We all know the feeling–we just can’t spend enough time with our kids. We feel guilty that it is affecting their growth.
Recent good news might help ease your guilt. A new study that determined quality time with kids holds less sway than parent education and stress levels. Trying to cram in more time, especially when you’re grumpy or irritable, just isn’t the answer.
So what do you do during those times together? Here are 10 scientific tips for raising healthy, happy kids.
1. Nurture your child
Showing your children how much you love them doesn’t only nurture your relationship with them—it can help form a strong bond and contribute to a child’s ability to create lasting bonds into adulthood. Parent nurturing could be related to the size of a preschooler’s hippocampus, an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
Don’t underestimate the power of a kiss on the cheek. Respond to your children with emotion. Tell them you love them. Speak kindly to them.
2. Model responsible behavior
For kids to develop into responsible, productive citizens, they must witness responsible, productive citizens. And that starts with you. Sociologists have shown that children will imitate behaviors they witness in their parents.
Be the kind of person you want your child to be. With each action or decision, ask yourself if this is how you want your child to react in the future.
3. Objectively mediate sibling conflicts
Research shows that parents who successfully mediate conflicts between siblings have children who eventually deal better with conflict.
When a conflict arises between siblings, demonstrate active listening techniques and other mediation skills.
4. Read with your kids
Reading with your kids induces healthy changes in several brain regions. These changes seem to be more prevalent when you read with your kids, not to your kids. Ask your children what they are thinking about the story or how it relates to other things they know.
5. Create unstructured playtime
According to experts, free playtime encourages imaginative thought and problem-solving skills. They become better at asking “what if” and determining alternative solutions to difficult or complex situations.
While it can be tempting to structure every hour of the day to make sure it’s filled with important activities, don’t forget to leave open time for kids to explore and imagine.
6. Teach them to use technology wisely
Conventional wisdom used to be that face time with a screen was unhealthy for kids. In fact, several studies show that the time spent watching television can both predict and cause depression.
Not so fast, though. Technology is an integral part of today’s existence. In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and private companies spent nearly $3 billion on technology education because it is so necessary to participate in today’s world. Access to technology makes learning more engaging, as four out of five students said using a tablet helped them in class.
Rather than simply shutting out electronics, practice healthy habits such as setting time limits on usage and asking children what they’ve learned on their laptop or tablet that day.
7. Be authoritative
Parenting styles can be broken down into four major categories: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive and uninvolved. Science has consistently held that authoritative parenting—authority with communication—yields the best results.
Don’t be afraid to put your foot down when it comes to major issues. However, in doing this, make sure you communicate your feelings and concerns, as well as why a certain behavior yields a certain consequence or punishment.
8. Let them fail
In today’s everyone-gets-a-trophy world, it can seem counter-cultural to allow your kids to fail when they struggle. However, failure can be an extremely important lesson. Studies show that failing actually leads to greater productivity throughout life and helps develop advanced problem solving skills.
9. Take care of yourself
Research demonstrates than parental stress can affect a child’s physical or mental well-being. In addition, mood disorders and perhaps even autism may be linked to parental stress, both pre- and post-childbirth.
Figure out what you need to maintain your happiness and sanity. If it means finding a babysitter so you can treat yourself to a movie once a week or enrolling in college classes to get a degree, taking care of yourself is critical in taking care of your child.
10. Teach them to share
It’s better to give than to receive. Research shows that sharing improves a child’s disposition. For instance, toddlers who were asked to give away treats to other toddlers showed greater happiness than others.
Start young by asking your children to share snacks with you, and share with them. Make the event a special treat so that the habit becomes natural, and always show your gratitude when they want to share.