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12 Pieces of Child Rearing Advice for Today’s Modern Family

12 Pieces of Child Rearing Advice for Today’s Modern Family

Children aren’t born with a manual on how to be raised. Every child is different and thus there is not a perfect way to raise all children. However, there are some best practices for raising children. Below are 13 practical tips that are good bits of child rearing advice for all parents.

1. Believe in your child

Parents need to be their child’s encourager and cheerleader in life. If their parents aren’t doing that for them, then who will?

The power of a parent’s belief in their child’s ability to achieve can help that child feel that they can do just about anything. This empowers the child to try harder and to give their best when they have supportive parents who believe in their abilities.

When parents believe in their child, they are helping their child to believe in themselves as well. Children learn that they are capable human beings who can achieve their goals when they have parents who believe in their abilities.

The belief in themselves begins with someone believing in them first. It should be a parent who shows belief in their child and their abilities from a very young age.

Kids can be very hard on one another. They pick on each other about their appearance, their ability to play sports, and more. The things that kids say to one another can be very damaging and defeating.

However, having a parent who believes in them and their abilities can counteract the negativity from their peers.

For example, your son may be getting ready for field day at school and he is feeling down because another child in class told him that he is going to lose at the 100 meter dash. You know that your child has been practicing for weeks and has beaten all the kids in his class previously.

All it takes is a reminder of those previous wins and a pep talk about how hard work pays off to motivate your child. You tell your son that he can win and that you believe in his abilities. His attitude changes from one of defeat to one that is full of motivation, energy, and positivity. He is now ready to run the race tomorrow and do his best because you believed in him.

2. Let your child get dirty

Let your child have opportunities to get dirty. When kids play in dirt, mud, and nature they are engaging all five of their senses. Don’t miss the opportunities for their creativity to bloom while they play in nature.

Nature is dirty, but that is okay. They have plenty of time in life to be sterile and clean. They need to get messy for the sake of their development.

For example, when they are outside playing in a sand box with mud caked all over their arms and face, with toys strewn everywhere, it looks like a big mess to you. To that child, they may be creating an imaginary meal masterpiece with the sand and mud.

The child is using their creativity, engaging their senses, and they are completing a project that is their own creation. Don’t rob them of these opportunities to flourish and develop, simply because you want them to stay clean. Allow them to flourish by getting in the dirt, mud, and nature.

3. Child rearing is not a competition

Some parents throw the best birthday parents, some have the best dressed kids, and others make healthy, organic meals three times a day. Each parent has a different skill set and passion, just as every child is different.

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Do what is right for your child. Don’t do things just because other parents are doing it. An old saying goes “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” The same goes with parenting. Keep your eyes on your own child. Do what is right for your child and don’t worry about what others are doing.

The same mantra goes for milestones. Some kids walk at 9 months of age while others begin walking at 15 months. It doesn’t mean that one will be running the Boston Marathon as an adult and the other child won’t.

It’s okay that children reach their milestones at different ages. Every child is different because they weren’t made as robots. If you are concerned about your child achieving their milestones in a timely manner, then listen to professionals not simply other parents. You will find that there is a considerable amount of flexibility in milestone achievement.

For example, you have a friend whose 24-month-old toddler is using full sentences and has a vocabulary of over 100 words. Your 24-month-old only has a vocabulary of 40 words. You begin to feel that there may be something wrong with your child or that they aren’t smart.

However, if you know that the standard for language development for a 24-month-old is that they should be speaking 40-50 words, you can have some peace of mind. You will have friends with children who excel in a variety of areas. Some will have children who are fully bilingual at a young age, and others will have children who can read by age three or four.

These children are not the norm. Some people are blessed with very gifted children. Most of us are blessed with the norm, which is why it is called “normal.”

Celebrate and love your normal child right where they are at because there are others who wish for a “normal” child. Every child is different with gifts and abilities of their own. Focus on the gifts of your own child. Parenting is not a competition. Simply do your best, raising the child that you have.

