Web Reprint, adapted
Raising a happy, healthy child is one of the most challenging jobs a parent can have—and one of the most rewarding. Fortunately, parenting is one of the most researched areas in the field of social science. No matter what our parenting style or what our parenting questions or concerns may be, from helping our children avoid becoming part of the child obesity epidemic to dealing with behavior problems, experts can help.
One challenge most parents face at one time or another is the dinnertime battle. Here are a few thoughts from well-known nutrition experts on how to get kids to go from being picky eaters to people with sound, varied diets.
• Avoid a mealtime power struggle. One of the surest ways to win the battle but lose the war is to engage in a power struggle with your child over food, says Jody Johnston Pawel, LSW, CFLE, author of The Parent’s Toolshop. With power struggles, you’re saying, “Do it because I’m the parent,” and that’s a rationale that won’t work for long, she says. But if your child understands the why behind the rules, those values can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of sound food choices.
• Let kids participate. Get a stepstool and ask your kids to lend a hand with easy tasks in the kitchen, says Sal Severe, PhD, author of How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too. “If they participate in helping to make the meal, they are more likely to want to try it,” he says. Older children and teens can begin to prepare special meals or dishes by themselves. Get teens started learning to prepare healthy foods before it’s time to live on their own.
• Don’t label. More often than not, kids under 5 are selective eaters. “Being selective is actually normal,” says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD. She prefers the term “limited eater” to the more negative term “picky.”
• Build on the positives. Just as children can get comfort from reading the same story over and over, they enjoy having a set of “predictable” foods. “Even though they aren’t getting a wide variety of foods, they are actually doing OK nutritionally,” says Ward. When the child goes through a growth spurt and has a bigger appetite, use that opportunity to introduce new foods, she recommends.
• Expose, expose, expose. Ward says a child needs to be exposed to a new food 10 to 15 times before he or she will accept it. But many parents give up long before that. So, even if your child only plays with the strawberry on her plate, don’t give up. One day, she just may surprise you by taking a bite. But don’t go overboard, says Severe. Limit exposure to one or two new foods a week.
• Don’t bribe. Avoid using sweets as a bribe to get kids to eat something else, says Pawel. That can send the message that doing the right thing should involve an external reward as well as reinforces the pattern that eating unhealthy foods is a good way to reward yourself. The real reward of sound nutrition is a healthy body, not a chocolate cupcake.
• Beware of over-snacking. Sometimes the problem isn’t that the child doesn’t like new foods but that they are already full, says Ward. “Kids can consume a lot of their calories as milk and juice.” Encourage the kids to drink water rather than juice when they’re thirsty. The same goes for snacks that provide little more than calories, such as chips, sweets, and sodas. “If you are going to offer snacks, make sure they are
supplementing meals, not sabotaging them,” she says.
• Establish limits. Having a set of bottom-line limits can help a parent provide some consistency, says Pawel. For example, parents may require that kids eat nutritious foods before snack food. Or that they must at least try a new food before rejecting it. “Consistency only works if what you are doing in the first place is reasonable,” she says. So, avoid overly controlling or overly permissive eating rules. If bottomline
limits are healthy, effective, and balanced, they’ll pay off.
• Examine your role model. Make sure you aren’t asking kids to “do as I say, not as I do,” says Pawel. If your own diet is based mainly on fat, sugar, and salt, you can hardly expect your child to embrace a dinner salad over French fries.
• Defuse mealtimes. Don’t make your child’s eating habits part of the mealtime
discussion, says Ward. Otherwise every meal becomes a stressful event, centered
on what the child does and does not eat. Ward suggests that parents reserve talks
about the importance of good eating for later, perhaps at bedtime or story time.
• Give it time. “I find that children become much more open to trying new foods after the age of 5,” says Ward. “Most of the time, kids will simply grow out of limited eating.”
Courtesy of Motivated magazine. Used with permission. Photo by Oakley Originals via Flickr.
Is the behavior of your children a deterrent to happy, joyful entertaining? Practice a nice meal without guests but with all the proper silverware and place settings. Teach everyone how to properly pass food at the table and to offer dishes to others before taking a portion for themselves. Teach your young men to pull out a chair for a lady. Dress up for dinner. Your valuable instruction now, in the safe and caring setting of your home, will save unnecessary embarrassment when children are in public or at someone else’s home for dinner. Additionally, is there any reason your family shouldn’t practice most of these good table manners in your home every day?
