THE more we understand and know about the stages and growth of children, the more equipped we are to guide them. Most adults have heard or seen the message, ‘Parents are a child’s first teachers’. Indeed, they are, and although they know this, it never stops certain people from doing what they like in front of children. ‘Cussing’, swearing, fighting and exhibiting improper behaviour – none has prevented child abuse.
Some adults bring children into the World, unprepared to make the necessary sacrifices for their upbringing; they don’t want children to spoil their fun or way of life. They try to combine child-rearing with fulfilling their immature desires or continue with their ill-fitting conduct, rather than focussing on their young ones and aiming to impact their lives positively. Of course, as a result of distracted parenting, children suffer.
Every day is a learning day for children – they are watching, imitating, forming and internalising the behaviour of others. From family to television, peers to those with whom they socialise; their experiences help create the person they become.
Adults who understand child development can help children stay focused and teach them lifelong skills to cope better with life’s challenges. However, the lessons can only be effective if grown-ups practise what they preach. A father who physically or emotionally abuses his wife cannot advise his son to ‘never hit a woman’ and ‘treat women with respect’. Likewise, mothers who dress provocatively or consume excessive alcohol cannot teach their daughters refinement and decorum.
Before parents can help their young ones they must first learn to exercise control and regulate their behaviour, not just in front of children, but because it is the right thing to do anyway. When grown-ups reflect on what they say, do and how they react to situations, they are taking the first steps towards regulating their behaviour.
Reflecting means asking yourself questions about your behaviour or conduct. Was it necessary to lose your cool and ‘cuss’ a stranger who accidentally jammed you? What does your child think when he/she sees you flirting with a neighbour? Or when he/she witnesses you tell a blatant lie or hear you ‘creeping about’ on your phone? Certain people believe adulthood gives them licence to act how they choose, regardless of how many impressionable children they affect.
Children may not say anything to parents about their quirks, bad habits, or negative behaviour, but they do notice. When they are young, children are not judgemental or critical about it; unbeknown to them, and quite naturally, they will inherit the same traits unless, by adolescence, they are wise enough to decide and choose alternate behaviour.
Learning to reduce emotional outbursts can save energy and reduce stress levels in adults. Everyone gets angry, discouraged, irritable or exhausted with things that happen occasionally, but learning to cope with varied emotions as they arise is good practice. Emotions shouldn’t always get the better of adults or lead to stress.
A good de-stressor to whatever happens in life, and things WILL HAPPEN, because that is what life’s about, is to remind yourself of these three words, ‘I’ve got this!’ In other words, whatever comes along can be handled. It is a fact that problems sort themselves out sooner or later. Sometimes there is a process that takes time, and deep emotions need to surface and subside before things get better. But in most cases, energy is expended through shouting, angry after-thought, stressing, and going on and on about a problem, instead of seeking a sensible solution.
If parents want to raise confident, productive, well-rounded children, they must teach the ‘why’ to the behaviour they employ and not force children to do as they say because ‘they say so’. Children are more likely to adopt behaviours they understand rather than those they were forced into or had thrust upon them for no apparent reason.
Apart from being role models to their young ones, parents should explain why it is wrong to steal and why it is always better to tell the truth – these fundamental values should lie at the heart of households. Children are bound to fall short in several areas as they learn to navigate this earthly terrain. But adults must remember that mistakes are no more than learning curves. Some children take longer than others to learn, therefore, patience should be exercised for successful results.
Adults throwing their weight around, or bullying children for any reason, can create either an antagonistic or passive relationship – and some teenagers will rebel during adolescence. The objective is to assist children in developing coping strategies for life and not teach (subtly or otherwise) ignorance such as – always needing to be right to prove someone else wrong; how to ‘cuss’ the loudest and intimidate others; or how to deceive skilfully.
Reading stories that contain morals and consequences to actions is a subtle way of explaining to pre-schoolers that actions and reactions have outcomes. There is space to stop and think before reacting to a situation. There is also room for contemplation and making improvements to one’s habits where necessary.
It is never too early to start children on the road to enhance their life outcome, though it takes a bit of planning and considerate parenting. When children know their parents have their best interests at heart and can relate to, and respect them, they are compliant, understanding and trusting.
If you are concerned about the welfare of a child, call the CPA hotline on 227 0979 or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
A MESSAGE FROM THE CHILDCARE AND PROTECTION AGENCY,
MINISTRY OF HUMAN SERVICES AND SOCIAL SECURITY