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Know your parenting style

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A woman I know thinks she knows what works better for her; she tells her story: “With my children, nobody can tell me what to do or tell me how to bring them up. I understand them and I think they know me, too. They know that concerning some of their behaviours, that I would never give in to their wishes. Still, my objection does not prevent them from trying to do just those things.

“I have three of them; two girls and one boy, ages six, nine and 12. Bringing them up is not easy, not when you are worrying or feeling tired then one or three of them decide to annoy you.

“Mummy, she pinched me so I have to beat her. We have a fixed time within which they could watch television, but it does not stop them from switching on between the time they have to do home work or help with housework.

“Sharp scolding works sometimes but many times when they have decided to have it out with you, you might just be speaking to the wall. When threats and shouts don’t work, that is when you take the final resort to drive home your point. I match to the sitting room and switch off the television myself.

“But that is a problem sometimes, normally, when I have taken this step, they feel ashamed and try to make up by playing with me or plead that I should “aw, mummy! Give us 30 minutes, now.”

“When I throw my ‘tantrum’, I wanted children who felt ashamed and guilty enough to try to make up to me. Sometimes, however, the reactions I get worsen my already frayed nerves. The result is sulky children; my daughter, the oldest would lie flat on her stomach, closes her eyes and refuse to listen to me; she switches off entirely. My son walks disconsolately to a corner and sulks while my youngest sheds silent tears.

“Do I give in to their wishes when I need their help? Should I allow them to disobey rules without permission because they have to see a favourite programme?

“I have used beating as discipline without success. I have concluded that children would always want to do what they want. I tell them that, but I also tell them that if all of us were to do what we wanted at the wrong time that chaos would be the result.

“What I do? I know it is time to look at the cause of the rebellion. In normal and happy times, one of them would be in the kitchen helping me while the others are hitting each other playing in a friendly way if home has been done. If I told them to put off the TV, they never needed to be told twice.

“When they resist, I know there is a problem somewhere; it may or may not have to do with school. One of them may have lost money or something valuable and feels bad and they want to discuss it with me but don’t know how to start.”

“How do you deal with it exactly?” we asked her. “I keep quiet and stare at them, I have not used words but my body language tells them that I am really angry with them. By the time I am ready to talk with them, they are calmer, too, and very willing to talk.

This mummy told us her story after we witnessed a scene between another mother and her 13-year-old daughter. We were sitting with the mother when the girl bounded in from outside-nose in the air and partially blinded with fury. “Mwn…mwn…mummy…mummy”, she wailed then stamped into a corner and yanked at an electric cable. All the appliances in the room went blank.

Before her action, she had been asking to use the mother’s phone which she refused her. The girl was remorseful and tried to put things in order again without success. She knew she had annoyed her mother but she did not leave the room; she went to her mother and stood wordlessly by her side. It was plain that she was imploring and asking for forgiveness.

The mother on her part had reacted to the disaster by drawing in her breath; she carried her head in her chest to show her distress. Mother and daughter stayed wordless for a few moments more, and then the mother went and put her connections back again and spoke kindly to her before she left.

Our summary is that you can get there by following your children calmly. Try to understand what is behind their actions; you may find it difficult if you think that children should obey you all the time. You should not always expect them to know that you feel stressed and expect them not be children.

Irrespective of your being worn out by them, children will make demands on you and they will fight or play roughly sometimes to your annoyance. But that is the truth.


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