It takes your constant instruction on a routine basis to teach children to sit up to the table, not stand up in their chairs, keep their elbows off the table, chew their food well, not talk with their mouths full, and generally be polite. Practice doesn’t make perfect; only perfect practice makes perfect. If you only expect good manners during company situations, children won’t remember how they are to behave at other times. You may feel like a broken record or a scratched CD at times, continually reminding your children about their manners, but this is an important long-term effort. Young adults who reach eighteen and still don’t know or recognize proper etiquette will experience life hindrances. Remember the question: If I don’t teach [a certain skill], will the lack of that knowledge be harmful or a hindrance to them later in life?
Perhaps good etiquette wasn’t part of your early training. If not, buy a good etiquette book and learn with your children. Good manners books specifically for children are available at various online bookstores. The most important rule of good etiquette—more important than which fork to use—is always to think of the other person’s needs. Do what makes someone else comfortable, and you will rarely go wrong.
B&H Books (2007)Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World.
No one would argue that raising children of character demands time and effort. While having children may be doing what comes naturally, being a good parent is much more complicated. If you want to know how to raise a child, follow these steps.
Method 1 of 4: Developing a Healthy Routine
Put parenting first. This is hard to do in a world with so many competing demands. Good parents consciously plan and devote time to parenting. They make developing their child’s character their top priority. Once you're a parent, you have to learn to put your priorities below your children's, and to make the sacrifice to spending more of your day caring for them than you do caring for yourself. Of course, you shouldn't neglect yourself completely, but you should get accustomed to the idea of putting your child's needs first.
If you have a spouse, then you can take turns caring for the child so each of you can have some "me time." When you plan your weekly routine, your child's needs should be your primary focus.
Read to your child every day. Helping to nurture a love for the written word will help your child to develop a love for reading later on. Set a time for reading for your child every day -- typically around bed time or nap time. Spend at least half an hour to an hour reading to your child each day, if not more. Not only will your child develop a love for words, but your child will have a better chance of both academic and behavioral success. Studies show that children that were read to on a daily basis demonstrate less bad behavior in school.
Eat dinner as a family. One of the most dangerous trends in the modern family is the dying of the family meal. The dinner table is not only a place of sustenance and family business but also a place for the teaching and passing on of our values. Manners and rules are subtly absorbed over the table. Family mealtime should communicate and sustain ideals that children will draw on throughout their lives.
If your child is a picky eater, don't spend dinner time criticizing your child's eating habits and watching what he or she doesn't eat like a hawk. This will lead your child to have a negative association with family meals.
Get your child involved in the meal. Dinner will be more fun if your child "helps" you pick out food at the grocery store or helps you set up the table or to do small food-related tasks, such as washing the vegetables you will cook.
Keep dinner conversation open and light. Don't give your child the third-degree. Simply ask, "How was your day?"
Set a strict bedtime routine. Though your child doesn't have to go to bed during the same five-minute stretch every single night, you should set a bedtime routine that your child can follow and stick to it. Studies show that children's cognitive abilities can drop two full grade levels after just one missed hour of sleep, so it's important that they get as much rest as they can before you send them to school.
Your routine should include some winding-down time. Turn off the TV, music, or any electronics, and either talk to your child softly in bed or read to him.
Don't give your child sugary snacks right before bed or it'll be harder to get him to sleep.
Encourage your child to develop skills each week. Though you don't have to sign your child up for ten different activities each week, you should find at least one or two activities that your child loves to do and incorporate them into your child's weekly routine. This can be anything from soccer to art class -- it really doesn't matter, as long as your child shows a talent or a love for something. Tell your child what a great job he's doing and encourage him to keep going.
Taking your child to different lessons will also help him or her socialize with other children.
Don't get lazy. If your child complains that she doesn't want to go to piano lessons, but you know she likes it deep down, don't give in just because you don't feel like driving over there.
Give your child enough play time every day. "Play time" does not mean having your child sit in front of the TV and suck on a building block while you do the dishes. "Play time" means letting your child sit in his room or play area and to actively engage with stimulating toys while you help him explore their possibilities. Though you may be tired, it's important that you show your child the benefits of playing with his toys so he gets the stimulation he needs and so he learns to play with them on his own.
It doesn't matter if you don't have 80 million toys for your child to play with. It's the quality, not the quantity of the toys that counts. And you may find that your child's favorite toy of the month is an empty toilet paper roll.
Method 2 of 4: Loving Your Child
Learn to listen to your children. Influencing their lives is one of the greatest things you can do. It is easy to tune out our children, and a missed opportunity for meaningful guidance. If you never listen to your children and spend all of your time barking orders at them, they won't feel respected or cared for.
