Being a parent is a job that is constantly evolving. This job involves many stages, each one requiring a different approach and level of involvement from the parents. Our children need to be adept at more and more things as they get older, and it is the job of the parent to teach the basic life lessons that they will need throughout life.
Children often pick up on their parents’ behavioral cues as guidelines on how to behave, but it is also very important to pay attention and be intentional about the lessons they are being taught. In order to raise a well-rounded and well-adjusted child, there are several important skills that must be emphasized. These include developing work skills and social skills, learning how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and continuously providing a supportive environment for your child.
Type of School
When deciding on the type of school that will be the best fit for your child, there are many different options to consider. The most common types of schools are private, public, and home school. However, there are a myriad of other schools based on specific educational strategies that are becoming more readily available, such as magnet, charter, language immersion, Montessori, Waldorf, and more. Learn about the focus of each type of school and their pros and cons in order to make the more informed decision. You know your children best and their specific needs. Keep in mind that you are not bound to the school you choose. If it is not working after a year, switching schools is a valid and rational decision to make.
Different Learning Styles
People learn and retain information in a variety of different ways. Pay attention to the learning style that is most effective for your children. Use this information to tailor their learning and studying techniques at home, but also communicate this with their teachers at school. But figuring out your child’s preferred learning style does not mean limiting yourself to it.
The best way to help your child succeed*:
- Teach the most difficult lessons using your child’s preferred learning style
- Reinforce lessons using multiple learning styles
- Help your child improve learning skills in the learning styles he or she is less comfortable with
Organization & Time Management
For many kids who are struggling in school, the issue is often not their intellectual ability. Many of them are lacking basic organizational and time management skills to keep track of and complete their assignments in a timely manner. These are often skills that are overlooked by parents and teachers, and students are expected to learn them on their own. But a little extra help in these areas can make a big difference in their overall achievement.
Tips to help your child get organized*:
• Make a checklist of things your child needs to bring to and from school every day. Put a copy by the door at home and one in his backpack. Try to check with him each day to see if he remembers the items on the list.
• Find out how your child keeps track of his homework and how he organizes his notebooks. Then work together to develop a system he will want to use.
• Shop with your child for tools that will help him stay organized, such as binders, folders or an assignment book.
Tips to help your child manage time*:
• Track assignments on a monthly calendar. Work backward from the due date of larger assignments and break them into nightly tasks.
• Help your child record how much time she spends on homework each week so she can figure out how to divide this time into manageable chunks.
• Together, designate a time for nightly homework and help your child stick to this schedule.
• If evenings aren’t enough, help your child find other times for schoolwork, such as early mornings, study halls or weekends.
Reading is one of the most important activities that you can encourage your children to do. It’s entertaining, thought provoking, and absolutely critical to success later in life. Reading is not just a fun pastime. It is the gateway to learning about other people, places, and ideas, with limitless possibilities.
Some of the benefits of reading include: develops language and vocabulary skills, encourages a thirst for knowledge, increases empathy, creates a bond between parent and child, exercises their brain, and promotes creativity and imagination. Encourage your kids to read by reading to them at an early age, introducing a variety of reading material, setting aside time for reading, and bringing books to life by connecting the stories to real life.
Eat Dinner Together
With everyone’s busy schedules, it can be hard to find time to eat together. In between dance class and soccer practice, it may be easier to just eat on the go. However, sharing a meal together is invaluable to family bonding, promoting healthy eating habits, and maintaining constant communication between family members. Use this time to ask you children about the things they are learning about, their friends, and their interests. If dinner time is just too hard to coordinate, breakfast or an evening snack could serve the same purpose.
Being compassionate and showing empathy to others is an essential part of becoming a kind and considerate person. Rather than becoming absorbed in their own interests and needs, show your kids the importance of understanding other people’s perspectives and giving back. Start by modeling the behavior you want them to exhibit yourself. When they see you treating people with kindness and respect, they will start to do the same. As a family, dedicate time to helping others through volunteer work or donating to a charity. Spend a day serving food in a soup kitchen or purchase Christmas presents for kids in need.
