Monday, April 10, 2006

Kuwait: Parent Child Relationships - Talk

The Young Adults in Christ Fellowship (YAFC) Kuwait

"The Family Talks - March & April 2006"

The Young Adults in Christ Fellowship group of the Catholic Holy Family Cathedral Church, Kuwait City

Talk V

Relationships between Parents and Children

The following is the summary of the fifth of a series of family talks organized by the Young Adults in Christ Fellowship (YAFC) at the Holy Family Cathedral Premises, Kuwait. This talk was given on 7th April, 2006 by Sr. Libby Sequeira of the God's Love Community, Salmiya, on the topic of "Parent-Children Relationships".

Of the many different relationships people form over the course of their life span, the relationship between parent and child is among the most important. The quality of the parent-child relationship is affected by the parent's age, experience, and self-confidence; the stability of the parents' marriage; and the unique characteristics of the child compared with those of the parent. Parental self-confidence is an important indicator of parental competence. Mothers who believe that they are effective parents are more competent than mothers who feel incompetent. Also, mothers who see themselves as effective also tend to believe their infants as less difficult to handle. Parental age and previous experience are also important. Children who are loved thrive better than those who are not. Either parent or a non-parent caregiver may serve as the primary caregiver or form the primary parent-child love relationship. Loss of love from a primary caregiver can occur with the death of a parent or interruption of parental contact through prolonged hospitalizations. A divorce can also interfere with the child's need to eat, improve, and advance.

Are you ready to be a parent?

Knowing that they'd like to have children one day is the easy part for many ‘to-be’ parents. The hard part is knowing when the time is right to start a family. When you're faced with this decision, your health, financial considerations, the impact on your career, your willingness to shoulder the responsibility of being a parent, and your readiness to give up a great deal of personal freedom all come into play. Whether or not you are ready for the joys and responsibilities of parenting, you also must take into account your spouse’s views. Talk things out, be frank about your feelings, and be prepared to hear your spouse's honest opinions in turn. It is very important that deciding to have a baby is a joint decision and that both of you are ready for the child. Finally, think about your support network. Having a baby is much easier if you can rely on a group of family and friends for practical advice, hands-on help, and the occasional pep talk. Getting these things in order before becoming pregnant can help you prepare for the inevitable stresses of adjusting to pregnancy and for the responsibilities that a baby brings to your family.

Infancy and attachment

The significant bond between infant and parent is critical to the infant's survival and development. Started immediately after birth, attachment is strengthened by mutually satisfying interaction between the parents and the infant throughout the first months of life, called bonding. If parents can adapt to their babies, meet their needs, and provide nurturance, the attachment is secure. Psychosocial development can continue based on a strong foundation of attachment. On the other hand, if a parent's personality and ability to cope with the infant's needs for care are minimal, the relationship is at risk and so is the infant's development. When attachment is strong, anxiety demonstrated by crying, clinging, and turning away from the stranger, is revealed when separation occurs. This behavior peaks between seven and nine months and again during toddlerhood, when separation may be difficult. Although possibly stressful for the parents, stranger anxiety is a normal sign of healthy child attachment and occurs because of cognitive development. Most children exhibit secure attachment when reunited with their caregiver after a temporary absence. In contrast, some children with an insecure attachment want to be held, but they are not comfortable; they kick or push away. Others seem indifferent to the parent's return and ignore them when they return. The quality of the infant's attachment predicts later development. Youngsters who emerge from infancy with a secure attachment stand a better chance of developing happy and healthy relationships with others. The attachment relationship not only forms the emotional basis for the continued development of the parent-child relationship, but can serve as a foundation for future social connections. Secure infants have parents who sensitively read their infant's cues and respond properly to their needs.