Do you want to channel your child’s unbounded energy and curiosity into positive and rewarding learning experiences? Keys to Toddlers and Preschoolers is a parenting guide with scores of fun, practical learning activities and suggestions to keep your ever on-the-go little one occupied for hours. More importantly, learn how to prepare
your child for life’s challenges and changes, and lay a foundation of faith that will guide and support him or her all through life.
Described below are the steps of a program devised by Dr. Malcolm Williamson and myself when we were both serving on the attending staff at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. The system is useful with boys and girls between four and eight years of age; it can be modified in accordance with the age and maturity of the youngster.
a) [Your chart should list] responsibilities and behaviors which the parent may wish to instill. [The items on your list may] constitute a much greater degree of cooperation and effort than most five-year-old children can display on a daily basis, but the proper use of rewards can make it seem more like fun than work. Immediate reinforcement is the key; each evening, colored dots (preferably red) or stars should be placed by the behaviors that were done satisfactorily. If dots are not available, the squares can be colored with a felt-tip pen; however, the child should be allowed to chalk up his own successes.
b) Two pennies [or the amount you agree on] should be granted for every behavior done properly in a given day; if more than three items are missed in one day, no pennies should be given.
c) Since a child can earn a maximum of twenty-eight cents a day, the parent has an excellent opportunity to teach him how to manage his money. It is suggested that he be allowed to spend only sixty to eighty cents per week of these earnings. Special trips to the store or toy shop can be planned to provide a handy source of reinforcement. Of the remaining 1.16 to 1.36 (maximum), the child can be required to give twenty cents to some charitable recipient; he should then save about thirty cents per week. The balance can be accumulated for a long-range expenditure for something he wants or needs.
d) The list of behaviors to be rewarded does not remain static. Once the child has gotten into the habit of hanging up his clothes, or feeding the puppy, or brushing his teeth, the parent should then substitute new responsibilities. A new chart should be made each month, and Junior can make suggestions for his revised chart.
This system provides several side benefits, in addition to the main objective of teaching responsible behavior. Through its use, for example, the child learns to count. He is taught to give to worthy causes. He begins to understand the concept of saving. He learns to restrict and control his emotional impulses. And finally, he is taught the meaning of money and how to spend it wisely. The advantages to his parents are equally impressive. A father of four young children applied the technique and later told me that the noise level in his household had been reduced noticeably.
Excerpted from The New Dare to Discipline, Dr. James Dobson, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 1996
I am a CEO. I do not have a special parking place. I do not get bonuses. As a matter of fact, I haven’t had a paycheck in 12 years. My job description includes landscaping, house cleaning, accounting, shopping, and general clerical work. But my job-critical tasks are teaching, counseling, nurturing, and disciplining.
I am not always popular. But that’s okay because it is not part of my job to be popular. I am my Children’s Executive Officer.
I’ve been entrusted with raising three children to be adults. It’s not vitally important that they become successful in the way that we often define success—lots of money, fame, a specific career. But I do want them to succeed in the way Webster describes it, “to turn out well.”
I heard a mom say recently, “I don’t have time to discipline.” Of course we’ve all had moments when we’ve caved in. But a key part of helping my children to turn out well is to teach them that there are consequences for both good and bad behavior.
For instance, I was in the grocery store with my then 3-½ year old. He was in a phase of not wanting people to look at him. But how were these poor shoppers to know that! Of course, a woman looked at him and he stuck his tongue out at her. I asked him to apologize. He said no. I took the cookie out of his hand and again explained that that was not acceptable behavior and asked him to apologize. Nothing doing.
This saint of a woman, perhaps a veteran parent herself, patiently stood by supporting our Public Behavior 101 class. This went on and on for at least a couple of minutes until he finally apologized. I thanked her for her patience and turned my back from him to get some English muffins.
At that point he declared so the store could hear, “I don’t like you, Mom.” I turned back to him and calmly said, “You don’t have to like me, you just need to obey me.” The man stacking bread on the shelves said, “Wow, that’s good…. I like that.”
Discipline, which Webster describes in part as “to train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self-control” is a large part of parenting. It’s teaching your child to learn self-control, to accept responsibility for his actions, to think clearly, and make good choices.
I’ve realized that if I do too much of this for my children, they will not learn it for themselves. I often ask myself, how do you teach the children what is appropriate behavior? And the answer comes back, by behaving appropriately yourself. Every parent’s heart has soared when a child demonstrates what Mom or Dad has strived to teach. The same parents have cringed when they have seen or heard their little ones mimic their less than acceptable behavior. Is this the reason to despair and give up? Absolutely not; it should inspire us to do better.
