Unique parenting challenges answered

Be intentional about parenting. PHOTO/net

What you need to know:

Lack of sleep, overwhelming workload, tantrums and disorders are some of the day-to-day challenges that parents face. Every parent goes through some struggles to raise children. Michael Agaba answers some of the parenting challenges. 

I started having children in my mid-twenties. I was harsh on my children while raising them and looking back, I regret most of my actions. They have turned out well, but I have a frosty relationship with them. They are all grown up and out of my care now with families of their own. Since their father passed on 10 years ago, my relationship with them is casual. I am 65 and I want to make amends now. What should I do? Amina. 

Answer:  Start with listing offenses that you think occasioned their withdrawal. Create an atmosphere of warmth and ambience where you are fully relaxed and talk to them. Now that you have their audience, tell them how you failed them and ask for their forgiveness. Do not blame them or anyone for your behaviour but accept and own up.

They may want to ask you some questions and in the process vent all the pent-up anger they have kept for a long time but that’s okay. Answer all their questions candidly and lovingly. You will be surprised by how far this will go as far as mending your relationship is concerned. For those who won’t receive you well, give them time to think and get over it.

 My son is 16 years old. He is a single child from a failed relationship. I have invested heavily in him emotionally and financially. He is my world. Trouble is he doesn’t respect me. He seems to have a sense of entitlement, throws tantrums when his needs are not met. I am frustrated. What should I do? Mary.

Answer:  How did you get here? Were you overly protective, pampering, or did you let him hang out with a wrong peer group? Is he ungrateful, uncourteous, rude, materialistic, manipulative, or negative? If you have never said “no” to him, start saying it now. He may not be used to it and will throw tantrums. Ignore him until he appreciates the idea that life is not always about “yes”.

Let him have his way sometimes. Do not be overly controlling. Let him know he can choose his actions and should be ready for consequences. This will give him a sense of responsibility. 

Tell him his behaviour will be repulsive to others and he will not be liked. Children this age like to belong and it will hurt him more than anything to know he cannot relate because of his bad behaviour.   Be firm on your chosen course of discipline. Do not cave in. Has he been like this all his life or has his bad behaviour been occasioned by his age? Find out. If it is an age thing, understand that he will get out of it soon. Enforce discipline with the knowledge that he is beginning to be independent.

Support him in that stage patiently. You are no longer the centre of gravity; his peers have become. Patiently watch him and help when he invites you in. It is a process for him just as it is for you. He is growing in his masculinity so are you in your parenting. Rhona Kobusingye puts it aptly when she writes her book, Beneath a Child’s Smile and Frown; “Parenting our children is not like walking into a supermarket to buy groceries. It is not like picking your favourite, yoghurt, ginger and biscuits to enjoy and leave the empty containers in the trash thereafter.

It is an intentional journey filled with days of bloom and days of gloom. It can be bittersweet, but at the end of it all, the joy of motherhood keeps the spirit going.  Alternatively, find a counsellor to help him if all other measures fail.”

I have four children. But one of them is my favourite for some personal reasons. Is it normal to have a favourite child? I feel guilty about it. Rose.

Answer: The truth is that every parent has a favourite child. According to a 2005 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, it was discovered that 74 per cent of mothers and 70 per cent of fathers exhibit preferential treatment towards one child. You must take care though not to show favouritism. Endeavour to treat all your children equally.  Do not compare your children at least openly. Keep it to yourself. Assure them you love them all.

Key

Complex

Parenting is sophisticated. No one gets its right, all the time. You have to work yourself out of the guilt conscience by releasing the pressure to be a perfect parent. Be honest about your struggles with other parents and your children.  

Rev Michael Agaba is a theologian, marriage counsellor, and parenting coach

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