Parenting

Parenting the Young Child in the 21st Century

Dr. L. M. Malcolm

  • Parenting Workshop–Prepared for Child Month (2010)

When I was asked to speak to parents of preschoolers during Child Month, the month of May, I wondered how best I can remind 21st century parents in a fresh new way, of their responsibilities as parents. I recognized that parenting over the years requires the same basic responsibilities. The following represents a reflective perception of a few parenting skills that would be of extreme benefit during a student’s kindergarten years.

Parents must proactively seek information

This is the age of information therefore parents should not make careless mistakes about parenting matters. The information is readily available on the various social media sites.  Parents should spend quality time to seek information on the aspects of child development so that they will have a better understanding of their child’s behaviours, strengths, weaknesses and needs.   When parents spend quality time to research information they will become less dependent on doctors, teachers, nurses and others and will be able to make meaningful contribution to a discussion on the child’s needs and wants. Parents should know about, for example:

  • Common childhood illnesses
  • Common problems in the classroom, example attention problems, anxiety, eating disorders, other.
  • How to help your child to become a better reader. 
  • How to help your child become a better learner.
  • How to ensure that your child has a balanced diet.
  • How to support the school in educating your child.  

It is important to remark at this time that researching information should not be limited to social media, but a variety of sources should be consulted including:

  • Books
  • Pamphlets
  • The internet
  • Containers/bottles that contain the medication your child is taking- read labels.
  • Containers with food labels.
  • Discussion with professional/resource persons e.g. teacher, pediatrician, nurse, pharmacist, social worker, psychologist, coach, counsellors.
  • Attendance at parent meetings/workshops e.g. P.T. A. or H. S. A.

School should be a happy place for the child, parents and teachers.

School should be a happy place for the child, parents and teachers.

Parents should partner with the school

We are living in the information age where it is very easy for school and parents to communicate; to ensure partnership between the home and school.  Partnership here is the operative work.  Therefore the home and school should have similar goals for the child’s social, moral, emotional, physical, cognitive and educational development.  If, for example, the school is teaching the child the following activities/skills below, these should be reinforced in the home, where feasible.  

  • Waits his/her turn.
  • Says ‘please’, ‘I am sorry’ and ‘thank you’.
  • Shares toys.
  • Refrains from getting into temper tantrums.
  • Speaks in a calm tone of voice.
  • Refrains from talking with strangers.
  • Counts age-appropriately.
  • Writes age-appropriately.

Parents should be prepared to communicate

…on any aspect of the child’s health; no ‘necessary’ information should be hidden from the school/teacher. Therefore if the child has a communicable disease, running a fever, had a toothache the previous night or vomited before coming to school, the teacher should be aware.  The reality is that teachers, like parents are caregivers and so will be in a better position to give the child extra attention and emotional support on that day as well as have a pre-prepared plan of action if the child’s situation worsens.

Additionally, to enhance communication, parents should accept all invitations to attend meetings and other activities whenever feasible, for example reporting session, school fundraiser, concerts.  Parents’ input and feedback at these meetings is crucial in helping teacher to plan for the child.  

Ideally, both parents should attend.  If both cannot attend then at least one should make the effort.   A child can become extremely sad and disappointed when he or she observes that their friend’s parent(s) is present and theirs is absent.

A disappointed face.

Parents must ensure structure in the home

Structure at home is key to learning and helps to build organizational skills in the child.   Family members should, as much as possible, have set time or routine for essential activities, such as those presented below and this will make it easier for the child to model and adhere to these behaviors, especially during school days:

A set time for:

  • Getting out of bed
  • Going to bed
  • Breakfast
  • TV viewing
  • Homework
  • Reading
  • Bath time
  • Play and leisure
  • Other developmental activities.

Routine can be posted in conspicuous places such as the refrigerator door, bedroom door and closet door.  Therefore if parents are not at home it will be easier for the caregiver to cope and will enhance the rapport between the child and caregiver.

An excited face.

Parents must develop a good rapport with their child’s school staff and administrators

A child should not overhear parent(s) making negative comments about the school or the staff.  Even if a parent thinks that this is warranted, these comments are off limit for the child’s ears.

Parents should offer only positive comments/feedback, about the school.  This will help the child to be cooperative and respectful in school.   Parents should therefore discuss any concerns or disagreement with the principal/teacher.  Follow the line of authority.  Parent should not attempt to compare teaching style(s) between and among teachers-this can be frustrating.  Any form of dissatisfaction must be politely discussed with the principal.  Although the teacher should take the lead on this, always ensure closure.  It is important that parents show appreciation for the work of the school/teacher.

A frustrated face.