When children move from infancy into toddlerhood, the parent-child relationship begins to change. During infancy, the primary role of the parent-child relationship is nurturing and predictability, and much of the relationship revolves around the day-to-day demands of caregiving: feeding, toileting, bathing, and going to bed. As youngsters begin to talk and become more mobile during the second and third years of life, however, parents usually try to shape their child's social behavior. In essence, parents become teachers as well as nurturers, providers of guidance as well as affection. Socialization (preparing the youngster to live as a member of a social group) implicit during most of the first two years of life, becomes clear as the child moves toward his or her third birthday. Socialization is an important part of the parent-child relationship. It includes various child-rearing practices, for example weaning, toilet training, and discipline. Dimensions of the parent-child relationship are linked to the child's psychological development, specifically how responsive the parents are, and how demanding they are. Responsive parents are warm and accepting toward their children, enjoying them and trying to see things from their perspective. In contrast, nonresponsive parents are aloof, rejecting, or critical. They show little pleasure in their children and are often insensitive to their emotional needs. Some parents are demanding, while others are too tolerant. Children's healthy psychological development is facilitated when the parents are both responsive and moderately demanding. During toddlerhood, children often begin to assert their need for autonomy by challenging their parents. Sometimes, the child's newfound assertiveness during the so-called terrible twos can put a strain on the parent-child relationship. It is important that parents recognize that this behavior is normal for the toddler, and the healthy development of independence is promoted by a parent-child relationship that provides support for the child's developing sense of autonomy. In many regards, the security of the first attachment between infant and parent provides the child with the emotional base to begin exploring the world outside the parent-child relationship.

School age

During the elementary school years, the child becomes increasingly interested in peers, but this is not be a sign of disinterest in the parent-child relationship. Rather, with the natural broadening of psychosocial and cognitive abilities, the child's social world expands to include more people and settings beyond the home environment. The parent-child relationship remains the most important influence on the child's development. Children whose parents are both responsive and demanding continue to thrive psychologically and socially during the middle childhood years.


As the child enters adolescence, biological, cognitive, and emotional changes transform the parent-child relationship. The child's urges for independence may challenge parents' authority. Many parents find early adolescence a difficult period. Although the value of peer relations grows during adolescence, the parent-child relationship remains crucial for the child's psychological development. In this regard, parenting has four main styles: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive (indulgent), and detached. Although no parent is consistent in all situations, parents do follow some general tendencies in their approach to childrearing, and it is possible to describe a parent-child relationship by the prevailing style of parenting. These descriptions provide guidelines for both professionals and parents interested in understanding how variations in the parent-child relationship affect the child's development.

Authoritarian parents

Authoritarian parents are rigid in their rules; they expect absolute obedience from the child without any questioning. They also expect the child to accept the family beliefs and principles without questions. Authoritarian parents are strict disciplinarians, often relying on physical punishment and the withdrawal of affection to shape their child's behavior. Children raised with this parenting style are often moody, unhappy, fearful, and irritable. They tend to be shy, withdrawn, and lack self-confidence. If affection is withheld, the child commonly is rebellious and antisocial.

Authoritative parents show respect for the opinions of each of their children by allowing them to be different. Although there are rules in the household, the parents allow discussion if the children do not understand or agree with the rules. These parents make it clear to the children that although they (the parents) have final authority, some negotiation and compromise may take place. Authoritative parents are both responsive and demanding; they are firm, but they discipline with love and affection, rather than power, and they are likely to explain rules and expectations to their children instead of simply asserting them. This style of parenting often results in children who have high self-esteem and are independent, inquisitive, happy, assertive, and interactive.

Permissive parents

Permissive (indulgent) parents have little or no control over the behavior of their children. If any rules exist in the home, they are followed inconsistently. Underlying reasons for rules are given, but the children decide whether they will follow the rule and to what extent. They learn that they can get away with any behavior. Indulgent parents are responsive but not especially demanding. They have few expectations of their children and impose little or inconsistent discipline. There are empty threats of punishment without setting limits. Role reversal occurs; the children act more like the parents, and the parents behave like the children. Children of permissive parents may be disrespectful, disobedient, aggressive, irresponsible, and defiant. They are insecure because they lack guidelines to direct their behavior. However, these children are frequently creative and spontaneous. Although low in both social responsibility and independence, they are usually more cheerful than the conflicted and irritable children of authoritarian parents.

Disengaged parents

Finally, disengaged (detached) parents are neither responsive nor demanding. They may be careless or unaware of the child's needs for affection and discipline. Children whose parents are detached have higher numbers of psychological difficulties and behavior problems than other youngsters.

How can I be a good parent?

“I want so much to be a good parent.” “I want my child to succeed in life.” These anxious remarks are a common refrain among parents. All too often, parents are afraid of making a mistake that could mark their child or fear “leaving out” something important. But let’s make one thing clear right from the start: parenting is something you learn as you go along. Trusting your basic common sense and your instincts, and talking things over with others, is still the best way to go. Having faults does not disqualify you from being a good parent – we all have our strengths and weaknesses. After all, to err is human, but to be perfect is impossible.

