The real reason I’m worried about sending my kids to school is that I’m going to be alone.
It’s cool to feel crummy about yourself.
With Father’s Day fast approaching on Sunday, September 6, SHESAID examines what life is like for modern-day dads and how fatherhood has evolved over the years – arguably, for the better and the greater good of all.
Forty years ago, when I was born, it’s fair to say fathers were mostly absent when it came to child-rearing. Your father was the traditional breadwinner and disciplinarian whom you mostly saw in the evenings and on weekends, if you were lucky.
Back then, dads could hide behind their newspapers or their games of golf, while their poor harried wives primarily raised the kids. And while you adored your mostly hands-off dad – for whom working outside of the family home was the norm – you mainly looked to your stay-at-home-mum for emotional and moral guidance.
Oh how times have changed: thanks to the advent of feminism and women’s growing economic emancipation and independence, today’s modern-day dads have been forced to take on vastly different fatherhood roles than those of previous generations.
Today, fathers are very much hands-on – from pregnancy through to the birth suite and beyond. What’s more, today’s modern-day dads want to be actively involved in raising their kids; it’s hard to fathom this was once not the accepted norm and fathers weren’t even allowed to be present when their wives gave birth! Instead, bewildered dads were ushered out into waiting rooms leaving their wives all alone at such an all-important, life-changing, emotionally-charged moment.
Nowadays, it’s the norm for dads to share in every aspect of co-parenting if you’re fortunate enough to have a loving and supportive partner and the father to your children by your side, just as my husband is. However, the modern-day father comes in many forms: he may be gay or straight; a stay-at-home-dad or office worker; an adoptive dad or step-parent; or a separated or divorced dad, both of whom usually predominantly parent from afar.
Much is written about mother love, but psychological research across families from all ethnic backgrounds suggests fathers’ love and affection is vitally important – indeed, it has been shown to be as crucial, powerful and pervasive as the influence of a mother’s love. Fathers who play a permanent and loving presence in their childrens’ lives boost their social, emotional and cognitive development and functioning. Interestingly, children with loving fathers are less likely to struggle with behavioral or substance abuse problems.
And while father-son relationships are incredibly important – every dad is their son’s first hero – the father-daughter bond is one of the most influential and significant relationships in a girl’s life. In fact, the pivotal role a father plays in shaping his daughter’s self-esteem and social and emotional development cannot be overstated. It’s everything: fathers show their daughters, by example, how they can create a loving, trusting relationship with a man and also teach them how to be self-confident and self-reliant.
Just this weekend gone, I watched, with both awe and pride, my husband happily act out scenes from The Little Mermaid, complete with props, at the request of our feisty, little two-year-old and three-year-old daughters. The girls adore their father and their shared joy was a beautiful thing to behold.
And today, it’s positively trendy to be a hands-on dad, with A-list celebrities the public face of modern-day fatherhood. Look at the pin-up example of hunky, English former professional footballer David Beckham: what woman hasn’t swooned over the endless stream of cute pics in the press of him with his four children, particularly the youngest, his daughter Harper? I don’t know about you, but Beckham and Harper (pictured) are so adorable together, it makes me feel a tad clucky. His wife, former Spice Girl and fashion icon Victoria Beckham is one lucky lady.
And another prime A-list example of a modern-day dad is gorgeous actor/producer Brad Pitt, whom – by all accounts – very much co-parents his six children with his wife, actor/director Angelina Jolie.
So, what’s it like to be a modern-day “rad dad”? An everyday blokey hero, who’s actively involved in child-rearing? And how does it feel to be in such a vastly different fatherhood role to that of your own dad?
Noosa’s Marty Hardinge, CEO and managing director of leading global retail marketing company, 5P, is a busy, hands-on dad to three kids, a 12-year-old son and two daughters aged 11 and 8.