Childhood needn’t be a boot camp. But it’s not a free-for-all either. There’s a balance to be found. My role is to help them be intelligent but not arrogant. I want them to be peacemakers, but not doormats. I want them to be good but not naïve, wise but not suspicious. I want them to be obedient but not subservient, patient but not apathetic. I want them to have respect for themselves. I want their presence in a room to bring light, not shadows.
I will retire some day from being a CEO. And it’s right that I do. There will come a time when my children will be adults—and executive officers of their own lives.
Jonatha Holland is a mother of three and lives in Carlisle, Mass. Article courtesy of Christian Science Monitor.
Imagine this: Every morning, your child makes his bed and puts away his pajamas. Before dinner, he sets the table and feeds the dog. And on Sundays, he helps wash the car.
Although having your child willingly help out around the house may seem like wishful thinking, five and six-year-olds can—and should—do regular chores. Assuming more responsibility at home is as crucial for children as learning to read, being physically active, and making friends.
“Children this age are better able to concentrate on a specific activity than they were at 3 or 4,” says Virginia Stowe, director of New York City’s Parenting Resource Center, Inc. They’re more adept with their hands and less likely to be discouraged by small setbacks, such as a tangled vacuum-cleaner cord. In addition, they have a sincere desire to please you and are proud of their accomplishments, such as dusting a tabletop or pouring milk without spilling it.
“In nineteen years of teaching, I can’t remember a child who didn’t wave his hand to be picked as snack helper or door holder,” says Marjorie R. Nelsen, author of A Child’s Book of Responsibilities. “Helping around the house makes kids feel independent, competent, and important within their family,” says Stowe.
What’s more, being accustomed to doing chores at home can benefit your child academically. He’ll understand that sometimes he has to do things he doesn’t want to do-and that will extend to doing homework or studying for tests. “Research has found that kids who don’t try as hard as they could in school are more likely to have been raised in families where they didn’t have to do much at home,” says Stowe. “They believe that someone will always step in and do things for them.”
If you approach chores with a spirit of fun rather than drudgery and don’t expect perfection, your child should be willing to participate.
The Kimberly family, of Beverly Hills, Michigan, devotes every Saturday morning to housework. The two older kids can do their chores on their own, but six-year-old Hannah prefers to clean the bathroom mirrors while her mother does the sinks. “She needs that motivation and partnership,” says her mother, Elizabeth. “But she can now make her bed and set the table by herself.”
If your child absolutely refuses to cooperate, administer consequences related to the chore. For example, if she doesn’t put her clothes in the hamper, tell her they won’t get washed until the next cycle.
Try not to get frustrated, though, if your child often forgets to do his chores. “Until the age of eight or nine, most kids have to be reminded,” says Dr. Turben. She recommends posting a chart with pictures of what your child has to do on the refrigerator or his bedroom door. But even with a chart, children still forget-and it’s not necessarily a sign of defiance. It’s also not a reason to give up and decide to do a chore yourself, even though it might be easier. Be patient: Eventually, your child will grow to be more independent, and the time invested now will pay off later.
Great Expectations. It’s a novel. It’s a story of human life that comes at you on many levels. It’s the story of love and appreciation, of work and of rising out of nothing into something. It has its nightmares and its problems, but it has its surprises, as well.
Can we expect great things from our children or from one another? Does our culture allow us to demand great things anymore? Do we have a right to make a child behave or do his homework well or his chores regularly?
I remember a very special group of nuns who loved the children in their care. When your ink blotted on your math paper, the expectation was to begin again. There was never a raised voice or a scolded child. It was simply expected, and everyone knew.
You didn’t crumple your paper, because that was unladylike. You slipped your paper quietly into the trash can, and you began again silently.
Ridiculous, you might think, but it taught us that everything we did mattered.
If you carry that thought with you into adulthood, at the very least, the most insignificant things you do will be done well because they matter, from peeling an apple to the real matters of achievement, that of rearing a child.
From what teachers see today, we expect virtually nothing, and then we whine when we get it. Children have a license to do nearly anything anytime without regard to anyone else, and we call this civilization. It isn’t.
I always laugh when a parent tells me, “I couldn’t get him to do it.”
“Really? What are your expectations?” Then they look at you as if a light bulb has gone off.
Parents often forget who is in charge. Rarely do ineffective parents have expectations. The children of fruitless, hopeless sloth are not free. In fact, they are prisoners of horrible behavior, which is more emotionally confining than simple, kindly, agreeable behavior. When parents are not in charge and have no expectations, children suffer.
In a classroom, the expectations move from parents to teachers. Teachers are supposed to back up parents and fill in for parents who are lax. They are supposed to be tough, caring, intelligent and filled with expectations for the kids in the room.
