Look To the Western Sky

A blog about single life as a parent & the dreams of a writer by Margo L. Dill

As Parents, What Can We Do to Give Our Children The Best Start in Life?

(contributed post)

When you have a child, your world changes. No longer are you the most important person in your life, you now have a responsibility to look after your child and ensure they’re happy, healthy and grow up to be a functioning member of society. Raising a child can be a minefield, and lots of things will depend on factors like the country you live in, your own personal views, your religion and much more. However there are some things that are common with all of us. Here are some of the ways your child can get off to the best start.

Look After Their Health

As parents, our children’s health is of the utmost importance. However, we’re in the midst of an obesity epidemic, and even well-meaning parents can find that their children are a little heavier than guidelines suggest they should be. This can be a mixture of a lack of knowledge, easy access to convenient foods and things like technology making kids more sedentary. A decade or two ago, children would be running around outside, playing on their bikes and being active to curb boredom. These days, they can access the world at their fingertips using their phones, computers or TV. One of the best things you can do to promote good health in children is to make it fun. Encourage them to prepare healthy meals with you, choose good ingredients while shopping and even grow some of your own foods together. Make exercise enjoyable- hire a bouncy castle on a summer’s weekend or purchase a trampoline. Have water fights and play active games together. Go on family hikes and bike rides together , which are great for bonding as well as getting in some all-important exercise. When it’s fun, kids are more likely to get on board, and eventually healthy living will become an ingrained habit. It allows them to make healthy choices for themselves as they get older, which can set them up for success in their life in future.

Invest in Their Education

Being well educated can give you so many more opportunities in life. It means you can apply for better jobs, get on a good career path and have the ability to earn money, which can give you financial freedom and a much more comfortable lifestyle. Making sure they get access to good education, and encouraging a love of learning are two of the very best things you can do for your child’s future. Studies have found that the quality of education that children receive has more of an influence than gender or even their family’s income. Your child’s attitude, their friends and peers, their knowledge and job prospects for the future will all be influenced by the school you pick. On top of finding a good school, you could focus on their education in other ways. Take them on educational trips such as to museums and galleries. Teach them around the home about nutrition, cooking, baking, DIY and crafts for example. Take them camping, fishing, teach them map reading and orienteering, and introduce them to lots of extracurricular activities, such as sports and exercise. There’s much more to learn in life that just what’s in school textbooks. Giving them a thirst for knowledge and a love of learning are so beneficial.

Think About Where You Will Live

You child’s home and school life are incredibly important, but they will also be influenced by the place that they live. Somewhere rife with poverty, crime and unemployment, for example, is never going to be the most positive environment for your child to grow up in. Of course, they can still do well and better their lives, but dysfunction can seem normal to them when they’re surrounded by it. If it’s in your power to move to a nicer area to better yours and your child’s life, then take that opportunity. Look for somewhere with good resources: activities for youth, high employment levels and good education.  Even a small apartment or HDB resale in a nice area would be beneficial compared with a larger house in an area that isn’t great. It’s certainly something to take into consideration when you’re looking for a place to rent or own.

Take Discipline Seriously

Being a parent isn’t just about providing for your child and giving them everything they need. It’s about equipping them with the skills and knowledge they need to be a successful member of society. This allows them to form lasting relationships and friendships, and become a well-rounded individual who can navigate life feeling happy and secure. One thing that can help children is discipline. Discipline allows your child to become civilized in society; it’s not all about punishment. It’s a way of teaching that allows them to learn from mistakes without repeating them, and giving them the cognitive tools to be able to learn better behavior and do better next time around.  It’s about being clear on the rules and boundaries. It’s about accepting that they won’t be perfect, but acknowledging that all behavior has consequences–positive and negative. Children crave attention, rules and boundaries; they thrive when they know what it is they can and can’t do– even if they do push their boundaries at times. Remain firm but fair, and any punishment should reflect the severity of what they have done as well as their age and understanding. For example, very young children throwing tantrums aren’t going to understand or benefit from long time- outs or revoking of certain privileges.

Work on Their Self-Esteem

Again, parenting is about equipping children with the skills and understanding they need to get through life independently. And self-esteem and confidence is an essential asset. When you’re confident in yourself and your abilities, you aren’t held back from trying new things. You can smile in the face of adversity and know that even if you fail, you can keep at it until you eventually reach your goal. Children need to know that it’s ok to fail or go wrong, but that sticking with it means they will eventually achieve their goal and be proud of themselves when they do. Children with good levels of confidence and self esteem tend to be happier and more optimistic compared with those who don’t. Children with low self-esteem find challenges to be frustrating and can be a huge source of anxiety for them.  Praise your child’s accomplishments, and let them work out things themselves. For example, instead of doing everything for them, let them try themselves until they work out a solution. When playing a game, don’t let them win every time- that way when they do win, it will be well earned and they can feel proud of their accomplishments. It’s easy to want to give them everything they want, but understanding that not everything will go their way, and how to be a gracious loser when they don’t, is a fantastic skill to have. Be aware of your own words and behavior too. Criticizing yourself, others or your child can stick with them; remain upbeat and positive and realistic when things go wrong.

Teach Them the Importance of Respect

When we respect others, it shows that we value another as an individual. Respect allows us to honor the personal rights of other humans and allows them to keep their dignity. Because kids aren’t born with the ability to respect others, it’s something that as parents we have to teach them. Babies learn to manipulate the world they live in to get their needs met, so as they mature into a little person, it’s important to show them that this isn’t something they can do later on in their lives. They have to learn to respect their elders and those in a position of authority such as police and teachers. They need to be taught how to share with siblings and peers. They have to understand that sometimes they have to be patient and wait their turn for the things that they want. These are difficult lessons to learn as a child, and aren’t always things that they will thank you for in the moment! However they’re important things to understand and are crucial if they’re going to go on and be successful adults. You don’t have to be your child’s friend- you’re their teacher and guide!

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2 Comments

  1. No small list of tasks, is it? 🙂

  2. All of this is good. However, I would add one thing. Always and forever remember you are your child’s parent, not their friend. They can have friends at daycare, at preschool, at school, at church, in scouts. At best, they have only two parents, sometimes only one. As a parent, you are the most important person in your child’s life, and you need to live up to your job.

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