We sat in the doctor’s rooms with my son, he had come for a routine ear check. The spring season springs a whole lot of allergies for him, and the doctor had just explained that the periodic blocked nose would stay with us for a while. The blocked nose became the subject of our mother son discussion as my son sought an explanation to why this was on him and not on his older brother. I answered in the following words “Maybe it’s because you only breast fed for 4 months compared to your brother’s 18 months”. A part of me believes in the power of breastfeeding when it comes to children’s health and I had hoped to breastfeed my younger son for longer. The young man beat me to the game he refused to be breast fed at 4 months although I tried all I could including a visit to the pediatrician. The pediatrician just asked me to try bottle feeding him with expressed breast milk and if that fails to stick to formulae only. To cut the long story short breast milk was not accepted but formulae became his favorite until age two.
Getting back to our conversation my son said “maybe you are right Mum you should have forced me to drink the milk” I laughed and explained that he just didn't want it and I don't know any other way I could have forced him. Long after our conversation I got into deep thought on what if anything should parents force their children to do to avoid an uncertain future or an anticipated consequence.
Common parenting dilemmas
Parenting is a hurricane in its perfect form, each developmental stage a child goes through has its “parenting is not easy moments”. In the early years it could be the refusal of breast milk as happened to me, picky eating, playing with water or just some other bad unhealthy habits which could earn us a hospital or doctors visit. Recently I saw a friend’s two year old son attempt to dive from the couch to the floor after seeing some swimming competition on TV, that is exactly what am talking about. These behavior patterns continue through middle childhood into adolescents. In adolescents the issues become grave such as spending a night out, dating or experimenting with alcohol.
To force or not to force
The issues cut across a diverse range and each time the parent is faced with the dilemma of either forcing the wanted behavior or not forcing. What are the consequences of forcing or not forcing? Will you look back and regret forcing or not forcing? Will your child blame you for their future predicament caused by forcing or not forcing?
What has been your parenting experience like? Share your journey with us by commenting below this article.
Tips on Making the Decision
1. Identify the behavior (What exactly is the problem )
2. Classify the behavior whether it is age appropriate. Age appropriate behaviors are those behaviors that are common at a certain age of a child’s life (yours and others).
3. What are the anticipated outcomes of such behavior, some outcomes are negative, and others are positive? It is important to take note of both outcomes this keeps a parent’s mind clear as they make important decisions.
4. What alternatives do we have to the behavior and their outcomes?
Now one can make an informed decision which one may not live to regret or wish to go back in time. An important aspect of this whole process is to have your child in the decision-making committee if they can converse and understand you when you speak however break it down to match the child’s level. Doing this with the growing child helps the child internalize moral behaviors and understand the process of decision making and problem solving.
Our relationship with our children is precious to ruin over something that will not matter beyond 24 hours. As a rule of identifying outcomes I would like to encourage parents to ask for how long will this outcome matter, as you will note some time frames are not worth ruining our precious relationships. Happy parenting
Noreen Kudzanai Wini- Dari is a Community Psychologist and senior consultant at Psycmates.