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Valentine’s Day Parenting Tips

Since Valentine’s Day is this month, I want to share the following Valentine’s Day parenting tips adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics. There are 14 tips since February 14th is Valentine’s Day.

  • Use plenty of positive words with your child. Make eye contact.
  • Respond promptly and lovingly to your child’s physical and emotional needs, and banish put-downs from your parenting vocabulary.
  • Make an extra effort to set a good example at home and in public. Use words like “I’m sorry,” “please,” and “thank you.”
  • When your child is angry, argumentative or in a bad mood, give him a hug, cuddle, pat, secret sign, or other gesture of affection he favors.
  • Use non-violent forms of discipline. Parents should begin instituting both rewards and restrictions many years before adolescence to prevent trouble during the teenage years. Once youngsters reach adolescence, allowing them to break important rules constantly without being disciplined only encourages more rule violations.
  • Make plans to spend half a day alone with your young child or teen doing something she enjoys.
  • Mark family game nights on your calendar so the entire family can be together. Put a different family member’s name under each date, and have that person choose the game or activity for that evening.
  • Owning a pet can make children, and especially those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, feel better by stimulating physical activity, enhancing their overall attitude, and offering constant companionship.
  • One of the best ways to familiarize your child with good food choices is to encourage him to cook with you. Let him get involved in the entire process, from planning the menus to shopping for ingredients to the actual food preparation and its serving.
  • As your child grows up, she’ll spend most of her time developing and refining a variety of skills and abilities in all areas of her life. You should help her as much as possible by encouraging her and providing the equipment and instruction she needs.
  • Your child’s health depends significantly on the care and guidance you offer during his early years. By taking your child to the doctor regularly for consultations, keeping him safe from accidents, providing a nutritious diet, and encouraging exercise throughout childhood, you help protect and strengthen his body.
  • Regardless of whether you actively try to pass on your values and beliefs to your child, she is bound to absorb some of them just by living with you. She’ll notice how disciplined you are in your work, how deeply you hold your beliefs and whether you practice what you preach.
  • One of your most important gifts as a parent is to help your child develop self-esteem. Your child needs your steady support and encouragement to discover his strengths. He needs you to believe in him as he learns to believe in himself. Loving him, spending time with him, listening to him, and praising his accomplishments are all part of this process.
  • Say, “I love you” a lot to children of all ages and especially at unexpected times! And remember a loving touch can also say “I love you.” A pat on the back, a hug, or a high-five will add meaning to your verbal expressions of love. So will a slight squeeze of the shoulder or a kiss.

New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

It’s still not too late for new year’s resolutions. The following healthy New Year’s resolutions for kids are from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Preschoolers

  • I will clean up my toys and put them where they belong.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day, and wash my hands after going to the bathroom and before eating.
  • I won’t tease dogs or other pets – even friendly ones. I will avoid being bitten by keeping my fingers and face away from their mouths.
  • I will talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I need help, or when I’m scared.
  • I will be nice to other kids who need a friend or who look sad or lonely.

Kids, 5 to 12 years old

  • I will drink reduced-fat milk and water every day, and drink soda and fruit drinks only at special times.
  • I will put on sunscreen before I go outdoors on bright, sunny days. I will try to stay in the shade whenever possible and wear a hat and sunglasses, especially when I’m playing sports.
  • I will try to find a sport (like basketball or soccer) or an activity (like playing tag, jumping rope, dancing or riding my bike) that I like and do it at least three times a week!
  • I will always wear a helmet when riding a bike.
  • I will wear my seat belt every time I get in a car. I’ll sit in the back seat and use a booster seat until I am tall enough to use a lap/shoulder seat belt.
  • I’ll be friendly to kids who may have a hard time making friends by asking them to join activities such as sports or games.
  • I will never encourage or even watch bullying, and will join with others in telling bullies to stop.
  • I’ll never give out private information such as my name, home address, school name or telephone number on the Internet. Also, I’ll never send a picture of myself to someone I chat with on the computer without asking my parent if it is okay.
  • I will try to talk with my parent or a trusted adult when I have a problem or feel stressed.
  • I promise to follow our household rules for videogames, TV, and internet use.

