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Archive for the ‘Tips’ Category

Millennial Parents Are Ditching *This* Bedtime Ritual (and, According to Science, It’s Important to Bring It Back)

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Rock-a-Bye Baby, Tura Lura Lura, Frère Jacques—all were as signature to your childhood bedtime routine as bath, books and lights out.

Not anymore, according to a new YouGov poll commissioned by the Lullaby Trust  (and reported on by The Telegraph) in the UK.

Nowadays, just over a third of new parents with kids under the age of five sing lullabies at bedtime, per the study. Not only that, the majority of parents who do are age 45 or older, which means that millennial parents are phasing out the musically-inspired bedtime tradition almost altogether.

But here’s the rub: Numerous studies—including this one out of the University of Montreal—report that singing keeps babies calm twice as long as talking to them. Lullabies are also scientifically proven to be an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional well-being, according to Sally Goddard-Blythe, director of the UK’s Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology.

So, whether you sound like Céline Dion or Countess Luann, it may be worth delaying bedtime another three to five minutes so you can make time for a lullaby. And if your kid nods off even a hair faster than typical? Well, that’s just a credit to you.

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

How to Set Up a Playdate for Your Kid When You Don’t Know Where to Start

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Recently, I was lamenting to my friend (a kindergarten teacher) that I wanted my son to have more playdates but didn’t know where to begin. I’m not super close with the other parents, and the idea of calling up a near stranger and asking her to come over with her child at 11 a.m. on a Saturday felt, well, daunting. More to the point, I actually didn’t even know whom to approach, since my son’s narration of his life at preschool is suspect, to say the least. (Oh really? Your best buddy is Marshall from Paw Patrol?) 

My friend (never one to let me wallow) had a genius idea: Ask his teachers who he plays with.

Emboldened, I texted the head teacher, Diane, letting her know that I was looking to set up some weekend playdates and wanted her advice for who to invite. Within 30 seconds, she had responded: Caroline, Jake, Asher and Rosie.*

I then dug up the preschool listserve and emailed the moms one by one. “Hey! I was chatting with Diane the other day, and she mentioned that our kids have been playing together really well. We’d love to host a playdate so they could see each other on the weekend some time.”

The response was overwhelming. As it turns out, everyone was feeling the same way—wanting to plan social get-togethers but nervous to make the first move. And, because I was inviting kids we knew he got along with, the playdates have, for the most part, gone really well. (What’s a pee accident or two among friends?) 

The takeaway: Your child’s teachers are angels from heaven. Ask them for help. And give them really nice Christmas gifts.

*Names have been changed to protect the non-toy-sharers

 

This article was from PureWow and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

5 Easy Tricks for Better Lunch Boxes

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If you send your kid off to school with a lunch box, you’ve already packed close to 100 lunches this school year (and that’s just for one kid!). But even if you’ve got your routine down pat, it’s always good to take stock of what you’re packing and make some healthy changes where you can. Here are some ideas for a mid-year lunch box reboot:

1. Pack LESS. This is my number-one piece of advice when parents complain that their child doesn’t eat what they’ve packed. Cafeterias are busy, noisy places with lots of distractions—and there’s not much time to eat anyway. When you pack less in your child’s lunchbox, portions will look doable (not overwhelming), so he may just eat more food. Sounds counterintuitive, but it works for my kids!

2. Include a veggie every day. It could be a piece of lettuce on a sandwich, a few baby carrots, or even a little container of salsa. No, your child may not eat the veggies every day—or eat all of them—but she’s getting the important message that veggies are part of lunch. And she’s getting a chance to get vegetables beyond what’s on her dinner plate. Vary what you pack, and include her favorite dip in a leak-proof container (research shows kids eat more veggies when they’re paired with dip).

3. Rely on fewer packaged foods. I get it: Individually packed items are heaven-sent on hectic mornings and can truly streamline lunch packing (I use them too!). But with rising concerns about plastic waste, it makes sense to trim back when possible (and teach our kids to generate less waste too). Pick just one item at first to buy in larger quantities—like a large tub of yogurt instead of cups or a family-size bag of pretzels instead of small snack packs—and use a bento lunch box or reusable containers to portion them all week.

4. Get real about sweets. Sugar can add up fast in a lunch box, and beyond the obvious lunch box desserts, it can crop up in a lot of other places you may not think about, like granola bars, flavored milk, homemade muffins, and gummy fruit snacks. Take stock of which items are sugary, then try to include just one. Kids get added sugar in so many places during the day, it’s good to tilt the lunch box balance toward less sugar whenever you can.