4. Safety first

Your goal of the first three years of your child’s life is to keep them alive. My mother once said this to me and I realized it’s true.

Having made it through the first three years with three different children, I know that keeping my kids alive is first and foremost. This means that keeping them safe during those early years is the most important factor in their care.

Of course you need to meet their basic needs. Feed them, change them, love them, but make sure they are safe first, otherwise the care becomes meaningless.

For example, if you are feeding your toddler in a high chair be sure that they are strapped in, so they can’t climb out and fall on their head. Feeding them is important, but make sure they are safe and secure in their high chair first. Safety is always first.

5. Take a CPR and first aid course

Take a CPR and first aid course. Believe me, you never know when you will need these learned skills. When emergencies happen, you need to know how to handle things.

Don’t think you can jump on your phone and YouTube how to do CPR when you need to be administering it to your child. Panic sets in when you don’t have the knowledge. Prepare yourself for potential emergencies by knowing what to do when a crisis arises.

For example, our first born son went into cardiac arrest one evening. My husband began CPR. He had learned CPR years previously and I had learned it more recently. I coached my husband on what to do as he was doing it. We worked together to do CPR while waiting for the ambulance. According to the doctors at the hospital, the CPR that my husband did kept our son alive.

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We didn’t know in advance that we would ever be doing CPR on our own baby. However, having the training in our personal tool belt saved our son’s life that evening. There have been other instances where I have had to use the Heimlich Maneuver on my children and thus am thankful I took the CPR and first aid training classes.

Don’t wait to enroll in a class because no emergency has happened in your home yet. Chances are that some kind of emergency will arise whether it is choking, a gaping wound, broken bones, head injury, or some other crisis that requires a level head and the skills to help your child.

Be prepared for those situations by taking a CPR and first aid class. Most are just a few hours. The Red Cross provides a search tool on their website, so that you can find these classes near you.

6. Potty train when they are ready

Kids will start using the potty when they are ready. If you put undue pressure on a child to potty train, it likely will not result in successful potty training. They need to be ready and wanting to use the potty to make potty training a success.

Don’t miss their cues when they are ready. There are some things you can do to help prepare them for the act of potty training, but don’t force the issue.

For example, you can buy them their own potty training toilet for them to practice sitting on it, you can read them children’s books about potty training, and you can let them pick out their own underwear at the store. These things will help them prepare for potty training and one day they will decide that they are ready.

When they are ready you will know. They will one day be a willing participant in the process, wanting to wear big boy or big girl undies and go in the toilet. Until they show an interest or desire, you are more than likely wasting your time.

In some cases, parents extend the time it takes to potty train because it has become a traumatic experience for them with forceful potty training methods. Don’t force your child to go on the potty. It will not help you or them.

Do yourself and them a favor and wait until they appear ready. When they appear ready, help motivate them to be successful by using sticker charts, rewards, or other methods that are proven to work for potty training children.

7. Kids desire structure

Kids have an innate desire for rules, structure, and boundaries. They also do better when routines are established. This doesn’t mean that they need or want parents who are dictators with little flexibility. Instead, they need boundaries with rules clearly explained; to help them grow and thrive to be the best people they can be.

Consistency with the rules is also essential. For example, a child who doesn’t have a regular bedtime and gets yelled at one night for staying up too late, while the next night they stay up even later and there is no consequence, results in confusion for the child regarding their bedtime. Letting the child know that their bedtime is 8:00 PM every school night, so that they can get the sleep they need, sets a specific boundary and rule that helps them be more successful in school.

Setting a specific time makes the rule known and their bedtime is no longer a guessing game. Kids want to know what is expected of them. They also want to have routines that they can reply upon. Routines make them feel secure. Having rules and structure also helps prepare them for adulthood and the real world.

When kids don’t have structure, it makes them feel out of control. This can lead to feelings of anxiety. Teens especially need structure, but many parents think this is when kids need more flexibility and leniency. However, this leniency can lead to teens feeling that their life is out of control.

