Isn't it the truth that part of being a parent is basically learning from your mistakes in the past, and parenting in a way that ensures your child doesn't make those same mistakes? It's the universal parenting code.
When it comes to parenting kids of all ages, positive parenting tips are always great to implement and use! More often than not, parents can learn from healthy habits they instill in their kids. Here are some of my favorites that I’ve picked up from experience.
- Show your child the meaning of love. Love is a word that encompasses a lot of different things. Hugs, laughter, kisses, snuggles, cuddles...all are ways that you can show love to your child. And anytime you can show them love in a positive manner, it's also giving them a great example to continue exercising as they grow up. It’s a good feeling, knowing that you’re raising people who will treat others well.
- Let them see you manage stress. As an adult, life is stressful! So stressful, in fact, that there are days when it all may seem overwhelming. On those days, it’s important to take a deep breath and show your preschool-aged child how to work through those emotions. Ask them to take a walk with you, talk to them about what you're feeling, show them how counting to 10 and taking deep breaths can help. I love to do “dragon breathing” with my kids – even the littlest ones can understand the idea of taking big, deep breaths and pushing out like they’re breathing fire. Let them see stress-management in action!
- Demonstrate self-care. Sometimes, you just have to check out and take a nice, long nap or a bubble bath. When your kids see you exercising self-care, they’ll learn how to pipe up and express when they need a break. Added bonus: they’ll stop seeing naptime as some sort of punishment or dreaded seclusion, and start understand that it’s simply a good way to take care of their growing bodies.
- Have a plan – and another one, and another one. It’s really helpful to know what next steps to take when your kiddo throws you a curveball. I’m constantly on the lookout for activities to keep my little ones entertained and engaged, and it’s an absolute Godsend to have fun activities to fall back on – just in case the world or the weather decides not to cooperate in any given moment.
- Play games with your child. So many things about life are similar to games: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and you always need to treat others fairly! Setting up a family game night can be a healthy way to teach your children open communication as well as how to be a team player, how to compromise and how to manage competing priorities.
- Have a routine. Children are creatures of habit, like so many adults are! Create a routine in the form of chore charts, simple timers, checklists or templates. Knowing what to expect – and facing their day with familiar blocks of time laid out – can help them feel confident in their actions. This is an especially good one for mom and dad, too. I personally like to approach my day in fifteen minute increments. I have a little stopwatch and block out chunks of time for various activities. At such small intervals, the stakes are relatively low and it’s easy to restart, reset or refocus on another task if need be. Plus, numerous studies show that fifteen minutes is the perfect amount of time for kids to spend on most school activities before moving on to a new projects.
- Have a bedtime. Semi-related to the above, children need to have a healthy end to their day. It’s important for them to get plenty of sleep for their growing bodies. This is actually important for any person, as we all function our best when we’re well-rested.
- Eat stuff that makes you feel good. You have to feed your body well if you expect to have a good time in life! People who don’t feel great, don’t act great – that follows for both adults and children. Maintain a balanced diet, and life will be so much better.
- Focus on the positive. Our world has a tendency to place so much emphasis on negative things, it’s important to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. We go around our family dinner table every night and say three things we’re thankful for – even on the worst, longest days. There’s always something positive to focus on, for both parents and kids.
- Encourage expression. Even LOUD expression, in the form of whining and tantrums. Kids don’t always have the most eloquent way of sharing their feelings, but it’s important that they aren’t stifled. Listen, recognize what they’re dealing with, and then suggest alternate – possibly healthier and more easily-understood - ways for them to share.
- Get the wiggles out. Sometimes you just need to get up and move! Show your kid that if you’re in a funk, the best way to shake it is to – literally – shake it!
- Set clear expectations and consequences. Goal-setting is one of the best ways to accomplish what you want in life, whether you’re a kid or an adult. With your child, this may look like chore charts and checklists. For adults, it may look like a dream board. Either way, there should be clear-cut, laid-out ideas about what the future looks like – and what steps need to be taken to get there.
No matter what phase in life you’re going through, keep in mind that you AND your child are always going through new things and learning more about yourselves on a daily basis. Don’t be afraid to admit when you’re struggling and be open about the shared human experience. Remember that these years are setting the stage for a whole life. You’re helping your child build a solid foundation of experiences that they’ll draw from when they’re building their own families someday, and everything they learn now – both good and bad – will prove to be valuable and important.