I read an article recently which claimed that happier adults have been raised by parents who were less psychologically controlling and more caring. The study at the University of Edinburgh found that people whose parents showed warmth and responsiveness had higher life satisfaction and mental well-being throughout their adult lives.
‘Psychological’ control is different from ‘behavioural’ control which we would think of as a healthy level of strictness e.g. applying boundaries such as set bed times, homework being done, and giving tasks /chores. The big distinction is that parents applying behavioral control set some limits on behavior rather than feelings.
Psychological control involves not letting children make some of their own decisions, invading their privacy and making them feel dependent. It also involves making children feel guilty. Unsurprisingly, people who had experienced such behavior in their childhood had lower life satisfaction levels and poorer mental well being.
By contrast, those who were brought up with behavior control had better relationships throughout their adult life. This has also been demonstrated in other studies which showed that warmth and responsiveness promotes social and emotional development whilst psychological control can limit a child’s independence and their ability to control their own behavior.
I’m sure the results of these studies will not be a big revelation to most of us but, in a nutshell, what came out loud and clear was that children in the behavioral control group felt that they were listened to, that they were given affection, and that their worries and problems were understood.
The psychologist interviewed suggested that parents should help their children to make as many decisions as possible on their own depending, as one would expect, on their age and maturity.
This, they said, allows children to develop a healthy level of independence and confidence in their ability to make important decisions. It reminded me of my own children and that I had instinctively adopted a similar attitude during their childhood. In fact, from a very early age, I gave each of them complete control and freedom over one thing. My daughter chose her clothes as, from the age of two, she was very particular about what she would wear to the point that we often called her Coco Chanel! My son chose his hair as he hated having it cut and would make a big fuss whenever it was time to go to a hairdresser.
Of course, this meant that my daughter provoked a few surprises when she appeared in some rather unconventional outfits and that my son often looked as though he belonged in a field, scaring the crows. However, they both really enjoyed and appreciated being allowed to decide these things for themselves and they learned a lot through their experiences. My daughter has had an ongoing love of clothes and design which was enabled in part by the fact that she could experiment and enjoy a lot of freedom in her choice of outfits. My son now has short, neat, hair having gone through the experience of trying to manage a wild mop on his head, and limited eyesight (he has learned a few things the hard way!).
Over the years, we have encouraged our children make more and more of their own decisions and, when making them, to use their good sense, their feelings, and their intuition. It has also helped them to understand that it’s okay to change your mind and that ‘wrong’ decisions are not necessarily mistakes, but an opportunity to learn from an experience and to change our direction since we all have different ways and paths to a destination. In many cases, it is these so called ‘mistakes’ which provide our greatest teaching and character strengths and, if we take this approach, life can be seen more as an adventure to be lived and experienced, rather than being fearful of making decisions in case they don’t turn out as we hoped for or expected.
Our children still turn to us for advice but it’s mainly to confirm their own judgement and we enjoy seeing them develop the confidence and positivity they need to manage their path through life.
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Judith Nelson.
I have been teaching relaxation and meditation to young people in response to an ever-increasing problem of anxiety and stress among our youngsters. In the UK, this now affects many university and senior school children, however children as young as 5 are also showing signs of anxiety. In some school health questionnaires, the biggest fear which many teenagers report is that they will develop mental health problems.
One in Four (26%) young people in the UK experience suicidal thoughts
ChildLine (UK) held 34,517 counselling sessions in 2013/14 with children who talked about suicide – a 116% increase since 2010/11
Among teenagers, rates of depression and anxiety have increased by 70% in the past 25 years, particularly since the mid 1980’s
The number of children and young people who have presented to Accident &Emergency with a psychiatric condition have more than doubled since 2009. (8,358 in 10/11; 17,278 in 13/14)
55% of children who have been bullied later developed depression as adults
There are many possible factors involved in these statistics such as increases in exams and exam stress; substance abuse; peer pressure; bullying; and changes in family life and, perhaps more recently, an increased feeling of instability as countries and continents tumble into more uncertainty. An interesting study by the UK Nuffield Foundation outlines the dramatic increase in mental health problems in adolescents in the past 30 years and explains the key social trends which can affect young people’s wellbeing.
However, it seems unlikely that all the children and young people with symptoms of anxiety are exposed of these problems (which it could be argued are no worse than what children experienced in the world wars). Pinpointing the exact cause of anxiety in younger children can be difficult and some people are questioning whether, in a substantial number of cases, it relates to the fact that many of them, especially in the developed world, are no longer allowed to take even small risks. In the UK, this is the case as we live in time where children are often under constant supervision and where a culture of risk assessment exists, even for the most mundane outing or event. School activities have been curbed and playgrounds lie unused if no adult supervision is available. In addition, many children are being ‘overparented’ by so-called ‘helicopter parents’. This might be a response to fears for their child’s safety fuelled by 24 hour media horror stories, despite statistics which show that there is no greater danger nowadays than in the past.