Parents should help their child to develop a healthy self-esteem. (A healthy self-esteem enhances learning)

The following are usually useful:

  • Encourage the child to make only positive self-statements e.g. I can, I will.
  • Give tangible and intangible rewards.  Rewards such as praise and other verbal and positive statements. Rewards such as books, and other educational materials.
  • Do not insult or discourage child for not performing well on a particular day and or for not performing as well as other students. Every child has potential and is good at doing something. Be patient.
  • Remember that negative statements can help to develop negative self-esteem and reduce confidence. Further, a low self-esteem can help to increase aggressive tendencies and affect overall emotional development.
  • Do not insult your child if he or she has not mastered some of the stages of development, for example, if he/she is still bedwetting. Praise your child for the dry nights. Remember the word readiness.

A healthy self esteem.

Parents should provide a physical and emotional environment which is conducive to healthy living

Physically, the child’s room should not be overcrowded and it is best to have it painted in soft/calm colours. If he/she shares room, then should have his own personal space. It is best not to have the computer or television and other distracting electronic devices in the child’s bedroom.

Emotionally, if there is family disagreement do not air grievances in the child’s hearing.  This can be frightening and can affect the emotional stability of your child.  If the family is going through legal ‘matters’ for example, a separation or divorce, do not discuss the matter in the presence of your child.  Further, do not make negative comments about the other party in your child’s hearing.  Comments such as: ‘Your father is a no good man’.  ‘Your mother is worthless’.  ‘You are just like your father’ (in a derogative manner) and ‘You will turn out just like your mother’, can be quite disturbing and may result in the need to take your child to a professional who will help him/her to ‘adjust’- emotionally.

If both parents do not live in the same household then the other parent must have an understanding of what is happening in the child’s life and equally important, should be given an opportunity to visit or spend quality time with the ‘other’ parents, as long as the environment is safe for the child.

Parents must be mindful that all children are alike but different and appreciate diversity. Do not compare your child with others including the other sibling(s)

This is necessary in a multi-cultural society, in blended families as well as other family groups.  In the home and school differences in race, skin colour, religion, language, texture and length of hair, facial appearance in general should not be used to damage your child’s self- esteem and influence your child’s behavior.  There is a strong relationship between self-esteem and learning.

A low self-esteem !!!!

Parents must be mindful of the manner in which they communicate’ whether verbally or nonverbally

There are several modes of communication including tone of voice, body language, choice of words and spatial distance from the child.  When communication is conveyed to your child in an appropriate manner then your child is likely to respond to (either now or in the future) in a similar manner.  Further, in school, your child is likely to use comparable approach (es) to communicate with teacher and classmates.  Avoid sarcasm and use your ‘inside’ voice.  If your child does not respond to a particular mode of communication, repeat or use another mode. Do not attempt to humiliate him or her whether privately or publicly.

Happy Face- appreciative of parent’s mode of communication.

Parents should ensure that the child has materials ready for school the following day and should spend quality time supervising ‘homework’

Parents should therefore ensure that all belongings for school– books PE gears when necessary are packed in the child’s school bag. No toys should be in school bag, unless permission is granted, for example, toys may be necessary for a ‘show and tell’ session.  Parents should show patience in assisting with homework. Help your child to enjoy school.

Enjoying school.

Parents must avoid leaving adult items around the house

A child should not have to come in contact with adult literature, movies, cigarette, alcoholic beverages and other adult paraphernalia. Additionally, the child should not have access to your adult website. Additionally, parents should not engage in adult conversation in the presence of the child, whether on the phone or face to face.

Parents must stress the importance of a healthy lifestyle

Nutrition and exercise are part of the healthy lifestyle. Therefore parents should:

  • Avoid an over reliance on fast foods/comfort foods.
  • Encourage the child to avoid using excess sugar and salt.
  • Do not allow your child to sit in front of the television for more than 45-60 minutes. Alternatively, encourage your child to read a book
  • Encourage outdoor exercise
  • Encourage healthy discussion for example, on nature (especially during nature walks).

A healthy ‘Laughing’ face.

Parents must be mindful of their employment habits

The problems of under-employment and over-employment can be damaging for the child. A balanced employment schedule is important so that parents can spend quality time with the child.  At the same time a child must see their parents meaningfully employed so that they will appreciate the value of work.

Screaming face: I want my parents!!!

Parents should share their values

Parents should share positive values with the child from an early age and these values must be consistent with the values and norms in the society.  Values such as not stealing, love, respect for self, respect for authority and respect for personal property and the property of others. A child should be taught to obey the law. Parents must also share their faith with the child. For example, if a parent is of the Christian faith then this should be share and nurtured in various ways such as Sunday school attendance, Youth Fellowship and Children’s church.

Smiley Face-My parents share their ‘likes’ with me.

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