1. Being A Parent

All parents hope that their child will grow up to be a happy, independent adult. But how do parents help this come about? Therein lies the challenge. You cannot anticipate every situation your child will have to face, but you can show him from a very early age how to develop good judgment by offering him guidance: “How will you go about doing that? Do you want some help? ” The starting point is creating an affective relationship with him and seeing him/her for what he./she is. Your way of thinking and doing things should also provide him with a clear direction. Finally, much can be gained from taking a long, hard look at the question: “What do I want for my child?”.

2. Knowing Yourself

Parents are, first and foremost, people. Many of the experiences we share with our children bring out our good points, our bad points, our ways of dealing with things, our needs and our personal history. If we take the time to ask ourselves some questions, we will be able to see ourselves more clearly and to change our approach, if need be. Do I take care of myself? Do I respect myself? Are my actions fuelled by my emotions (anger, sadness...)? Am I reacting against how my parents brought me up? Am I acting in the best interests of my child or for my own benefit? What do I want? These questions help us identify the model that we offer our children, a model that influences them considerably. It is important to note, however, that the fact that an adult was traumatized, neglected or physically abused as a child does not mean that he will be an abusive parent. Parents who are sensitive to what their children are experiencing find ways to develop good relationships with them.

3. Establishing Affective Relationships

Playing with your child, sharing in his activities, having fun with him – these are all ways of establishing an affective relationship with him. Here are some other ways:
  • Put yourself in your child’s shoes in order to learn what he may be feeling in a given situation. To do this, think back to how you would have felt in that situation when you were a child.

  • Be an active listener. Be attentive to what your child is experiencing by getting him to express his needs and feelings. Ask him questions so that you can think things through together, and not so that you can simply reject what he has to say.

  • Trust your child’s abilities. A challenge (within reason) can be stimulating. Mistakes can be due to a lack of maturity or something that has been improperly learned. Avoid questioning your child’s motives.

  • Help your child learn without doing things for him. Give him opportunities to experience success. When your child makes a mistake or suffers a setback, review the situation together to help him make better choices next time.

4. The Importance of Communication

Family communication should be kept simple. Discussions should not drag on forever. A five-to-ten-minute conversation is sufficient, even for a ten-year-old. Messages should be clear and non-contradictory. Your actions should reflect your words, and your words should be consistent with your gestures, body language and tone. This enables your child to feel confident and to grow up with a clear understanding of what is expected of him.

5. Parental Authority

Learning self-control
There are certain things you can do to help your child learn self-discipline: learn more about your child by observing his behaviour; make sensible rules and stick to them; take the time to explain these rules; help your child choose behaviour appropriate to the situation; if you want your child to obey your rules, then follow them yourself; be fair and loving. Teaching a child self-control requires a great deal of patience. It is a long road, and there will be setbacks. In order to successfully navigate this road, your child needs you to set an example. A Swedish study reports that disciplined parents who always act in accordance with their values do not have to use pressure to have disciplined children. However, parents who demand discipline yet are incapable of self-discipline do not get any results.

What if I lose my patience...
Certain situations can make us lose our patience. Try not to over-react or to put too much blame on yourself. To avoid “losing your cool”, try to recognize the warning signals, calmly tell your child what is happening and ask him to leave you alone. But are repeated severe spankings or other acts of violence so bad? A parent who punishes his child in this manner shows him that it is sometimes all right to: lose his self-control; hit someone, even if that someone is smaller than him. The parent may win peace and quiet or obedience temporarily, but he will lose in the long run. There is no educational value in using violence, because violence does not teach the child what he should have done in a given situation. On the contrary, the child becomes bitter and aggressive, and looks for ways to get even.

Reward, punishment and consequences
There is every indication that rewarding a child for his good behaviour and sensible decisions is still the best way to raise him. This encourages him to continue in that vein. There are very simple ways of rewarding a child: a kind word, a smile, an affectionate remark, a word of encouragement, a caress...

Another way of eliminating a certain mode of behaviour is to ignore it. Eventually, your child will stop repeating this behaviour (such as whining) if you stop paying attention to it. Of course, you should avoid this tactic if it endangers his safety or that of another child, or if he takes advantage of your indifference. Punishment should not always be ruled out. In certain situations (such as when a child persists in acting in an unacceptable or dangerous manner), punishment is necessary. It should not, however, be administered in a climate of vengeance or aggressiveness, for this will leave the child bitter, frustrated and full of resentment. For punishment to be effective, a warm relationship must exist between the parent and child. Asking a child who has misbehaved to leave the room in order to calm down and reflect on his actions can have a positive effect. He should be sent to a quiet area, with no toys. This method is also useful in that it gives the parent and the child a cooling-off period, allowing each to return to his senses. Another method is to take away one of the child’s privileges, such as going outside after supper, riding his bicycle or watching a television program.

