Throughout the year, our board of advisors – a brain trust of the best pediatric doctors, developmental experts, and educators in the country — shares the latest thinking about raising happy and healthy kids in the pages of Parents. Now we’ve gathered our all-time favorite nuggets of their advice in one outstanding article that will have a profound effect on your whole family.
Set Smart Limits
Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.
Don’t clip your child’s wings. Your toddler’s mission in life is to gain independence. So when she’s developmentally capable of putting her toys away, clearing her plate from the table, and dressing herself, let her. Giving a child responsibility is good for her self-esteem (and your sanity!).
Don’t try to fix everything. Give young kids a chance to find their own solutions. When you lovingly acknowledge a child’s minor frustrations without immediately rushing in to save her, you teach her self-reliance and resilience.
Remember that discipline is not punishment. Enforcing limits is really about teaching kids how to behave in the world and helping them to become competent, caring, and in control.
Pick your battles. Kids can’t absorb too many rules without turning off completely. Forget arguing about little stuff like fashion choices and occasional potty language. Focus on the things that really matter — that means no hitting, rude talk, or lying.
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Create Your Own Quality Time
Play with your children. Let them choose the activity, and don’t worry about rules. Just go with the flow and have fun. That’s the name of the game.
Read books together every day. Get started when he’s a newborn; babies love listening to the sound of their parents’ voices. Cuddling up with your child and a book is a great bonding experience that will set him up for a lifetime of reading.
Schedule daily special time. Let your child choose an activity where you hang out together for 10 or 15 minutes with no interruptions. There’s no better way for you to show your love.
Encourage daddy time. The greatest untapped resource available for improving the lives of our children is time with Dad — early and often. Kids with engaged fathers do better in school, problem-solve more successfully, and generally cope better with whatever life throws at them.
Make warm memories. Your children will probably not remember anything that you say to them, but they will recall the family rituals — like bedtimes and game night — that you do together.
Give yourself a break. Hitting the drive-through when you’re too tired to cook doesn’t make you a bad parent.
Trust your mommy gut. No one knows your child better than you. Follow your instincts when it comes to his health and well-being. If you think something’s wrong, chances are you’re right.
Just say “No.” Resist the urge to take on extra obligations at the office or become the Volunteer Queen at your child’s school. You will never, ever regret spending more time with your children.
Don’t accept disrespect from your child. Never allow her to be rude or say hurtful things to you or anyone else. If she does, tell her firmly that you will not tolerate any form of disrespect.
Pass along your plan. Mobilize the other caregivers in your child’s life — your spouse, grandparents, daycare worker, babysitter — to help reinforce the values and the behavior you want to instill. This includes everything from saying thank you and being kind to not whining.
Don’t Forget to Teach Social Skills
Ask your children three “you” questions every day. The art of conversation is an important social skill, but parents often neglect to teach it. Get a kid going with questions like, “Did you have fun at school?”; “What did you do at the party you went to?”; or “Where do you want to go tomorrow afternoon?”
Teach kids this bravery trick. Tell them to always notice the color of a person’s eyes. Making eye contact will help a hesitant child appear more confident and will help any kid to be more assertive and less likely to be picked on.
Acknowledge your kid’s strong emotions. When your child’s meltdown is over, ask him, “How did that feel?” and “What do you think would make it better?” Then listen to him. He’ll recover from a tantrum more easily if you let him talk it out.
Raise Grateful Kids
Show your child how to become a responsible citizen. Find ways to help others all year. Kids gain a sense of self-worth by volunteering in the community.
Don’t raise a spoiled kid. Keep this thought in mind: Every child is a treasure, but no child is the center of the universe. Teach him accordingly.
Talk about what it means to be a good person. Start early: When you read bedtime stories, for example, ask your toddler whether characters are being mean or nice and explore why.
Explain to your kids why values are important. The simple answer: When you’re kind, generous, honest, and respectful, you make the people around you feel good. More important, you feel good about yourself.
Set up a “gratitude circle” every night at dinner. Go around the table and take turns talking about the various people who were generous and kind to each of you that day. It may sound corny, but it makes everyone feel good.
Don’t Stress About Dinner
Serve a food again and again. If your child rejects a new dish, don’t give up hope. You may have to offer it another six, eight, or even 10 times before he eats it and decides he likes it.
Avoid food fights. A healthy child instinctively knows how much to eat. If he refuses to finish whatever food is on his plate, just let it go. He won’t starve.
Eat at least one meal as a family each day. Sitting down at the table together is a relaxed way for everyone to connect — a time to share happy news, talk about the day, or tell a silly joke. It also helps your kids develop healthy eating habits.
Let your kids place an order. Once a week, allow your children to choose what’s for dinner and cook it for them.
Always Say “I Love You”
Love your children equally, but treat them uniquely. They’re individuals.
Say “I love you” whenever you feel it, even if it’s 743 times a day. You simply can not spoil a child with too many mushy words of affection and too many smooches. Not possible.
Keep in mind what grandmoms always say. Children are not yours, they are only lent to you for a time. In those fleeting years, do your best to help them grow up to be good people.
Savor the moments. Yes, parenthood is the most exhausting job on the planet. Yes, your house is a mess, the laundry’s piled up, and the dog needs to be walked. But your kid just laughed. Enjoy it now — it will be over far too fast.