Smart Parenting

“Mommy, how come these little ones get away with things many didn’t when they were that age?” is the usual complaint of the eldest children. They were referring – not to their first brother, who was just a few years younger -- but to the next “batch” of siblings – a boy or a girl who came about ten years later.

As parents, you do try not to play favorites and be consistent as possible. However, that eldest child, indeed, had reason to complain. “Well son, it’s because your parents have learned a few things as you were growing up. You must understand. Your parents never had any kids before you so they made a few mistakes with you” is probably the usual explanation.

“So I am the guinea pig! Why was I born first?” will probably be exclaimed, with a smile.

If you read Dr. Spock from cover to cover, you will probably be unconvinced about sparing the rod. Didn’t that generation produce the juvenile delinquents? You didn’t follow the “wait ‘til your father gets home” practice either. Very young children tend to forget what they are being punished for when you postpone it. Besides, it is assured that you do not want them to have an image of a father as “the executioner” just as you dislike the sermons of the old about mortal sin and hell-fire.

That doesn’t mean you should spank them for every little thing. If talking to them or sending them to their room doesn’t work, then the slippers will convince them that you mean business. For graver offenses, it’s the belt, no TV, no telephone, no parties (“grounded”), or no allowance – whichever is effective at that point in time, upon consultation with your spouse, their other parent, of course.

You should avoid spanking as much as possible. You can even try classical music to calm the warring preschoolers. Result: they will fall asleep. They will probably say, “No wonder I hate classical music!” when they learn about your trick when they were small.

The main thing a child should understand is to know what he or she did wrong. No amount of punishment can correct behavior if the child is not aware of his or her mistake. And the best thing to achieve this is to take the child aside and talk to him or her calmly. If the child is ranting and raving like the Incredible Hulk, it is useless to talk to him or her. That’s when you send your child to his or her room.

“Come out when you’re not ‘Hulk’ anymore and we will talk”. More often than not, they fall asleep out of sheer exhaustion.

This is one of the mistakes you can have with your eldest child. When he or she has tantrums, you will probably shout back at him or her. “If you don’t stop, you will stand in the corner!” If you don’t want to spank him or her, one of you could bodily carry the child to the corner where he or she would wail and wail until somebody else would rescue him or her. “Come darling, come here.” There goes your discipline.

It was really more a punishment for you than for your child. You could summon your child as quickly as possible but long enough for him or her to know who is boss. When the kids get bigger, you can’t spank or make them stand in the corner anymore. Also, they are getting to be too tall for you. They could be menacing. They are onto one another like a cat and a dog. And you would be the referee pushing two ferocious gladiators away.

But that is merely a phase. With patience, understanding, and firm guidance, the kids will outgrow it. The only problem with too many kids is that when one starts outgrowing a phase, another gets into it. But you’ve already had a few years’ rest, so with this second batch, you know more or less what to expect.

According to knowledge gathered from those who have been parents for twenty years, the various phases that you have observed in your children so far are: first, tantrums at age two. These are really manifestations of frustrations at the many things they found they could not do – until they discover tantrums do not work; slow eating from two to three, an effect of weaning from the bottle and a certain wariness at discovering different tastes; quarrelsome from seven to twelve, as a way of asserting their individuality; sensitiveness/secretiveness from twelve to fifteen as they begin to discover their sense of privacy. Also there is a general distraction and carelessness in their studies when they begin to discover the opposite sex. It’s smooth sailing from sixteen onwards.


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