Being Firm Doesn’t Make You A Harsh Parent

Consider this as a good way to teach them responsibility first, before you consider an upgrade to their basic phone

1.    I have seen some injury marks on my daughter’s arm, which seem like self-harm. When I tried asking her, she tried hiding it and since then she has been trying to avoid us. What can I do about this situation?

I can sense how anxiety provoking this is for you. I also noticed that you have gently tried to ask her, but she has refused to share any information, leaving you very worried. Teenage years are a time, when many children start engaging in self-harm, or what we call non-suicidal self-injurious behaviour. This is definitely a red flag for parents, and as a psychologist I see this as a plea for help. However in this situation, we are not sure if it is a physical injury or a sign of self-harm.

Given that, I suggest you communicate your concern to her. Tell her that you are concerned about her well-being. No matter what the reality is you will make an effort to understand and help her through it without judging her. Most teenagers, and adults, who cut themselves also come from a deep place of sadness, anger, and other emotions which they may be struggling with.

Also, tell your daughter that if she is uncomfortable talking to you then you can help her meet a psychologist, with whom she can openly discuss her concerns and her vulnerabilities. Be empathetic and most importantly don’t blame her for how you are feeling. It’s alright to communicate your feelings, but without guilt tripping her.

2.   My nine-year-old has been demanding a smartphone, and though we can afford it we do not want to provide it to him. Do you think we are being too harsh?

I personally feel that 12 years is a good age to introduce a basic phone to your child. However, at what age you want to give your child his/ her first phone, is a personal decision for you as a parent to make. Of course, if you have a specific reason then it’s understandable to give a phone to your child early, based on the context, life situations, etc.

From what I understand, most parents give children their first phone with the purpose of coordinating tuition schedules, safety perspective, and to ensure better communication when the parent may be at work.

Smartphones are also very high on apps/games/better camera which can be extremely distracting for a child. This is the age when children build on their social skills, so being engrossed in a high-end feature phone would pretty much keep him/her away from socializing with others.

It may be alright to tell your child that their first phone can be a basic phone which helps them stay connected. Being firm and practical about it doesn’t make you a harsh/bad parent. Consider this as a good way to teach them responsibility first, before you consider an upgrade to their basic phone.

Sonali Gupta is a clinical psychologist with 12 years of experience. She works with children, parents and young adults to enhance their emotional and social well-being.




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