A recent report by the Sutton Trust, states that 40 per cent of children will be at risk of behaving badly and having lower literacy levels as a result of “failing to bond with their parents.”
The Sutton Trust has neatly put into a research report what many parents know or fear. Unskilled parenting can result in children who are less able to learn and develop in those crucial primary years. Yikes. It’s a huge responsibility bringing another life into the world, especially if your aim is to enable your child to be happy, and make a positive contribution in society. Sure genetics play a part, but the larger part, the most VISIBLE part, is nurture – that’s what you input into your child’s life and daily experience. Your children are at greater risk if you are a young/er parent as you may just not have acquired the skills required for effective parenting. So, in this conversation between friends, what did I learn?
I had my first child in my twenties and my second in my thirties and I can honestly say that my input and understanding of child-rearing was much deeper with my second. It’s not helpful to make younger parents feel bad about themselves, however as everyone knows, raising kids is the hardest, as well as the most rewarding job in the world.
Here are some of the things that I learned between child one and child two:
1. Your child places you at the centre of their universe (whether you like it or not). They will copy you and observe everything you do! Try to set a good example for this mini-you.
2. Try to listen to them *in the now*. Stop watching TV, cooking the dinner for a minute or two and give them your full attention. “Later” is a concept that younger children really have trouble grasping. It’s important that your child learns that you are often busy and can’t always ‘drop everything’ but try every third time they interrupt or demand your attention – to give it, fully.
3. Young children, like most people, love eye contact and smiles when they are telling you something. You might feel bored, stressed, unhappy (believe me there were times when I could hardly communicate I was so stressed out about money worries or things going on at work), but practice looking directly at them when they tell you something and smile at them encouragingly. It will help both of you to bond.
4. Reading to your child is, in my opinion, one of the best ways to bond with them. They love the sound of your voice, remember they knew your voice before they saw your face, so this is hugely comforting for them and on the plus side, you will be helping them to became more literate. Good news is that any reading improves literacy, so Beano Annuals are in!
5. Physical contact is natural when your babies are small, but sometimes, when you get to the terrible twos, trouble-some threes and ferocious fours you really don’t feel like hugging them sometimes. But hugs can say more than words, especially if you have lost your temper or been too tired to string a sentence together. A gentle hug at the end of the day can say; I’m here for you, I’m sorry, I care, I love you and so much more.
Remember parenting didn’t come with a handbook so you will make mistakes. Annoyingly each child is different so what works for one, won’t necessarily work for another. But don’t lose hope, keep trying to communicate with your child in whatever way works best for both of you – give your best, as it’s the best you can do.
© Suzy Rigg 2014