We continue with the discussion on allowing a child to experience life at different stages of the child’s life.
6 to 12 years
This is the skill training age. A healthy parent will begin to train their children certain tasks like bathing self, clothing themselves, doing basic laundry like washing their inner wear or handkerchief, household chores like clearing the table, at this stage-the child needs to learn that they have to clean and organize the toys rooms/toys area.
The best method of training is modeling; allowing them to do it alongside you or doing then allowing the child to do what they saw you do.
Do you do everything for your children?
In my training children and adolescents, I have realized that the children who have not been trained skills at home have low self-esteem because they lack the ability to think, do common tasks, solve problems and challenge themselves to complete tasks.
Eric Erickson brings it out better; that the children who lack skills end up feeling inferior. In fact lacking life skills puts them at risk of poor mental health such as depression.
Have you met a 12-year-old who cannot dress themselves? An 8 or 10 year old who cannot feed themselves? When we feed 10 year olds and dress 12 year olds (who do not have any mental health issues or developmental challenges), what are we communicating to them?
At what point do their own bodies become personal that they should only be attended to by themselves? Yes, doing everything for children saves you time since training them slows you down but by doing personal care for them, aren’t we teaching them that dependency on others when they grow up is okay?
Have you made peace with your own upbringing?
There is something I have listened to and observed from three existing generations. Most people in their 60s and70s acknowledge that in their childhood, they were overworked at home. Most children were almost treated like adults in terms of work expectations largely in the African continent. These adults swore not to overburden their children with work as it was done them.
They rebelled from their unhealthy parenting and ended up hiring help so that the children do not overwork like they did. The end result was raising children who had no skills.
We have men and women in their 30s and 40s who are still living in their parents’ home, having themselves fed and bills paid by the parent. What happened, you ask? They had unhealthy parents who moved from their own levels of unhealth to the other extreme of dysfunction.
This generation of the 30s and 40s is likely to raise another generation of unskilled people because a parent cannot offer to their children the skills they lack. These children grow to become unhealthy parents who pass on the same unhealthy patterns and these generational patterns keep manifesting, and sometimes people look at them as generational curses.
13 to 18 years
Everyone who has raised teenagers will tell you that it is a different stage from all the others. This is a stage where children test limits as they seek to understand who they are. There are drastic changes in their bodies and society expectations are more for them.
This is a challenging stage where parenting change dynamics. Unhealthy parents get triggered /thrown off balance emotionally by their children because children tend to move in the opposite direction.
Do you try to control your teenage children?
Healthy parenting is allowing children at this stage to experience and learn from their experiences. Healthy parents are okay with children being their own separate individuals, which means having separate opinions from their parents.
They encourage healthy interaction even with the opposite gender, they are available and emotionally present not to dictate the choices their children make but to help their children evaluate the choices made.
Healthy parenting involves validating the teenager’s sexual desires and helping them appreciate their sexuality while maintaining healthy boundaries in their sexuality. They allow free interaction with their children, parents share their own adolescent challenges and the lessons they learnt from their children, they help the adolescents identify with life struggles and learn how to handle them.
To help adolescents make healthy decisions, a healthy parent learns how to negotiate their way. If a parent makes decisions, the adolescent is likely to take the opposite direction and that is okay.
This setup helps a healthy parent to learn that the child is becoming a separate entity and that both need respect for each other’s way of thinking. The parent allows the child to share their opinion and both negotiate to arrive to the best decision.
This empowers a child to make better decisions in life and teaches a child not to take anything presented to them, that they can negotiate respectfully and get what benefits them fully in their life.
My question is, if you do not allow your child to learn how to make decisions, how will you expect them to make quick decisions in the interview room? How do you expect them to negotiate for a salary if they never learnt that skill at home? How can they negotiate their way with peers? How can they negotiate with business partners, suppliers and customers if they venture into self-employment? Are you willing to still be parenting your children when they will be in their 40s, 50s or 60s?
By Joan Kirera-family therapist. For more visit www.joankirera.com: Facebook: joan kirera, YouTube: joan kirera