Parenting a child or children can be one of the most difficult and exhausting things we will ever attempt to do. At times, most parents may have wondered whether it is worth all the trouble they go to.
Be encouraged that the effort is worth it. In fact, the task of nurturing, loving, guiding and disciplining a child is one of the most important endeavours you will ever undertake. A parent’s relationship with their child equips them for the rest of their life.
It is generally agreed among child development experts, that the secret of raising confident, happy and loving children is developing strong parent-child bonds. A vital aspect of this is the “emotional accessibility” of the parent. This means being both physically and emotionally available and responsive to the child and his or her needs. This forms the foundation for all future relationships. As mothers of young children we often feel undervalued, but when we understand how crucial this relationship is, we can begin to see our efforts as an investment with significant rewards.
Your child goes through a lot of physical changes as they grow, but less noticeable changes are those that take place within a child’s brain. As a parent touches, makes eye contact, comforts, cuddles, talks, sings and responds to a baby or child, crucial neural circuits, that last a life time, grow and develop. This directly relates to a child’s, and later the adult’s, intellectual and emotional development. How wonderful to know that just by gazing lovingly into the eyes of your child, you are stimulating healthy growth in their brain that will effect them in a positive way for the rest of their life. Your relationship with your child not only affects their intellectual and emotional ability but also their ability to form healthy attachments with other significant people, such as their spouse, in adult life.
Whilst a child’s needs are important, they are not complex. It just requires a parent who is willing to take the time and make the effort.
A Child Needs:
- A safe environment where their physical needs are attended to.
- The security to explore and learn.
- Relaxed and confident parents, who guide, encourage and maintain appropriate boundaries.
- Loving parents who are dependable, consistent, approachable, non-judgmental.
- Lots of appropriate physical touch and verbal affirmation.
- Opportunities to learn and test their ideas.
- A calm atmosphere with structures that provide a sense of predictability.
Children, like adults, have very different personality types. Some are more easy- going and compliant than others and are easier to guide and manage. However, some children have more dramatic or confrontational personalities and can be much more challenging to cope with. Some children seem to be born to interact with their environment more intensely and with stronger reactions. The important thing to remember here is not so much what the child does, but how the situations are handled that is important.
It is particularly important not to label the child as, for example, “difficult”. The effect of a label such as this is that the parent begins to see their needs as wrong or bad. The child then learns that it is bad to ask for their needs to be met. From this, they conclude that their needs and not important and because, at this early stage of development, a child tends to interpret problems as something that is wrong with them, they then begin to believe that they themselves are not important. The pain caused by this sense of deficiency or inadequacy is carried throughout life and leads to unhealthy ways of relating in adulthood. They may become unassertive and unable to express their needs, or conversely become dominating and aggressive out of a sense of unfairness. It is easy to see how any variation of these patterns will almost certainly lead to difficulties in significant adult relationships. Indeed, many people come to counselling in midlife to resolve difficulties such as these that they struggle with. If one has a child they struggle with more than the others, it is far better to say “The child knows his or her own mind” and then set about guiding the behaviour without crushing the child.
Valuing Each Child as an Individual
Each child is different in personality, behaviour, appearance, skills, abilities and preferences. It is the role of a parent, not to change these but to grow and develop them according to each child’s potential. It is a mistake for a parent to try to achieve their own unfulfilled aspirations through their child. For example, trying to make your child the dancer, sportsperson, academic that you never quite could be yourself.
Each child needs to be valued, nurtured and encouraged according to their uniqueness and their own individual gifts, abilities and interests. This gives the child a deep sense of acceptance and confidence and builds a secure identity in them.
Parents who build a secure sense of identity in their child have certain attitudes toward their child. They express acceptance and appreciation of their child’s uniqueness, which gives security and a sense of significance. They express affection verbally and physically, which gives the child a sense of being lovable. They are available and responsive when their child reaches to them with a need or for attention. This gives the child a sense of being important and valuable. Such parents also require accountability and ensure there are appropriate consequences for behaviour, which develops responsibility in the developing child.
Parenting a child is demanding and long term. It is a privilege and a responsibility. The relationship you have with that child and the attitudes you demonstrate will lay the foundation for your child’s future attitudes, decisions, behaviours and relationships. Can anything you do be more important?
If you are finding any of this a challenge with your child/ren and require some assistance, contact Gwen at Gwen Lavis Counselling https://counsellingalbury.net.au/counselling-albury/counselling-albury/ or phone 0428440677.