5. Teach them to pack all by themselves. If you’re sick and tired of packing lunches every day, it might be time to pass the job onto your kids. Even kindergarteners can help portion items into a lunch box and locate a cold pack from the freezer. It’s liberating to take lunch-packing off your to-do list, trust me. Ready to take the leap? Here’s a guide to making it happen.

Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. She is the author of

 

This article was written by Sally Kuzemchak from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

7 Random Acts of Kindness Ideas for Kids

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“Be nice, and don’t be a bully.” Chances are your kids hear that all the time—at home, at school, or during their after-school activities. Instead of making kindness just another rule, what if we showed kids that it’s a superpower they can choose every day to make both themselves and others feel good?

Research shows that being kind increases happiness and well-being, and that kindness can lead to increases in peer acceptance. Here are 7 ideas for acts of kindness you can do with your child to help them grow confident in their abilities to impact the world around them.

 

A family shares a kind note at a Kindness.org event. 

 

1. Share a kind note

Words matter. What does your child have to say? Ask what kindness means to them and help them choose someone to surprise with a kind note. A new classmate, a friend, or a teacher’s aide are all great choices.

Your child’s note can be anything they want it to be, from a kind word on a piece of paper to a homemade card or letter you put in the mail together.

2. Demonstrate the power of encouragement

Grab some colorful sticky notes and pens. Ask your child to fill them with encouraging compliments like “You’re awesome”, “You can do this”, or “You’re a good friend.” Tell them you’re collecting them for someone special as a surprise.

When your child isn’t looking, add their name to the notes and hide them around the house for them to discover.

3. Pick up litter together

The next time you’re taking a walk with your child, collect a few items of litter together. It’s a great time to have a conversation about how each of us has the power to make the world around us more beautiful.

You can do this act of kindness in so many places—from the playground to the parking lot. While there are no guarantees, your child might just take a little more interest in keeping their toys from “littering” the carpet.

 

Kind note from a child that reads,

 

4. Find someone to thank

A kind word goes a long way. Wherever you go with your child, there is almost always someone you can thank for their help!

Encourage your child to say thanks to a teacher, a grocery store cashier, or someone holding the door for them. You can even make a game out of finding people to thank together.

5. Add gratitude to your evening routine

Asking your child what they are grateful for can be an eye-opening (and profound) experience. Try asking your child before bedtime what made them happy that day.

Kindness.org co-founder and chief strategist Melissa Burmester shares, “I’ve started doing this with my two-year-old and it’s become one of my favorite times of the day. Yesterday she was grateful for sunshine, fig bars, and Grandma. The day before that it was puddles to jump in.”

6. Play “I Spy Kindness”

Kindness is all around us if we start looking. Unexpected smiles. People helping strangers carry shopping bags. Someone who gives up their seat on the bus or train.

The more kind acts kids witness, the more ideas they’ll have for kind acts of their own! The next time you’re out running errands together, make a game out of spotting acts of kindness.

7. See something, do something

Kids pay attention and see more than we think. The next time your child asks a question about someone who is experiencing homelessness or about an issue on the news like immigration, do one small thing about it together as a family.

Help your child give gently used clothing to a shelter for families, make a donation, or volunteer together.

Jaclyn Lindsey, CEO and co-founder of Kindness.org, reminds us that while children may have trouble understanding the complexity of these issues, by doing an act as a family you are empowering them to feel like they can help.

“As a mom to 9-month-old Abel, I hope when he’s old enough to perceive these challenges, my husband and I have led by example. We want him to instinctively treat all people with dignity, never jump to conclusions about someone because of their circumstances, and to never look down on someone unless he is helping them up.”

Every act, no matter how small, makes a difference. (That goes for you, too!) Help your child engage their kindness superpowers today!

Jaclyn Lindsey and Melissa Burmester are the co-founders of Kindness.org, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate and inspire people to choose kindness through scientific research, education, and storytelling. 

 

This article was written by Melissa Burmester and Jaclyn Lindsey from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Encourage Healthy Habits With a Snack Drawer

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Every day after school, it’s the same scene in my house: My son asks for a snack, I offer up an idea (usually starting with what he chose yesterday or the day before), which he promptly turns down. He might come back to it a few minutes later, after I’ve exhausted all other possibilities, but he never says yes to the first suggestion. He holds out until he know what all his options are.

I always have healthy options on hand—grapes and yogurt and pretzels—but I’m also guilty of buying Party Mix, which is decidedly not healthy (and is, therefore, usually my son’s top choice).

Nutrition writer Casey Seidenberg offers up this suggestion in the Washington Post: Create “snack drawers.”

Create a refrigerator snack drawer full of foods such as hard-boiled eggs, blueberries, carrots and yogurt, and always have a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter. Also, create a snack drawer outside the refrigerator. Fill it with mostly healthy snacks such as applesauce, raisins and nutritious bars, but add a few less healthy items, such as leftover Halloween candy. Explain that at snack time, they may eat from either of these locations.

