10 things young parents should keep in mind while in raising their child

Raising a child, as the cliche goes, is no child’s play. There’s so much advice from every quarter that it’s natural for young parents to be confused about what parenting methods to adopt. These are ten things they could consider and get it right.

1. Appreciate your child’s ability to learn, seek and discover:

Children are constantly learning. From the time they are a few months old, they discover new things everyday day. These could be textures, patterns, colours, shapes of things...they could reach out to something and fall or try to start crawling. This world of discovery and learning needs some space from parents. Allowing children to explore is your best gift to them. This doesn’t mean not watching out for them, of course. Helicopter parents mean well and don’t want their child to stumble or fall. Remember that when toddlers learn to walk, they are bound to fall, stumble or fail before learning. The toddler learns the skill on her own and parents, while being watchful, need to let the child learn on her own. Recent research in the Journal of Child and Family Studies (1) shows that children of helicopter parents find it difficult to manage behaviours and emotions, or learn certain key skills.

2. Pick one or two activities but make space for unstructured play:

Singing, ballet, badminton classes, swimming lessons...there are a lot of activities that children could pick and enjoy. When you schedule them into your calendar, pick one or two that they may like the most. Sit with them and ask them to pick a couple, and then leave space for unstructured play. It is in such free and unstructured periods that the child develops creative and cognitive skills. Boredom is a good thing for children.

3. Set some ground rules:

Little one throwing a tantrum? It can be trying for a hassled young parent. How about setting some ground rules: not more than one chocolate, or not more than 20 minutes of screen time? Set these rules, and let the children know that you will stick to the rules. Be firm and don’t lose your calm. Children will soon learn that their tantrums aren’t working and will stop screaming or crying. Ignore unreasonable demands and soon enough the child will know not to make them either.

4. Love your children for who they are:

Every child has his/her own personality and young parents should learn to appreciate their qualities. The only unconditional love a child is sure to get is from parents. Parents should always remember that no two children are the same. Just let the child be their own person and love them for their good qualities. If children are not performing as well as their classmates, parents could sit with them and help them figure out why they aren’t. Maybe something is bothering the child and parents can find out and help them do better. Boost your child’s self-esteem by catching them and encouraging them when they do something good.

5. Be your child’s best role model:

Children learn a skill or a behaviour by imitating their parents. Put away phones at the dining table, stay away from junk food, and chances are your child will learn the same lessons by simply being around you. Children internalise a lot of things subconsciously so if you do what you think your child should learn, do it! Whether it is not looking at the phone while talking to people or greeting a neighbour, children observe parents and learn from them.

6. Set screen time limits:

There’s no escaping our screens, and no one can fully avoid screen time, whether it is young parents or children. Smart devices are a modern-day reality but we can also surely limit screen time. Study after study has shown the detrimental effects of too much screen time, on both children and adults. A recent study (2) published in JAMA Pediatrics said there was growing evidence that there may be changes in the brain structures of kids with high screen use. The study looked at MRIs of 47 preschool kids’ brains and found changes in areas of the brain pertaining to language development. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), for ages 2 to 5, screen time has to be an hour a day. For those upward of six, limiting media and device use is important for adequate sleep or physical activities.

7. Get to make your kid eat better:

Broccoli, greens, a glass of milk...in an ideal world, children would eat right but that won’t happen. Young parents can however plan a schedule and ensure balanced meals. A balanced meal with enough vegetables and nutrients, apart from adequate hydration, would mean children stay away from fast/junk food. Planning and getting kids to eat on time would mean children don’t stay hungry or cranky. Experimenting or getting creative with veggies and herbs is also a good way to ensure kids eat healthy. Make sure there is not too much access to junk food at home but give your kid a treat or two once in a while.

8. Applaud the effort not the result:

Parents will do well to inculcate the value of effort and working on a goal rather than the result. This attitude helps children to appreciate the fact that they don’t have to win all the time to earn their parents’ praise. The fact that they focused on the task at hand with sincerity needs appreciation rather than the constant pressure to win something.

9. Get them to do tasks without dangling a carrot:

Parents need to teach their children the importance of getting certain tasks done. This could be finishing a meal, putting shoes in the right place or washing hands after a meal. Avoid telling kids to finish eating so they get a chocolate at the end or switching off TV so they get fries in the evening. This may work over the short-term. In the long-term, dangling bribes tells children that the act for which they are being bribed or given treats has no value of its own. They don’t learn the importance of, say, putting their shoes in the right place and not throwing their clothes around -- they only learn that if they get work done, they get chocolate, ice cream or screen time. Keep the focus on the task itself not the reward for the task.

10. No one’s perfect so steer clear of putting yourself under pressure:

Every parent means well, and is already doing whatever they can to raise their kids well. Yet, it’s important to avoid trying too hard to raise the ‘perfect’ child, because there are no ‘perfect’ children. There are no perfect human beings or perfect parents. It is important to focus on your own needs as a person even as you are parenting a toddler. Self-care doesn’t mean being selfish or taking your eye off the ball.

Consider these ten things while raising your child. Also keep in mind that there is no one-size fits-all solution to raising a child. Neither are there manuals for good parenting. Parents would do well to rely on common sense and balance, two things that will hold them in good stead.

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Mangesh Sawant

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