How was the last conversation you had with your child? Over the years, I have often struggled over the right response to give to my children when they disobey and throw tantrums. A lot of damage can be done if instructions, love and trust are not wisely communicated to our children during these teachable moments. I have seen parents losing their cool and yelling unpleasantries at their children in the public. Many such scenarios can be avoided if we have thought through what to say and do in these moments. These anecdotes hope to capture some common encounters we have with our children. Hopefully, they give us some ideas on how to respond to them and save us some unnecessary regrets and heartaches.
Child: Mum, why must we finish all the food?
Mum: We must not waste food.
Child: Can I help to finish the food?
Values are caught, and not merely taught. Very often, what you see in a child comes from the parent. It is so pivotal for parents to model the right values.
Son, what is your identity?
Father: Son, don't do that!
Child: (still went ahead) I am a naughty boy, right?
Father: (stumped momentarily) You are not a naughty boy. You are my son.
We behave according to our identity. It is important to shape the identity to change the behaviour.
Child: I want to be a garbage collector.
Child: I love Singapore. I want it to be clean!
Mum: Well done! Garbage collectors are very important people.
It is crucial not to extinguish a child's passion even though you may never want your child to be a garbage collector. Affirm and esteem what is honourable about their aspirations. We are inclined to influence them to take up glamorous jobs in the future but will we not also unintentionally cause them to snub the least in the society?
Do you trust me?
Child (prone to wheezing cough and has to avoid food that might trigger allergic reactions): I want to eat the entire banana!
Mum: You can only have half.
Child: But I want the whole thing!
Mum: Do you trust that mummy knows what is best for you? Do you trust me?
Son sulks but eventually accepted the half banana.
Why would a child obey your instructions? It is because he knows he can trust you. It is crucial to build trust with your child, then teach him to trust you so that he will obey you.
Child 1: I want to sit here.
Child 2: No! This is my seat!
Father: Now, let's see who wants to be the first to show kindness.
Child 1: Ok. I will give up the seat.
Our children live in a very competitive world. Sometimes, we (parents) are the greatest culprits. We want them to get into the best school, get the best seats at a performance; we want them to be first in a queue. How about getting them to be the first to show kindness to others; the first to show consideration in a crowded bus; the first to show generosity to the poor?
The two older boys have been hitting their younger brother and snatching toys from him.
Father (to the two boys): The bigger and stronger you are, the more you need to protect the weak. But being stronger also means you can bully others. If you choose to hit him (younger brother) now, he will hit you in future. But if you are kind to him now, he will be kind to you.
Give your child a strong sense of responsibility to protect those who are weaker. Strength can empower one to oppress but it can also empower one to protect. Help your child to see the two possibilities and make the right choice.