My kid eats enough candy already (I pack him a piece in his lunch for dessert and he gets a small dessert after dinner most nights), so I would adjust that part. Instead, I could pack up small portions of so-good-but-not-good-for-you Party Mix next to larger portions of pretzels or granola and let him choose for himself. If he wants to indulge, he can but with a smaller portion. If he’s hungrier, he’ll have to opt for the bigger, healthier choice.

Either way, it’s his decision and I can stop reciting his options day after day after day.

Seidenberg offers up a few more tips for teaching healthy snacking habits to kids, including teaching them about hunger cues, setting specific snack times and deciding on a family rule for sugary foods. I’m admittedly not that regimented when it comes to snacking, but the drawer seems like a quick and easy way to cut down on some of the snack time debate.

As with all things parenting, you can go as quick-and-dirty or as elaborate as you’d like. I searched “snack drawer ideas” on Pinterest and found everything from drawers stuffed with Mott’s, fruit snacks and Cheez-It bags to beautifully organized drawers with tiny containers, perfect portions and helpful labels. I’m more likely to fall in the former, rather than latter, category, but either way it’s worth a shot.

 

This article was written by shared by Meghan Moravcik Walbert to Lifehacker and Meghan Moravcik Walbert on Offspring from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Six ways to raise a resilient child

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Helping our children navigate the stresses and strains of daily life is more important than ever. Figures released in November last year by NHS Digital show a worrying rise in young people’s mental health problems; sadly, my experience as a GP confirms this. One in eight children aged between five and 19 in England has a diagnosable mental health condition; the prevalence of emotional disorders, including anxiety and depression, has risen by 48% since 2004. “The pressures young people face range from school stress, bullying and worries about job and housing prospects, to concerns around body image,” says Emma Saddleton, helpline manager at the charity YoungMinds.

While we may not be able to remove all these challenges, we can pass on skills to help young people cope with stress and adversity. “It’s what’s known as resilience,” Saddleton says. “The ability to overcome difficult experiences and be shaped positively by them.” Our brains respond to the information around us, so resilience can be taught, modelled and nurtured at any age. “By doing this, through strong support networks and encouraging communication, we can help young people understand when they feel down and know what they can do to make themselves feel better,” she adds.

As a parent myself – I have a son of eight and a daughter of six – it’s something that’s high on my agenda, and I’ve discovered some effective techniques. Crucially, they don’t require you to overhaul your parenting style, but simply to make a few tweaks that will help your children thrive.

Have one-on-one time with each child, without distractions

I have a full-on job, two school-age children, and an elderly mother to care for, so I understand that we’re all busy; I’m not trying to pile on the guilt. But I’ll never forget what my daughter, then four, said one day. We were working on a jigsaw, but I kept nipping to the kitchen to check my phone. When I rejoined her for the third or fourth time, she rightly observed, “Daddy, you’re not really here, are you?”

Resilience comes from relationships; children need nurturing. It’s not a magical “inner strength” that helps kids through tough times; instead, it’s the reliable presence of one, supportive relationship, be it parent, teacher, relative, family friend or healthcare practitioner. My key point is, it’s quality, not quantity, that counts. Ten minutes of fully focused attention is better than an hour when your mind is on other things. If you’re on your tablet at the dinner table, you’re teaching them it’s OK to always be distracted. And that they are not important enough for your sole attention.

One-on-one time doesn’t have to be time carved out of an already hectic schedule. Make bathtime, car journeys, meals, queues count. Chat, listen, talk about your feelings, encourage them to express theirs. Once these one-to-ones become regular, your children will know they always have a safe space to open up.

Give sleep a chance

I see so many children who are struggling to sleep, waking tired, with dark circles under their eyes. A lack of good-quality sleep is a huge driver for stress: it has a negative effect on memory, concentration, cognitive function, and decision-making.

One of the fastest ways to improve sleep – for all of us – is to limit screen time before bed. The type of blue light emitted by digital devices suppresses production of melatonin, the hormone that signals to the body it’s time for sleep. In addition, looking at screens before bed keeps us emotionally wired and stimulated, making it harder for us to switch off.

It’s a steely parent who can ban tech completely, and I don’t think you need to. But I would urge you to issue a household ban on devices at least an hour before bedtime. Turn off the wifi, if need be. (TV isn’t so bad if you need that as a compromise; we tend not to sit as close to the screen.)

Earlier in the evening, insist everyone uses “night-time mode” on their devices, which swaps the blue light for a warmer glow. You can download apps that do this (such as f:lux), too, or buy blue-light-cancelling glasses. It’s also worth switching your children’s night lights to red ones – red has the least impact on melatonin production. When I did this in my children’s rooms, they slept in more than an hour later the next morning.

