be able to deal with your child when a behaviour problem happens. When parents learn to stay calm during tense situations they will find that not only will the behaviour or tantrum stop sooner but it will not last as long and it will not be as severe. We all get upset and lose our temper. Learning to control how we respond is important. If you get angry and end up saying or doing something you regret, apologise.
Deirdre McAvinchey will give a series of four talks on “Staying connected to your teenager” on April 20 and 27 and May 4 and 11, at the Menlo Park Hotel, Headford Road, from 8pm to 9.30pm. Admission is free to the first talk. To book contact (086 ) 0566357 or e-mail [email protected]