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Parenting: The New Frontier

By Joshua R. Hamm, LPC

 

It is mind-blowing to think about how much life has changed since I was a child. Comparing my first phone (a Nokia with a colored faceplate and light up antenna) to my iPhone 7 is comical. Knowing how much the world around us has changed over the years, it would be naïve to think that children haven’t changed as well. Today, children are managing a lot more at an earlier age; therefore, the way that we parent must evolve.

There are a few things that are extremely helpful in setting a solid parenting foundation. Structure and consistency are most important. The world around your child is constantly changing. If your child’s behavioral boundaries are constantly changing as well, they are going to be emotionally and behaviorally unstable. When a 5-year-old enters kindergarten, for the most part, they know right from wrong.

However, a kindergarten teacher doesn’t just list the rules and expect the class to follow them blindly. (That class would be upside down by the end of the day.) A good teacher implements her rules and then teaches the child that when a rule is followed, X will happen and when a rule is broken, Y will happen, every single time. A child begins to learn how to control themselves, behaviorally and emotionally because of those clear consistent boundaries.

I can ask a child in kindergarten what happens when you get in trouble, and they can tell me, “I get my clip/color moved.” They can tell me what each color means and the consequences and/or reward for each color. I can ask them the same question about what happens at home and they will answer, “Umm…well sometimes I get a spanking, sometimes I lose my toys…umm I don’t know?”

Unclear and inconsistent rules create a difficult environment for breaking down behaviors and helping them to overcome behavioral deficits. It is important to establish your rules, even write them down, and implement clear boundaries for when your child breaks those rules. It is also important to provide positive reinforcement consistently when they follow the rules.

Since children primarily learn rules when they are following rules, it is important for parents to verbally acknowledge their efforts when they are making good choices. The trick with positive reinforcement is consistency. It is easy to praise your children when they are being good. The question is: Are you doing it consistently?

It is also important to have healthy boundaries with technology. Technology is like a socially appropriate drug for children. If you don’t believe that then let your toddler play an excessive amount of technology and then attempt to pull them away from it. From a young age, you should set technology time limits and enforce those.

Parents should also help their children and young adults learn how to successfully use technology within those boundaries. In a lot of ways, a phone and social media are like a loaded weapon for a young adult. It’s important that we teach them safety and how to use them properly.

Overall, it’s extremely different to parent a child in today’s world. Remember, it is okay to not be perfect and it is okay to make mistakes. As long as you are working to establish structure, consistency and healthy boundaries as a parent, then you will hopefully survive parenthood and raise a successful young adult in today’s world.

 

 

At Connections, we offer behavioral and mental health evaluation. Following diagnosis, we work with you and your child to determine the best course of treatment and therapy for them. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please call us at 601-261-5159.

 Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.