Miguel Ángel Rizaldos Lamoca has been working in the field of psychotherapy for almost three decades, helping parents to improve the quality of life of their young children. But this clinical psychologist based in Aranjuez does not limit himself to attending to families; he also works as a disseminator, explaining in a clear and simple way what the science of human behaviour tells us.

Recently, moreover, Miguel Ángel Rizaldos has published his book Guía para papás y madres en apuros , a work with which he seeks to inform parents and educators about all the keys to the psychological wellbeing of children, their needs in terms of learning, and the way in which it is possible to raise children effectively and without their own health deteriorating.

Miguel Ángel Rizaldos’ Guide for Parents in Need , the keys to raising and educating

We talked to Miguel Angel Rizaldos to get him to explain the main ideas behind the creation of this interesting book.

How did the idea of writing Guide for Parents in Need come about ?

Since 2011 I have been writing on my own blog. There are articles on education guidelines for children in it, and these articles have always served as a reinforcement of what I work on in consultation with parents and children.

In this way, I wanted to continue with this work, and the book aims to be a roadmap to find the best ways to educate our children for both parents and educators. Everything from a simple, easy and practical language. The book combines my 28 years of experience as a psychologist and 16 as a father.

I address all aspects that may concern parents and those that are more topical. Thus, the topics I deal with are as important and basic as attachment, responsibility, the need to set limits, communication between parents and children, fear, regulation of emotions, social skills and assertiveness, bullying, tantrums, child self-esteem, how to manage stress and anxiety, adolescence, divorce, ADHD, and schoolwork, the handling of new technologies such as the tablet, smartphone, use of the Internet and social networks.

In the final part of the book I leave a few chapters to focus on the self-care of parents, and give those basic tools they have to have and put into practice to feel good and take care of themselves. In short, we transmit to them what we do, not what we say must be done. If you don’t take care of yourself as a father, mother or educator, you won’t take good care of yourself.

In several parts of the book you refer to the importance of reinforcing children’s self-esteem. What common mistakes do you think parents make when trying to give their children a positive image of themselves?

I believe that the fundamental problem today is that we parents over-protect our children. This means that we do not create confidence in them, as we do not show confidence that they are capable of taking responsibility. This causes children to have low self-esteem, as they do not trust themselves because their parents have not trusted them.

Accordingly, I believe that having a positive self-image depends on being able to cope with situations and not on parents solving them. Having the willingness to face difficulties on one’s own, will increase self-concept, and this increases security.

You also talk about how problematic is the old custom of systematically putting compulsory tasks as homework during the school holidays. Do you feel that it is taken for granted that making children strive to learn something is always positive?

From psychology we know that learning is fundamentally experiential, not informational. This means that learning is not just receiving information, it is fundamentally experiencing what you learn.

Many times it takes willingness and effort to learn. But on the other hand we know that both children and adults learn much more easily and quickly when we feel good emotionally, when we have fun. Thus, there is a learning technique called “gamification”, which is learning through play; with this technique better results are achieved.

One of the aspects discussed in the book is the importance of working on children’s social skills, and that is why you give advice on how to educate the youngest children in this kind of competence. Do you think that a large part of the conflicts between parents and children arise from communication failures resulting from neglect of this type of education?

I believe that social skills are basic requirements to be able to better relate to others. They are so important for our well-being that they should be implemented from our earliest childhood.

Unfortunately, there is no culture or knowledge of what these basic skills of relating to and communicating with others are. This lack causes people to have many problems in interrelations with others, and therefore also between parents and children.

We know from psychology that social incompetence causes people to distance themselves from well-being. Parents and educators are role models and transmit what we do. Therefore, if we are socially skilled, we will transmit these skills to our children.

Sometimes we talk about how prone children are to tantrums, but it is also true that at other times they may have trouble expressing what they think and feel. That’s why in one of the chapters of the book you talk about how to teach your children to adopt an assertive communication style. When it comes to raising children who are in their infancy stage, how can you help them achieve a balance without falling into a purely capricious attitude or repression of everything they experience?

Obviously, there is no exact or magic formula to get what you want in front of others. The assertiveness you mention is a complex social skill, but its use guarantees us a better balance between getting what we want and respecting the rights of others.

Basically, and so that we understand each other, assertive behavior is composed of three elements; empathizing with the other, making the other empathize with us and, finally, arriving at a consensual alternative solution, where everyone wins and everyone loses.

In the book you dedicate the chapters at the end to give advice for parents to take care of their psychological wellbeing. Do you think that nowadays people tend to think that parents should accept all the effort involved in raising children without investing time in looking after their own health?

Yes, that’s right. It is very common in my practice to find parents who forget about their needs and interests to attend only to their children. This is not beneficial for the education of their children because, as I said before, people who do not take care of themselves cannot take good care of themselves.

On the other hand, I also reiterate that we pass on what we do, if we as a parent do not take care of ourselves, our children will not take care of themselves tomorrow. Therefore, I recommend that parents take care of themselves as they take care of those they love most.

Being a parent shouldn’t mean that you don’t have needs or interests. Looking after your needs and interests as a parent should not be considered selfish, it should be considered healthy, for you and your children.

Sometimes the task of parenting and education requires support beyond the school setting. What are the signs that it would be good to take a young son or daughter to a psychologist?

I always insist for adults as well as for children and young people that to go to the psychologist you don’t have to be bad but you have to want to be better. Psychologists do not only work with people with psychopathology problems, we also intervene when not having a psychological pathology they need the strategies and tools that from psychology we know generate well-being and make us face the discomfort better.

It is not often that children express their discomfort. They feel that they are unwell and do not know what is wrong with them, and so parents must be able to identify the signs that something is not right.

Usually these “clues” are alterations in their daily behavior. If we see that our child is having a hard time, suffering, unhappy and not enjoying his or her day-to-day life, even if he or she does not want to leave the house or be with other people, it is ideal to ask for help soon. That way it will be easier to start giving him the tools to better cope with his discomfort.