They need rules and structure, but they also need to understand that the rules are for their benefit because you love them. This is why it is helpful for parents to explain to their child or teen why they have the rules that they have.

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For example, you set a midnight curfew for your teen and they ask why, to which you respond “I am the mom that’s why I set the curfew, so you need to obey.” They are likely to rebel to such a parental response. Instead, stating “I set the curfew because I need to know that you are home by that time and safe, because I love you” is likely to help them understand you are setting a curfew out of love and care for them.

8. Character develops by example

What you do matters. Your child is watching you. You are your child’s role model whether you want to be or not. Their morality and character is developed in the home first. They are watching you and your behaviors.

Be the person you want them to grow up to become. Practice good decision-making when it comes to character and morality if you want them to become good, decent human beings.

For example, if you are playing a board game with them, don’t cheat. If you cheat they learn that it is okay to cheat at board games. Cheating can become a slippery-slope. It can grow from board games into cheating in school or on exams.

Don’t set your child up for trouble by being an example of how to cheat. Instead, be an example of integrity and strong character by playing honestly, even if it does mean losing.

9. Let your child be a child

Don’t make your child grow up too fast. Let them experience life at the age they are at; Because they are only little once.

Don’t expect them to act like miniature adults. Kids are different than adults. Children tend to be more physically active than adults, they need more sleep, and they are naturally highly curious.

Allow them to be kids, by keeping your expectations of them aligned with the fact that they are children and not adults. Let them run and play. Requiring a two year old to sit still and be quiet for hours on end is not realistic.

For example, you want to expose your toddler to culture and the arts, so you purchase tickets to the symphony. You take your two-year-old to a three hour concert one evening and are sorely disappointed that they won’t sit still. To make matters worse, they are loud and disruptive to the other patrons. You had good intentions, but it would have probably better served both you and your child to attend a Mommy and Me music class that features classical music.

That way you can expose them to the arts and culture in a fun, child-centered atmosphere that allows kids to act like kids. Therefore, do set yourself and your child up for failure by expecting them to act older than they are in any situation.

10. Use help

Babysitters can help you remain a sane person. If hiring a nanny or babysitter isn’t in your budget then find a friend who can exchange childcare with you. You watch their little one and they watch yours; which also makes it a playdate for your child. This is a win-win situation.

Parents need down time. If you are a full time caregiver for your child, make sure you have a break every now and then. You will be a better caregiver when you take time for yourself.

Don’t think that because you are the parent that you need to do it all by yourself. It takes a village to raise a child. Embrace your village and allow them to help you.

Take breaks for yourself away from your child so you can recharge yourself. You will come back a better person, ready to parent and better take on the challenges of parenting because of the down time you took.

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11. Let your child experience failure

Do not rescue your child every time they are headed for failure. Allow your child to fail. Especially when they are young. Let them learn early about how it feels to fail and how to recover from failure. Be there by them to walk them through the experience, but don’t rescue them from their failure.

For example, your child is working on a school project that involves building a tower and you can see that the end result will fall apart because they haven’t made the base strong enough. You tell your child that they should make the base stronger. They don’t want to do it your way. They are insistent on doing it their way.

Do not fix their project after they go to bed. The next day when they go to school and it falls over after they bring it into the classroom they can do their best to repair the structure on their own. You provided guidance along the way and they declined.

Don’t force your way to prevent them from failing. Allow them to fail in this because they need to experience what failure feels like and how to recover. Will your child fall apart, breaking down, and crying or will they pick up the pieces and repair the tower as quickly and effectively as they can? You can help coach them by asking “If the tower does tip over when you get it into school, how do you think can repair it?”.

You aren’t doing it for them. You are helping them mentally prepare for the potential failure before it happens. There will be instances when you can help them problem solve solutions. This is always better than swooping in to rescue them.

Someday you won’t be there to rescue and help your child. You want to help instill in them skills like resilience, so they can help themselves when they do face failure.

12. Don’t miss their childhood

They are only little once. Childhood can’t be repeated. Don’t miss out on their childhood by working too much. Your children want you more than they want stuff.