I salute all of my children’s grade-school teachers because of their strong and decent influence.
It starts at birth in the home when parents expect a good schedule for infants and toddlers. By 3 and the preschool years, a child’s behavior should be under control. He should have learned the hard lesson: how to listen.
By 5, a child should be able to conduct himself like a gentleman and turn his listening skills into learning.
Discipline today counts now as much as it did in the times of Great Expectations. Then as now, it should be a normal daily matter of attention to detail, and a conversion of manners, which means a gentle turning toward the best we can be from the inside out.
Expect great things from a child, demand the world, and he will give it to you.
Expect nothing and that will be yours also, and his.
Taken from “Expect Great Things From a Child—He’ll Give it to You,” Scripps Howard News Service
Though kids don’t mean to mess up our schedules, dawdling is their way of feeling in control and getting us to focus on them. What’s the solution? If you can give a little to meet your child’s needs, you’ll gain a lot towards meeting yours-and it won’t even take that much time. Here are ten five-minute strategies that will make a difference between misery and motivation.
1. Be understanding: Acknowledge that what your child is doing is important to her. Tell her, “I wish we had more time to play with your dolls. It looks like fun. But right now, your friends are waiting for you at school.”
2. Remove obstacles: Sometimes kids dawdle because they feel overwhelmed. If it takes your child forever to choose a bedtime story, clear the bookcase of titles she never asks for. That way, she can focus on a few favorites. Disorganization is another roadblock. If your seven-year-old is always running late because she can’t find her homework or her sneakers, help her pack her bag the night before and put it by the door.
3. Give a warning: Children cannot stop what they’re doing on a dime. Being able to anticipate an event helps them switch gears. A gentle reminder that your child has five more minutes before having to put his blocks away won’t elicit an “Oh goody,” but it’s far less upsetting than being told he has to drop everything right now.
If a reminder doesn’t work, let an egg timer do the dirty work for you. Tell your child that you’re setting the timer for five minutes. When the bell goes off, it’s time to wrap up the activity. If your child protests, remain firm: “I know you’d like to color longer, but the bell rang. Time’s up.”
4. Play beat the clock: For younger children, use the timer to race against time. Tell your toddler or preschooler: “I bet you can’t wash your face, get into your PJs and get under the covers before the timer goes off!” Chances are, he’ll try to get everything done in no time flat.
5. Turn it into a game. Connecting with your child’s playful side is likely to be more successful than issuing ultimatums. One mother I know plays department store in the morning to avoid a half-hour delay while her four-year-old mulls over what to wear. She pretends to be a saleslady, helping her daughter pick out that day’s outfit and admiring how she looks in it.
One mother joked that her son was “surgically attached” to his train set. Getting him to leave it inevitably turned into a power struggle, until she hit upon a lighthearted approach. “When we have to go out, I say, ‘Joe, tell your trains you’ll be right back.’ It works really well. He waves goodbye and reassures his trains that he’ll play again soon.”
6. Offer options: Let’s say your two-year-old doesn’t want to stop watching a video, even though the family needs to go out. Tell him that there are two ways to get to the car: hopping on one foot or being carried by you. When you involve him, you have a better chance of transforming your slowpoke into Sir Speedy.
7. Be positive. Instead of making threats about what will happen if your child doesn’t get moving, focus on the good stuff that will happen when she kicks into gear. You could say, “Once we get into the car, we’ll play your favorite tape,” or “As soon as you get into your pajamas, I’ll read you a story.”
8. Get them involved. Kids love to feel needed and capable, which can work to your advantage. To get a poky preschooler out the door, ask her to help you load the car. If your child resists taking a bath, ask for her help in choosing water toys. Once she’s invested in the activity, she’ll be more willing to climb in the tub.
9. Turn the tables. Let your child be the one to get you going. Instead of trying to roust your five-year-old son out of bed every morning, one mother bought him his own alarm clock and instructed him to wake her up when it went off. As soon as her son felt as if he was in charge, he stopped dragging his feet. Another way to put your child in charge is to have her check the weather each morning and tell you whether it’s a “sweater day” or a “coat day”—then she’s more likely to get dressed without a fuss.
10. Go with the flow. Once in a while, put your agenda on hold. Instead of hurrying your child home from the park, let her swing until she says it’s time to go. If you occasionally let your child set the pace, she’s more likely to cooperate when your plans don’t mesh with hers.
There’s another advantage to letting your child’s inner clock rule. When you take the time to count flower petals or follow a ladybug, you see the world through your child’s eyes—and you may discover that it’s a pretty nice view.