I have gone through many articles on how to be a fantastic parent, on how to better communicate with your child, and how to handle tantrums. I see myself as sometimes trying to remember what I read, or what I have studied, but the search for the perfect parenting formula is just way too tedious.
Having a degree in Psychology, I sometimes try to associate my child’s behaviour to what I have studied in university. To be very honest, I cannot come up with a better association, and thus, most of the time I end up just following my instinct and won’t care about what I have read, or what I have learned.
Before having a kid, I am this type of adult – “what is she doing to her kid? What kind of parents are they and they couldn’t stop the screaming child?” Or “these parents are quite cool, bringing their children to a club (eh nope, probably not).”
Until I became a mother, and these words are the exact questions which keep rewinding on my head every time my child is not as easy to handle. How can I stop my child from screaming, from crying? How can I explain to everybody that she’s on a terrible two stage, and this is normal?
Truth of the matter is, the perfect parenting formula is to accept the fact that there will never be a parenting formula.
As a parent, there will be guidelines on how to handle your child when she is under the influence of “non-substance addictive behaviour” called “tantrums”, but handling your kid will always be on a case to case basis. There will never be a formula to handle your screaming child, but there are ways on how to control them and to handle them properly depending on what works for you as a parent. I have tried shouting at my kid, looking really mad, but we ended up crying together because her screams are way louder than mine. I tried talking to her calmly in a very submissive manner but she ended up not liking it and she took over the situation. I tried putting her inside the room, locked the doors asked her to stand, cry it out while I do some things, and asked her to approach me when she’s no longer upset, and it worked. We talk about how upset she was, and how she can better manage her frustrations next time, and to her, it feels like someone wants to listen to her. After a split second, she was happy and forgot about her being upset.
Key thing to remember is that, you are an adult, your child is the kid, so you should know better and you should observe an adult behaviour. I know a lot of parents might be guilty of acting like a kid at times when things get a little too frustrating. There’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t just make it a habit. Our role as parents is to act like an adult, and our kids are just being kids. They are bound to experience a stage wherein small things frustrate them, or trying to open a bag zipper can result to a major meltdown. The key result to behaving like an adult is having to set a great example to your child, and your kid follows it with high regard.
Little things frustrate adults, and so our children. I value independence as much as my child does. I was a mother who always approaches my kid and tell her what to do and what not to do, even if she didn’t need my help at all. She was busy playing and I was busy observing, and I saw myself bugging her and telling her to create a house out of the Lego. She didn’t like it and got frustrated. I learned to accept the reality that my kid needs some independence, but she needs assurance too, that someone will be there if things get a little frustrating. It feels liberating for both of us to just sit and chill while my kid is playing, I do my own things too, and I try to check her from time to time if she needs my help on anything. I allow her to figure things out on her own, and when I know she is about to experience a meltdown, I ask her calmly to tell me what she wants and I offer some help. She’s only two, and she couldn’t tell me in an instant what she wants, but saying “oh, I think I know how I can help” gives her the assurance that someone can help her even if she can’t say things directly.
I have been asked many times by other parents and non-parents how I keep my daughter disciplined with not grabbing random things from the table, or wine bottle display, or the electric outlet. The simple rule we have is, if it not yours, you need to ask for permission. When she was under one year old, “no” worked. When she got a bit older and started talking and learned to say the word “no”, everything to her was a “no”. I have told her many times she was overusing the word and couldn’t use it on me. That was really power-tripping I realised. So I had to be open to few more options. I learned how to use other words like “not safe”, “danger”, “for adults only” and hand gestures where I cross my pointy fingers to make an “X”, and matches it with “EH EH EH” (imagine the sound of a buzzer). I learned this from her daycare and it has been pretty effective. My husband has an interesting technique too. He says “no no no” with some graceful dancing, and my daughter gets distracted and stops whatever she intends to do.
Spending more time knowing your child means so much, and introducing yourself to her as a parent is valuable too. I could never emphasise the value of being there for your kid, but giving a proper introduction of yourself too, as a parent is as important.
Sometimes, leniency can lead to being very submissive to our child’s needs until our kid takes over the entire situation. Often times, our being manipulative hinders the development of self-esteem of our growing child. Balance, in every aspect is our best weapon to better introduce ourselves to our kid.
I have introduced time-outs to my daughter when she was 18 months. She would cry like a river without apparent reasons; she would not stop her naughty behaviour whenever she feels like it. Words like, “do you want a time-out” work for her. I try to make her recognise the difference of enjoying the situation, but when things are getting out of hand, I am firm to tell her that the behaviour has to stop. Whenever she screams, I ask her to lower down her voice because my ears hurt, and other people’s ears are hurting too. Whenever she does something naughty, I would tell her that I don’t like it when she does that. When she does something good, I praise her. I try to give her as much little responsibilities so she would develop self-esteem. These work for us because we both recognise great things and behaviour that are not pleasant.
There will never be a perfect parenting formula, but parents can always try and see what works, and what doesn’t. People can judge us in so many ways, but we do not owe anyone any explanation. There won’t be an easy way to be a parent, but what matters most is our mentality that our responsibility to our kid is endless, and everything has to be according to what works, and not just what is convenient. At the end of the day, whatever values we feed our child will get back at us.
Is there a perfect formula to follow? None. Will you still be awesome despite not having a formula? Yes.
No one will ever have the key to raising a wonderful tiny human being, but the parents themselves. It is within our measures on how we instil greatness in our child.