Monday, June 25, 2007

How to Raise Intelligent, Healthy, Happy Kids

Doesn't that sound like the handbook you should've been handed when your child was born?

Instead of having one essential manual to raising children, there are about 100,000 "authorities" on the subject, including our parents, siblings, friends and even complete strangers.

Your boss knows just the trick to make your child sleep through the night (and NO, it didn't work). Your mother-in-law is sure that you're breastfeeding your child too often. And, by the way, won't that rot their teeth? And while we're talking about health, your own mother thinks that the baby is overweight and that it's a permanent condition.

Child-rearing is one of the most individual experiences I've ever known. While certain books were helpful (What to Expect When You're Expecting), many were either overkill or simply wrong. And good intentions aside, I almost felt like everyone's suggestions were somehow compensation for not doing something right when they raised their own kids (who are often times akin to demon-spawn).

So all that being said, here are the few things that I think may apply to everyone:

1. Time goes faster than you think. I know that sounds simple. But the faster you can start relishing every day, week and month instead of looking forward to the next part in your child's life, the better. I wish the last eight years had gone slower. I hope that time slows down even now.

2. Good manners are a must. Start coaching before he can speak. And keep reinforcing all during his youth. Otherwise, he will annoy his teachers, friends and friends' parents. It's MUCH harder to learn good manners when you're older, help him out by starting now.

3. Nutrition will affect how he learns. Have a good, balanced diet including plenty of vegetables. Sneak them in casseroles if you have to, and try your best to help your child experiment with food more. Again, it's a life-long habit.

4. Don't try to be a best friend. Be a Parent. They'll have lots of other friends, but only two parents. Kids need discipline (I said 'discipline', not 'punishment'), and it makes their lives easier to know what's expected of them. Kids whose parents are lax on discipline have a difficult time at school and making friends.

5. Spend quality time with your kids. This does NOT include watching TV. The most important part of quality time is talking and really listening. Most of the time when my son goes into another long-winded story about some new Storm Trooper ship he's created my mind immediately wants to wander. But, it's important to him, ergo, it's important to me.

6. Don't let him chicken out of experiences when it's safe. My son tries to convince me to let him skip his swim lessons. I can't blame him for trying. :) But I know that it's safe and that it's just the fear of the water that makes him hate it. But ultimately, he's way better off if I stick to my guns and insist he try it. He was also trying to refuse taking his training wheels off his bike. That was about 1 week ago. He rides his bike with more comfort than me now! Sans training wheels.

Well, that's about all I know. Good luck to anyone raising their own.


Kristi said...

An excellent list. I couldn't agree more with what you've written. Number 3 is so very important to me, because I want to ensure Isabella doesn't grow up with my terrible eating habits and pickiness. That's why I'm making all her food, and trying to vary her menu as much as possible.

Dawn said...

Yes, number 3 made me think of one of my neighbors. He is 18 years old and basically won't eat much of anything that isn't hotdogs, macaroni and cheese or fast food. Including almost all vegetables and fruits. I wonder what his poor colon must go through!