Kids, 13 years old and older

  • I will try to eat two servings of fruit and two servings of vegetables every day, and I will drink sodas only at special times.
  • I will take care of my body through physical activity and eating the right types and amounts of foods.
  • I will choose non-violent television shows and video games, and I will spend only one to two hours each day – at the most – on these activities. I promise to follow our household rules for videogames and internet use.
  • I will help out in my community – through giving some of my time to help others, working with community groups or by joining a group that helps people in need.
  • When I feel angry or stressed out, I will take a break and find helpful ways to deal with the stress, such as exercising, reading, writing in a journal or talking about my problem with a parent or friend.
  • When faced with a difficult decision, I will talk about my choices with an adult whom I can trust.
  • When I notice my friends are struggling, being bullied or making risky choices, I will talk with a trusted adult and attempt to find a way that I can help them.
  • I will be careful about whom I choose to date, and always treat the other person with respect and without forcing them to do something or using violence. I will expect to be treated the same way in return.
  • I will resist peer pressure to try tobacco-cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol.
  • I agree not to use a cell phone or text message while driving and to always use a seat belt.

Parents, resolve to go over these resolutions with your kids and help them remember to practice them.

Discipline not Punishment, Part 2

In the last column I discussed reasons why corporal punishment is not the best methods to use with your child when punishment is needed. Here are some discipline strategies and punishment techniques that you can use instead. This information is adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics and from an article by Kiki Bochi, an award winning journalist and managing editor of Broward County, Florida, Family Life magazine.
Praise good behavior. Children love attention. When they do something right, be sure to recognize it. Your child will feel rewarded for being good and will demonstrate more of the behavior that pleased you. Positive reinforcement is very powerful.
Redirect your child’s attention. Learning self-control is an ongoing, challenging process for children. You can help keep them on track. Bring crayons to the restaurant or books to read at the doctor’s office. Engage your child in conversation or games instead of expecting him or her to just sit there and “be good.” If your child is doing something inappropriate, redirect him or her to an appropriate activity such as a toy, a game, a book, etc.
Be specific. It’s not enough to tell your child to behave. To a child, that can mean many things. Outline what you expect: “I don’t want you to run through the aisles or pull items off the shelves in the grocery store. I expect you to stay near me and help me find the things we need.” Be prepared to repeat these expectations on subsequent visits. Or, if your child is old enough, you can ask him to tell you what he thinks your expectations are.
Set age-appropriate expectations. Young children may not be able to do what you ask or understand what you want them to do, even if you think you are making yourself clear. Be reasonable in what you expect. A toddler will have toileting accidents – that is part of learning. A young child may not have the balance or coordination to carry a glass without spilling it. Older children may not have the maturity to make the right choices. It is up to you to teach them with patience and love.
Use natural consequences. If your child makes a mess, she helps to clean it up. If she throws her food on purpose, she will not have it to eat. If she throws and breaks a favorite toy, she will not be able to play with it. A consequence that is naturally connected to the behavior is more likely to teach a lesson.
Use logical consequences. Here you may need to step in and create a consequence. If your child won’t put away a toy, for example, take it away for the rest of the day. Homework’s not done? No TV or computer time tonight. You must mean what you say, and you should follow through right away.
Remove a privilege. The child has to give up something he likes. Again, be sure you follow through.

Ignore the behavior. Behavior that is not harmful to the child or others can often be ignored. If children do not get attention for negative behavior, often that behavior will stop, especially if they are getting attention for good behavior.

The child is grounded. When a young child deliberately leaves the yard without permission, or when a teenager breaks curfew without calling, an appropriate punishment is being grounded to the house, yard, or room.

Use time-out. A time out is a temporary isolation of the child from others because she has chosen to act inappropriately. The place needs to be somewhere boring. Once the child is sitting quietly, you can set a timer. A good rule of thumb to follow is one minute for every year of age. You can increase the time for repeated or serious infractions.
Set family rules. With your child’s help, establish rules that apply to everyone. “We don’t hit.” “We speak to each other with respect.” “We don’t use the belongings of others without asking.” Create guidelines that address issues in your family, and then set a good example. When children forget, you can then remind them, “We do not do this in our family.”
Work toward consistency. Rules should be the same from day to day.
Do not encourage bad behavior by giving in if your child is throwing a temper tantrum or whining or pouting.
Be a good role model. Children learn a lot about how to behave by watching their parents.
Seek guidance. If you want to become a stronger parent or have questions, talk to your child’s pediatrician, sign up for a parenting class, or talk to a counselor.
The bottom line is this: utilize ways to correct unwanted behavior in kids and teach positive behaviors using positive discipline strategies rather than punishment as much as possible. It’s a loving, respectful, and effective way to help your children learn.