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Give your children hardship in little doses, UAE parents told

Parents told that raising happy and resilient children isn't all about giving praise and rewards for good behaviour - instead, allow children to learn from their mistakes.

DUBAI // A free series of parenting seminars is teaching families in the emirate new strategies for raising children.

The monthly lectures are held at The Lighthouse Arabia as a community service, said Dr Saliha Afridi, the clinic's managing director.

"We want families and communities to be healthy so they don't end up in here," said Dr Afridi, a psychologist and mother of three.

Parents who want to raise resilient and happy children should let them make their own mistakes, Dr Afridi said at this week's lecture, the fourth in the series.

"Every talk is always a learning experience," said Yolanda Mendonca, 42, from India, who has sons aged 14, 11 and six. "I really identified with the talk last time because I feel it's all about values, and getting them to be kind and respectful."

Dr Afridi spent much of the session telling parents to let go of their anxiety. "I make lots of mistakes and I'm forgiving of myself and forgiving of my children," she said.

The lecture addressed how to move beyond an authoritarian parenting model while also avoiding recent tendencies towards "over-parenting".

"How can you make sure your kids end up in therapy," Dr Afridi asked. "Indulge them. Give them everything they've ever wanted."

Parents don't need to be cheerleaders, they should see themselves as coaches; let children learn from tough experiences, Dr Afridi said. "That's what's supposed to happen in life - hardship in doses."

Dr Afridi also urged parents to avoid the typical pattern of rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad behaviour. Rewards, such as money or treats for good grades, can form bad habits because children learn to expect a reward and start to focus on outcomes rather than effort.

Fatima bin Braik, a 39-year-old mother of three from Dubai, said the lecture was refreshing. "I'm a perfectionist," she said. "This is kind of relieving, that sometimes you don't have to get it right and you try to learn from the mistakes."

Her daughters are 14, 12 and seven, each with a different personality, she said.

"I'm just trying to be there for them and support them," she said. "Before, I was trying to do it right, but I think now it's doing your best."

The next lecture will be in May. For details go to www.lighthousearabia.com.

vnereim@thenational.ae

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