Ten Tips for Raising Happy Healthy Children
In order to raise cheerful, contented and well-mannered children you will have to put in a lot of time and effort. If you repeat these ten tips each day you will be well on your way to raising healthy, happy and self-confident children.
- Get physical! That’s right you will need to get on all fours if necessary and play with your kids. Sitting on a park bench and watching your child climb, slide and run will not do. You must get up off your bottom and move. Not only will you and your child will have happier memories but also your child will feel he is important enough to play with. Your child wants someone to interact with so shake the sleep out of your jeans and go.
- Don’t plan every breath of their day. You know what it is like to have a full day of "things to do". You rush here and there barely slowing down for lunch and by the end of the day you collapse on the couch in exhaustion. Even if some of the items on your list were things you liked to do you didn’t enjoy them because you were too rushed by the impending "list". Don’t do this to your kids. Children need a break too. Make sure there is some down time during the day to just relax. Also, let them be in control of parts of the day. Their interests and your interests may not always be the same. You need to give and take during your together activities. There are going to be plenty of times when they will need to do things you want them to. Give in every now and then and do something they choose. Be flexible!
- Relax together. Some children do not know how to relax. If you let them they will run and run until they pass out. This is not healthy. If you suspect your child does not know how to relax, which may be the case if they never see you taking a break, then show them. If they see how you relax whether it is reading a book, taking a nap or just sitting in the sun watching the clouds move overhead they may be inclined to do the same. If they only see you on the move they will feel the need to do the same.
- Laugh a lot. Be silly. Believe it or not children have stress just like adults and the best way to alleviate it is to laugh. Children have a natural silliness to them so join in the fun. Don’t be a grump. The point here is to have more happy memories than sad ones so break out the giggles. Remember you can’t laugh and cry at the same time so if you have a choice - choose laughter. Not sure how to let loose? Here are a few examples: Make silly faces in a mirror together, have "tickle time", go outside and plant jelly beans, make animal sounds and try to guess the animals, play leap frog with stuffed animals, make a tent with a sheet and chairs and picnic in it, throw a birthday party for a stuffed animal, paint pictures with your noses.
- Praise your child whenever possible. So often children are told what they are doing wrong they probably have a difficult time believing they can do anything right. We all fall into this trap. We say things like "Don’t jump on the couch", "Don’t swing that in the house", "Don’t sing so loud", Don’t, Don’t, Don’t. Of course we need to deter problems or dangerous behaviors but let’s not lose sight of all the positive things your child does during the day. If you must discipline try not to use the word "don’t" Not sure how? The next time your little one throws a ball in the house try saying this: "Wow, you threw that very far but ball throwing can be dangerous in the house so let’s save it for when we play outside". Now, getting back to praise, be specific when you are telling your child he did something good. Mention the behavior you wish to reinforce this will help him remember what it is he did appropriately for instance, "Nicholas, you remembered your manners and said "Thank You" without my asking, I am very proud of you" or "You did a terrific job helping me to clean up these toys". If you forget to be specific in naming the action they are being praised for at least be creative in the positive words you use. If you hear the same thing over and over it tends to loose its sparkle. Kids know this as well.
- Don’t expect perfection. Whether your child is 5 months or 5 years old they are still relatively new to this world and only been exposed to the proper way of completing many functions a small number of times. Their little minds, acting like sponges, are trying desperately to gather as much information as it possibly can to assimilate and perform many daily tasks. It will take many, many, many attempts at trying to complete a task a certain way before they accomplish it. And even at that the accomplishment will arrive with frayed edges. Be patient and treat each attempt as the first and you will take the pressure of perfection off of your little one whom so desperately wants to not only help you with grown up things but wants to do so many things on his own. Your child should be driven to please himself as far as accomplishing a task. Don’t make him feel a failure when an attempt is not flawless. This will only make him less eager to try at all.
- Feed your child right. A body uses food as fuel. If you fill it with junk food you will find that it doesn’t run well. It may speed up and slow down throughout the day making the driver (your child) very grumpy. Make sure your child is not hungry. No fuel means no energy, which means a grumpy child. Keep snacks and meals as healthy as possible. I am not saying never allow your child a treat. By all means indulge them every now and then just use good judgment on when and how much. For example, If you give your child a sugary treat just before nap or bedtime good luck in getting them to rest at all let alone soundly. The same goes for mealtime foods. If your child has a sugary cereal with fruit for breakfast followed by a few cookies and juice for snack then a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which alone has plenty of sugar), an apple and juice for lunch you might as well call Nassau for a countdown to lift off. Many foods have hidden sugars. Read labels and act accordingly.
- Self-Expression. Give your child plenty of opportunities to express himself. Play various types of music and let him dance or color to it. I know the push is for classical music to stimulate brain function these days but don’t rule out good old rock and roll, jazz, blues, country etc. Take your child to a museum and show him many different types of art from sculptures to paintings and more. Allow your child to be creative at home. Save as many empty rolls of paper towels, toilet paper, tissue boxes, egg cartons and cans with lids as possible. Break out the glue or string and create. Use clay or make papier-mâché to create masterpieces. Whatever seems to interest your child indulge him for as long as you can.
- Teach them independence. Children want to do for themselves. Show them how, just remember "Common Sense Tip #6". If you do for them all the time they will never learn how to do for themselves. Allow your child the sense of pride that comes with doing something without asking for help. Everything your child can do for himself gives him that much more control over his life. Don’t worry he will always need you in his life but rather than his need for you to do for him he will need you to be there for him.
- Listen to your child. There is nothing more demeaning than to talk to someone who is paying less than half attention to you. Don’t make the newspaper or television more important than your child. Stop what you are doing, get on an eye-to-eye level and listen to what your child is saying. Whether it is about a pretend bear that came to his afternoon camp out or how he dug a huge hole in the sandbox or simply that he loves you, Listen, Listen and Listen. Not only should you look your child in the eye when he speaks to you but reply to your child so he knows you heard him.
By Cheryl Zarra
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