The Child Whisperer

Some parents fear their children’s power and independence – and are tempted to use punishment and intimidation – often in order to relieve their own stress. Although little children do respond, such quick results come at a price. It’s most difficult to develop self-confidence when you’re little and unsafe. Instead, such a child would feel helpless, distrustful, hyper-vigilant, as well as anxious and perhaps secretive. Motivation to explore and create can be lost.
Children are socialized during a gradual process of learning about life, mostly through observation, trial and error. It takes a whole childhood to acquire rules of conduct and a lifetime to deal with the existential condition of being human. Meanwhile, the development of awareness takes decades (and beyond) and children usually don’t even know when their behavior is questionable. This is no reason for yelling or shaming. As a consequence of such strategies, “object referral” would be promoted – fear-based focus on others. Children learn to watch out, duck, and lie, just in case. They become fearful, insecure, and approval-seeking – or resentful, rebellious, and defiant. In order to get rid of their pent-up anger, they may look for someone, a weaker child or an animal, to victimize (called “displaced aggression”). Violence is a learned behavior - the attempt to resolve fear and helplessness.
A safe and nurturing childhood environment is of utmost importance for the development of emotional health. Extensive discomfort early on furthers all emotional disorders. Subsequently, there is excessive pursuit of relief and pleasure, which interferes with self-actualization - the choice of creativity and mastery of life tasks is compromised. A fear-based childhood is linked to self-defeating behaviors – and almost all addicts remember adverse childhood experiences and trauma.
When raising puppies, reward and punishment can be used successfully for teaching them certain behaviors – they don’t understand language much. Although a heavy reliance on punishment will even change a good-natured dog into an aggressive creature. Puppies, too, respond best to a gentle touch. Humans are much more complex and responses can be indirect and delayed. Although it can look as though operating with fear has its perks, it does not work out in the long run. A child needs to be seen, heard, and understood. She must know that she matters. If your child is problematic, you may have been teaching something different that you thought. You could have been scaring and confusing her and she may have become defensive and defiant.
Children are never “bad” – they are young and need to learn. Give yourself, as well as your child the space to make mistakes and learn from them,. You can be honest when you don’t know and explore solutions together. Children appreciate a sincere and genuine adult who doesn’t try to hide behind authoritative posturing. Encouraging guidance and a cooperative climate work best to further autonomous thinking, independent reasoning, and respect. Tell your child what you think - give her room to voice her thoughts, too. This is the way to encourage “self-referral” - focus on her own understanding of the situation at hand, rather than undue concern for other people and their judgments. For long-term positive results without any negative side effects, ever, use kind words and a soothing voice where you help your child to understand things.
Being a parent doesn’t mean that you’re always in a good mood. It’s O.K. to experience and express vulnerability and a range of feelings, as long as you don’t take your frustration out on your child. If you are dealing with issues of your own (or, worse, if you’re not dealing with your own issues) … it will affect your ability to be present and assist your child with her needs, but recovery also includes recovery for your child. If there has been damage due to your issues from your own childhood… today could be a good day to initiate the healing process. A mother who overcomes adversity can be most inspiring. You don’t have to pass it on any longer. Be honest - in a frame of love – where you don’t burden your child unduly. Remember that it’s your job to prepare her for life. Take it one day at a time, directing your attention to love and compassion.
The words you speak will become her inner voice (even when you’re gone). Derogatory and shaming words will take her self-confidence, but your loving and encouraging words will carry her through life like a charm. As a mother, that’s the power you have – teach her to listen to her heart and find her purpose in life. Look at the big picture. What is it that you want her to remember later on, when you are old? What do you want her to pass on to the next generation? Do that.