It may suit your personality to be either a firm parent or a kind one, but that parenting sweet spot is really a balance between being both kind and firm.
Being firm involves setting rules and boundaries at home, said Sher-li Torrey, FFL Council Member, and Founder and Director at Mums@Work, a social enterprise dedicated to supporting women find work-family balance. However, when lines are crossed, it helps when correcting your child to explain the intention behind the discipline—whether explaining why a curfew is set or why there are limits on smartphone usage.
When disciplining a child, it is also essential to be fair and impartial, said Kelvin Ang, FFL Council Member and prominent parenting blogger, who is also known as the @Cheekiemonkies dad. “I've always been conscious that I should not show any bias towards any child. Giving timeouts for poor behaviour or imposing screen time limits are based on the same rules for all my three kids.”
Kelvin added that parents need to be careful with what they say as it can leave a lasting impression. He recounted how he lost his temper and had raged at his second child, who was very shaken by it. “It was a traumatic experience for him. This happened when he was about six years old, but today at 15 years old, he still remembers what happened.”
Connecting with your child
While it is important to discipline your child about poor behaviour, maintaining a strong, loving bond helps your child to accept the discipline, learn from mistakes and be more responsible.
For Kelvin, there have been instances when frustration with his children made him lose his temper. “I would reflect and ask how I could have handled it better? As a result of the reflection, I have changed my tone and how I speak to my child.”
Being able to tap on the emotional support of other parents has also helped Kelvin. He has a support group formed from parents who read his blog and find that his postings—such as the PSLE memes he created—resonate with them. Within the group they share about both parenting frustrations and solutions.
The wilderness years
Striking a balance between being firm and kind poses fresh challenges when children become teenagers, said Kelvin. “Counting to three or saying ‘I will only say this once’ is unlikely to sway a teen. Instead, we should try to be transparent and be open to talk things through, and understand why they do what they do.”
“A lot more effort is needed to communicate to teenagers. At this stage, not only do we need to support them, but to continue to advise and teach them.”
Kelvin has also learned that his children have much to teach him too. “With the internet, they have access to so much information. Often, they teach me about various trends and what's really happening in the world. It's a two-way street.”
Sher-Li’s for the times when a parent makes a mistake, is to acknowledge the child's feelings and to apologise, even though this may be uncommon among Asian parents. Parents may be imperfect, but “if the core of the family values parenting relationship is love, I have very strong faith that at some point, they will return to the source,” said Sher-Li.
Kelvin, agreed, saying that sending their children a message of unconditional love is important. “My wife and I always want our kids to know is a safe place for them to seek refuge and the door is always open to them, and that we won’t judge, whatever mistakes have been made.”
“Parenting is really trial and error, it's about you trying out and seeing what works for your child, said Sher-Li, “It has a lot to do with self-awareness and also self analysis. The children do grow and change, and as parents, we try to grow with and empathise with them.”
The original content of this interview was taken from a CNA938 Family Ties Conversation. For more parenting tips, visit www.familiesforlife.sg or check out #AskFFL on the Families for Life Facebook page.