He runs the home-based business along with his wife, 5P founder Jennifer Porter, as well as playing an active role in child-rearing, co-parenting, housework and the endless “taxi service” pick-ups/drop-offs associated with school-age kids. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My dad thought that looking after the family meant working hard, but not being there. I think being a good dad is working hard inside the family,” Marty says.
Meanwhile, Noosa Style Ceremonies‘ popular wedding celebrant Jay Flood, who is also director – head of content at traffic and lifestyle content supplier Flood Active, also relishes being a hands-on dad. He has two sons aged 13 and 11, whom he actively co-parents with his film publicist wife, Nicola Warman-Flood.
“I work a fair bit from home, as much as I can. And in the early days, I used to organise shifts and other work around just being able to be there from when our sons were first born,” Jay says. “It’s huge – Nicola and I have been pretty lucky – we’ve both spend most of our working lives here (Noosa) in pretty flexible roles so we’ve been able to be there for every little thing in our sons’ lives, which has kind of always been a goal.
“That’s what we always wanted to do – if we were going to have kids we wanted to be in their lives. I always talk about it with Nic – I remember coming home as a kid, probably when I was ten or 11, and saying to my mum: ‘Where’s dad?’ Well, dad was at the pub! He’d go straight from work to the pub! I can’t imagine doing that. Our dads were real authoritarian dads, who learned from their own fathers, and I’m sure some of them turned the tide a little bit.
“I’m 40 now and fatherhood has changed so much for the better. I saw my dad, when he got older, he wanted more of that connection with us kids – I have two brothers – but I think a lot of that connection comes from being there when you’re a kid and I could see him yearn for it when he got older. You can bridge those gaps and make it happen, but if you’ve got it from the very start it’s much better for the kids and much better for the parents.
“I much prefer being a hands-on dad – I hated having to leave the boys with Nicola, especially when they were littler. The whole reason you’re going to work and trying to make a life is so you can spend time with your family. When they’re little, your kids really need you to help them get a start in life, but as they go into the teenage years, emotionally they still need you a lot, but I think we’re kind of in-between that and getting ditched!”
Despite juggling two businesses, Jay says he always finds a way to spend quality time with his sons. “Just this morning, the boys came to work with me. The little guy surfs, so he goes out and then I take him to school. Even though it’s maybe a hassle for him to get up at 5am, you get to spend all that time together. And he went to school stoked because he had a surf this morning, hung out and then he had a pie. I said to him: ‘All kids don’t have this life!’ And he went to school beaming and he said: ‘Oh, this is so good.’
“All that hard work in raising kids becomes so worth it. Just this morning, a girl from work said: ‘Gee, your boys are so nice – they’ve got such good manners, they’re amazing.’ And the first thing I said was: ‘That doesn’t come naturally’. It takes time and effort, but it’s a wonderful gift to see your kids grow and develop.”
Images via digitalnewsroom.co.uk, americandaddy.us, eonline.com, healthnews.com
My eldest son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) when he was 13. Yet, from about a year old, my motherly intuition told me something wasn’t quite right. For one, he was super smart. Way too smart for a toddler; but there were certain things he really struggled with, particularly around other kids.
By about 3 years old I knew we needed help, yet regardless of appointment after appointment to various professionals, no-one picked it up. They seemed to be heading in the wrong direction. For example; the psychiatrist was looking at possible abuse, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. So, for over a decade, I was told things like his behaviour was simply the way he was. Or the real tough one: his behaviour was a result of my parenting.
Not happy with the analysis I was determined to discover the underlying cause behind some of his unusual behaviour. So I enrolled in a Behavioural Science degree at a local uni primarily to help my son. By then he’d been suspended from several schools and it wasn’t because he was a bad kid. He’d experienced severe bullying and each time he’d lashed out in sheer frustration.
In my second semester, I enrolled in a class about ASD. The very first day I realised that I’d finally hit the jackpot and that light bulb moment I was hoping for fully emerged. By then my son was 12 and displayed most characteristics of ASD (listed below, so I promptly did some more reading and finally had some idea what direction we could source help.
