PARENTING: How to be a Better Parent (2017)

As a relatively new parent (my son turns 4-years-old next week), I can honestly say that being a dad is the best job that I've ever had.  Ever.  That being said, being a parent presents a lot of challenges and it helps to talk with family, friends, and others about some of the best practices are for raising a child.

While these are all great resources, there are always some areas that can be improved upon.  Every year there are new studies, theories and hypotheses concerning parenthood, raising children and the long term affects that every decision you make has on your child.  In trying to keep up with some of the more reasonable advice and topics to consider while raising a child in 2017 I came across some that I think can help most parents to improve upon what we're already doing with our little ones.

Here's some Parenting Tips from around the web that can help us all become better parents:

1. Unconditional Love


When you unconditionally love a child, you love and accept him no matter what.  For example, if your child drew on the walls with crayon, you won't like what he did, but you still love him.  It's impossible to spoil a child with love.  Just keep in mind that love isn't synonymous with material possessions, low expectations or inappropriate leniency. (How to Adult)


2. Be Involved in Your Child's Life


"Being an involved parent takes time and is hard work, and it often means rethinking and rearranging your priorities.  It frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your child needs to do.  Be there mentally as well as physically."

Being involved does not mean doing a child's homework -- or reading it over or correcting it.  "Homework is a tool for teachers to know whether the child is learning or not," Laurence Steinberg, author of The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, tells WebMD.  "If you do the homework, you're not letting the teacher know what the child is learning." (WebMD)


3. Leading by Example


Parents are a child's first teachers.  From his first words to social norms, a child learns by watching and listening to his parents.  According to the article "How to Be a Good Parent: It's All About You!" on the Psychology Today website, being a positive role model for your child can be more effective than disciplinary measures or behavior training.  Because your child looks to you to see how he should socialize and behave, it's important to make your actions and words worth imitating. (How to Adult)


4. Expect More


Most people have a way of living up (or down) to expectations - preschoolers included.  "At school we expect the kids to pour their own water at snack, to throw away their plates, to hang up their jackets -- and they do," says Jennifer Zebooker, a teacher at the 92nd Street Y Nursery School, in New York City.  "But then they'll walk out of the classroom and the thumb goes in the mouth and they climb into strollers."  Raise the bar and your child will probably stretch to meet it. (Parents)


5. Be Available for Your Children

  • Notice times when your kids are most likely to talk - for example, at bedtime, before dinner, in the car - and be available.
  • Start the conversation; it lets your kids know you care about what's happening in their lives.
  • Find time each week for a one-on-one activity with each child, and avoid scheduling other activities during that time.
  • Learn about your children's interests - for example, favorite music and activities - and show interest in them. 
  • Initiate conversations by sharing what you have been thinking about rather than beginning a conversatin with a question. (American Psychological Association)

6. Adapt Your Parenting to Fit Your Child


Keep pace with your child's development.  You child is growing up.  Consider how age is affecting the child's behavior.

"The same drive for independence that is making your three-year-old say 'no' all the time is what's motivating him to be toilet trained," writes Laurence Steinberg, author of The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting.  "The same intellectual growth spurt that is making your 13-year-old curious and inquisitive in the classroom also is making her argumentative at the dinner table."

"With a 13-year-old, the problem could be a number of things," Steinberg says.  "He may be depressed.  He could be getting too little sleep.  Is he staying up too late?  It could be he simply needs some help in structuring time to allow time for studying.  He may have a learning problem.  Pushing him to do better is not the answer.  The problem needs to be diagnosed by a professional." (WebMD)


7. Discipline


When a child gets into trouble, a parent has a couple of ways to handle the problem -- with punishment or discipline.  Parents who use punishment do so as a way to make a child stop what she's doing or to make her "pay" for her undesired actions or behaviors, according to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University's publication, "Discipline and Punishment: What is the Difference?"  Punishments often have nothing to do with a child's offense, are self-centered and place reponsibility on the parent to take action.  On the other hand, discipline helps a child learn to behave appropriately, uses logical consequences that relate to the offense, shows respect and helps a child learn self-control. (How to Adult)

8. Reading Tips for Parents (of Preschoolers)


Read early and read often.  The early years are critical to developing a lifelong love of reading.  It's never too early to begin reading to your child!

