Posted on Sep 30, 2021, 5 p.m.
We all want the best for our children, although sometimes it feels like no matter what we teach them, there’s always something we could do better.
Rest assured; no parent is perfect.
There is no secret formula to raising kids. You can only do your best with what you have and try to set a good example.
That said, a child’s formative years are still of great importance. The years they spend living under your roof largely determine what kind of person they grow up to be. It’s therefore essential to encourage them to look after themselves and their environment from an early age. It’s much easier to instill healthy habits into children from a young age than it is for them to learn them as adults.
When we’re young, we learn behavior and absorb information like sponges. Our caregivers shape our expectations for future relationships, teach us what behavior leads to success, and pass on values that we internalize.
This is why it is vital for parents to take an active role in the early development of their children; it really does make all the difference.
Here are some healthy habits that you can lay the foundations for in childhood:
Behave the Way You Want Them to Behave
Children are masters of imitation. A large portion of their behavior is developed through a process called observational learning.
Simply put, they see you do something, and they want to do it too. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to appear perfect all the time.
In fact, this might put more pressure on them than is healthy. If you’re feeling tired, sad, frustrated, or angry, it’s okay to express that. In fact, this goes a long way toward teaching them healthy coping strategies.
Always express ideas and emotions to them in ways they can understand. Before you act, think to yourself if what you’re about to do or say is something you would want to see from your child. If not, take a second to think about it and try again.
Remember, we all have slip-ups and difficult days.
Encourage Activity Through Play
Children learn just as much through play as they do in the classroom, if not more. Vital motor skills, creative problem-solving, symbolic thinking, social skills, and ethics all develop during playtime. Furthermore, playing games and doing activities together make exercise fun for them, while building strong familial bonds.
Children who are more active during their formative years are more likely to value fitness as adults. While children who spend the bulk of their time idle are more likely to develop physical and mental health disorders.
Follow Through on Your Promises
Whether you’ve promised them something they want or to discipline them if they don’t adjust their behavior, follow-through is essential. Their early interactions with you will set the tone for their future relationships. Sticking to your word teaches them how to trust and respect boundaries.
With this in mind, make sure that you are 100% prepared to follow through on whatever you tell them. If they are consistently disappointed by broken promises, they will struggle to trust others later on in life. If the promised consequences for bad behavior never materialize, they will keep pushing their luck.
While this is seemingly benign during childhood, it becomes far more problematic when they grow up. Their ability to trust and respect others will shape their lives for years to come, so it is important to give them a solid foundation to build from.
Eat Healthy Family Meals
There is overwhelming evidence of the importance of nutrition in children. They need plenty of calories to support their growing bodies and busy brains. However, the struggle to get them to eat veggies is one that every parent knows.
This is where setting a good example is imperative. Sitting down to dinner as a family gives you an opportunity to demonstrate healthy eating habits while squeezing in some family bonding time.
According to a 2007 study conducted in Saint Louis, children are happier to eat homegrown fruits and vegetables than store-bought ones.
Now, unless you’re a farmer, you probably don’t have the time to grow enough produce to feed your family every day. However, caring for a veggie patch as a family is a great way to get your kids enthused about their nutrition. It is also a fun, outdoor activity that everyone can join in.
Reward Good Behavior
Rewards and reinforcement go hand in hand. If your child makes an effort to respect your rules or practice good manners, make sure you acknowledge and praise that. Hugs, kind words, and fun experiences are all great ways to reinforce good behavior.
It is important to remember that rewards do not have to come in the form of material objects or sweets. While it is certainly okay to treat your children once in a while, your approval and encouragement are far more powerful and meaningful in the long run.
Setting unrealistic expectations for your children will only frustrate you and make them feel inadequate. Bear with them when they make mistakes and encourage them to learn from them.
Remember, learning how to be human is no easy feat. They will stumble and they will try your patience. But your unwavering support and guidance will inform how they deal with failure and pressure in years to come.
Foster an Interest in Reading
Introducing your child to books at an early age can have several benefits. Reading and storytelling help to develop their language skills, vocabulary, creativity, imagination, and concentration. It also allows them to grapple with difficult concepts in a safe way.
Stories don’t have to be read at bedtime. Any free time you have with your child during the day is a good time for a story. However, it’s a great idea to make reading a part of a structured bedtime routine, as this is a healthy habit, too.
Reading together is a great bonding activity as well as the perfect way to get your child familiar with literacy.
These healthy habits may be ones we take for granted as adults. But children need to learn them from an early age to ensure they can build on them as they grow.
Setting your kids up for success takes many shapes and forms. As a parent, instilling healthy habits is one of the best things you can do for your child—now and in the future.
This article was written by Karen Bradford, an editor with a passion for the written word, usually covering topics around productivity and entrepreneurship. When she's not writing, you can find her playing puzzle games or challenging herself at an Escape Room.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
Content may be edited for style and length.
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