Raising kids can be tough. They scream, they whine, and they keep you up all night. But they can also be the most beautiful blessings in your life. How you raise them determines how they grow up, so the pressure is on! It’s important to understand that you cannot interact with children the same way you interact with adults. More time, patience, and love is needed in order to effectively raise a child. Although the process is an arduous one, it doesn’t have to be negative. Your little bundle of joy can bring you great joy, it just takes a bit of effective parenting.
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All You Need is Love
You should take this Beatles song to heart and remember it always. If you don’t love your child, how will they ever grow up to know what love is? How will they ever show compassion and empathy and understanding? What you project onto your child is projected onto others as they grow older, so it’s important to show them unconditional love from day one.
Provide, Don’t Spoil
Your child will want a lot of things in their life. They’ll want that stuffed animal they see at the checkout line of the grocery store, they’ll want to stay up all night and eat cookies, and they’ll want to climb on top of the monkey bars with no adult supervision. At some point, you’ll need to realize that there’s a fine line between providing for your child and spoiling your child. If they grow up getting everything they want the second they want it, they’ll think that that’s the way life is. Unfortunately, a huge reality check is in order for children who have been given everything their entire lives. What will happen when they have to face the world on their own? It’s nice to surprise children with what they want every once in a while, but they need to know that life is a game of give and take. Sometimes, they don’t always get what they want.
Know When to Punish
And how to punish. Positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, negative punishment – phew! The psychological terms are so varied that it can be difficult to determine which is the best course of action. Often, it is a mix of all of them. Let’s take a look at the differences.
- Positive Reinforcement: Positive reinforcement works by providing a child with a small gift as a result of positive behavior. This gift can be either tangible or intangible, but it is something that will want the child to continue to exhibit this behavior. For example, little Brian doesn’t like to fall asleep at his bedtime, and often throws a fit when his parents try to tuck him in. If he goes to bed without a fight, he gets an extra half hour of television the next day. Since he loves his television shows, he’ll continue to go to bed when he’s supposed to.
- Negative Reinforcement: Negative reinforcement is – you guessed it – the opposite of positive reinforcement. When a child does something wrong, a privilege is taken away from them which makes them want to discontinue that particular behavior. If little Brian throws a fit before bedtime, a half hour of television is taken away from him the next day.
- Positive Punishment: Though it is a difficult term to wrap your head around (how is punishment positive?), positive punishment is when a negative outcome follows a negative behavior, and that negative outcome decreases along with the negative behavior. Confused? Let’s look at some examples. If you wear a dress that is too revealing to your high school math class, your teacher may tell you to change or put on a sweater. Or, if you touch a stove that is too hot, that stove may burn you. Since you don’t want your teacher to embarrass you in front of the class and you don’t want to burn your hand off, you’ll stop both of those behaviors.
- Negative Punishment: While positive punishment is defined by adding an unpleasant outcome to an unwanted behavior, negative punishment is simply the removal of something positive after a negative behavior. Again, this can be confusing, so let’s take a look at some more examples. Twins Annie and Stacy are fighting over their crayons. No matter how many times their parents try to get them to share, they won’t. In order to punish them, their parents simply take the crayons away until they can reach an agreement. As they get older, Annie and Stacy love to stay out past midnight. Since their curfew is 10PM, their parents ground them until they can follow the rules.
Know Your Parenting Styles
There are four different parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and disengaged. In most cases, the authoritative style of parenting is the most effective.
- Authoritarian: Or, the “because I said so” parents. These types of parents simply make rules for the child to follow but don’t bother to explain why the child must follow these rules. This type of parenting may include more punishment than nurture.
- Authoritative: These parents make rules that the child must follow, but they are more open to discussion about these rules than the authoritarian parents. They explain why the rules must be followed, but allow their child to voice their opinions and come to a mutual agreement. When a child does something wrong, they are more likely to be nurtured and steered in the right direction rather than punished with no explanation.
- Permissive: Permissive parents don’t make a ton of rules for their children to follow, but they also may not have high standards in terms of correct behavior. Permissive parents are often very nurturing and may speak to their child as a friend instead of a figure with authority. While this may seem like an effective parenting style, children raised in this way may have a general lack of self control and be self-involved as they grow older.
- Disengaged: Disengaged parents may also be seen as neglectful parents. These parents hardly set any rules, don’t demand much from their children and don’t show a lot of affection. While they may provide their child with basic needs, they are often disengaged from their life.
Balance is Key
When you have your first child, it can be tempting to give them everything they want when they want it. Sure, they can stay up to watch one more episode of their favorite cartoon! Sure, they can have that ice cream cone before dinner! Once the initial cute phase wears off, they’ll reach the age where they realize they can talk back to you. This is when balance begins to become even more important. It can be easy to simply punish your child by taking away their toys and sending them to their room for the night, but too much punishment can lead to poor parent-child communication. They may begin to be afraid of you and feel the need to walk on eggshells when you’re around. Although creating an effective balance between punishment vs love, being a parent vs a friend, and providing vs spoiling seems difficult to achieve, you have the power to do it! Not all parenting styles or punishment styles work for everyone, so it’s important to determine which is best for you. You’ll soon realize that a wonderful relationship between you and your child can develop if you play your cards right.
You can raise brilliant, creative, independent thinkers if you put your mind to it. If you’re unsure of where to begin or need some extra tips, Udemy has a wonderful selection of courses on parenting for you to delve into.