Relationships with young children
An essential part of the way that children think, feel and act throughout their lives, depends on the learning process received in their early years.
Although there are no magic recipes for education, given that children are all different and have divergent needs, there are some basic guidelines that can help parents when preparing their children for adult life.
Create a sound family environment that is mindful of the children’s emotional needs
Children are immersed in a world where affection invades everything that surrounds them, and they need people who can show them understanding, love, interest, and support.
Parents should connect with children, creating a sound family atmosphere and responding to their emotional needs. For this, the following is important:
- Praise them, strengthen and/or reward them when they do the right thing. Pay more attention to positive behaviour, not only to inappropriate behaviour.
- Frequently mention their qualities and skills, referring to any criticism as a point for improvement.
- Establish respect as an essential priority family value.
- Show affection and love on a daily basis with words, gestures and actions.
- Reserve at least an hour a day for total dedication and attention, avoiding other distractions or attempting to achieve several tasks at once.
- Plan enjoyable family activities.
Children need to feel secure and protected to be happy. Establishing limits or rules that might initially be trying for the children are basically perceived by them as a gesture of parental protection and interest. They also provide vital training for getting along with others.
In recent years, in an attempt to find the best way to educate children, we have passed from a strict, rigid style to permissively oriented education and allowing them have what they desire immediately on request. For this reason, it is understandable that many parents are doubtful about the right limits to adopt with their children.
How to establish rules and responsibilities?
- The fewer the better, and they should be clear and specific. Children should know exactly what is expected of them: what, when, and how to do what they are being told. Avoid abstract rules such as “behave yourself”. You should precisely specify what behaving properly means.
- Adapt the rules and responsibilities to their age and characteristics.
- The rules are more likely to be respected if you explain the importance for them and the rest of the family or group.
- The rules should be clearly apparent and the children should be clearly aware of whether they have complied.
- It is good practice to inform them of the consequences of their compliance or non-compliance.
- Parents should set an example and a model to be followed.
Children should see that both their positive and negative behaviour involves consequences. This will be a major factor in whether or not that behaviour is repeated.
To be as effective as possible, the consequences should encompass the following characteristics:
- Carefully monitor the children’s behaviour.
- Recognize non-compliance as much as possible.
- Set a time limit: a well-defined beginning and end; long-term consequences are unachievable.
- The task should not be applied on an irregular basis: if you want to eliminate inappropriate behaviour, the process must be consistent.
- The child should always follow exactly what he/she has been told. Never discontinue the consequences before the set time, since this will lead to ineffectiveness.
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