Is There Such a Thing as Natural Born Parents?

in Relationships

By Dr. BL Lim (guest contributor)

Is there such a thing as natural born parents? You know, those people who can intuitively deal with the incessant crying of their newborns, handle the terrible twos, effortlessly impress upon their ten year old kid that school is more important than Xbox or Nintendo, and can communicate with the not-a-child-not-quite-an-adult adolescent without pulling their hair out from frustration.

Bringing up a child in our modern society is more difficult

 Our kids know that we're ignoring them when we call someone on the cell phone after telling them we'd take them to the park
(photo: Ed Yourdon)

Somehow we are made to believe that parents especially mothers have the innate ability to care for their children. I think this is partly true. There exist primitive mechanisms that parents will have to protect their younglings so as to preserve the survival of the species. However, bringing up a child in a modern society and nurturing him/her into a confident, happy and successful person is a totally different story.

In Singapore, this is made worse as most of us stay in small apartments as a nuclear family. The extended family may be living in another neighborhood and opportunities to learn about how to be a parent is limited. The wisdom of the previous generation in handling a child is unfortunately not passed on.

Spare the cane, spoil the child?

We have also rapidly developed since independence. Our parents’ practices may seem dated and redundant. A generation ago, disciplining children meant corporal punishments and caning. The child was expected to be seen but not heard. Today, parenting skills are all about time-outs, limit setting and star charts. Close your eyes and you can immediately see the grandparents scoffing about such “western techniques” and that if you “spare the cane, you spoil the child.”

Many young parents lacking experience and guidance will find it stressful handling their newborns and dealing with parenting. Parents have asked me what the best way is to discipline or to bring up a child. There really is no one size fits when it comes to parenting. Every child is different and has different needs and requirements. The child-parent dynamics are affected by the temperament of both the child and the parent, the bidirectional interactions between the child and parent, and other external circumstances.

Getting caught in the rat race

 Father and son surf lesson in Morro Bay
(photo: Mike Baird)

Unfortunately, I have seen many parents getting caught in the rat race and focusing on short term targets like music, sports and academic achievements and disregarding the emotional and psychological wellness of their children. The young child can quickly learn that the world is negative and full of struggles and trepidations. He may develop to become an unhappy genius, never to be satisfied with his own talent.

I believe every single parent will want his or her child to blossom into a confident and happy adult. So start by being mindful that your aim as a parent is to provide a healthy environment for the child to grow, both physically and emotionally.  Once this picture is clear in the mind, the jigsaw pieces of the parenting puzzle will fall into place with natural ease.

 

By Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist in private practice from Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, Gleneagles Medical Centre.

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