Playground Politics: A Parenting Primer
In the perfect world, kids treat each other with kindness, take turns, stand up to bullies and celebrate uniqueness. They also welcome outsiders to join their cliques until they are all one big happy family. Reality paints a different picture: kids fight, argue, make and break friendships, jealousies abound, tears are shed, personalities clash and parents draw battle lines to protect their children. As children begin their process of socializing, parents find that they are thrown into a brand new phase of adult socializing as well - a rite-of-passage they must endure!
‘…our close identification with our children means we can feel every trivial snub and jibe our kids experience all too keenly…’ Dr. Stephen Briers, ‘Playground politics for adults’
Here are some ‘Playground Issues’ you may be facing as a parent:
So. What can you do as a parent to survive playground politics?
Although there are no perfect answers, here are some guidelines that can help:
1. Think about what your child really needs:
Remember that your child will undergo some growing pain as he learns the ropes. This can be very hard to watch, but allowing him to experiencing these trials under your caring protection will equip him with lifelong skills. If you unable to handle a situation or it is getting out of hand, reach out to community resources/ friends/ a counselor for help.
7 things to teach your children
We need to teach all our children and talk to all of them with comfort and confidence on sex, sexuality and body, about consent and privacy, so that the world moves away from the stifling silences around these topics and the harm they perpetuate. Ajanta De and Enfold speak with TheNewsMinute
Parenting, especially in the present context, is a high-pressure job, and because it is so unique, there is really no handbook or manual that one can refer to for insyructions. If you take a look at much of the information on parenting, the focus most often is on the child. However, research indicates that there are many reasons for us to look inward and understand ourselves as people if our goal is to become a better parent.
We often project our critical feelings about ourselves on to our children. The ambivalent attitudes we have toward our children are simply a reflection of the ambivalent attitudes we have toward ourselves .
All people are conflicted in the sense that they have feelings of warm self-regard as well as feelings of self-depreciation. Therefore, it is not surprising that parents would extend these same contradictory attitudes toward their child.
Parents' attitudes toward their children are a by-product of their fundamental conflicts and ambivalence toward themselves. It is not uncommon for parents to disown their self-critical attitudes and negative self-image by projecting them onto their child. As a result, children begin to see themselves through a negative filter, which may stay with them throughout their lives. But if we look into ourselves and understand where our self-critical attitudes and self-attacks come from, we are likely to have more compassion for ourselves and our children.
How often have you caught yourself saying the same things that you mom or dad said to you? Most parents have the experience, most often when reprimanding a child, of suddenly hearing themself say the same critical statement that their parent said to them. The reality is that, parenting style is often reenacted.
If you feel that this is something you would like to change, then you will need to be open to revisiting that time in your life. Acknowledge how it felt when you were the child at the receiving end. With awareness, you will then be able to offer the warmth, affection, love, and the sensitive guidance necessary for your child's well-being.
As a parent, you are a role model – the first and probably the one with the most impact. Psychologists have found that children really do as parents do, not as they say. The processes of identification and imitation overshadow any statements, rules, and prescriptions for good behavior. Children develop behaviors through observing their parents in day-to-day life. The fact that our children are looking to us to see how to be is enough of a reason for us to focus on our own development as a person.
The bottom line here is that perfect kids and perfect parents do not exist. Parenting is a learn-as-you-go thing. We all make mistakes or do some things that we regret, or that are ineffective for our kids. That’s okay. The great thing is that tomorrow is a new day, and we can forgive ourselves, learn from our mistakes and move on.
Cutting & Self-Harm in Teenagers
At the first instance, Cutting and self-harm may not necessarily mean the person is suicidal, though of course, it cannot be ruled out off-hand. Current thinking reflects that cutting behaviour, might be a way of expressing deep emotional pain that they don't have the full capacity to express, explore and process.
Usually, cutting is a secretive, and often obsessive behaviour that is in private. To know if a child might be cutting, look out for changes:: changes in clothing with a preference for full-sleeved shirts, increase in bathroom breaks, avoiding preferred activities and usual social groups or adopting small cliques that stay aloof from others.
When as an adult you come across a teenage person cutting herself, the first thing is to know that this could be serious, and to alert the immediate family for possible counselling and mental health intervention. You can let the teenager know that you have become aware of this behaviour, your concern and your availability to discuss things if they want to, but please do not insist that they disclose. You can help by remaining calm and patient, much more than becoming anxious or panicking.
What you may not want to do:
1. Don't make a hue and cry about it. Don't publicize it or make it a public knowledge. Certainly keep it confidential from other students and peers.
2. Don't demand that the child stop the practice, or threaten with adverse consequences
3. Don't probe, and don't assume highly traumatic events. Don't ask for any details on possible family issues, especially if you know of any dysfunction
4. Don't lecture them on how they should cope with life challenges, what is good for them or how they need to grow up
5. Don't make them feel guilty or shamed. Do not tell them they are hurting you, their family or school by this behaviour
At the same time, this is difficult for an adult to witness and feel helpless. Please don't make it your mission to change things, and if the child is not willing to discuss with you, please don't take it as a personal disappointment or get frustrated.
Even if the child doesn't want to discuss with you, you can still help by:
1. Keeping a watchful eye over the child, reducing alone time of the child
2. Helping the child engage with other activities (without making a project of it)
3. Staying open and available when the child chooses to try and express
4. Keeping the environment as predictable and friendly as possible
What to do when the child starts to talk about it:
When the child does begin to express, you can help by asking simple questions to try and understand. Gently look to help them find other resources for themselves, and to identify positive qualities about life and themselves. Try and maintain a non-judgmental attitude, and try to take an attitude that nothing is too shocking for you.
You need not agree with them or feel the same way, but you can express that you understand how difficult it might be for them. A key benchmark is to see that the child is speaking much more than you. Even if the child is not talking, just being with them in comfortable silence can be great for the child.
Please do not try and please the child so that she doesn't cut herself, as that might lead to manipulative behaviour.
Is this the 'in' thing?
Many children do pick up such behaviour from each other, popular fiction and the internet. Sometimes, they tend to form small groups which sustain each other, and that can have adverse effects on recovery as the support they got from each other when they needed it might be hard to give up.
Look out if small cliques are getting formed with other similar people, and gently reduce grouping possibilities - not by policing them, but by increasing attractive options outside such group.
Be discrete and take help when needed:
Above all, your discretion, watchfulness, patience and availability matter. Please do consult a mental health consultant, or a psychiatrist when needed. They will work with the children and as the children learn more effective communication and coping tools, self-harming behaviour does tend to go away.
Ajanta, Mahesh and other InnerSight counsellors and guest contributors are happy to share their thoughts here.