herald

Saturday 10 December 2016

Parent Zone: I keep losing my temper with my children - what should I do?

Losing your patience with children
Losing your patience with children
pals

A child's best friend moving away, a two-year-old repeating the alphabet, a cursing child and a short tempered dad

Q: I'm a father and I sometimes lose my cool with my two children. I know I am being unfair and overly strict but I am stressed with other parts of my life, including my relationship with their mother. They are five and 11. What should I do?

A: I think you need to get some help for yourself. It sounds as though you are having a difficult time coping with your life. This can happen to anyone and you must not blame yourself.

At the same time, you need to realise that children being reared in a harsh and punitive environment will not thrive emotionally and will live in fear.

They will learn that adults are punitive and blaming and they will not end up having the relationship with you that you want them to have. Children raised in this sort of environment often develop problems with self-confidence and self-esteem.

It is not uncommon for them to grow up to become adults who are demanding and have difficulty with relationships.

Obviously, you are aware of your difficulties and want to change. It is unlikely you will be able to accomplish that entirely on your own.

Sometimes in life, we need a bit of help to grow to become a better person. I strong encourage you to get some counselling, perhaps anger management therapy, to learn better control.

You are damaging your relationship with your children. It's time for change and change takes courage.

Q: Our next door neighbours are moving house in a couple of month's time and their nine-year-old is best friends with our nine-year-old.

Both families are quite close and the two girls have known each other since birth. We have to break the news to our daughter. They are moving a three-hour car journey away. Any tips on how to approach it?

A: In these days of modern technology there is ample opportunity to keep in touch with friends. Things like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber are all wonderful sources of communication. I don't think there will be any difficulty for the two girls to maintain their friendship.

Children adjust well to the realities of modern life when people and families are more mobile than ever. I'm sure your daughter will understand that sometimes friends move away.

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It can be difficult when a child's friend moves away

It will be helpful for your daughter to buy a small going-away gift for her friend. It could be something that serves as a source of remembering such as a special photo of the two of them.

You might even encourage them to exchange a teddy bear or some special play object they both enjoyed. We should not forget the importance of letter writing just because we have all this technology these days. Encouraging children to write letters to friends is a wonderful way to assist them with written communication, spelling and vocabulary.

In general, I really don't think there will be any significant problem for either of the two girls in the future.

Q: My son is nearly two. How do I stop him from saying the alphabet over and over again? He even does it when he wakes up at night?

Well, this is about the best 'problem' I've come across in a long time. Isn't it great that your son is so interested in learning the letters of the alphabet?

A: I know it may be concerning that he is repeating them so often, even at night, but it is most likely a sign of advancing cognitive development and interest in pre-literacy skills.

I wouldn't think of this as a major problem. Instead, I would just ignore it and see how he gets on. I wonder if you taught him some songs to sing would they replace the letter naming?

I know you may be wondering if this is a sign of some sort of behavioural or developmental difficulty, but I think it is best just treated as a phase of development in a young child with an unusual memory for letters. In the long run it will go a long way to making him a fluent reader in the future.

Q: My three-year old daughter has started to use the 'F' word a lot. I realise that this is my fault and her father's fault as we both use the word frequently. How do I get her to stop?

A: Here is a good example of how children learn: by watching and listening. The use of foul language in the family home will be quickly transferred to the children. Sooner or later they will begin to use the same language.

You daughter is teaching you a lesson - foul language is offensive and unacceptable. You need to learn from her and up your game.

What do you expect when you and her father use the same language at home? You have taught her to use foul language and now you want to teach her not to use it!

Well, you need first of all to eliminate it from your own vocabulary. You need to explain to your daughter clearly that using that word is bad language and that no one is going to use it in the house again.

You also need to be sure you mean what you say. That means you will never talk like that again.

David Carey is Director of Psychology, City Colleges, and Dean of College of Progressive Education; send your questions to davidcarey@herald.ie

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