- Kids need old-fashioned discipline
- Society needs to take collaborative approach to raising children
- Research proves parenting styles not important
When Sydney's Dee Why Grand shopping centre announced its ban on screaming kids this week it became part of a global problem that's desperately in need of a solution.
That problem is not – as the ban implies – children. And it can't be squarely pinned on the capabilities of parents either. In fact, looking to point the finger of blame at everyone else is a big part of why we find ourselves facing this dilemma.
The dilemma is this: raising children is everyone's responsibility - parents, non-parents, community members and political leaders. Remember the good old days when it wasn't up to the police to knock on the front door to find out if a child was home alone. Or when shopping centres had to enforce a ban to ensure children behave in public spaces?
Clinical psychiatrist and Monash University professor Dr Nitin Dharwadkar does, and as he told news.com.au, living without this kind of social collaboration has created real problems for our society and most importantly our children.
"Society used to have a role in raising children. It was the neighbours who knew each other, spoke over the back fence and checked on one another. There was also an extended family network – be it a grandmother, an aunt, an uncle or a cousin living nearby," Dr Dhwarakadkar said.
And it's this same collaborative approach that Dr Dhwarakadkar said the Dee Why management should have taken to the issue of screaming children instead of banning them.
"The ban is an added stress and it will be damaging to everyone. Bad for centre management because they will lose profits, bad for parents because their lives are made more difficult, bad for people without children because they become even further divided from people with children. And bad for the children," he said.
Arguing about what children need and what is best for their development has become something of an obsession over the past 30 to 40 years. Dr Dhwarakadkar said while abolishing the idea of violence and hitting children has been the best outcome of these discussions, not everything we've learned about raising children has been positive – or true.
"Despite all our theories, it turns out that parenting style is not as important as we are led to believe. The research shows despite all our focus on protecting children, they are actually worse off. Crime rates have increased, self esteem has suffered and rates of depression, suicide and mental health are all far worse than they were 40 years ago," he said.
Communication is a key issue. Dr Dhwarakadkar said there was a huge difference between what you say to a child and how you say it. He said the focus should be on addressing the behaviour of the child, not them personally. And also to be mindful of the fact that we are reprimanding children, not work colleagues or friends.
"You should not tell a child that they are an idiot. But neither should you let the child get away with bad behaviour," he said.
For example, instead of saying: ‘You must have scrawled on that lady's wall because you were tired and did not sleep enough last night, so that's OK.' You stand your ground and speak directly to the child and are clear about what is right and wrong and say, ‘What you did to that person's wall was unacceptable. I understand that you are tired but what you did was out of line, you cannot do that to another person's property.'
Making a clear and consistent distinction between right and wrong and good and bad is a critical part of good parenting, according to Dr Dhwarakadkar. Not only does it develop boundaries for behaviour, he said that it also helps to develop the child's ego.
Authenticity and being present are the second most important. Dr Dhwarakadkar said telling a child you love them ten times a day has no greater impact than if you tell them once or twice with meaning.
"Children value care above all other things. As a parent or guardian you need to be present and watchful. That does not mean that you stalk your child, or need to follow them around all hours of the day and night. But it does mean that you make it clear to them that you are always looking out for them," he said.
So where does that leave this week's debate about children, behaviour and public places?
Well, the shopping centre's management was probably a little over the top. But it was a good reminder to parents everywhere that a little old-fashioned discipline in parenting helps make the world a better place for everybody.
By Lucy Kippist
Source: NEWS.com.au - http://goo.gl/oq1Ne