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Published on August 30, 2018

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

Doctor of Psychology

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Published on September 18, 2018

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

Coparenting 101: 17 Helpful Strategies for Divorced Parents

When people separate or divorce, one of their biggest challenges is coparenting their children together. As a Marriage and Family Therapist in Chicago, I often see divorced parents struggle with how to raise their children together.

One parent has a certain set of rules, and the other does it completely differently. It can be a real challenge to navigate this part of the divorce process.

Yet over the years, I have seen couples successfully raise their children together after a divorce. It takes a little attention and focus, but there are number of key strategies that these divorced couples employ to make coparenting much easier.

1. Communicate clearly.

When couples who are able to communicate coparenting items easily and without much emotion, they get a lot of the work of parenting done quickly. Yet when their discussions about parenting items are filled with emotion, then it muddies the waters.

If you find yourself fighting with your ex about all sorts of coparenting issues, you might want to set up a method of communication which reduces the emotion.

Perhaps a dedicated email thread that only has parenting items might keep the channels of communication more clean.

2. Clarify rules.

Many families we see here at our practice in Chicago have different rules at different houses for their children. This can certainly work, but the rules need to be clearly defined by the parents.

Where children struggle is when they are unclear about what the rules of each house are, and then try to manipulate the rules to get their way.

Clear communication of what the expectations are at each house can go a long way towards creating balance and stability.

3. Get out of the past.

It is important to be sure that any lingering items from your marriage stay as much in the past as possible.

Of course there will by dynamics from the marital relationship that persist in the coparenting relationship, but couples benefit by bringing their relationship out of the past and trying to create new ways of interacting around parenting items.

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4. Don’t triangulate.

One of the more difficult dynamics that we see in Family Therapy is when couples triangulate their children.

Triangulation is when whatever is unresolved between the parents gets transmitted through their interactions with the children.

In other words, the parents hostility and tension gets absorbed by the children and the children start acting it out. It can be very confusing when this happens, and Family Therapy can significantly help when this dynamic occurs.

5. Bless and release.

One thing that troubles a lot of people after a break up or divorce is that they continually hold on to old grudges or complaints.

In order to coparent more effectively, it can be helpful to bless and release your ex. This mean wishing them well and letting go of old hurts.

Can you hope for our ex that they have all good things and find the life and love that they are looking for? This sort of neutrality can go a long way with coparenting from a more balanced place.

6. Practice mindful parenting.

Many experts will tell parents to try to stay more calm than their child. If you are anxious, stressed and angry, then your child may become those things too.

Coparenting with an ex adds another layer of difficulty and potentially upsetting emotions. It is important to practice being mindful of your anxiety, stress and anger levels when parenting, and also when interacting with your coparent.

Finding ways to stay relaxed and put things in perspective can help.

7. Develop a support network.

Having a good team of trusted people in your corner can help to make sure you don’t feel alone in the process of coparenting. Talking with other parents who are divorced or separated might help you feel less alone in the process.

Additionally, having a trusted counselor or therapist in your corner who can help you look at your blind spots, can make a big difference.

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8. Practice presence.

Staying in the moment when parenting can be a useful thing whether you are coparenting, doing it alone, or alongside your partner.

Our minds can race all over the place when we are managing a lot of things in our family life. Yet taking time to stay in the moment and be present with your child will help calm and stabilize the situation.

If you are worried about future events, or stressed about what happened before, it takes you out of the present, which can be full of opportunities for meaningful experiences with your child.

9. Practice “I” statements.

A lot of couples will get in trouble by blaming their ex in front of their child. It can be difficult for them not to criticize their ex, or say something disparaging. Yet this can have a negative impact on the child.

Instead of pointing the finger, it helps to practice “I” statements. Talk about your frustration and how you get overwhelmed by difficult situations rather than commenting on how your ex made mistakes or is selfish.

Talking about your own experience helps you own your own power in the situation.

10. Learn to compromise.

If coparents are constantly arguing about their schedules, money, or what the rules are, then it can cause a very hostile and chaotic environment for the children.

Yet couples who learn to work together and compromise on the endless, daily family items that need to be negotiated, end up creating a more stable and calm environment for their children.

Even if you insist that you should have the children on a particular holiday because your ex had them the previous year, being willing to compromise and make alternate arrangements can pay off in the long run.

11. Give a little.

Coparents who are generous with one another, even if they are still upset about their breakup, help create an environment of wellbeing in their family.

If your coparent asks for a random extra weekend with the children, and you know that it is your turn that weekend, being generous and giving a little can go a long way towards generating good will.

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Withholding and counting each fairness and unfairness creates a less generous and more stingy family environment.

Of course you don’t want to compromise yourself and give over too much, but keeping on the lookout for when you can give just a bit more, can help the wellbeing of everyone involved.

12. Talk with your children.

Parents who worry about the potentially negative influence that their ex will have on their children do well by talking more with their kids.

If you are worried about what your ex might say to your child, it helps to have a good, open line of communication with the child such that you can better understand how they see the world.

It helps if they can talk with you about their confusion or any conflicting messages that they hear from their other parent.

13. Leverage your relationship.

Your child is hard wired to want to connect with you. Parents do well to know that the greatest influence that they have on their child is their relationship with them.

Your children are attached to you, and even if they act as if they want nothing to do with you, they are still wired for your approval and care.

Finding ways to leverage the inherent attachment can help create the sort of life that you’d like for your child.

14. Attract, don’t pursue.

Don’t overly pursue a connection with your child, but instead attract their interest to connect with you. When parents are too eager to chase a child who is distancing, then the child will often distance more.

Building on the inherent attachment that your child has with you, try to find ways to create harmonious and connected moments rather than asking them tons of questions and trying desperately to create closeness.

15. Open up.

Share more with your child about what you love, and what you are passionate about. Children who hear more about what parents care about tend to follow their own passions.

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Think about how many famous athletes or musicians children are also athletes or musicians. Children tend to follow the lead of their role models, and if you share what you love, then might emulate that pursuit themselves.

This can go a long way towards creating a lasting bond that can withstand any tension in a coparenting relationship.

16. Embrace change.

A lot of coparents have hidden regrets or live in the past. They wish their family situation could be different, but don’t know how to make it better.

Embracing change can help us move out of past hurts and regrets and find new ways to create the sort of changes we are looking for.

Perhaps you can find new ways to interact with your ex that might foster new family dynamics.

17. Make room for new possibilities.

A lot of divorced or separated couples that I work with tend to become hopeless about anything new happening in the family dynamic. They see patterns of interaction repeat themselves over and over, and they anticipate it will continue this way forever.

Yet if there is one thing we can count on is that things will eventually change. Making room in your mind for new possibilities can alleviate some of the hopelessness that sometimes comes with difficult coparenting situations.

Yes you are divorced, but It is indeed possible to be good coparents. Communication and patience go hand in hand if you want to raise happy and healthy kids as a divorced parent.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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