T portal: “Clinical psychologist on the pitfalls of permissive upbringing: The biggest misconception is that parents and children of friends”

About the traps of permissive upbringing and how to find the balance between the need of the child and the building of the healthy parental authority, the journalist of the T portal Elma Katana spoke with the clinical psychologist Ivan Ćosić Pregrad from the Child and Youth Protection Center in Zagreb. We share parts from the interview and its entirety can be read at the following link (on Croatian language): https://www.tportal.hr/lifestyle/clanak/klinicka-psihologinja-o-zamkama-popustljivog-odgoja-najveca-zabluda-je-da-su-roditelji- and-children-friends-photo-20180819

Children have more confidence to how we behave rather than what we say

It is important for children to talk openly about which behaviors you approve, and which not, and how some behaviors and rules can help us to be safe, says psychologist.

“And of course, children learn the most by looking and watching what adults are doing. They believe in what we are behaving more than what we are talking about. The values we advocate and want to teach children are important and we live and practice ourselves in our everyday lives. In this way we are visible, authentic and clear to the children, and the experience of representing ourselves and acting accordingly gives us a sense of confidence and competence, which becomes particularly important when confronted with conflict situations, broken between different needs or between needs and desires as part of everyday family life”, she said.

The absence of adult leadership in the family, she adds, creates an empty, unclear space where young children and teenagers feel insecure and bad.

“When there is no adult leadership, children can develop various demanding behaviors such as aggression, intolerance, tend to dominate and impose their expectations and desires, but behind such reactions the children often hide a great deal of insecurity, confusion and loneliness. Children who do not have a clear leadership experience in their families may face greater difficulties in resolving conflicts with others, are more likely to endure frustration and harder learn to distinguish needs from desires, focus on their desires, and show less understanding for other feelings and needs”, explains I. Ćosić Pregrad.

Don’t condemn anger but its violent expression

“It is important to distinguish between anger as a feeling that occurs when our integrity is attacked or we are prevented from achieving our goals, from the violence that aims to injure a person and cause damage. In situations of anger and frustration sometimes we react aggressively and inappropriately, particularly children and young people who are in the process of acquiring social skills. When someone is repeatedly behaving violently towards another person, we can talk about the abuse and such behavior and misuse of power is really important to stop immediately. Very often in the reactions of adults, including through the media space, we can see frequent condemnation, perception and marking of children and youth as a bully, forgetting that children are still in need of protection, guidance and tutoring by adults to cope with difficulties and the challenges they face in their upbringing and interpersonal relationships. Also seeking a culprit for issue makes it difficult to change and diminish the social responsibility of all of us who live and shape society from the different roles we have”, she says.

When children behave aggressively, it is important to show clearly that we do not condemn their anger, but only the violent expression of this anger, explains the psychologist.

It is important not to tell the children that they are not angry, or that they do not show their anger. They need support from adults to find and use different creative ways of expressing anger. Even from the earliest age, expressing anger children learn and practice in their families and with their parents. It does not mean that they are opposed to their parents or they do not respect their authority, as adults often hear children do not”, she says.

Educate a child who ‘think for themselves’

Modern parenting, she adds, really brings great challenges for parents and a number of the places where parents are now exposed to a stronger and more diversified than the pressures which are likely to have been exposed to their parents.

Today’s lifestyle and the speed of change, really great possibility of choice and the lack of clear and stable social values is the context that makes it difficult for parents’ job and contributes to constant questioning us as parents, our personal values and the way we live.

“Depending on what we want to teach our children, what values we want to convey, and what qualities and behaviors we would like to see in children when they grow up, from the earliest age as parents, we direct and guide children through different everyday but also some life situations, and then we set some boundaries in line with those values we represent and live. In this way we create opportunities in which children will be able to learn and develop all the features and behaviors that we would like to see with them with parental support, understanding and acceptance”, said Cosic Pregrad.

If we want the child to grow up in a person who can distinguish the desires of need and that ‘think for themselves’, adds psychologist, it is necessary to take into parenthood act accordingly, even when we are under pressure of a child at a particular time advocating their desire .

‘And such situations always bring conflict and it is impossible to satisfy everyone involved. Conflict is a part of life, especially family life, and children need parents’ support to learn to deal with situations of dissatisfaction, frustration, anger and disappointment as it is part of life. When parents tell the children clearly and decisively ‘not’ by personal values and respecting their personal and family values while at the same time respecting and accepting the child’s desire (but not completing it), the conflict that comes less is detrimental to the parent-child relationship then conflict that arises when a parent crosses own limits to fulfill child’s wish”, said a psychologist.

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