~ tips for healthy, happy children this new year and beyond!

Since it’s ‘back-to-school’ week’ here are some parenting tips to ensure you are raising emotionally healthy, well-balanced children:

1.    Create a Routine

Some structure and routine is necessary for everyone in the family to feel calmer, know what happens when, who does what and what’s expected of them. Examples include: time for waking up and getting ready, breakfast, time to leave for school, what the kids responsibilities are for packing their bags, emptying out lunchpacks, chores, dinner time, homework time, bedtime, etc.

2.    Learn to Say ‘NO’ sometimes

It’s important for children to learn from a young age that they cannot always get what they want, when they want it – even if it is possible for the parent. If you always give in to their whims and fancies, you enable them to become impatient and entitled. Know what is acceptable and what is not, agree with your partner, and maintain those rules. At times, it’s a good idea to delay gratification – e.g. if they want to have some ice-cream, say that they may do so once their homework is complete and after dinner. This teaches patience and instils the idea that they have to earn little rewards.

3.    Children Need to do Chores

This is one of the most common topics I’m asked about and my answer always is – CHILDREN NEED TO DO CHORES AND THEY SHOULD NOT BE PAID FOR CHORES. All children need to be given age appropriate chores that they understand is their responsibility and needs to be done without reminders. Whether it’s feeding pets, setting the table or taking out the garbage, every person in the home needs to make a contribution to the family. This is the reason that chores should not be paid for – children need to learn that all family members need to make some contribution to the running of the home. If you pay for chores, then children will start to attach a price to everything they do. If they are wanting to earn a little pocket money, this can be done by them doing chores over and above their usual ones.

4.    Avoid Running to their Rescue at all Times

If your child remembers a project on Sunday night (that’s due on Monday morning), do not rush to complete the project for them.  Often, parents with the best intentions, try to help out, but end up doing their children a disservice. Sometimes the child has to experience the consequences of not handing in a project on time in order to not make the mistake again. If your teenager forgets their sports-kit, allow them to sometimes miss out on the sport they love, so they realise the importance of planning and taking responsibility. However, do not be a meanie – if it’s the first time ever your child forgot something and it seems to have been a genuine error on their part (instead of laziness or lack of planning), help them out!

5.    Teach them the Value of Money

Pocket money should be determined according to the means of the parents and the needs of the child (often age-dependent). Pocket money should be given on the same day every week, which teaches children to budget and make their money last for the duration. Some basic lessons need to accompany the giving of an allowance, such as the need to save (e.g. for a toy they may want or for Christmas presents). Children who are required to spend their allowance for things they would like when you go out shopping value money more than those whose parents pay for everything they want. Teach children about allocating their money for spending and for saving. If possible, include saving some money for charity.

6.    Model the Values you Would like to Instil in Your Children

Values are learnt in the home and the simplest way to imbibe good values in your children is by living those values yourself. If you expect your children to respect you, ensure that you and your spouse speak to each other with respect. Model behaviour such as kindness, empathy, helping one another, sharing, etc.

7.    Quality Time must be Non-Negotiable

Family quality time is non-negotiable. On the one hand parents needs their alone time, and then their needs to be family time. One of the simplest but most priceless traditions is having dinner together as a family, at the table with NO TECHNOLOGY (meaning no TV on and no phones allowed). This gives everyone an opportunity to know about the important events in each other’s lives, what they are looking forward to and any problems they may need help with. Such communication is vital for a strong family bond. Decide on regular family bonding time apart from dinner – e.g. playing boardgames on a Friday night, going to the beach on a Sunday morning or parents taking turns (dad can go cycling with kids while mum has some me-time; or mum takes kids to the movies while dad has his me-time).

8.    Set Limits on Technology

Parents need to be consistent with rules they set for technology. Children need physical activity and to engage their senses in their activities. Decide on appropriate technology times. E.g. Only one or two hours of television per day, but only when homework is complete. Set limits on what children are allowed to do online and how much time they may spend online. Know what forms on social media your children use and how they are using it. Discourage use of phones during family time. If you are worried that they are spending too much time online, do not give them the wifi password (log on for them each time) or allow only a certain data limit that needs to last them the entire month. Another idea is to ask them to hand in their phones at a certain time each night to prevent them lying in bed, chatting or on social media. I will write a complete post on this topic.

 9.    Compliments & Constructive Criticism

Only praise children for something done well. Do not praise children just to make them feel good! You will do more damage that what! Other than praising achievements, ensure that you praise displays of important values such as kindness. Remember that what you praise is what is likely to continue. With criticism, remember to always criticise the behaviour and not the child! Explain why the behaviour is not acceptable, including how it may have hurt the feelings of others. When you criticise behaviour, a child should never doubt your love for them.

10. Effective Discipline

Hitting is a NO! Shouting is also a NO! When you hit or shout, children focus on the punishment and not the reason for the punishment. The best discipline comes from a calm parents. Parents need to agree on discipline and need to be consistent so children know what is expected and what is not allowed – and why! I will write a full article on effective discipline, but my advice is always to remove something they like. E.g. if chores are not done or if a child has been rude to the sibling, you may take away their phone for a period of time, not allow them to watch their favourite TV programme or cut down their allowance for that week.

Because parenting is undoubtedly the most important and challenging job you will ever have, there are endless skills and advice. I’ve shared just ten for now to get this school year started and will write on more specific topics as the year progresses.

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