Raising a child to be a healthy, kind and community-focused human being is a daunting task. So many of us wished for a User’s Manual to be delivered from the hospital when we took our newborn home, right?
And while the internet can provide us with instant advice on issues from toilet-training to tantrums, we are easily overwhelmed with all that is out there and have difficulty drilling down to some basic, essential stepping stones when looking for resources to help us shape our children’s futures.
Here are 10 tips that experts in the field of childhood education have put together to help us navigate the precious task of bringing up children who are happy, balanced and eager to learn and contribute to the world around them.
1. Establish boundaries and communicate these to your child
Again and again, as it will be necessary to repeat these as your child tests and ultimately integrates them. Patience will be important for you as you reinforce this lesson.
Your child will test these limits; it’s part of their growth process.
When you sense you are getting tired of having to uphold the boundary “once again”, remind yourself that having this limit in place is not only helpful to help your child feel safe and secure, it is an essential life lesson for them to incorporate.
Life is full of limits that cannot be negotiated, so it’s best they learn this from an early age.
2. Routines are important
Just as boundaries make a child feel secure, set routines do, too.
Establish and stick to routines such as bedtimes, steps-that-lead to bedtime (bath, teeth brushing, story time, goodnight kiss), wake up routines, etc.
Early childhood is not the time where you can play loosey-goosey with schedules. Children thrive when they know what to expect, and they feel insecure if things are not well-defined or they change each day.
You will see how helpful having a set routine is, especially the mornings when you are all trying to get out the door and get to school, work, daycare etc on time.
We all know parents who do not enforce strict bedtimes, right?
Their kids are probably unruly brats. Kids cannot thrive on missed sleep and do not have the mental capacity, as we do as adults, to deal with a sleep deficit.
A full night’s sleep is just as important to your child’s development as food, water and shelter to make sure you respect his sleep schedule and adhere to it, even if it means leaving an evening playdate earlier than he would like.
4. The art of seeing things from others’ perspective
Work from an early age to instil your child’s sense of empathy, or walking in another’s shoes.
Children are naturally focused on themselves, so helping them imagine what other people might be feeling is an important concept to work on. Start small.
When a child remarks on another person’s handicap, for example, help him visualize what it must be like to be in a wheelchair, or on crutches or have a broken arm. Then help him understand how wonderful it feels to help out someone who is struggling.
5. Hugs and kisses
How sad it would be to grow up in a household where loving touch was absent.
Make sure your children get their dose of hugs and kisses so they know what it is like to feel good and safe in the arms of their parents.
6. The importance of playtime as a family
Often the last thing we have time for in the evenings after dinner and homework is done is play.
Playtime as a family is essential to build and strengthen your familial bonds.
You won’t get the same result by playing a video game or sitting all together watching a movie passively. Get down the board games, break out a deck of cards, or just do a game of hangman together. Include popcorn and laughs and you are on your way to building some great memories for your children.
7. Go outside
Outdoor playtime has become another lost art in today’s world of internet connecting.
Make sure your child has plenty of outdoor exercises and play.
Being out in nature has been proven beneficial to all children, but especially those with ADHD disorders. Make sure they get at least an hour a day to be outside at a park or playground, just having fun and moving their bodies.
Sure, it takes much longer to have your child unload the dishwasher or fold laundry than you doing it yourself. But you don’t want your child to grow up incapable of doing these life tasks.
Assigning them chores also helps them feel a sense of ownership and participation in the family’s well-being.
Even a three-year-old can help dust the living room. So draw up a chore chart and enforce it. Don’t tie this to an allowance; part of being in a family is contributing to the smooth running of the household without financial compensation.
9. Limit screen time
You will want to limit the time your children spend on the computer and their phones.
This will allow you all to connect as a family (see point six) as well as help them remain in the here and now. It also cuts down on the number of mean memes and unpleasant comments they could read on the internet.
10. Real-life experiences trump stuff
That kid down the street who has the latest iPhone and PlayStation? He may be the envy of your kids, but don’t feel guilty.
You know that quality time together is a key element in your child’s development and well-being, something electronics cannot give him.
So make it a priority to spend weekends doing things—building a pillow fort, writing a story together, inventing a puppet show. It is so much more enriching for a child to participate in life rather than live it virtually.