Make a good balance of work and time with your child so that you are an active and vibrant part of their childhood.

The bottom line

Children grow up in spite of their parents. So don’t be too hard on yourself.

We all make mistakes as parents. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. Kids will grow up in spite of the mistakes we make.

Learn and grow from your mistakes. Children grow and we grow with them, just as we learn to do better and be better as parents. Just do your best and that will earn you plenty of forgiveness from your kids.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on September 21, 2020

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

The Danger of Overscheduling Your Kids

I am a parent of three children aged 8, 6, and 6. Like many parents, I struggle with knowing the right balance of activities for them. I don’t want my kids to miss out on opportunities to play sports and participate in activities that will enhance their lives and help them grow as individuals. However, I also don’t want them to become overscheduled kids, to the extent that they get worn out and stressed out.

There is a balance in providing activities for our children and overscheduling them. The tendency for the latter is prevalent these days. Our lives — and the lives of our kids — are increasingly overscheduled and overworked. Thus, we need to understand the dangers of having overscheduled kids and how to prevent this from happening in our own families.

What’s Wrong with Overscheduling Your Kids?

1. Overscheduling Can Burn Out Our Kids

When our kids are on the go and scheduled to the max from a young age, their potential to get burned out before reaching high school is quite high. The New York Times reported some research on burnout and found that burnout with kids relates to their workload, along with their parents’ propensity to experience it.[1] This means that overworked children are more likely to get burned out than others. Similarly, overscheduled parents tend to have overscheduled kids more often than not.

Burnout

When a person is burned out, they feel overwhelmed and exhausted by what others expect them to get done daily. Children who are involved in too many activities with little to no downtime have a high chance of experiencing burnout. When parents place too many expectations on their kids, they also have an increased potential to burn out.

If you get the sense that your child is feeling overworked or overwhelmed by their daily activities, you need to know which ones can be cut back. If they have too many activities outside of school work, for instance, then that is one area that likely needs to be downsized.

An overworked child will present various symptoms like moodiness, irritability, crankiness, despondency, anger, stomach aches, headaches, rebellion, etc. Cutting back their activities will help to relieve their stress and reduce the said burnout signs. If your kid has severe burnout symptoms, though, then professional help from a pediatrician or therapist for children should be sought.

Downtime

Downtime is key to helping relieve burnout. If children don’t have free time during the day to have any rest, they are more likely to become burned out than others. Downtime means unorganized free time to do what they enjoy or relax. Cut back your kids’ extra-curricular activities if they don’t have downtime in their schedule.

Here are more tips on creating downtime for the children: How to Create Downtime for Kids.

2. Overscheduling Kills Playtime and Creativity

Kids need time to be kids. When their schedules are filled every day with activities like organized ballet, soccer, and music lessons, and they only take a break for dinner and bedtime, then they are overscheduled. They need to have free time after school to relax and play. When they don’t have that and proceed from one scheduled activity to the next, they are missing out on playtime.

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Playtime is crucial to child development. If they cannot get enough time to play, then their ability to develop their creativity decreases. The Genius of Play explains that there are six major developmental benefits that children get from playtime:[2]

  • Creativity
  • Social skill development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development (i.e., balance, coordination)
  • Communication skills
  • Emotional development

If children don’t have time to play because they are always on-the-go, then they are missing out on the developmental benefits of play.

Children need downtime after school so that they can unwind, play, and decompress. Research from the Journal of Early Childhood Development and Care showed that kids need to play to deal with anxiety, stress, and worry.[3] Playtime provides an outlet for them to manage these emotions in a healthy manner and helps with the development of their creativity.

Children need free time to play every day. Fifteen minutes at recess is not enough. They need time for it after school, at home, outside of the constraints of scheduled activities.

Solution

Ensure that your child has time to play after school. This is especially important for young children who greatly benefit from playing. Limit organized activities so that your child is not scheduled every day and can play after school. If they have an activity every hour, then it doesn’t allow for playtime.

