Most parents in Singapore, whether Mom or Dad, are working parents. If you are one of them, don’t you often think that it would be awesome if you could spend more time with your child?
Are there many things you want to do with your child, but could never find the time?
Do you even sometimes blame yourself because of how much you have to be away at work?
The Ministry of Social and Family Development conducted a survey with Singaporeans, asking them to respond to the statement “My job keeps me from spending the amount of time I would like to spend with my family” and the result is clear: You are not alone.
This week, we will delve into a few child development theories to help you understand the stages of your child’s growth.
We will be exposing 21 valuable and actionable parenting tips for you.
Take note of the vital areas to look out for when parenting your child at each stage of their growth.
Maximum love and support with minimum time and energy, just for you hardworking parents!
1. Erik Erikson’s 8 Stages Of Psychosocial Development
Erik Erikson is a famous psychologist, and was well-complimented on his theories of human psychosocial development.
One of his famous work, 8 Stages Of Psychosocial Development, developed in 1950, was well-received.
For the purpose of this article, I will only expound on Stages 1 to 5, because they are the most important stages in your child’s life.
Stage 1: Trust vs Mistrust (0 – 1.5 y.o.)
Your infant child is uncertain about this brand new world, and looks to their primary caregiver for stability and consistency.
What to focus on: Care for your child in a way that is consistent, predictable and reliable.
The effects: He or she will then naturally develop a sense of trust and security.
Parenting tips for Moms:
- Get support and accept help. You will face many emotional and psychological challenges. Don’t bottle them up for yourself to carry; these challenges will overwhelm you and eventually overflow to your child. Don’t be embarrassed to share your load with people. These could be family, friends, or religious communities.
- Take care of yourself first. You will be in a much better position to care for your child when your basic needs are met. Fatigue is inevitable at this stage of parenting, so make it a point to do all you can to be well. Beware of wallowing in self-pity, it pulls you down and does not make things better.
- Ignore unwanted comments and confusing advice. Remember that other people’s stories, success or failure, is subject to many personal variables. If you’re on the fence about comments and advice from other people, don’t force yourself to take them. Just do what you think is best in your own situation, after giving thought and seeking advice from people you trust.
- Gather your resources. Pack your diaper bag, throw in a set of fresh clothes in case your baby soils on you, bring your calming essential oils and your favourite lipstick. Keep your plans simple and be mentally ready to abandon them at any time. And do these even before you plan to go out. These little preps go a long way in satisfying basic hygiene needs.
- Don’t criticise your husband. Many first-time dads hesitate to get involved for fear of doing something wrong. If your husband is trying his best, allow him to make mistakes without criticising him. Talk nicely about how things can be done better.
Practical tips for Dads:
- Take time off from work. Get some quality time alone with your child, and at the same time give the missus a moment of breather for herself.
- Be a team with your wife. Share the workload for house chores, grocery shopping, and caring for your baby.
- Do fun things. Why, you’re dad!
Keywords: steady, peace, teamwork
Stage 2: Autonomy vs Shame (1.5 to 3 y.o.)
Children begin to assert their independence, by walking away from their mother, picking which toy to play with, and making choices about what they like to wear, to eat, etc.
The child is discovering that he or she has many skills and abilities, such as putting on clothes and shoes, playing with toys, etc. Such skills illustrate the child’s growing sense of independence and autonomy.
What to focus on: let your children explore the limits of their abilities within an encouraging environment which is tolerant of failure.
The effects: Children will be confident and secure in their own ability to survive in the world. They will develop the value of will.
Parenting tips for Toddlers:
- Encourage independence. Encourage but don’t expect. For example, rather than put on your child’s clothes for him/her, have the patience to allow him/her to try until he/she succeeds or asks for assistance. Do this in moderation and protect your child from experiencing constant failure.
- Do not criticise failure. Failures = accidents, which are bound to be many at this age
- Encourage curiosity. Go on field trips together to the park, or go on a bus ride.
Stage 3: Initiative vs Guilt (3 to 5 y.o.)
This is your children’s time of vigour, of action, and of behaviours that may be seen as aggressive.
Children begin to plan activities, make up games, and initiate activities with others. This is when they explore their interpersonal skills. When given the opportunity to play with one another, children develop a sense of initiative, and feel secure in their ability to lead others and make decisions.
What to focus on: Don’t restrict initiatives and/or punish your children for their initiatives, unless disciplinary action is absolutely necessary.
The effect: Some guilt is, of course, necessary, otherwise the child would not know how to exercise self control or have a conscience. Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of purpose.
Practical tips for Parents:
- Address their questions. Expect your children to begin asking many questions. If you treat your children’s questions as trivial, a nuisance, or embarrassing, your children may have feelings of guilt for “being a nuisance”.
- Resist doing for them what they can do themselves. While it may be quicker and easier to do it yourself, it won’t help to make your child more self-sufficient. For effective parenting, try asking the magic question, ‘Do you want me to help you or can you do it yourself?’
