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Parenting with Lorraine

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A 30-year veteran Marriage Family and Child therapist, mother of five, and grandmother of 10, Lorraine Al-Jamie helps parents to acquire skills that enhance their ability to raise high-functioning and happy children.

The Terrible Twos and Adolescence

Although the terrible twos and adolescence seem far apart, they have much in common. Both are times when children feel a great need for autonomy. Since parents are well aware that children still need us to guide them, we cannot just throw our hands up and give them the freedom they want even though at times we may all be tempted to do so.

To help our children develop skills to become responsible adults, we must provide them with opportunities to make their own decisions whenever safe – and when the consequences of a wrong choice don’t overwhelm. This is the challenge. There is a fine line between deciding what consequence may be too hurtful and which not. It takes courage and faith for a mom or dad to watch their child do something that may cause them to fall down. But it is critical that we do just that so children can learn to be thoughtful and make wise decisions before the consequences become tougher as adults.

How we go about setting limits for our children also is critical. This depends on the age and emotional development of the child. Let us start with infancy. Until around two, babies are usually fairly compliant. And then what is often referred to as “the terrible twos” hits and parents don’t know what hit them. It is extremely important that parents don’t think of their children as being BAD. It is helpful if we view this stage as our child doing what he needs to, to learn more about how the world operates. He must push against limits to learn that they exist, and learn how to cope emotionally when he finds himself up against them.

A 30-year veteran Marriage Family and Child therapist, mother of five, and grandmother of 10, Lorraine Al-Jamie helps parents to acquire skills that enhance their ability to raise high-functioning and happy children.

The Terrible Twos and Adolescence

Although the terrible twos and adolescence seem far apart, they have much in common. Both are times when children feel a great need for autonomy. Since parents are well aware that children still need us to guide them, we cannot just throw our hands up and give them the freedom they want even though at times we may all be tempted to do so.

To help our children develop skills to become responsible adults, we must provide them with opportunities to make their own decisions whenever safe – and when the consequences of a wrong choice don’t overwhelm. This is the challenge. There is a fine line between deciding what consequence may be too hurtful and which not. It takes courage and faith for a mom or dad to watch their child do something that may cause them to fall down. But it is critical that we do just that so children can learn to be thoughtful and make wise decisions before the consequences become tougher as adults.

How we go about setting limits for our children also is critical. This depends on the age and emotional development of the child. Let us start with infancy. Until around two, babies are usually fairly compliant. And then what is often referred to as “the terrible twos” hits and parents don’t know what hit them. It is extremely important that parents don’t think of their children as being BAD. It is helpful if we view this stage as our child doing what he needs to, to learn more about how the world operates. He must push against limits to learn that they exist, and learn how to cope emotionally when he finds himself up against them.

The two-year old may throw a temper tantrum that often makes us feel helpless and may even tempt us to want to give in. Think carefully before you set a limit, and even more carefully before you change your mind about the issue. It seems bad advice to say NEVER change the limit you set, but be sure you are doing it even when you can’t stand another second of your child’s screaming and kicking his heels. The less attention we give a tantrum, the sooner it will end. This may mean some separation from the child until he quiets down. When he does, do not address the tantrum. In a loving way, return to the original issue and see it through. This may bring on another tantrum when the child is treated the same way, but when the tantrums don’t succeed the child will eventually learn and give them up. An important thing to be aware of is that intermittent reinforcement will keep a behavior going. That means that if we give in some of the time because we can’t stand the tantrum, we will ensure that our child will keep on using it to attempt to get his way. So be consistent once a limit has been set.

The same rule applies to an adolescent. But it is harder for parents to give their children more autonomy because the consequences of poor judgment are longer lasting.

This is another opportunity for our children to learn about the world before they face it as adults. It is important to give guidance in a tactful and respectful way, allowing children to feel competent and trustworthy while we set the necessary limits to keep them from grievous harm. Keep in mind that the opinion of their peers is very important to adolescents, and parents will often hear the argument, “My friend’s parents are letting him go to the party, so why can’t I go?” Because your answer is well founded doesn’t mean that your child will accept and give in. Avoid arguing. Simply set the necessary limit with no further discussion. It’s also critical that both parents be united on an issue. That needs to be worked out before the limit is set. An adolescent’s reaction may be subtler than the two year old’s, but just as disturbing. Pouting and back talk are common. Again, don’t get distracted by addressing that acting-out behavior. Set the necessary limit clearly and firmly and follow through without lengthy argument or discussion.

It does take energy to deal with these developmental stages and it is critical that you find as much support as possible. Having other parents who are dealing with the same issues to talk with can be very helpful in avoiding burnout. Demonstrating respect and confidence in your teenager will be very helpful in constructing a positive and effective relationship that will reap great rewards. tj

This article appeared in Issue #271.Click here to order from Amazon

Read 1757 times Last modified on Saturday, 19 April 2014 21:39

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