3. Overscheduling Causes Stress and Pressure

When kids are overscheduled because their parents are so intent on having high-performing children, then they will feel stressed. Parental pressure upon a child to do well in academics, music, multiple sports, and religious studies is a reality for many kids. The children scheduled in all of these activities can often feel stress and pressure, especially when they are expected to succeed in all of them.

It is hard enough for kids to be good or succeed at a single activity. For a parent to overschedule their child and expect superior performance in various activities, that is a recipe for a stressed-out child.

Solution

Parents should not schedule kids in multiple activities with the expectation of superior performance in all. They should also consider the child’s interests. If the child is not interested in one activity, then they are likely to feel stressed and pressured to do it.

For example, if Suzy has been taking piano lessons for four years, and she no longer enjoys learning the instrument, then perhaps it is time to take a break. If Suzy is forced to continue with the lessons and daily practices, then she may feel pressured to continue performing simply because her mom wants her to do so. This can lead Suzy to resent her mother for forcing her to keep on doing something that she doesn’t like anymore.

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Let your child help in selecting the activities that they get involved in. Also, put a cap on the number of activities they are doing. If they have a different activity every weekday, then they are likely overscheduled.

Kids need downtime and time to play, too. If they need to do a new activity every day, that downtime is diminished, considering the time at home or outside of the scheduled activities is limited. This limited time is then filled with homework, mealtime, and bedtime prep. Eliminating activities several days a week will allow the child to have some time to play freely. The younger the kid is, the more time they need playtime. As they get older, they can take on more activities; however, under the age of 13, playing daily is a must for children.

4. Healthy Eating Falls by the Wayside

Any parent who’s busy chauffeuring multiple kids to different activities after school knows how tempting fast food can become. Fast food, however, leads to less healthy food choices. French fries and hamburgers — the staple combo in most fast-food joints — cannot help your child thrive nutritionally.

When families are overscheduled, they tend to go for easy and quick meals. When rushed, many of us make poor food choices because we aren’t taking the time to think about a meal’s nutritional value and a balanced diet for our children.

5. Family Mealtimes Become a Thing of the Past

When we are taking our kids to sports and other extra-curricular activities that fall during dinnertime, the family often misses out on sharing a meal at home.

This is true in our own home. There are certain nights of the week that we have practices, and so we either eat together early (if possible) or eat separately, depending on what our schedules allow.

There is so much value in having family dinners. It provides an opportunity for family members to discuss their day, including their work and school activities. It is a time when technology is set aside so that everyone can truly focus on communicating with one another and catching up on what is happening in each other’s lives. When a kid’s activities are scheduled every evening, then that family time at the dining table gets lost. Dinnertime becomes a thing of the past as we overschedule kids and ourselves.

Try learning more about family time here: How to Maximize Family Time? 13 Simple Ways You Can Try Immediately.

Solution

Assess our schedule during the week to ensure that there’s always time for dinner with the family. Make it a point to establish a dinnertime schedule for the evenings that you do not have prior engagements scheduled. Remember: the time that you have with your kids under your roof is fleeting. Before long, they will be grownups and start living on their own. You need not dismiss or minimize the opportunity to bond with your children over meals.

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Having family mealtimes also allows you to make excellent food choices. This way, parents can create balanced and healthy meals and teach their children about the importance of eating good food for their bodies.

How to Turn Things Around?

1. Fix the Displaced Ambitions

Parents with overscheduled kids often mean well. They want their children to succeed, so they give them every chance to make it happen. They sign them up for various lessons, sports, and activities that may help the kids find success in life.

In other cases, the parent probably didn’t get such opportunities when they were young and felt that they missed out on many things. Hence, they provide those missed opportunities to their kids during their own childhood.

Carla is an example of such a parent. Carla always wanted to take dance and ballet classes as a child. She heard her friends talk about dance classes and performances, and they would even bring recital photos to school, showing their beautiful, detailed costumes. Carla wanted to be in those dance classes and learn ballet and have the opportunity to perform in a beautiful costume in front of an audience. Unfortunately, her family could not afford to give her that opportunity.