  • Read together every day
  • Give everything a name
  • Say how much you enjoy reading
  • Read with fun in your voice
  • Know when to stop
  • Be interactive
  • Read it again and again
  • Talk about writing, too
  • Point out print everywhere
  • Get your child evaluated (Reading Rockets)

9. Instill a Love of Math


We may take for granted that our children will inevitably learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but early math lessons establish the base for the rest of their lives.  "Mathematics that kids are doing in kindergarten, first, second, and third grades lays the foundation for the work they are going to do beyond that," says Linda Gojak, President of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).  "They are learning beyond just counting and numbers."  That's why it's so important to help children love math while they are still young.  Parents can build on those first preschool lessons by counting with their children, asking them to look for patterns and recognize shapes, then moving on to numbers, Gojak says.

The goal should be to make math "real" and meaningful by pointing out in the world around you.  That could include checking and comparing prices at the grocery store, driving down the street counting mailboxes, reading recipes, calculating coupons, or even measuring food or drink at the dinner table.  Kevin Mahoney, math curriculum coordinator at Pennacre Country Day School in Wellesley, Mass., says when his children were little, his wife kept a small measuring tape in her pocketbook.  While they were waiting for their order at a restaurant, the children would measure different items on the table. (PBS Parents)


10. Let Your Kids Know You're Listening


  • When your children are talking about concerns, stop whatever you are doing and listen.
  • Express interest in what they are saying without being intrusive.
  • Listen to their point of view, even if it's difficult to hear.
  • Let them complete their point before you respond.
  • Repeat what you heard them say to ensure that you understand them correctly. (American Psychological Association)

11. What Can I Do as a Parent or Guardian to Help Prevent Childhood Overweight and Obesity?


  • Children with obesity can be bullied and teased more than their normal weight peers.  They are also more likely to suffer from social isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem.  The effects of this can last into adulthood.
  • Children with obesity are at higher risk for having other chronic health conditions and diseases, such as asthma, sleep apnea, bone and joint problems, and Type 2 diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is increasingly being reported among children who are overweight.  Onset of diabetes in children can lead to heart disease and kidney failure.
  • Children with obesity also have more risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure and high cholesterol than their normal weight peers.  In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, almost 60% of children who were overweight had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and 25% had two or more CVD risk factors.
  • Children with obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults.  This can lead to lifelong physical and mental health problems.  Adult obesity is associated with a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and may types of cancers.

To help your child maintain a healthy weight, balance the calories your child consumes from foods and beverages with the calories your child uses through physical activity and normal growth.

Remember that the goal for children who are overweight is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development.  Children should NOT be placed on a weight reduction diet without the consultation of a health care provider. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


12. Limit TV and Computer Time


When you do, you'll avoid mindless snacking and encourage activity.  Research has shown that kids who cut down on TV watching also reduced their percentage of body fat.  When TV and computer time are limited, they'll find more active things to do.  And limiting "screen time" means you'll have more time to be active together. (KidsHealth)


13. Bullying: Tips for Parents


Recent incidents of school violence demonstrate that bullying can have tragic consequences for individuals, families, schools and entire communities.  Bullying is painful, lasting and related to low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, anger, and other mental and physical health problems.  Because of the increased risk of suicide associated with bullying-for victims and perpetrators alike-open diaglogue and support are crucial in ensuring safety for our children and teenagers.

  • Recognize it
  • See the scope of the problem
  • Spot the bullies
  • Know their targets
  • Take steps to stop it checklist (Mental Health America)


14. Tips for Parents of College Kids


Each year more than 17 Million students enroll in college - 5 million for the first time.  For many, the difference between success and failure depends on what their parents do - and don't do.

  • Don't pick your child's courses
  • Don't install a GPS on your kid
  • Help your kid develop his or her passion
  • Don't edit your child's papers
  • Encourage the student to go see the professor
  • Don't panic too soon
  • Never call the professor, department chair, or dean
  • Protect the last month of the semester
  • Talk about the realities of excessive drinking, drugs, and partying
  • Direct your kid to appropriate campus resources (FastWeb)



BONUS TIPS:  


Parenting is Hard Work


Listening and talking is the key to a healthy connection between you and your children.  But parenting is hard work and maintaining a good connection with teens can be challenging, especially since parents are dealing with many other pressures.  If you are having problems over an extended period of time, you might want to consider consulting with a mental health professional to find out how they can help. (American Psychological Association)


Independence


Allowing yourself to pursue your own sense of independence is as important as fostering your child's autonomy.  Remember that you are more than a parent; you are a person with talents, hobbies and others who care about you.  As you let your child explore and develop a sense of self, occassionally take time out for your own pursuits.  Otherwise, according to Firestone, you're at risk of living your life through your child, which can lead to emotional voids and rebellion. (How to Adult)



Did you find this article helpful?  If so, let me know in the comments section.

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