In leading a child towards independence, it is wise to introduce the notion of consequences as part of his upbringing. The decisions he makes have consequences, and he is responsible for any positive or negative repercussions. This teaches him to assume responsibility for his choices. Certain consequences can be self-evident. For example, if an object is broken on purpose, it will not be replaced. However, when it comes to rules, the consequences must be spelled out beforehand. The parent and child enter into a contract. For instance, the child knows in advance that if he does not come home for supper, he will not get a full meal (logical consequence) and will be forbidden to watch television (loss of privilege). Consequences may also be determined jointly by the parent and the child. In the case of a broken window, it may be decided that the child will pay part of the costs of replacing it or will personally help repair it. Whether it comes down to punishment or consequences, parents must take into account the following:

The child must know what he is being accused of. A warning is appropriate and can sometimes suffice. Never set traps for him. The gravity of the misdeed and the degree to which the child is responsible determine the penalty. The timeframe must be reasonable; otherwise, the parent will give in (either from exhaustion or a sense of guilt), or the situation will become too heavy for the child to take. The parent has to stick to what he says. If he spells out what the consequences or punishment will be, this must be something that he can and will enforce. Misbehaviour is hard for a child to stop if it is punished one day and not the next. The penalty must be aimed at the child’s misbehaviour, and not at him personally. He can be told: “I cannot accept this type of behaviour.” On the other hand, telling him: “You never do anything right” is needlessly hurtful and leaves him with a poor self-image. The parent must react quickly to the misbehaviour or even forestall it if possible. The sooner the child is warned or reprimanded, the sooner he will learn to refrain from misbehaving. The parent must verify whether the undesirable behaviour is being eliminated. An effective strategy may consist in suggesting and encouraging good behaviour. For example, instead of the parent angrily saying: “Your friends are coming over for lunch again? What am I, your servant?”, the parent can suggest that the daughter check in advance whether it’s all right. Punishment is abusive if it lasts too long, is accompanied by blows, results in injuries, involves physical control (tying the child up, for instance), humiliation or threats, or is often administered for no good reason.

For discipline to be effective, it must be based on clear, familiar rules. And rules – by establishing what is and what is not allowed – express family values. A value is something we care about. It can be respect for human dignity, authority, social status, non-violence, money, helping others and so on. For example, if I value human dignity, I will not tolerate any vulgarity in my home. To learn more about my rules, I could do the following: First, make a list of my rules. Next, ask myself if all the members of my family understand and are familiar with my rules. Are my rules adapted to my child’s abilities? Are they fair? Do they serve all the members of my family? Do they achieve the desired results? Are my rules influenced by my frame of mind? By other people? It is important that our rules reflect our beliefs, values and limits. If a child feels he can come home at 6:30 instead of the agreed-upon time of 6:00, he will do so. Are my rules open to discussion by members of my family? If children cannot question a rule openly, they will question it indirectly. It is better to promote a frank and honest approach. The parent should remain open-minded, but should never lose sight of the fact that he has the last word.

What causes and perpetuates aggressive behaviour in children?
The child gets what he wants through aggressive behaviour. The parent tolerates aggressiveness. The message received by the child is that this type of behaviour is permissible. The parent encourages the child to use aggression to resolve conflicts with others. The parent himself is aggressive towards his child. Not only does this pose risks for the child, but it serves as an example of how he should handle situations. He sees that this type of behaviour is allowed and has no negative consequences.

6. Where to turn for Help

For your child to develop harmoniously, he needs respect, love, guidance and basic common sense. As a parent, your greatest challenge lies in realizing that you are up to the task and in trusting yourself. You have all the necessary resources. If you hesitate, make a mistake, recognize this and change your approach, you will be setting a good example for your child. If you feel like sharing your experiences with other parents, go right ahead. If, on the other hand, you: l feel out of your depth or ill at ease; l feel that your child is not responding to you any more, is always up to no good or is provoking you; l feel that violence is the only way you can get your child to obey you; do not keep these concerns to yourself. Talk them over with a person you trust or someone who can refer you somewhere else.