When Carla gave birth to a baby girl, she had visions of her little one growing big enough to take dance, ballet, and even tap classes someday. She was looking forward to dressing her daughter in dance costumes and watching her take lessons and eventually performing in recitals. When Carla’s daughter Anna was old enough to enroll at a dance class at four years old, she was thrilled. However, after a few months, it became clear that Anna was not enjoying these classes. She would cry before every lesson, begging Carla to let her stay home and not go to class. Her daughter had no interest in learning to dance.

In truth, it happens to many parents. They would enroll their kid in an activity that they wanted to do as a child but never got to try. Unfortunately, a parent’s interest is not always the same as that of their kids’. The child may humor mom or dad for some time and do the activity out of compliance. But if the child does not enjoy it anymore, they will eventually make things clear to their parents.

Parents should listen to their children. If the activity is something that they do not enjoy doing, ask the children what they think they would like to do, and then eliminate activities that they are not into. Similarly, teach them commitment by finishing a program, but don’t enroll them again in the same class if they absolutely do not want to do it.

Let the kids try different activities at a young age. Sometimes they don’t know if they like something until they try it out.

2. Try Clinics of Camps Before Committing

Don’t enroll your child in three sports at the same time to see which one they like or excel at. Doing so will make your kid overscheduled. Instead, you can use the summer break or preseason camps or clinics to try a variety of activities they are interested in.

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As an example, all three of my children said that they wanted to do lacrosse. We had already tried soccer, and it was not successful for two out of three of them. They would rather chase butterflies down the field or play tag than actually participate in their games. Therefore, before committing to lacrosse and spending a great deal of money on their gear, I signed them up for a sample clinic. It was a one-day program that intended to expose children to the sport and see if they would perhaps enjoy playing it. I was surprised to find that the three kids enjoyed lacrosse, so we signed up for the season. It was nice to be able to see them try out the sport in a clinic before committing to an entire season.

Most towns and cities have parks and recreation department. This is often a good place to check for clinics and camps for various activities. Our local department even offers art and dance classes. Most of them meet between two and four times total, so the children can get some exposure to the activity before signing them up at a private facility for a more long-term commitment.

3. Take an Inventory of Your Weekly Activities

Often, we do an activity without reflecting on how much we are already committed to doing each week. Before we commit to any more activities, we must be willing to look at everything that each family member does. Every child’s commitment is another responsibility for the parent as well. Parents must take children to and from each practice, so you need to consider the drive time for any activity.

For instance, if each of my three kids signed up for three different activities each week, I would be running myself ragged. Three activities for three kids means taking them to nine activities during the week. That doesn’t include the games that will likely be scheduled on the weekends. Three activities for every child, therefore, is too much for our family.

If some practices overlap on the schedule, then you need two parents or responsible adults to transport the children to different locations. Before you sign them up for multiple activities, you need to factor downtime, stress levels, and your ability to take them to each activity in the equation.

Consider the following before your kids can commit to various activities:

  • What is the time commitment for the child each week? Do they have enough energy and stamina for the activities? Do they get enough downtime daily to prevent burnout?
  • Is practice time required outside of their scheduled team practices and games?
  • How long is the travel time for you as a parent, along with wait time during practices? Do you have time allowances for these activities in your own schedule?
  • Does the activity time conflict with other activities on the schedule? Will it eliminate family dinners on a regular basis?
  • Does the child really want to do the activity?
  • What is the motivation for signing up for the activity?
  • Is this activity or commitment going to cause a great deal of stress on the child or other family members?

Check out these time-management tips for parents: 10 Time Management Tips Every Busy Parent Needs to Know.

Get The Kids Active and Involved!

Despite everything, it does not mean that you shouldn’t sign your child up for different activities like sports, music, dance, karate, etc. They are all great activities that can help children develop a variety of valuable life skills. The goal is to enroll them in things that they genuinely enjoy and avoid overscheduling kids by not letting them sign up for too many activities at a time.

More Tips for Scheduling Kids’ Activities

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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