Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Empathic Parenting

Have you ever seriously asked yourself how exactly do you communicate with your kids? Are you worrier and therefore a “helicopter” parent? Are you authoritative? Are you aggressive? Are you empathic? 

What kind of parent you are directly impacts the character of your child; it defines his personality for life. We all want to be good parents, but often we get lost in our daily routines and underestimate certain aspects of parenting. 

Lately the number of studies are emphasizing the positive effects empathic parenting has on children. There are articles, books, websites all advising how to apply the methods of empathic parenting. However, knowing what to do is not exactly the same as actually doing it. It is so easy to get caught in your own emotions and instead of being reasonable to raise your voice, threaten, punish. Phrases like “Stop this right now or I won't buy you anything” or “Do you want to get punished?” are not unfamiliar to most of us.

To be empathic parent is a bit challenging, but not that difficult, if you put your mind to it. Simply don't be an aggressive parent. Maybe you don't see yourself as an aggressive person, so therefore you are not aggressive when you communicate with others, including your children. Well, think twice! You may be quite wrong, because aggression has many faces. If we use language which is judgmental, offending threatening, mocking, sarcastic or demanding you make people, and especially kids who are more vulnerable, feel scared, guilty, helpless, depressed . This is aggressive, violent communication. If, on the other hand, you put emotions first - understand and acknowledge the emotions and feelings of others, you will easily create a solid, trustful bond, which is most important in parenting. Your kids will feel understood, needed, respected, and they will respond in the same way. In empathic communication it is also very important to learn how to recognize someone's emotions and feelings without judging, to learn to accept No as an answer.

Parenting is life-long hard work and empathic parenting certainly presents a number of challenges and hardships, some lying with us. But if you want to be better parent and to raise happy children it's absolutely worth trying. 

  • Try to understand the emotions and feelings behind your kids' actions.
  • Show them that you are working as hard as they are to find the best solution to a difficult situation; work at it as a team.
  • Share you own emotions and feelings - if you are scared or confused don't be scared to admit it. We are all humans and no one is perfect. Your kids won't think less of you if you show them the real you. You may even get a valuable piece of advice.
  • Learn as you go - learn with your kids, for your kids, because of your kids.

Eventually your kids will start using the same empathic language as you do. Empathic communication may be harder, but is certainly the better choice and more rewarding in the long term for both parents and children.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Do Not Ignore These Areas

Nowadays children are exposed to dangers that did not exist when we were young. At the same time today's youngsters are a lot more independent and want their privacy to be respected. Is this a “Catch 22” for parents? Should we allow complete privacy and independence and hope our kids are smart enough to always do the right thing or should we constantly monitor them in an attempt to protect them from the dangers of our fast-paced world?  The truth lies somewhere in between - we should keep a healthy balance: be lenient to a point and allow some privacy and independence while being fully aware what our kids are up to and ready to interfere, if need be. But how do we determine what and when to do?

A good starting point is your kids' behaviour - if they take care of their responsibilities at school and at home, talk to you about their friends and their issues apparently you have no reason to worry and should keep an eye in case things change. By the same token, if you notice anything unusual or disturbing you should carefully investigate and act before the problem escalates or is too late to deal with.

As much as all parents want to, we can’t protect our children from everything - at the end they have to make their own mistakes and learn from them. As parents we have to guide, teach and support them on the way of learning and be there for them when they need us.
Monitoring and controlling every move your kid makes can be quite dangerous. You will know what your kid is doing at all times, but you will not only raise a person who is independent and unfit to meet life's challenges, you will also lose your kids' trust.

The solution?  Be involved!

Talk to your children about dangers; establish expectations and limits, clearly explain possible consequences of bad choices. And never underestimate the following areas:

The Internet. If you know or feel your kid is behaving appropriately, just talking about potential dangers from time to time is enough, although some random checks on browsing history won't harm. You may also want to favourite your kids on Facebook, it’s a good way of keeping up-to-date on their activities.

Cell Phone.  This is an area that was considered very tough to monitor just about a year or so ago. Today there are solutions - an excellent one right here. You don't even have to be IT savvy, you only have to be smart and make the right choice.

Drug and/or Alcohol Use. You probably know your kids' characters - are they leaders or followers; are they introverts or extroverts. So the key is to know your kids' friends and understand the dynamics of their relationship.

Social Media. You can’t control what others post on your kids’ Facebook pages, or who approaches them. What you can do is be as close as possible to your children and openly and honesty discuss issues and dangers with them.

Always being transparent about your actions is extremely important. Talk to your children, inform them about your concerns and how do you intend to address them, tell them that you will be monitoring and checking their activities. Treat them the way you want to be treated - with understanding, trust and respect. This will not only protect your children, it will help you build a good relationship that will last for life.
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