10 Tips For Enhancing That Loving Feeling Between Parents and Their Children

Just like with any relationship, building a positive relationship between parent and child is one that requires work and effort to make it strong and successful. Parenting is a tough job, and maintaining close relationships and open communications helps to ensure parents and their children stay connected through all ages of their upbringing. Here are 10 simple tips for enhancing the bond between parent and child.

1) Say I Love You

Tell your child you love him every day -- no matter his age. Even on trying days or after a parent-child is in disagreement, when you don't exactly "like your child" at that moment, it is more important than ever to express your love. A simple "I love you" goes a long way toward developing and then strengthening a relationship.

2) Teach Your child about the Catholic Faith and pray as a family

Teach your child about your Catholic faith and beliefs. Tell him what you believe and why. Allow time for your child to ask questions and answer them honestly. Reinforce those teachings often.

3) Establish A Special Name Or Code Word

Create a special name for your child that is positive and special or a secret code word that you can use between each other. Use the name as a simple reinforcement of your love. The code word can be established to have special meaning between your child and you that only you two understand. This code word can even be used to extract a child from an uncomfortable situation (such as a sleepover that is not going well) without causing undue embarrassment to the child.

4) Develop And Maintain A Special Bedtime Ritual

For younger children, reading a favorite bedtime book or telling stories is a ritual that will be remembered most likely throughout their life. Older children should not be neglected either. Once children start reading, have them read a page, chapter, or short book to you. Even most teenagers still enjoy the ritual of being told goodnight in a special way by a parent--even if they don't act like it!

5) Let Your Children Help You

Parents sometimes inadvertently miss out on opportunities to forge closer relationships by not allowing their child to help them with various tasks and chores. Unloading groceries after going to the store is a good example of something that children of most ages can and should assist with. Choosing which shoes look better with your dress lets a child know you value her opinion. Of course, if you ask, be prepared to accept and live with the choice made!

6) Play With Your Children

The key is to really play with your children. Play with dolls, ball, make believe, checkers, sing songs, or whatever is fun and interesting. It doesn't matter what you play, just enjoy each other! Let kids see your silly side. Older kids enjoy cards, chess, computer games, while younger ones will have fun playing about long as it involves you!

7) Eat Meals As A Family

You've heard this before, and it really is important! Eating together sets the stage for conversation and sharing. Turn the TV off, and don't rush through a meal. When schedules permit, really talk and enjoy one another. It can become a quality time most remembered by young and old alike.

8) Seek Out One-On-One Opportunities Often

Some parents have special nights or "standing dates" with their children to create that one-on-one opportunity. Whether it is a walk around the neighborhood, a special trip to a playground, or just a movie night with just the two of you, it is important to celebrate each child individually. Although it is more of a challenge the more children in a family, it is really achievable! Think creatively and the opportunities created will be ones that you remember in the future.

9) Respect Their Choices

You don't have to like their mismatched shirt and shorts or love how a child has placed pictures in his room. However, it is important to respect those choices. Children reach out for independence at a young age, and parents can help to foster those decision-making skills by being supportive. After all, it really is okay if a child goes to daycare with a striped green shirt and pink shorts. Off course a parent is not expected to overlook in-decent dressing or the like. These should be corrected at an early age so that the child understands the value of the same at an early age.

10) Make Them A Priority In Your Life

Your children need to know that you believe they are a priority in your life. Children can observe excessive stress and notice when they feel you are not paying them attention. Sometimes, part of being a parent is not worrying about the small stuff and enjoying your children. They grow up so fast, and every day is special. Take advantage of your precious time together while you have it!

Advice for Teens in Trouble

All teenagers have disagreements with their parents and feel the need to get away. But when that need leads you down a self-destructive path, it's time to make a change. The answers can't be found on the outside — they're inside you.
  • Don't throw your life away to spite your parents, or to get even with them. Try your best to resolve these issues in a way that does not offend them.

  • At times it may be difficult to understand why your parents are asking something from you. Trust their judgement in these situations and rest-assured you will be the one to gain.

  • Never be-little your parents because of their age or educational background. Respect them as long as they live. Never feel ashamed to introduce or show-off your parents in public, even to your friends.

  • Running to a boyfriend or girlfriend is not the answer, because you're not really running to them. You're running away from your problems at home.

  • Even if no one else tells you, remember that you are a valuable human being. You have so much to offer to the world — don't sell yourself short and give yourself away cheap.

  • You are a worthy person. But the only person who can give you more of what you need is yourself.

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