While awaiting his diagnosis, my son’s behaviour escalated. After years of torment at school he’d eventually had enough, so our only option was to home school him until he could get some support. In hindsight, it was the best decision we ever made – and as the stress of the school environment dissipated, his behaviour improved significantly. By understanding his condition we were also able to accommodate his needs.
Since his diagnosis life really has changed for the better. He was identified by the local high school as a special needs child and placed into a supportive environment. We had to fight to keep him there, realising mainstream schooling was simply too demanding for him at that time. However, after several years and extensive support he completed year twelve in mainstream.
My message to other parents who think their child may have ASD is to get a diagnosis as soon as possible. The longer you wait the harder it is to access vital support services. There are waiting times, but schools are becoming more ASD friendly once a diagnosis has been made. It’s essential for parents to understand the signs because, as in our case, you can’t always rely on professionals to get it right.
Behavioural characteristics of ASD
- Significant difficulty maintaining eye contact.
- Highly routine driven. For example; must adhere to a strict routines otherwise it causes them significant anxiety and distress.
- Intense focus on a particular interest. For many people with ASD this involves computer games.
- Repetitive hand flapping, leg shaking, twitching and inability to sit still.
- Very high sensitivity to visual and audio stimuli. For example; everyday sounds are amplified and things such as posters cause severe distraction.
Social characteristics of ASD
- Severe difficulties making and maintaining friendships.
- Difficulties with appropriate social and emotional responses.
- Lack of understanding of facial expressions and non-verbal gestures.
- Unable to initiate play with others.
Communication characteristics of ASD
- Delayed language development.
- Difficulty initiating and maintaining a conversation.
- Can speak tirelessly on particular topics of interest, regardless of whether the other person is interested.
- May repeat phrases from television.
- Hesitant to answer questions and may take a long time to respond.
If you’d like to find out more about ASD please head to Autism Spectrum Australia.
Image via epilepsyu.com
We’ve heard a significant number of cases this year of mothers torturing and even killing their children for attention on social media. Most recently, Candy Flutin was found guilty of making her son ill by putting faeces into his IV drop while he was in hospital and has received six years in jail. The attention that she gained from posting updates of scans, tests and surgeries to her 2000 plus Facebook friends, motivating her to go further and keep her son ill by performing such disgusting things.
Earlier this year, a Lacey Spears was charged and sentenced to 20 years in jail for killing her six year old son by slowly poisoning him with salt. Her motivation? A blog detailing her son’s journey through illness and disease, with social media supporting her through hard times, that she in fact had caused.
Now it’s time to talk about it. Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome is a mental disorder in which a parent, most commonly the mother, causes harm to their children for the attention that it gains for them, and the gratification they receive from that attention. Related to Munchausen Syndrome, a condition in which a person harms themselves or feigns illness for attention, Munchausen by Proxy is carried out on the unknowing, helpless child. Many children have lost lives and have become debilitatingly ill at the hands of their own parents, gaining sympathy and attention from those around them.
With the rise of social media, it’s much more accessible to gain support from people who comment or like posts in a show of ‘kindness’. Munchausen by Proxy is a diagnosed mental illness which is thought to possibly develop from the perpetrator being abused physically or sexually as a child.
Assessing our mental health and those around us is important for the health and safety of everyone, but especially children who are the sponges that we create and help to grow. We could never imagine that a loving parent would put their child through something so cruel, meaning it is also hard to know if this is happening to a child. With the rise of social media and less time in person, we don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors. Doctors and nurses can suspect the mental illness if they are continually testing a child and finding no causes for their illness, however, it is obviously difficult to pin point.
Diagnosis of Munchausen by Proxy is considered rare and can be extremely difficult because of the attentive caring that the parent or caregiver is portraying, but realistically, it’s child abuse. If you suspect that someone you know is suffering from Munchausen by Proxy, it shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Image via parentinghub.co.za
Toddlers are at once ridiculously cute and funny, yet frustrating and incredibly hard to tame.
