When your child says ‘I promise’, do you believe him? Or for that matter, does your child believe that he will be able to keep his promise? Unfortunately, often
enough, the answer is ‘no’. Pune-based child psychologist, Medha Dhavale, gives a few guidelines to help parents help their children make the right resolutions and
stick by them.
Who makes the resolutions?
Children can make some amazing resolutions! A child who is average academically and has a previous record of never appearing in the top ten ranks in class, can resolve
to study hard and come in the top five. A child who doesn’t like tidying up his room one bit, can suddenly resolve to keep his room spotlessly clean every week. Medha
explains, “In our society, we bring up a child without teaching him to be independent, to think for himself, and as a result he makes his resolutions according to
parental expectations, irrespective of the fact that he may or may not be able to fulfil them.”
Medha notes that especially when it comes to a child’s academic record, parental expectations soar higher than normal. “The societal pressure to get one’s child into a
good school coupled with the uncertainty about the educational future of the child, is enough to make the parents anxious, and dragged by ambitions to secure a good
future for their child, their expectations rise above normalcy,” she says. Difficult though it may be to keep these expectations aside, focussing on goals that cater
to a child’s individualistic interests and temperament can go a long way to create manageable goals and promises, that the child is most likely to fulfill.
Making manageable promises
Medha advises parents to do away with vague statements. ‘Be morally good’ or ‘Be neat and tidy around the house’ is not comprehended as a clear command by the child.
“Instead, if the parents gave the child achievable short term goals, the child’s small successes will motivate him to achieve bigger, long term goals,” explains Medha.
So instead of sermonising, if the parent were to take up a situation and ask the child to be honest, the child will easily comply. Instead of asking him to clean up
his entire room, start with a desk or his bed, it is most likely to come out clean.
Rewards and bribes
There is a thin line between bribing a child to do a task and rewarding a child’s achievements. “Bribing is giving a reward to the child prior to the desirable
behaviour or act,” says Medha. Appreciating a good deed with a reward is different, especially since it gives him a positive experience of undertaking a responsibility
and security which he feels in the love of his parents.
It’s essential to keep communication channels open so that the child can even communicate his failures to the parent. “If the child perceives that the parent is not
approachable, he will be tempted to lie,” notes Medha. Getting the communication right is the key to a healthy parent child relationship, where there is every scope of
prompting the child to learn making the right decisions in life.