Whilst a certain amount of child supervision is necessary and prudent, perhaps we have reached a stage where too much ‘wrapping in cotton wool’ is having a seriously bad effect on many children?
Kids need to learn how to set their own boundaries and to develop a healthy sense of self-preservation but how can they do so if they’re never allowed to stretch their wings, even a little? Maybe such a constant drip feed of suggestions that their environment/the world is not a safe place is causing a subconscious increase in anxiety? This is certainly the view of some psychologists as Zoe Reyes explains in a ‘World of Psychology’ article .
I can’t help contrasting the UK approach with places like Finland where orienteering is taught through clubs and schools to children as young as eight. Children are given training, a map, and a compass and left to find their way through forests and countryside, without adult supervision. This might be a bit mind-blowing for many parents but it is a truly confidence-building sport which has produced people like nine-times world champion Minna Kauppi. She started the sport when she was only eight years old and became world champion by the age of 24. Now aged 34, she faces the new challenge of being a parent, having given birth to her first child last month.
So, how can overprotective parents change their approach? The first step is to recognise that they are being overprotective and then, perhaps, to join their children in more adventurous play such as can be found in places such as ‘The Land’ . This is an experimental playground in North Wales which lets children (and adults) experience he boundaries of ‘truly free’ play the idea of a ‘junk playground’ was pioneered in Denmark in 1943 by landscape architect Carl Theodor Sørensen after he witnessed children playing on bombsites. For those who are ready and willing to let their children off the leash completely and to go it alone, a similar scheme has also been started in New York City. Called ‘play:groundNYC’, no parents are allowed and children are encouraged to get dirty, to use tools and to let their imaginations run wild. It reminds me of my own childhood in the 60s and 70s where we could run wild and get up to all sorts of mischief!
And what about those children who have already developed anxiety and stress? This is where relaxation and meditation/contemplation fit in. These tools can be a great approach for children and there are numerous studies which support the use of relaxation, meditation and visualisation. Many of these studies can be accessed online but one woman, Dr Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, is heading this field. She has found that meditation not only reduces stress but it changes the brain in a positive way. The findings are fascinating and they show that the brain does not have to decline inevitably as we grow older!
In addition to these positive effects, relaxation and meditation can also help children and adults with their focus, confidence and self-esteem as they learn skills which draw on their inner resources. This has certainly been the case with the children (and adults!) who are using the system I teach which is called Heartfulness. It’s free and open to all, and you are welcome to check it out at http://en.heartfulness.org.
Have you or your kids ever tried meditation?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Judith Nelson.
Scotland is the northernmost country in the U.K. and its peoples, who have included Picts, Gaels and Scots, have a rich and colourful history. Many people have heard of Macbeth, King of Scots (the Eleventh Century monarch who was immortalised by Shakespeare), and Mary, Queen of Scots (famous for having been executed in 1587 by her cousin Elizabeth who was Queen of England at the time). Hadrian’s Wall, which stretches for 73 miles right across the north of England from East to West gives an sense of what Scotland was like during the Roman invasions. It was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian between 122 and 128 AD to “separate Romans from barbarians” as the Caledonians (collective name for the southern Scottish tribal clans) were impossible to subdue.
Thankfully, today’s Scotland is much more hospitable place and has a well-earned reputation as a beautiful country full of mountains, glens (valleys) and lochs (Scottish name for lakes) although much of its green beauty comes from a fair amount of rain!
Scotland is known around the World as ‘the home of golf’ and there are over 550 courses throughout the country, the most famous being the 16th century Old Course at St Andrews.
Scotland’s population is small at only around 5.3 million and approximately 3.5 million people live in the ‘Central Belt’ which is an area running from East to West between Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, and Glasgow, the country’s largest city, which hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2014. The Central Belt covers only an eighth of the total land mass of the country so there are many parts of Scotland which remain very unpopulated and remote. The North of the country has the wildest, harshest and most remote environments within the British Isles and there are many areas which are completely uninhabited, although it was not always the case. Many parts of the Scottish Highlands were once well populated and over half Scotland’s population lived in the Highlands prior to 1750, but people were driven out to make way for sheep farming during the notorious Highland Clearances in the late 18th Century.
