Researchers believe that the first five years of a child’s life are essential. If you can give them the right experience early on, they’re much more likely to develop into healthy teenagers and adults. You’ll avoid all the drama, tantrums, and emotional complexity involved in dysfunctional development.
But what exactly should parents be doing? Nobody teaches us. Instead, we’re left with the same strategies our parents used on us, and heaven knows, they weren’t always ideal.
In this post, we take a look at some of the things that professionals recommend – the result of decades of research, trial and error.
Don’t Use Harshness
Using harsh punishments often backfires. Either it teaches the child that “might makes right,” or it causes them to self-attack, leading to the development of depressive episodes when they are old.
If you need to discipline (which is actually quite a rare necessity), use words. Model the behavior you’d like your child to use going forward.
Share Books With Children
Sitting children down and asking them to read usually doesn’t work. They’ll find a million other things to do. However, sharing books with kids, reading a great story to them, and then allowing them to explore them at their leisure is a proven strategy.
Kids naturally want to immerse themselves in narratives and plots. Deep down, they find stories compelling, just like everyone else. Eventually, if they are interested, they will sit down with a book and read it themselves, without the need for any encouragement from you.
Give Them Toys
Toys let children practice the skills that they will need as they get older. Plus, it helps with cognitive development, meaning that children gain more mastery over the world and their environment.
You should aim to get your child a variety of toys of different developmental purposes. Schleich horses, for instance, are essential for imaginative play. Children can create all manner of scenarios in their minds and then act them out.
Building-block-based toys are better for developing structured thinking. These require kids to put items together, piece by piece.
Other toys encourage children to practice skills. For instance, cookery sets let them play at being a chef.
Vary the toys and then let your kids do the rest. They’ll soon graduate and be able to do the real thing.
Keeping routines is essential for developing healthy children. If kids don’t know what’s coming next, they won’t be able to generate any structure in their own lives. They may grow up with an inability to do the things necessary in life to live healthily and productive, such as eat a good diet or show up to work every morning.
Routines don’t have to be set in stone, but getting the basics right helps a great deal. Start in the morning by waking them up at a certain time, say between 7 am and 7:30 am. Then get them to eat their breakfast around 8 am, go to school at 8:45 am and then come home around 4 pm. Then eat dinner together at 6 pm and go to bed around 10 pm. Repeating that schedule every day, particularly during the week, can get them used to living normal, structured lives. If they don’t get that training when they are young, it can be hard for them to achieve when they are older.
Show Them Warmth And Kindness
Parents shouldn’t smother their kids. But, at the same time, they shouldn’t appear overly distant, either. Instead, they should strike a balance, showing warmth when necessary, but then allowing the child to explore their world on their own terms.
You also want to be sensitive to the needs of your child. Understanding their emotional and physical requirements helps them grow up with the view that the world is a fundamentally friendly and attractive place.
Keep Them Safe
Taking risks is a part of life, but you also want to balance that with the right amount of health and safety. Sure, eating chocolates every day and base jumping every weekend can be a lot of fun in the short-term, but the risks to health and happiness multiply in the long-term.
Keeping kids safe, therefore, is paramount. The more that you can do to encourage them to self-regulate, the better. You don’t want to eliminate risk entirely, but you also want to give them a sense that it should be measured.
Nobody is saying that you have to be a perfect parent. You don’t. However, getting development right gives your child a host of advantages in life, and helps them enjoy their existence more.
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