Parents want the best for their children, but every now and then, slip-ups happen, because they are human. In parenting, in a quest to shield children from bad behaviour, trying to discipline them, or simply being a parent, some end up unknowingly hurting their children. Clementine, a mother of six, says she has tried to raise her children the best way she can. However, the lastborn is still in secondary school and is the only one who still gives her a headache, as she puts it. “Why can’t you be like Aline (big sister)?” she yells at Edine most of the time when she gets average marks at the end of the trimester. “Even Arnaud (another sibling) was not as lazy as you are,” she yells again when Edine takes too long to finish a chore. “You never listen to a thing I say, I’m so tired of you,” she yells yet again each time Edine does something that displeases her. “I’m probably the worst of her offspring,” Edine says to herself every time her mother does this. In her article, Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Parenting – How to Silence Old Toxic Messages for Good, Karen Young writes, “The messages we learn as children are powerful. Part of the reason for this is that these messages are planted before we discover our capacity to challenge and reject them. If you were raised by toxic parents, you would understand the enduring scrape of these messages, and their lasting influence on behaviour. One of the legacies of toxic parents is another generation of toxic parents. But, there is something else they can leave – an opportunity to rise above all of it and parent in ways that are more open, more informed, more loving and richer for the wisdom and insight that is fueled by your history.” Some parents believe that idealising one sibling will make him or her serve as a role model for others, however, it takes a different turn. For example, as suggested by Brigham Young University, a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology (2015), showed that parents’ belief about the children could influence their performances. The study (specifically looked at the academic level) highlighted that parents tend to automatically assume the older sibling will be smarter, which would enhance him/her to do better in the future than the one they think is less smart. This could also damage siblings’ relationships. In African homes at large, it is normalised to find a parent yelling hard at his/her kid using hurtful/shaming words. It is easy for anyone to lose it, as a product of frustration and exhaustion, but experts warn that it doesn’t work for a long time, and incites aggressive behaviour in the children themselves. Also labeling a child bad, or using words like ‘you never/always’ is toxic, as it hinders their self-esteem, self-worth and weakens the bond between the parent and the kid. Parents sometimes get irritated with their child’s failing efforts and just decide to do things themselves that they had initially entrusted them with. This solves the problem quickly. Nevertheless, according to Catherine Pearson, a Women & Parents Senior Reporter at Huffington Post, this kind of response diminishes the sense of responsibility for the child or discourages them, making them feel incapable. Dr Cindi Cassady, a clinical psychologist at Ndera Hospital and Icyizere Center, shares some advice; ● It’s important for parents to remember that each of their children may have abilities that are not shared by other family members; such as academic abilities, sports abilities or one child is kinder and more thoughtful than others. Every child in the family should feel appreciated just for being themselves. ● When parents become very angry, it’s a good idea to try to disengage from arguing with the child and take some time to calm down away from him/her. This can give the parent time to calm down, reassess the situation, and think about what can be done instead of yelling. ● When your child misbehaves, avoid saying hurtful things that could demoralise them. Maintain eye contact with your child when talking to them about acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, it creates a strong communication bond. ● Separate the child from their actions or behaviour. We all make mistakes or sometimes make bad choices, but it does not define who we are entirely. ● Parents need to have realistic expectations of young children’s development abilities at different stages. Doing age-appropriate duties gives them a sense of mastery and accomplishment. “My children have always been so different and I had to accept it. I realised that one would behave differently but still needed me to be patient with him. I can testify that a parent can correct a kid all the while staying loving and nurturing. It’s helpful to learn the right ways of parenting,” says Roger Umugenzi, a father of four boys.