I. Listening vs. Lecturing
Children, like most of us, don’t like to be lectured. When a child does something “wrong,” the last thing he wants is to hear his parents’ authoritative voice rambling about his mistake. Children will naturally shut out their parents when they are lecturing to them. A child will respond positively to their parents when the parents demonstrate a true desire to hear the child. One of the most important things we can give our children is our listening.
II. Inspiring vs. Imposing
Parents typically tell their child what to do, often without making it relevant to her life or helping her understand how what they are asking will be beneficial to her. When a child is inspired rather than ordered, she is likely to make whatever task her own and will put more of herself into it. When owning the task, be it school work, a chore or exercise, her level of commitment to the success of the task will increase dramatically if she is doing it for herself.
III. Individuality vs. Conforming
Each child comes into this world with his own unique attributes, talents and temperament. Discovering who your child is can be one of the most rewarding experiences for the parent and the child. Often parents compare their child to their siblings, their peers or even to each other. These comparisons invalidate the child’s uniqueness, causing you and him to not be in touch with his strengths and weakness in a way that can be addressed properly. This is one of the most detrimental deficits present in parenting behavior. The impact generally is one where the child becomes insecure and disconnected from who he is.
IV. Understanding vs. Judging
Due to parents’ lack of understanding of their child’s emotional needs, they tend to criticize and judge a child’s behavior, unaware that unconsciously there is a valid reason for it. Whether the behavior is one of disrespect, anger, playing too much video games, being promiscuous, etc. parents react with anger and criticism rather than looking for the underlying reason for these behaviors. Children do not act out in self destructive ways for no apparent reasons.
V. Exploring vs. Suppressing
Parents need to learn how to help their child get in touch with her underlying feelings. When parents recognize that there is an underlying unconscious motivation for their child’s destructive behavior and come to the child with patience and understanding, the child will not feel the need to suppress her feelings. This provides the child with a safe environment to explore her feelings with her parents. This is one of the most important tools parents need to develop and implement. Helping their child learn how to understand what is going on emotionally for her, and how those emotions affect her actions, will serve her for the rest of her life. Most of our actions arise from unconscious feelings and usually do not serve us. Learning how to become more aware and conscious of what makes us act the way we do, provides us with the opportunity to choose consciously our actions rather than be controlled by our unconsciousness.
VI. Accepting vs. Denying
One of the primary defense mechanisms used by both adults and children is denial. When we don’t like something, we pretend it doesn’t exist. Parents experience difficulties in seeing things they don’t like in their child. They will rationalize and justify their child’s behavior, or judge and criticize it in a way that dismisses what’s there. We all have qualities we don’t like. The way to rid ourselves of them or to minimize their impact is not by denying them, but by accepting them. The adage that an alcoholic cannot get better until he recognizes and accepts that he is an alcoholic is valid for all uncomfortable behaviors. Helping parents see and accept their child’s limitation will afford them the power to respond constructively toward the child’s behavior. Here the essential point is that parents don’t define their child by his limitations, but see the child as a whole. None of us is perfect and that is perfect. Helping the child see that he is alright even if he has some limitations, will give him the confidence and courage to work through his limitations effectively.
VII. Authenticity vs. Manipulative
Because children feel powerless and controlled by their parents and their environment, when they will eat, sleep, play, go to school, etc., they resort to manipulation and lies to get what they want. This is a natural reaction in all children and need to be understood as such. Parents can become angry and sometimes rageful at their child’s manipulative or lying behaviors. Understanding that this behavior is a byproduct of the powerlessness and control issues all children face, will alleviate some of the parents’ frustrations around this. Parents can help their child deal with her sense of powerlessness and guide her toward authentic communication by positively reinforcing authenticity.
VIII. Independency vs. Dependency
The human species is the only species that continues to infantilize their young into adulthood. The primary responsibility all parents have is to grow an independent, self sufficient adult. Very often, usually for their own egoic reasons, parents act in ways which do not promote their child’s independence.
IX. Teaching Cause and Effect vs. Protective
A child needs to learn responsibilities, accountability, accepting consequences for his actions and the need for him to see himself in the context of a whole. Children are naturally egocentric and narcissistic. Parents do not help the child by protecting him from life’s challenges. Life IS, and children need to learn how to accept reality. Parents must allow their child to experience pain, disappointment, anger, injustice, etc. so that he is better capable of dealing with life as an adult.
X. Order vs. Chaos
We live in a very turbulent world, with tons of images, ideas, products and such bombarding our senses. Parents need to protect their child from this onslaught of data. This includes, monitoring her television watching, amount of time she spends playing video games or on the computer, the number of extracurricular activity in which she is involved, consumerism mentality and other corrupted values, etc. Children need structure and limited stimuli. Their brains are developing and it is critical for them to have some order and quiet time.
XI. Love vs. Fear
While we all know what love is, we don’t know how to express it in a way that a child feels it unconditionally. This is due to the fact that most of us have never experienced unconditional love from our parents – not because they didn’t love us, but because they didn’t know how to show it. When love is not present, fear is; fear of rejection, abandonment or neglect. Parents need to learn how to communicate their unconditional love in a way that will allow them to set limits and structure for their children, discipline them appropriately, and provide them with the tools to be emotionally healthy, productive and successful adults, while all along creating a safe and loving environment for their children.