I’ve got two-year-old and three-year-old daughters and such is their tantrums, as is the norm for their ages, I swear one day I’m going to wake up with a giant patch of grey in my hair.
Parenting can be an incredibly thankless, confusing and just a plain tough job: you have to be an excellent role model, and incredibly loving and nurturing, plus a good disciplinarian, all at once! So, when it comes to toddler wrangling, does a naughty corner/naughty step/time out – call it what you will – actually work?
I’m in the process of trialling the naughty corner with my feisty and finicky eating three-year-old to mixed results. Is there a secret to this tried and tested parenting technique?
The celebrated ‘naughty step’, made famous by UK reality TV star Jo Frost of Super Nanny fame (pictured), is much-loved by thousands of parents, according to the former nanny. Frost claims the naughty step can dramatically transform children’s behaviour and, even better; it gives exhausted parents a strategy for household peace.
The Naughty Step works best from age three, she says – a naughty mat can be used for littlies prior to this – with the key premise being that when a toddler is placed in a particular calm spot for time out, with no distractions, this gives the naughty, little tyke time to think about what has happened and repent. And consistency is key: Frost advises one minute for each year of his/her age is the perfect length of time.
“Every new rule or discipline technique is difficult at first. Just stay calm, be consistent and remain firm and it will get easier… Eventually!” she has been quoted as saying. Yet even the Super Nanny concedes every child is different and the naughty step doesn’t always work, with her offering solutions to common toddler problems on the official Super Nanny website.
However, Dr Karen Phillip (pictured), who’s one of Australia’s leading family therapists and parenting experts, told me the latest research and thinking on toddler discipline is less punitive and about shaming toddlers, which is bad for their burgeoning self-esteem. Instead, she advocates a “thinking spot” as opposed to the old-school naughty corner/naughty step/time out.
“I don’t like the term ‘naughty corner’ – I much prefer the ‘thinking spot’, because what you’re doing is removing the child to a safe place or spot for a stretch and connecting that behaviour,” Dr Phillip says.
“It depends, of course, on what the child has done as to whether it warrants a thinking spot. If the child has been deliberately wilful and/or hurt their sibling, it may help to isolate them to a safe place so they can think about their behaviour.
“The high emotion of the parent also needs to be considered, for when you have high emotion, rational thinking and logic goes out the window. This is where the thinking spot can also help.”
Dr Phillip also recommends the laundry as a thinking-spot location – once you’ve made it kid-friendly and removed all dangerous objects. “Choose a corner or a room in which your child wouldn’t normally go,” she says, “Remove the child from comfort and don’t place them in their bedrooms and/or shut the door if they’re under seven.”
Another key message from Dr Phillip is the importance of teaching children about consequences through choices. “Toddlers don’t have good self-control, but are actually really clever,” she says. “It’s crucial to give a child a choice. Say: ‘I’m asking you not to do that’ when they display silly behaviour and give them a consequence of their action.
“So, ‘I’m asking you to please eat your dinner so you grow healthy and strong’ – use a request, not an instruction or order. Then, tell them that if they don’t eat their dinner they will go to bed with a hungry tummy and not get to read a book they really like.”
Of course, as any mother (or father) of toddlers knows – these little people just love to push the boundaries. “You’ve got to be really firm with toddlers,” Dr Phillip says. “But it’s imperative to make requests, not an instruction or order.”
Images via www.ivillage.com.au; www.thebloomingblog.co.uk; www.parentdish.co.uk
What do you think? What method of toddler discipline do you swear by?
