HYDERABAD: Being a parent is not easy. No one said it was, but also not many may have prepared you with the reality of having to care for your tiny bundle of joy. Giving up your beauty sleep to wake up and change nappies or to feed your child is routine for parents of newborns and not sleeping when your child is out partying with friends late at night is equally common. You never cease to be a parent who will always care for the wellbeing of your child even when they have their own. But all of us have days when we want to just run away from a screaming toddler or a seemingly ungrateful door-slamming teenager. Of course, we can’t say it aloud for fear of judgment by others. It is okay to feel like that without feeling guilty.
Every parent has different things that they find unacceptable, and it depends a lot on the kind of person you are. What gets you annoyed and want to tear your hair out may seem trivial to someone else. The first step is to recognise what your peeves might be and then work on them. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that parenthood is a journey that you embark on with your child and both of you learn as you go along. You hope that you are better the second time round. Mostly we are, but the second child may be nothing like your first and the learning journey begins all over again.
Tackling the common peeves
One of the most common peeves that we encounter with parents is – children spending way too much time on screens. How do we tackle it? And how do we entertain our children if we take away the screens?
Limit the screen time of children to a minimum every day and most importantly, stick to it even when you have an all-important deadline to meet. Children are clever and will try their best to push boundaries when they know you will give in, but are equally quick to learn and respect those boundaries if you are firm and consistent with them. Model a behaviour where you as a parent keep away your gadgets as well. Schedule some time everyday where no one in the family touches the phone and the children get your undivided attention.
A common misconception is that we need to keep our children occupied all the time, so we see them being dragged from one extracurricular activity to another. Scheduling is important, but children need time to let their imagination run wild. Don’t include so many activities in your child’s day that they don’t have time to play outside, get creative with toys or spend time with parents and siblings. Unstructured activity time helps children develop problem solving and build tolerance and patience.
How to deal with tantrums?
Toddler tantrums or ‘terrible twos’ is a normal developmental phase when the child is learning to realise that there are some things which he or she is not allowed to do and retaliates against it. The key here is to remain firm and consistent. If they know that they can’t jump on the sofa come what may and are stopped every time in a calm but firm manner, you will be surprised how quickly they learn the rules. The most common error we make is to give in, to prevent embarrassment in front of others or just to stop them from crying. The best way to reduce or stop a behaviour is not to give it undue attention. Children at that age do not need expensive toys. What they probably need is more of your attention which they try to get anyway they can. So, a cuddle is more likely to work wonders than a trip to the toy shop.
Tips for mindful parenting
Spend some time alone with each child giving your undivided attention every day
Allow time for unstructured play in your child’s schedule
Cut down screen time
Have dinners together
Give some space to your children, especially as they grow up
Go outside and plan some trips together to bond as a family
Read a bedtime story to your child
Hug and cuddle your child and tell her or him how special she/he is to you
Talk about your feelings and encourage them to express theirs
Model behaviour for your child as you are their first and most favourite
teacher in life
Try and give rationales for your decisions rather than telling ‘Because I said so’
(The doctor is Head of Client Care at Mpower, and specialises in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)