It’s possible to raise a good kid without calling in outside expertse or pushing pills. Raising a child well can actually be a pleasant experience for parents and children alike. Bbringing up a child need not be a difficult, worrisome thing to do. One has only to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy observing silently as the baby transforms itself into the man or the woman that it was intended to be. And, along the way, we may notice the emergency of a very good kid.
Here are nine suggestions for raising a well-adjusted and happy child without melodrama, an advanced degree, or the help of chemicals:
1. Celebrate the right behavior, when your child does it. But no gushing. Be merely saddened when the wrong thing bursts forth from your child, and keep that sadness in moderation.
2. Expect that kid of yours to do the right thing — or to want to do the right thing, anyway. Assume honesty. Be prepared for occasional disappointment, but at least celebrate good intentions. When you say something — especially when you demand something — really mean it and expect your child to hear you. Be firm but not dictatorial. Avoid threats, especially empty ones, and shun verbal and physical brutality.
3. Strive neither to bribe nor deprive. Your child should do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do, not in order to win the right to watch television, to eat a sweet dessert, or to avoid a spanking.
4. Err on the side of generosity. Don!t worry about being conned. Of course you will be conned now and then. All kids con their parents sometimes. Call the child’s con, but stay the course: provide honest praise freely where appropriate, kind words where possible, and a sprinkling here and there of wit, stories, good food, sweet deserts, and fun and games. None of these should be in response to anything in particular that the kid does or doesn!t do, but they should be offered simply because the spirit moves you.
5. A brief hug is sufficient. Holding onto your child for too long may become emotionally sloppy and make the poor kid feel like a baby. But better even than a hug (whether brief or sloppy) is to talk with your kid, not necessarily with sage advice but simply because it is great fun to talk with a child (even yours). And talking with a child means just that: talking with a child. That means both of you. Let the miniature person get a few words in edgewise, then respond. That is what we mean by “conversation.” It is a give-and-take sort of thing.
6. Take that kid of yours very, very seriously. But avoid the long-face, solemnity thing. When your child tells you about an achievement, a victory, a challenge, or a defeat, listen carefully with a sympathetic ear, learn as much as you can, and respond honestly. A few words will usually do, or even an expression on your face that says what you feel can suffice.
Retain your sense of humor. But don’t force yourself to be light or funny if you don!t feel light or funny. If things go well, the child will eventually come to see him or herself as part of something very large — the community and, indeed, the entire world. In a nutshell, provide your child with encouragement and positive experiences seasoned by pleasure, and you’ll find yourself with a kid who’s an even greater member of society than you could have hoped..
Robert Belenky, PhD, is a clinical child psychologist, now retired. He has worked with children in several countries and is the author of five books. The most recent is “Tales of Priut Almus: Participant Observation in a Russian Children!s Shelter.” Visit him at his website: www.robertbelenky.com