If only kids came with instructions, like a new appliance or an Ikea bookcase. But, alas, we are not that lucky.
The reality is, every child is absolutely unique - and so too is every parent. There is no secret formula or Instagrammable hacks (alas!) for raising happy, healthy and mentally strong children.
Yet science has revealed a few parenting rules that consistently produce positive outcomes across-the-board.
But be forewarned: while simple in theory, they can be damnably difficult to put into consistent practice. When you fail - and make no mistake, you will - remind yourself that the first rule applies to the grown-ups too: namely ...
It’s natural to praise children for being good at what they’re good at: their special gifts and talents. But a whole host of recent research has hammered home the message that perseverance, not innate talent, is the key to success in life and love. You can cultivate their “grit” by putting the spotlight on effort - on trying. If you do, the succeeding will take care of itself.
OK, don’t literally kick your kids! But do encourage - no, make that insist - that they play outside, device-free. This is a win-win. You get a break (and if that’s not a positive outcome, what is?), and they get the benefit of sunshine, fresh air, fun with peers and - according to recent research - greater emotional wellbeing.
A friend's three-year-old grandson insisted to his dad recently that “girls can’t be police.” (His source? His best friend, a three-year-old girl!) His progressive parents were shocked and wasted no time Google-imaging female police to correct his belief.
Of course, girls need to be shown strong role models of high-achieving women. But so too do the boys we want to raise to be good men.
The fact is, limiting stereotypes based on gender - or for that matter race or ethnicity - set in early.
One recent study showed that five-year-olds believed adults were equally likely to be “really, really smart” regardless of gender. But by age 8, both boys and girls overwhelmingly believed men to be smarter.
Of course, girls need to be shown role models who give the lie to this misapprehension. But so too do the boys we want to raise to be good men.
How? By showing them that - contrary to the popular kid belief that grown-ups are gods - mum and dad fail too sometimes. And that’s okay. The research is clear that parents who let their kids see their own struggles and, yes, their occasional failures develop greater resilience.
OK, again a slight exaggeration ;) But the science is clear on this one: the fewer toys kids are presented with, the more imaginative and focused their play becomes. With too many choices, kids (and adults too) become overwhelmed. They (and we) simply back away.
So get busy with that de-clutter. Donate what they no longer play with, or even see … With the toys that remain, pack away MOST and rotate them on a weekly basis. In short: Be your own toy library.
You knew this one was coming … well how could it not? Device use is probably the most contentious issue today’s parents face - and it’s a struggle that, until consistent rules are put in place, begins anew every single day.
But how much is too much? Where is the sweet spot? Experts can differ widely in their answers. And then there’s the matter of schoolwork - so much of which is online for even the youngest kids - not to mention the stubborn fact that different kids are just, well, different in how they are impacted by screens.
We also now know that “screens ain’t screens.” Content matters - a lot - when it comes to what kids are consuming online, whether games, videos, social media or messaging.
The important thing isn’t finding a single magic number of minutes or hours that will work for every child. It’s making a decision to put sensible limits in place that work with your family’s rhythms and values, and enforcing those rules with appropriate parental controls.
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“Your baby is too big! We should operate right now!”