How to Raise Well-Adjusted Kids
If I can humbly add one small idea to these thoughts…it has been my personal experience (both as a child and a mother) that children are like little radios picking up our frequency. They know the real truth about what we are feeling versus what we are presenting and it is incredibly isolating to find a major discrepancy between the two. When in my grown-up sphere I am confronted with disappointment or my own intolerance and a bad mood to boot, I often name what is going on (in other words, I say, “Mommy is having a hard day, and I am feeling upset”) so that the very mundane human “bad” feelings do not turn into some grim phantom in the room with me. Sometimes I don’t have the maturity in the moment, and when it fails me, I apologize at bedtime when my children and I are having a talk. I have felt my daughter’s whole body sigh in relief when I have simply and very specifically voiced regretting my own behavior. Here’s to doing the best we can.
As a mother of two young children with lives as busy as my own, I am constantly trying to do more than I can. Sometimes with all of the multitasking, school runs, thank you notes and household responsibilities, not to mention my professional life, I feel like I am doing too many things, none of them as well as I could. My main priority, far and above anything else in my life, is my children, their happiness, stability, individualism and well-being. In your opinion, what are the most effective ways to be with one’s children? What is most important in terms of their emotional and mental development? Are there specific things we can do to help them grow up to reach their full potential?
As the mother of two daughters, now 22 and 18, and a psychologist in full-time private practice, I am well acquainted with the incredible balancing act between work and one’s own life and the needs of family, particularly children. What I have learned from my own experience as well as listening to my patients over many years are some key ingredients in raising healthy and well-adjusted human beings. I believe the most important aspects of being a healthy individual are having good self esteem, good judgment, and the ability to self-soothe in constructive ways. How do children develop these attributes? I feel that being available to one’s children emotionally is the number one priority in helping them grow into good and productive people. What I mean by this is that as parents, we must see our children for who they are without constantly projecting our own needs and wishes onto them. In order to accomplish this, we must spend time with them, listen to them, and most of all, HEAR them. Children let you know what they need and they act out when they are not getting their needs met. A good example of this is with overprogramming children with too many structured activities. Children will regress, withdraw, and misbehave when they are too overstimulated and programmed. Sometimes they need to just be home with their parent or caretaker and play imaginatively.
“Children need to be helped to adapt to their environment and not always have the environment shaped around them.”
If we can step back and put our needs aside, children are very clear in their communications. In this day and age, with both parents often working or busy outside the home, it is very difficult to find quantity time, but quality time is as important. The small but powerful moments are all very valuable in helping our children feel cherished and adored. Eating meals together whenever possible is a wonderful time for connection. Several other thoughts…children need boundaries. They feel safe when they know what is expected of them and what is predictable. They also need consistency. For example, No means NO. I also feel very strongly about this: Children need to be helped to adapt to their environment and not always have the environment shaped around them. Parents today often try too hard to make life easy for their children by manipulating everything in their lives. This does not teach children to cope and eventually leads to low-self esteem. In essence, when children know they are loved and seen for who they are and are taught to adapt to their surroundings, they have the best chance of growing into happy, well-adjusted and productive adults.
–Karen Binder-Brynes, Ph.D.
Dr. Karen Binder-Brynes is a leading psychologist with a private practice in New York City for the past 15 years.