If your child is starting kindergarten, you’re probably experiencing an array of emotions right now. Proud that you’ve come so far on your parenting journey. Struggling to let your little one go. Overjoyed that you’ll have all this time to yourself. Sad that you’ll have all this time to yourself…
In addition to your own emotional roller coaster, your child may start behaving strangely. Tears in the morning, tantrums in the afternoon and you begin wondering if you’ve accidentally made a mistake and sent your two-year-old to school. Take heart, this behaviour is completely normal and will pass as your child adjusts. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to make the transition to kindergarten as smooth as possible both for you and for your child.
Allow your child to express her emotions
Your little one is spending her days in a new environment, with a teacher she doesn’t know well yet. Numerous things happen during her time at school that may upset her, excite her or make her uncomfortable, but she doesn’t know how to deal with it all yet. By the end of the day she’s full of new impressions and disappointments. Then she sees you and to her that means safety. She can now relax, be herself and let her emotions flow. Don’t see her behaviour as naughty or annoying. Instead, accept that this is your child’s expression of trust and be her safety island.
Be a role model
This is a big change for yourself, too, so it’s normal to feel anxious. Do what you need to do to take care of your own emotions – have a good cry once your child has been dropped off, talk to a friend, do something nice for yourself and try to have a happy, relaxed attitude about school. Your child will pick up on your feelings, so model what you want to see in her.
Introduce an earlier bedtime
Your child is adjusting to change and she’s also required to work a lot harder than before, so she will be tired. Set up an earlier bed time routine to allow for extra rest. You will probably benefit from an earlier bedtime, too. Nothing helps better with emotions running wild than a good night’s sleep.
Minimise after-school activities
I can tell you from personal experience that there’s nothing quite as frustrating as trying to drag a reluctant 5-year-old to a gymnastics class after school and there’s absolutely no reason why you should have to go through it every week. If your child is feeling more tired and irritable than usual, put swimming and dance lessons on hold for the first term or two. You can always re-enroll in a few months, when your new student is happy and confident at school.
Hopefully, everything will be effortless for you and you won’t need any of my tips for starting kindergarten. But just in case you’re having a hard time, I want you to know that you’re not alone. And that your child (and you) will adjust.
Image by joduma via pixabay.com
Dads of the twenty first century are now expected to parent children, more than any other time in history. This includes step-dads, separated or divorced dads. While fathers have taken on disciplinary roles in the past, day to day parenting has traditionally been the responsibility of mothers.
The main issue with this massive shift in societal roles and expectations is lack of experience, knowledge and guidance. This is because many fathers of previous generations neglected critical aspects of parenting. For many, they just didn’t know how.
As a result today’s dads who want to be more involved in parenting, may lack the knowledge, skills or confidence. They won’t admit it, but many haven’t had sufficient exposure to effective role models. They are learning parenting skills from sources like the internet, other dads and their child’s mother.
This is why encouraging fathers to parent children is so vital. Not only in satisfaction raising them but to educate fathers of the future. Mothers need to play a pivotal role in achieving this. Particularly if they are going to make an impact on generations of parents who surpass them. The question is how?
Mothers have an innate way of hovering over their offspring regardless of their age. This is an enormous responsibility, especially in the infancy stage and one which can and should be shared. Offering responsibilities to fathers will lighten the load and encourage involvement.
While most fathers would be happy for this to occur, it’s mothers who have stunted progress. The key here is for mothers to relinquish control. (Easier said than done!) It doesn’t matter if things aren’t done the same or if parenting styles aren’t exact. As long as both parents remain consistent children learn to adapt. This is a valuable life lesson which enables kids to adapt to different situations as they get older. Much like they do when they have multiple teachers at school.
It’s very easy to pick someone else’s parenting efforts to pieces, especially in the heat of the moment when kids play up. Ridiculing parenting efforts will only encourage fathers to doubt themselves and withdraw. The aim is to encourage, provide support, grow and learn together. This builds confidence in both parents.
When positive parenting efforts or changes occur, use praise and provide more opportunities for fathers to use their new skills. Remember, the only way to improve and gain confidence is to practice.
