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.
Encourage your children to talk. Helping them express themselves early on can help them communicate successfully in the future.
Treat your child with respect. Don't ever forget that your child is a living, breathing human being who has needs and wants just like the rest of us. If your child is a picky eater, don't nag him constantly at the dinner table; if he's slow to potty train, don't embarrass him by talking about it in public; if you promised your child you'd take him to the movies if he was good, don't take back your promise because you're too tired.
If you respect your child, then it's much more likely that your child will respect you back.
Know that you can never love your child too much. It's a myth that loving your child "too much," praising your child "too much," or showering your child with "too much" affection can make your child spoiled rotten. Giving your child love, affection, and attention will positively encourage your child to develop as a human being. Giving your child toys instead of love, or not reprimanding your child for bad behavior is what will lead you to spoil your child.
Tell your child how much you love him at least once a day -- but preferably, as often as you can.
Be involved in your child's daily life. It will take effort and strength to be there for your child every day, but if you want to encourage your child to develop his own interests and character, you have to create a strong support system for him. This doesn't mean you have to follow your child around every second of the day, but it does mean that you have to be there for all of the little moments, from his first soccer game to family time at the beach.
Once your child starts school, you should know what classes he's taking and the names of his teachers. Go over your child's homework with him and help him with any difficult tasks, but do not do it for him. As your child gets older, you can start pulling back a bit, and encouraging your child to explore his interests without you by his side all the time.
Encourage independence. You can still be there for your child while encouraging him to explore his own interests. Don't tell your child which lessons to take; let him pick from a variety of options. You can help dress your child, but go clothes shopping together with your child, so he has some say in his appearance. And if your child wants to play with his friends or to play with his toys by himself without you there, let him build his own identity from time to time.
If you encourage independence early on, your child will be much more likely to think for himself as an adult.
Method 3 of 4: Disciplining Your Child
Know that children need limits. They will ignore these limits on occasion. Reasonable punishment is one of the ways human beings have always learned. Children must understand what punishment is for and know that its source is parental love.
As a parent, you will need cognitive tools if you are to adjust unwanted behaviours. Instead of making up a confusing, non-related punishment like, "If you ride your tricycle into the street, you will have to balance this book on your head," withdraw a privilege. The child must naturally connect the privilege withdrawal with the behavior: "If you ride your tricycle into the street, you lose the use of your tricycle for the rest of the day."
Reward your child for good behavior. Rewarding your child for good behavior is even more important than punishing your child for bad behavior. Letting your child know when he or she is doing something right will encourage the behavior in the future. If your child behaved well, from sharing his toys at a play date to being patient during a car ride, then let him know you noticed his good behavior; don't just say nothing when your child behaves well and punish him when he doesn't.
Don't underestimate the importance of praising your child for good behavior. Saying, "I'm so proud of you for..." can make your child feel that his good behavior is really appreciated.
You can give your child toys or treats from time to time, but don't make your child think that he deserves a toy any time he does something good.
Be consistent. If you want to discipline your child effectively, then you have to be consistent. You can't punish your child for doing something one day, and then give him candy to stop doing it another day, or even say nothing because you're too tired to put up a fight. And if your child does something good, like using the bathroom correctly during potty training, make sure you praise your child every time. Consistency is what reinforces good and bad behavior.
If you and a spouse are raising your child together, then you should be a united front against your children, using the same disciplinary methods. There should be no "good cop, bad cop" routine in your home.
Explain your rules. If you really want your child to recognize your disciplinary methods, then you have to be able to explain why your child can't do certain things. Don't just tell him not to be mean to other children, or to clean up his toys; tell him why this behavior will be good for him, for you, and for society at large. Making a connection between your child's actions and what they mean will help your child understand your decision-making process.
Teach your child to take responsibility for his actions. This is an important part of disciplining your child and building his character. If he does something wrong, like throwing his food on the ground, make sure he owns up to the behavior and explains why he did it, instead of blaming it on someone else or even denying it. After your child does something naughty, have a conversation about why it happened.
It's important for your child to know that everyone makes mistakes. The mistake isn't as important as the way your child reacts to it.
Method 4 of 4: Building Character
Do not reduce character education to words alone. We gain virtue through practice. Parents should help children by promoting moral action through self-discipline, good work habits, kind and considerate behavior to others, and community service. The bottom line in character development is behavior--their behavior. If your child is too young for real humanitarian behavior, you can always teach your child to be kind toward others, no matter his age.
Be a good role model. Face it: human beings learn primarily through modeling. In fact, you can’t avoid being an example to your children, whether good or bad. Being a good example, then, is probably your most important job. If you yell at your child and then tell her never to yell, kick the wall when you're angry, or make mean comments about your neighbors, your child will think that this behavior is okay.
Start being a good role model from day one. Your child will be aware of your moods and behavior earlier than you think.
Develop an ear and an eye for what your children are absorbing. Children are like sponges. Much of what they take in has to do with moral values and character. Books, songs, TV, the Internet, and films are continually delivering messages—moral and immoral—to our children. As parents we must control the flow of ideas and images that are influencing our children.
If you and your child see something upsetting, such as two people in an argument at the grocery store or a clip about violence on the news, don't miss the opportunity to talk about it with your child.
Teach good manners. Teaching your child to say "Thank you," and "please," and to treat others with a baseline of respect will go a long way in helping them succeed in the future. Don't underestimate the power of teaching your child to be kind to adults, to respect their elders, and to avoid fighting with or picking on other children. Good manners will follow your children for the rest of their lives, and you should start modeling it as soon as possible.
One crucial aspect of good manners is cleaning up after yourself. Teach your child to clean up after his own toys when he's three, and he'll make a great houseguest when he's twenty-three.
Only use the words you want your children to use. Though you may feel the urge to curse, complain, or say negative things about a person you know in front of your child, even if you're just talking on the phone, remember that your child is always paying attention. And if you're having a heated argument with your spouse, it's better to do it behind closed doors so your child can't mimic your negative behavior.
If you do use a bad word and your child notices it, don't pretend like it didn't happen. Apologize and say it won't happen again. If you say nothing, then your child will think these words are okay.
Teach your children to have empathy for others. Empathy is an important skill and one that you can never teach too early. If your child knows how to have empathy for others, then he'll be able to see the world from a more judgment-free perspective and will be able to put himself in someone else's shoes. Let's say your child comes home and tells you that his friend Jimmy was mean to him; try to talk about what happened and see if you can figure out how Jimmy might be feeling and what led to the negative behavior. Or, if a waitress forgets your order in a restaurant, don't tell your child that she's lazy or stupid; instead, point out how tired she must be after spending all day on her feet.
Teach your children to be grateful. Teaching your child to be truly grateful is different than forcing your child to say "thank you" all the time. To truly teach your child to be grateful, you have to say "thank you" all the time yourself, so your child sees the good behavior. If your child complains that everyone in school has a new toy that you won't let her get, remind her how many people are less fortunate than she is.
Expose her to people of all walks of life so she understands how privileged she is, even if that means she won't be getting a Nintendo DS for Christmas.
Saying, "I didn't hear you say thank you..." after your child misses this point won't actually get the message across as much as saying "thank you" yourself and making sure your child hears you.