If parenting were a proper job, a lot of us would be on a written warning by now. Nobody can claim to get it completely right, but Walter S Gilliam, an associate professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, who was in Abu Dhabi recently, lists the five tips that make the process easier.
1 Talk, talk all the time
Talk to your child for the sake of talking. Take them on a shopping trip and talk while in the store – tell them what you are doing. Don’t be embarrassed – many people talk to themselves all the time; talking to your baby isn’t going to look any sillier. Another way to broaden your child’s vocabulary is to slowly add more words and simple phrases. For example, if your toddler is looking at a big red lorry and says “Lorry”, say “Red lorry”, so the child repeats it after you. Add another word to the phrase – “Big red lorry” and so on.
2 Praise them more
Are you very critical of your child? Try this exercise: put 10 dirham coins in your right pocket and empty out your left pocket. Every time you praise your child, transfer a dirham to your left pocket. Every time you say something negative, transfer a dirham to the right pocket. At the end of the day, you should end up with more coins in your left pocket than your right. We are not trained to notice the positive, but it’s important that we do.
3 End supermarket tantrums
Why are the sweets always put at the checkout counters where kids can easily get them? If you don’t want your child to have a meltdown while you’re bagging the groceries, take them to the store on a day you don’t urgently need to buy anything. Tell them that if they want something, they have to ask politely for it. Say something like: “I may not give it to you, but if you cry, or grab, you definitely won’t get it.” If they throw a tantrum, take them out of the store but don’t say a word and wait until the histrionics subside. Gilliam admits that this takes a bit of patience, but do this once or twice and the problem will be solved. Try to be consistent – no first or second warnings.
4 Keep them out of your bed
Your three-year-old still wants to climb in bed with you because he probably is jealous – “Daddy has mummy and I have nobody”. Offer a new transitional toy, such as a teddy bear, that your child can take to bed.
5 Minimise sibling rivalry
Tell your children why you love them – at the same time, without favouring one over the other, says Gilliam. For example, say: “I love you because your eyes are the bluest.” Then turn to the other one and say: “And I love you because your eyes are the brownest.” The idea is to find something unique about that child and point it out to them. Another good idea is for each parent to have “alone time” with each child. It’s not fair on children if they have to constantly demand and share their parents’ attention.