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Five Things Your Kids Can Do that You Might Not Expect

Five Things Your Kids Can Do that You Might Not Expect

Kids are awesome.  Pretty much across the board, they’re funny, creative, and full of love. Most of them can tell you pretty good knock-knock jokes, entertain younger siblings with puppet shows, and remind you just how much fun a swing is.

What a lot of us parents might not realize about our kids, though, is that they are capable of amazing things that we don’t expect. But given a little encouragement (ok, maybe a lot of encouragement for a really long time), most kids will thoroughly impress you with good manners, kind gestures, and a clean bedroom.

Once your kids have mastered these, you can tackle bigger projects like initiating world peace and ending global warming. Trust me, they can do it.

Be Polite

By the time kids are about 18 months they can be encouraged to use the words “please” and “thank you,” although it may be more of an emerging habit at that point than true understanding of the concepts. However, a short six months later, kids more or less understand when and why they should use those polite phrases.

Of course being polite goes beyond “please” and “thank you.” As young as two years old, kids can grasp the concept that serves as the Emily Post Institute’s definition of etiquette: “treating people with consideration, respect, and honesty, and being aware of how our actions affect those around us.” Although at such a young age you can’t expect kids to always behave with such grace, you can begin encouraging it.

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What You Can Do

Beyond infancy, you can start encouraging polite behavior in your kids at any age. Decide what your goals are (there are a lot of great suggestions in the book, 365 Manners Your Kids Should Know) and then demonstrate them yourself while consistently encouraging them in your kids. It may be a long process but the first time you’re complimented in a restaurant because your kids are so delightful, you’ll know it’s worth it.

Share

Parents of toddlers will no doubt shake their heads at this one, but it’s true. By the time kids are in preschool they’re primed for empathy, the basis of sharing.

What You Can Do

First, let’s back up and define sharing as to willingly offer or distribute something. Forcing a child to give up a toy because another child wants it isn’t the same as sharing and is more likely to instill resentment than encourage empathy. Instead set up a standard of taking turns, reward your child with a kind word when they offer toys to siblings and friends and always keep the whole experience upbeat with positive reinforcement.

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Harvey Karp, MD, author of The Happiest Toddler on the Block, also suggests letting your child choose a few special things to set aside before play dates, giving them some control over what they share and what they don’t.

Demonstrate sharing yourself and point it out when you see other people sharing. Talking about it positively, even when your child isn’t actively sharing, will help your child see it as an activity that he can enjoy.

Be Patient

How many times have you stopped talking to someone mid-sentence or abandoned what you were doing mid-movement to address a child’s need (or want)? I doubt I could even count the number of times I’ve done it. That is until I read the book, Bébé Day by Day by Pamela Drukerman and learned that isn’t how things are for French parents. If in France, why not in my house too?

What You Can Do

Basically, you have to make them wait—often. It’s that simple. Start by slowing down your responses and finishing whatever it is you’re doing before addressing their needs (unless they’re truly urgent, of course). Explain that you’ll look at the artwork, read the book, answer the question (whatever it may be) in a minute or two.

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Treat your kids like they are capable of waiting. When they don’t wait patiently for you (and they surely won’t the first million or so times), calmly remind them to wait and explain why. Make it clear that you expect them to show patience and eventually—if you’re patient—they will.

Help Out

You’ll drive yourself crazy if you try to do everything for everyone until the kids go to college; and you may be sending some irresponsible young adults off to that ivy league school, on top of it. Helping out around the house instills responsibility in kids and actually increases their sense of self-worth because they know that they’re an important part of a team.

What You Can Do

Match the chores to your child’s age—it shouldn’t be too difficult or too easy for them. You know your child best, but here’s a pretty good guide to give you some ideas. You can also make it a family event: have your kids do their chores while you’re doing (some of) yours. It feels less like a chore when the whole family pitches in (and you put on some fun music). You’ll be amazed at how fast a job can get done when it happens before something everyone is looking forward to: “we can’t go to the pool until the playroom is nice and neat.”

Be Friends with Siblings

It may seem like kids come wired to fight with their siblings but in fact getting them to interact peacefully is easier than you might think.

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What You Can Do

Be fair. Kids as young as 18 months have a sense of fairness and will protest (often loudly) when something seems unjust—particularly if a sibling is involved. Your actions don’t have to be exactly the same for each child all the time, they only have to be perceived as fair by your kids. Christine Carter at the Greater Good Science Center offers suggestions for determining what’s probably fair in the eyes of kids in this article.

Talk about your kids as best friends—all the time. Kids believe what we tell them and if we encourage their friendship (when they’re getting along and when they aren’t) they’ll absorb it and act accordingly.

Encourage them to comfort each other. While most parents fly into action when a head gets bumped or a Lego structure is smashed to bits accidentally, you can do a lot to build a strong friendship between siblings by quietly encouraging the sibling to step up with the hug, kiss or helpful Lego-building hands.

Folding these good habits into your family life will benefit everyone: your kids will elicit praise from teachers, family members and restaurant patrons everywhere and you’ll no doubt discover that managing your brood is easier and more enjoyable.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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