Talk about your parenting experiences and issues often. I can’t stress this enough. This will provide an opportunity to become a united front. Kids need to know what their behavioural expectations are from both parents. If given the opportunity, they will divide and conquer to get their way. This applies from toddler to adult so you may as well start as soon as possible.
If they manage to divide you it will cause enormous strain on your family. As parents, set consistent boundaries together and most importantly enforce them. Communicating is the only way you can make this work, regardless of whether you are parenting together or apart. Separated parents have a much higher chance of being manipulated by kids to get their way. Communicate with your child’s father / step-father and make it a priority.
Remember not to attack but voice concerns if you have them. To avoid attacking start sentences with “I” instead of “you”, followed by the behaviour. Address the behaviour, not the individual. For example; “I feel uncomfortable when you…”. Instead of “You make me uncomfortable when you…”. Parenting can be a touchy subject, so be mindful of how you say what’s on your mind.
It’s really important that fathers get alone time to bond with their kids. Separated parents often argue about this. Unless a child is in immediate danger, fathers should have private access to their kids. It’s all about what’s best for them, not how you feel personally about your ex. The children love you both, so keep negative parenting opinions to yourself.
If you are a partnered parent avoid pushing alone time opportunities upon fathers who need time out. Be fair and possibly create a schedule so both parents have parenting time alone. Also encourage fathers to take the kids away from home. Initially a park outing might be enough. Use gradual exposure to build confidence.
Fathers who have little exposure to their children alone in public are often quite timid about the idea. It’s generally a confidence thing. Plus the thought of anything going wrong and needing to report back to the mother is terrifying. Don’t laugh, because this is a viable rationale, especially for step-dads.
Give fathers time to learn
Finally, provide time for growth. Some fathers are intimidated by the responsibility, the actual size of babies or small children and above all making mistakes. Encourage them, provide opportunity and guidance, praise their efforts and above all be patient.
If you think it would be helpful find a local parenting group. Some are offered especially for fathers and some can be done together. They can be very helpful in educating both mothers and fathers adapt to their twenty first century parenting roles. Take a look at your local council website for options.
Image via dailymail.co.uk
Are you or someone you know dealing with the consequences of someone else’s behaviour? It can be as simple as continuously putting away your kids toys or as time-consuming as taking home piles work because a colleague has unable to meet their deadline, once again. This is actually enabling, not helping. It happens all the time. Usually the more someone does for a person, the more will be asked of them over time. Anyone who is putting their precious energy into “helping”, needs to be aware of the fine line between enabling and helping.
Parents are often prime enablers. It starts from infancy and continues for as long as they let it happen. Children need to learn from an early age that they are responsible for their own actions. For example, if they scribble on the wall with crayon; let them help in the clean up. It’s ok to provide support and assistance, but if children are shielded from the negative consequences of their behaviour; they will be unlikely to learn.
It’s well researched that dealing with natural consequences aids learning. Young children learn to avoid a hot surface because it burns. So this type of learning can begin very early. Children will also learn if they need to accept responsibility of their actions or be able to shift it along to others.
Those who don’t want to deal with the negative repercussion of their own behaviour will look for alternatives. They may use people who love them to accept these for them. Parents can unknowingly encourage this. Eventually, even loved ones get tired of this and pull away from them. No one wants to see those around them fall; so it’s best to put a stop to enabling as soon as it is recognised for what it is.
If someone has been enabled for a long time, they will likely be unable to cope. This is where helping and enabling are two very difference objectives. It is really important to be aware of the difference. Enabling is the removal of negative consequence for behaviour, whereas helping is a purely supportive role. Although the person will want the enabler to take on their regular role and enable them to continue upon their path, a re-education needs to occur. The enabler will need to step back and provide support whilst letting the perpetrator of the behaviour deal with their consequences.
The shift from enabling to helping will be a positive one for all concerned but not an easy transition. Often the relationship has severed the needs of both parties and the relationship will need to be re-established. Enablers will need to relinquish control whilst letting the other regain theirs.