Nowadays it is possible to walk for days through places such as the Cairngorm mountain range without seeing any civilisation and, further north, Letterewe is one of the largest areas in Western Europe with absolutely no civilisation, not even a road, nor any mobile phone connection! Some areas are now so remote and unvisited that crossing them in winter would be as risky as crossing the Canadian Arctic or Siberian wastes.
The Scotland of today is certainly a very interesting place to live and raise children, especially in terms of the political scene. For instance, the three main parties in Scotland are led by women and it is the only place in the world where the majority of party leaders (four out of the six parties) identify as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender). That said, only 46 out 129 members of the Scottish Parliament are women, many of whom have no children.
In fact, none of the female party leaders have children and I think this shows that our society and the parliamentary system need to change a lot before women enjoy the same opportunities as men – i.e. the ability to juggle family and work life without compromising their status at work.
In terms of the political scene, Scotland has had its own devolved parliament since 1999 and the Scottish Parliament looks after many devolved matters such as health, education, justice and policing. Few people outside the country realise that Scotland has had its own legal and education system for centuries. The Scottish legal system is based on Roman Law (rather ironic when you consider that Scotland was a place they couldn’t invade!) and is quite different from the legal system in England which is based on ‘precedent’.
This gives many Scots a very strong sense of identity and of belonging to a Scottish nation, rather than identifying themselves as British, a point which other nations, both in the UK and elsewhere, often find difficult to understand!
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, heads the SNP (Scottish National Party). The SNP was founded as a party for an independent Scotland and it has been increasing in popularity, having convincingly won several elections over the past decade. Nicola is the first female leader and she has been popular with many of the electorate, especially young women who view her as a good role model.
The subject of Scottish independence has continued to dominate the UK headlines over the past couple of years despite an independence referendum in September 2014 where 55% of the population voted to stay in the UK. However, people in the UK will soon be asked to vote on whether the UK should remain in the European Union (E.U.) and this has once again raised the question of independence for Scotland. If the vote turns out to be in favour of the UK leaving Europe, the result is likely to prompt another independence referendum in Scotland because the majority of Scots wish to stay part of Europe and many feel that it is undemocratic if Scotland is forced to leave due its being part of the UK. Some people in Scotland who previously voted against independence feel so strongly that we should remain in Europe that they would now be prepared to vote for independence if the UK as a whole votes to leave the E.U. This means there could be a much higher likelihood of an independent Scotland and many people are impatiently awaiting the results of the referendum which takes place on the 23rd of June.
It looks families in Scotland will face an interesting few months!
What are some interesting facts about the country you live in?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Judith Nelson of Scotland.
Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?
I live in Scotland in North Berwick, a seaside town near Edinburgh which is Scotland’s capital city. I’m not from the area but it’s home. I was born in England but lived in various places as a child, including Canada and Switzerland. I moved to Scotland when I was 12 as my mother is part Scottish.
What language(s) do you speak?
English and French
When did you first become a mother (year/age)?
1994, aged 31
Are you a stay-at-home mom or do you work?
Both! I work from home but I try to fit work around my family (the work is voluntary and I am the vice president of two charities teaching Heartfulness meditation and relaxation which is free and open to all).
Why do you blog/write?
I feel that it’s a great way to share ideas and inspiration. We are social beings and writing is one of the greatest ways to communicate with each other. I particularly like the fact that it has the potential to unite us, although the converse is also possible! It can help us to understand that, no matter where we live, all human beings have much more in common than we realise.
What makes you unique as a mother?
I suppose I’m unique as a mother to my own children, which makes all mothers unique.
It’s a difficult question! Perhaps it’s the fact that I have strived to make sure that I see my children (and other children) as unique individuals who are here to experience their own path through life. I try hard not to project any of my beliefs, wishes and aspirations onto my children so they can be completely free to be themselves.
What do you view as the challenges of raising a child in today’s world?
Finding a good balance between protecting your child and helping them to stand on their own two feet is a challenge. There is often a continuous stream of bad news in our press as well as much uncertainty and change in the World which can cause fear, especially in children and teenagers.
We need to help our children to be confident, resilient, and to value themselves and their place in the World so they can feel hopeful about their future. It’s also a challenge to help them accept themselves as they are, given the pressures to conform since society usually defines us by how we look and what we do, rather than who we are.
I work in schools teaching relaxation/meditation and it is clear that mental health problems are increasing dramatically in young people and teenagers due to stress, and fear and uncertainty about their future. It can be very difficult for parents to spot the signs and to help their children, especially if they themselves are under a lot of stress.
How did you find World Moms Blog?
I was introduced to WMB by Purnima Ramakrishnan
These interview answers were provided by Judith Nelson for World Moms Blog. Photo credit: Judith Nelson.