Help your kids cultivate their relationships with their peers and developing better social skills by scheduling play time with their friends. Let them use their imagination to come up with activities to do, being on the sidelines to provide support when needed. Allow them to try work out disagreements on their own, so they can practice conflict resolution and learn to communicate calmly and effectively in all situations. Interacting with their peers will allow your kids to cultivate important social skills, such as eye contact, body language, active listening, and working as a team.
Getting kids to go outside and stay active is getting harder and harder with the advent of the digital age. Kids are more inclined to stay inside to passively watch TV or play on their iPads. 60 minutes of physical activity per day is recommended for children and adolescents. Provide your children with different opportunities to stay active, such as dance class or a team sport. Physical activity doesn’t have to be organized or structured. Playing at the playground, jumping on a trampoline, or riding bikes around the neighborhood are all great options for exercise. Make physical activity a priority in your life in order to model healthy habits.
Teaching kids to eat a healthful and diverse diet needs to start at an early age. That is when their palates are developing and their preferences are being determined. Kids need more nutrients than adults because of their growing bodies, so it is vital that they are eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Take your kids with you when grocery shopping and involve them in decision making when it comes to food. When they feel like they are given a choice, they are more likely to try different foods. Keep sweets and processed foods to a minimum, but don’t cut it out completely. If a particular food item seems unattainable, your kids will be more likely to seek it out and binge when they are not under your supervision.
Young children need plenty of sleep to maintain their overall health. Not only does sleep give them a chance to rest, it provides numerous other benefits, including preventing obesity, improving immunity, promoting learning, and sustaining growth. To avoid a battle at bedtime every night, implement a bedtime routine early on. Include activities that help the little ones to calm down, like taking a bath, listening to soft music, and reading books together. Encourage your kids to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, which will result in better sleep for you and them. When kids know what to expect, they are less likely to be resistant.
Affection & Praise
Regardless of your children’s specific skills or talents, be generous in bestowing praise when they have accomplished something or for their efforts, no matter how big or small. When kids have a growth mind-set, they are more likely to take on new challenges and strive to learn new skills.
Another way to demonstrate your love and support is to constantly show affection towards your kids. When they experience human touch from a loved one on a regular basis, kids are less likely to feel stressed or anxious. Affection is an important part of building a strong parent child relationship. Always ask for permission before giving affection in order to respect your kids’ personal space.
In order for your kids to become more well-rounded individuals with a variety of interests, encourage them to pursue their own interests. If they don’t know where to begin, you can give them suggestions such as martial arts, music, or learning a new language (Mandarin and Spanish are particularly useful, as they have the most native speakers). Since Chinese culture is such a big part of our family identity, I am making learning Mandarin a priority for my son.
Commend your kids’ efforts and and persistence in their chosen activities, rather than their achievements or results. This will help them to feel less pressured to perform at a certain level and more able to enjoy the activity at their own pace. If they are unhappy with an activity, give them the option to quit if they have given it a fair chance and their reasons for quitting are valid. Forcing them to continue an activity will make them resent it and you.
Curiosity & Creativity
Encourage your kids to explore the world around them and to continuously seek after knowledge. When they ask a question, demonstrate your own curiosity by answering with, “I was wondering about that too,” and work together to find the answer. If they are wanting to explore a restricted area, praise their curious nature before putting limitations on where they can go. Allow them to explore with supervision if possible.
Help your kids develop their imagination by inspiring them to make up their own stories and scenarios during play time. Give them unstructured play time with their friends or spend time playing make believe with them. This will promote their ability to create as well as strengthen your bond.
Raising a child is not an easy task, and there are many important fundamental elements that must be emphasized in order to cultivate a well-rounded child. But most of all, your kids need your love and attention. With your support, there is nothing they cannot accomplish in life.