In situations where enabling of addiction or other serious behaviours are needing to be addressed, seek professional support. A recommended starting point is to visit a GP, discuss the behaviour and seek a referral to an appropriate professional.
By Kim Chartres
You don’t have to be a Hollywood starlet to stay fabulous while raising kids. While hot celebrity mums like Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow might have an entire staff of people and at their disposal, they still follow some pretty basic tricks that you can use as well. Here’s how you can remain gorgeous and feminine while raising kids at the same time.
Take time to pamper
Busy mum Gwyneth Paltrow knows the importance of taking time to pamper yourself, even if you’re juggling work and family. In a recent Goop newsletter, she spills about her favourite DIY spa treatments, which include an oatmeal and honey body scrub and a simple Epsom salt bath. Even if you can’t steal a full 45 minutes away from parenting to take a bath, try taking a quick 10 minute break to apply your favourite body butter or file and buff your nails. It will boost your confidence and reduce your stress level at the same time.
We know it’s seemingly impossible to stay on top of everything when you’re managing children, a partner and a job. But the more organised you are, the less stress you’ll experience, and stress is the fastest way to take your look from fabulous to frumpy. “[It’s] about putting your kid on a schedule instead of letting them run you,” Jessica Alba told Well+Good NYC. “When you put the kids to bed at seven, you get to be a woman with your husband, or go have dinner, or whatever.”
Don’t obsess over the little things
Gwyneth and Jessica might always look flawless, but for every “perfect” celebrity mum, there are one or two who aren’t afraid to admit that motherhood can be a little difficult sometimes. Pop star mums Mariah Carey and Britney Spears have both admitted to feeling a little frazzled while trying to balance bringing up kids and managing their careers. Instead of freaking out about minor mishaps, learn to roll with the punches. Inner peace is definitely the first step to feeling fabulous.
How do you stay fabulous as a mum? Tell us in the comments!
Nobody ever said that raising kids was easy, at least no one who’s actually raised children! Practical parenting is something you have to learn as you go along, so we’re passing on these five common sense parenting tips. Remember, raising kids is always a work in progress.
1. Encourage open conversation
Start having back-and-forth conversations with the kids when they’re still young. Don’t just ask “How was school?” because the default answer is “Fine,” even if the child got beat up on the playground, found out a best friend was moving away or failed a big test. Ask more in-depth questions like, “What was the coolest thing that happened at school today?”
2. Make reading a treat
There’s an old saying that kids spend the first three grades of school learning to read and the rest, reading to learn. Make sure yours have the fundamentals, then work at instilling a love for reading. Find out what they’re interested in at all stages of their lives and make sure they have access to books about their passions.
If reading is fun for the kids, they’re more likely to devote more time to that and less to TV, games and fooling around on the computer. If your child gets engrossed in a book and wants to stay up late reading, approve—for an extra hour! Whether your child enjoys reading is a major indicator of how successful he or she will be in life.
3. Healthy food comes before junk
Your kids aren’t going to have an appetite for the dinner you cooked if they’ve been gorging on sugary snacks. When they come home from school or inside from playing, offer them healthy treats like chilled cut fruit, veggies with yogurt dip or homemade popsicles with fruit juice. Don’t keep junk food around the house.
4. Try to tell the truth
Maybe not the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but as much as you think the child can handle. If you continually lie to your child in order to avoid hurting his or her feelings, how is that child supposed to trust you later in life—like the teen years? If you’re about to get a divorce or grandma’s dying from cancer, you can’t keep something like that a secret forever.
5. Accentuate the positive
Some parents are so afraid that their children will be injured or disappointed by failure that they turn them into little hothouse plants. This is not good for either of you, because kids learn by making mistakes—and so do parents. Encourage your child to spread his or her wings and explore the world!
What are your best practical parenting tips?