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In Cognitive Development Learning Centre, it is common for us to collaborate with parents to help their children manage both academic and behavioral challenges. Without a doubt, all parents love and want the best for their child but most of us are hindered by the lack of parenting skills. Therefore, many are struggling to manage our child to the best of our abilities. Constant day-to-day challenges, conflicting parenting approaches between spouses and changing demands as the child grows can easily diminish the effectiveness of our parenting effort. Besides renewing our parenting skills constantly and maintaining communication between couples, it will also be helpful for energy to be channeled towards coaching our children to judge their behavior based on specific moral values that should be inculcated.
Parents of children with learning difficulties would agree that parenting challenges are more intense. These challenges include, higher behavioral management skills, moderating expectations of our child, limited peer reference and expert advice that parents could turn towards, constant pressure from child’s operating environment and the need for limitless energy to properly manage the child.
On the other hand, it is precisely due to these challenges that the fruit for success taste sweeter. Although the results are little in the short run, every effort placed into nurturing our child, will lead to long term rewards.
Thus, this article aims to focus on providing some useful parenting tips for managing children and children with learning difficulties, alike.
Value System and Cultural Belief
Generally, parenting comes with managing sizable amounts of daily issues that we are faced with children. Behavior and attitude corrections are the 2 most common issues that parents spent the most time in. This is so as parents recognized the importance of nurturing our children in a way that will allow them to comply with social norms, thereby, ensuring their survival in society.
Parents often wonder why different outcomes are yielded even when all their children are brought up using the same parenting approach and environment. Children, at different stages of their life, are influenced differently due to environmental factors. School, teachers, friends, relatives and anyone that has been in contact with your child; events that your child has been through or child’s ability to manage stress may cause a change in behavior and attitude.
Moreover, focusing on correcting each behavior and attitude in your parenting approach can be exhausting and frustrating for the whole family.
“Values are essential components of belief systems. They are the highly-perceptible ingredients that help bind members of social groups and cultures together in their common belief systems. Values are action-oriented, providing fast, simplified judgement calls for certain kinds of situation. They reduce the need for time-consuming consideration of alternative views and actions, and are often applied where factual information is not available.”
A value system and belief focuses on developing the understanding of what is right and wrong in given contexts in life. Hence, one should focus on building a strong foundation for your child by inculcating the correct basic value system and beliefs as it will make parenting efforts easier.
Learning from various life occurrences (that happens to the child) integrates the teachings from parents with what they experience in reality. By reflecting upon these events that had occurred, it takes away the “blaming effect” on a child and shifts the focus on the incident. It can take place virtually anywhere, involving directly or indirectly with the child. For example, when coaching a child on ethical code: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself”, parents can take forever to explain this very principle to the young mind without a context in reality. Therefore, parents might want to use real life situations to help their children understand. Referring back to the example earlier, a common occurrence could be an incident when you missed a train station due to inconsiderate passengers on board. You can take the opportunity to use this incident as a learning moment by discussing your thoughts with your child and ask him how he feels about the whole event. You may then bring in this quote to relate to the incident and advice your child that before he does anything to others, he should think about how he feels when the same thing is done to him.
Redefining Success and Failure
Being aware of what your child can and cannot do and moderating your expectations, would foster better parent-children relationships, as well as reduce stress levels in the family.
A child with Autism has difficulties in social interactions and connection to the outside world. Children with Dyslexia have a hard time reading, writing and spelling words. Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) will need to cope with their short attention span and impulsiveness when making decisions. Recognizing and accepting your child’s natural difficulties will help you to cope with your expectations.
Moderating expectations will support you in redefining the measurement for success and failure based on your child’s needs. For a child with Autism, sustaining eye contact while holding a conversation would constitute ultimate success. However, it is through a series of goal setting and redefining of successes and failures is what propels the journey for ultimate success.
Time – Your friend or Your Enemy
Often we hear of sayings about how precious time is. Familiar sayings such as “Money can’t buy you time”, “Time wait for no man”, “Take care of the minutes for the hours will take care of themselves” remind us that time is priceless. However, productivity and the effective use of time is another matter altogether. Have we ever had an experience where we try to complete a task in a rush, only to end up spending more time clearing the mess created by the rush job thereafter? One should therefore conclude that effective time management does not necessarily mean rushing to complete whatever we were set up to do, particularly for nurturing our child’s academic aspect.
Delaying or deferring for a year or so in school may not necessarily be a bad idea for your child as it allows your child to have more time to cope with his work and environment. For parents, it might also give you a breather. After all, Singapore is an education hub with lots of opportunities for all children to excel. Even though it is also a fast paced society, more haste does lead to less speed.
On the other hand, delay in seeking professional help when your child does not meet his developmental goals is not recommended. It is through the predetermined benchmarks that determine your child’s growth, especially during his growing years, where missed opportunities in learning – even for short periods – that can be costly to his future development.
“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.” – Richard Moss
You will be surprised that what our child truly needed and wanted from us is just a listening ear. Your child needs friends and someone that they feel safe to share their inner feelings with. As much as parents face challenges, the child’s environment is equally challenging for him. However, the key difference lies in the fact that, as adults, we possess the maturity to be able to better manage our time, stress and thoughts whereas the child has not reached this very phase yet.
Once in a while, it is good to just let go of our troubles and simply spend time sitting down together as a family. Setting aside family time will provide our children with the emotional comfort they need. Over time, you will experience positive benefits and reap good results by seeing your child opening up their thoughts and opinions to you, listening to you and respecting your opinions when it comes to their decision making.
It is common to see that parents felt guilty that their child has learning difficulties, especially during the early stages. Before the child was diagnosed, they vent their anger at him for not concentrating, being lazy and naughty. Once parent understand the situation, they will then try to make up to him by excusing him from performing perceived difficult task. Blaming the environment and others when their child cannot cope are quite common. Eventually, the result would be that the child’s ability deteriorates and he is unable to keep up with his peers.
Being unrelenting can sometimes be an act of good deed to our child. Take into account of our child’s long-term well-being and ensuring that they are constantly exposed to challenges and problem solving issues on their own trains their independence. Remind yourself that you will not be there forever to help your child and you will need to let go in order to allow your child to survive without the need for your presence. Tell yourself that it is not fair for his other siblings to take on the role of the caregiver, if you were to leave this world one day.
We have seen successes in Cognitive Development Learning Centre when parents learn to allow their child to explore their new frontier and strengths. Such children are able to show their parents that they are able to do what is beyond common expectations of learning difficulties. We have children who can cook very well, play badminton competitively and excel in art. These skills would not have been acquired had the parents been too protective of their child.
In conclusion, a one-size-fits-all guide in parenting does not exist. Mistakes often happen, frustrations still exist, emotions get out of control and parenting solutions are hard to come by. Nonetheless, one thing is for sure: we strive to do our best for our children while learning to be a good parent and this intention itself, is all it takes. Happy Parenting!