Srinagar: When the talkative ten-year-old Rameez (name-changed) grew unusually quiet, hesitating before he spoke, his parents didn’t pay attention at first. However, when the issue became too prominent to be ignored, they grew worried and decided to seek help.
“Over counseling sessions, it was found that he had developed selective mutism due to strict parenting. Selective Mutism is a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings such as schools or tuition centers. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure, and relaxed,” said Mohammad Shaheen, Pediatric Occupational Therapist at Child Guidance and Wellness Centre, IMHANS.Shaheen said more than 90% of children with selective mutism also have social phobia or social anxiety. This disorder is quite debilitating and painful to the child.
“The constant reprimands over academic performance and rare tokens of appreciation from his parents had compromised his ability to communicate effectively and subsequently impacted his social skills,” Shaheen said.
He said parents who practice strict or rigid discipline (aka authoritarian parenting) do not allow their child to explore their world, which often leads to a child who becomes fearful and anxious, or rebellious.
In the case of thirteen-year-old Mehak (name changed), the two years of isolation in the wake of the pandemic and burden of online classes had increased her anxiety levels.
“Moreover, the cold behavior of her parents worsened her anxiety issues. Instead of understanding her emotional issues and need to socialize, they dismissed her time and again. She repressed her feelings and the emotional turmoil within her increased manifold. As a result, she had developed suicidal ideations,” Adil Fayaz, Coordinator at CGWC said.
He said there are certain things a parent does inadvertently or in an attempt to improve their child’s misbehavior, which might have a negative impact on a child’s psychology.
“Many of these things may not even appear to be so serious, but they have the potential to make children more prone to behavioral difficulties and mental health issues,” Adil noted.
A recent study entitled `Parental negligence, improper parenting and enforcement of parents lead to child aggressiveness” was conducted at the Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir.
Published in the International Journal of Interdisciplinary Research and Innovations, the study was aimed to trace the causes of child aggressiveness /anger and the effect of parental negligence, improper parenting, and enforcement of parents on the aggression of children in the rural and urban areas of Srinagar district. Based on a sample size of 200 respondents, the findings revealed that the lack of proper parenting is the primary cause of violent and aggressive behavior in children.
“The influence of unfavorable parental attitudes upon personality development of a child in a way that as children grow older anti-social behavior in the form of aggression, lying, stealing, swearing becomes common. Parental negligence, improper parenting, and enforcement of parents lead to aggressiveness in a child. Neglectful parenting means dismissing the children’s emotions and opinion,” the study said.
Shaheen said positive parenting is the need of the hour. “It is a discipline where parents and caregivers can reinforce good behaviors and extinguish undesirable behaviors without hurting the child physically or verbally,” he said.
Shaheen said the gentle parents don’t expect their child to act like an adult but empathize with their behavior. “For instance, if they misbehave, she said that a “gentle” parent would seek to teach their child a better way to express their emotions, rather than to punish them, he said.
Moreover, gentle parents, he added, have a good understanding of their child’s capabilities, so the expectations around their behavior are `age-appropriate.