- Don’t redo what they have done. If your child makes his/her bed, resist the urge to smooth the blankets. If he/she dresses in stripes and polka dots, compliment her “eclectic” style. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t fix what your child accomplishes. (S)he will notice and it may be discouraging. You would be saving yourself time and effort too!
- Let them solve simple problems. If you see your child trying to assemble a toy or get a book from a shelf that he/she can reach if he/she stands on his/her stepstool, pause before racing over to help. Moments when you don’t rush in to “take over from there” are character-building moments for your child to solve things for themselves.
- Assign a chore. Putting your child in charge of a regular, simple task will build her confidence and sense of competency. E.g. watering the plants
Keywords: educate, equip, build
Stage 4: Industry vs Inferiority (5 to 12 y.o.)
Children learn how to read and write, calculate, and do things on their own.
Teachers begin to take an important role in the child’s life as they teach the child specific skills.
It is at this stage that friends will gain greater significance in your child’s life and will become a major source of the child’s self esteem.
Your child will now feel the need to win approval by demonstrating specific competencies that are valued by society, and begin to develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments.
What to focus on: Encourage and reinforce your children for their initiative.
The effect: They begin to feel industrious and feel confident in their ability to achieve goals.
Be careful not to be over-demanding. If your child cannot develop the specific skills demanded for, they may develop a sense of inferiority.
Some failure may be necessary so that the child can develop some modesty.
Yet again, a balance between competence and modesty is necessary.
Success in this stage will lead to the virtue of competence.
Practical tips for Parents:
- Stay connected. Have dinner together every night, or as often as possible. Spend some private time together, everyday. Many parents find that fifteen minutes at bedtime is grounding and most intimate. Car rides work too.
- Schedule regular longer alone-time with each parent. E.g. monthly brunch with Dad or weekly walks with Mom. This goes a long way to sharing open and active communication with your children.
Keywords: bond, encourage
Stage 5: Identity vs Role Confusion (12 to 18 y.o.)
During this period, teenagers will explore possibilities and begin to form their own identity based upon the outcome of their explorations.
They may begin to experiment with different lifestyles, try out different part-time work, show interest in different subjects, or even explore different political views.
Also, their bodies go through major changes during this period of time.
If they are able to steadily adapt to these changes, they will develop the virtue of fidelity.
Fidelity involves being able to commit one’s self to others on the basis of accepting others, even when there may be ideological differences.
What to focus on: Refrain from pressuring your child into fitting a particular identity. This can result in rebellion, in the form of establishing a negative identity for themselves, in addition to feelings of unhappiness in your parent-child relationship.
At this stage, you must constantly reflect on yourself.
What exactly do you want your child to learn?
What kind of character do you want your child to develop, and why? – To satisfy your personal ego, or because they are qualities that will help your child shine in life?
Click here to read what Michael Jordan’s mother told him when he met with failure.
The effect: Your child should have a reintegrated sense of self, of what they want to do or be, and of their appropriate sex role.
Practical tips for Parents:
- Re-think your previous ideas about discipline. Power-based punishment strategies stop working as soon as your child gets big enough to argue back. Fear from punishment makes them better liars. You can never win a power struggle with your child, and you don’t want to be in one in the first place. The only leverage parents really have with their children is their love, which becomes a more potent motivator over time. That means the best way to get your child to follow your rules is to maintain a strong bond with him/her.
- Don’t underestimate hormones. Your child’s body is changing, creating mood swings, distractibility, competitiveness, and preoccupation with the opposite sex. What’s more, their brains are undergoing an extensive re-wiring, which can make them emotionally volatile. Positive parenting: when a conversation gets heated, kindly tell your tantrumming teen that you see how upset they are and you want to give them time to pull themselves together before you discuss whatever the issue is. Ask them if they want you to stay, or to leave the room to let everyone calm down. Later, give them a big hug, and really listen to what they have to say. Even if you can’t agree with their position, acknowledge your child’s perspective, and work to find a win/win solution.
- Don’t take it personally. When your teen yells at you to drop dead, don’t over-react. When they hurt your feelings and you’re tempted to withdraw, take a deep breath and stand your ground calmly. That doesn’t mean you encourage their negative behaviour, but that you continue to reinforce your love for and connection to your child. Your best bet in getting your teen to act respectfully towards you is to extend respect to her, and to calmly expect it in return.
These parenting tips are not exclusive to each stage of growth; they are applicable anytime, and should serve as reminders every time. Being a parent is a big calling, and wanting to be a good one can put a lot of pressure on your shoulders, especially as a working parent in Singapore. Furthermore, no matter how well you think you have parented your child, some things will just go wrong along the way. Likewise, no matter how badly you think you’ve screwed up, some things about your child will pleasantly surprise you without you expecting it. So take a deep breath, give yourself a pat on the back, and just do your best!