Get out and exercise

We all know that regular activity is important, and that most of us, children included, need to do more of it. But what if I told you that, as well as keeping them physically fit, exercise will increase your child’s resilience? It actually strengthens the brain.

It’s well documented that exercise is on a par with medication when it comes to treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety. This could be because it gets the body used to moving more fluidly in and out of the stress state. The same hormones released when we’re stressed (cortisol and adrenaline) are raised temporarily when we exercise. Regular physical activity teaches our stress-response system to recover more efficiently.

It can be a lot of fun to do this together, and I’ve learned that kids do what they see us doing, not what we tell them to. I’m a big fan of “movement snacking” – short bursts of exercise throughout the day. I’ll put on the radio before dinner and we’ll all dance around in the kitchen. Or my kids will join me doing squats, star jumps, bear crawls or frog hops. The sillier I look, the more they seem to enjoy it.

Teach delayed gratification

Resilience means understanding you can’t always have what you want as soon as you want it. It’s an important concept to pass on in the age of Amazon Prime, Spotify, Netflix and Uber. Psychology teaches us that people who can accept delayed gratification lead happier, healthier lives. Without the ability to defer pleasure and reward, our kids are losing an important skill for their wellbeing.

One of the best ways to teach it? Playing board games. These require impulse control, turn-taking, and mental flexibility. They exercise the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain involved in decision-making, emotional regulation and, yes, resilience. Board games are also a good way for you to model resilience by being a good loser.

But there are no shortage of other ways to encourage delayed gratification: learning a musical instrument; listening to whole albums instead of skipping from track to track online; mastering a new sport; even watching a TV series together week by week, instead of bingeing in a couple of sittings.

Eat the alphabet

Nutrition has a significant impact on mental health. Good-quality food changes the composition of our gut bugs, which helps send calm signals to the brain. Poor-quality, highly processed food sends stress signals instead. A diverse diet, rich in fibre, will lead to greater diversity in our gut bugs, which in turn will help make us more resilient, and anxiety and depression less likely. Persuading kids to eat more healthily can feel like an uphill battle, though, especially if they’re fussy, so this is not about becoming a top chef – just trying a few tricks that can really benefit them emotionally.

Related: ‘It’s been bittersweet’: three Indian women on 50 years in the UK

I like to challenge the whole family to “eat the alphabet” over 30 days. I think it’s a realistic goal to consume 26 different plant foods in a month: A for asparagus, B for banana, C for chickpeas, and so on. It turns healthy eating into a game, and encourages children to try new foods. Turn it into a competition and see who can tick off all the letters first.

Model gratitude

Instead of pestering your children with questions such as, “How was school?” and, “What did you do today?”, teach them to reframe their day.

The following is a game I learned from a friend, who played it with his daughter over dinner. Everyone must answer three questions:

1) What did someone do today to make you happy?

2) What did you do to make someone else happy?

3) What have you learned today?

I love this simple exercise for how it helps us all find the positive in every day. It teaches gratitude, nurtures optimism, and recognises kindness. It doesn’t matter what may have happened at work or school, or how stressed any of us may have felt when we sat down at the table; the whole mood seems to lift once we’ve played this game. I learn things about my kids that they’d probably never have thought to tell me otherwise. Try it. It might just become the highlight of your day.

 

This article was written by Dr Rangan Chatterjee from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

7 Ways to Stay Healthy When Your Kid Is Sick

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Every parent expects her child to get sick sometimes. After all, you’d get sick too if you spent the bulk of your days crawling on dirty playground equipment, drinking out of your friends’ cups of juice, and touching (or mouthing!) every little thing that grabs your attention. And while little kids typically aren’t big fans of sharing, when it comes to spreading bacteria and viruses, they’re extremely generous: According to a recent study from the University of Arizona, a woman’s chances of getting sick double when she becomes a mother. So how can you stay healthy this season when you’re constantly playing nurse to your sniffling, sneezing kid? All you have to do is put our brilliant germ-fighting game plan to work.

1. Spend More Time at the Sink

We know you’ve heard the “wash your hands” tip a million times before, but that’s because it works. If you do it frequently, you can reduce the odds you’ll catch your child’s cold by 30 to 50 percent. A quick rinse doesn’t count; follow the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to scrub your hands for 20 seconds. For added insurance, rub a moisturizing, alcohol-based hand sanitizer on your hands post-wash when your child has come down with something. (Soap helps rinse away many types of bacteria and viruses, but hand sanitizer will kill any germs that soap left behind.) Stock up on mini bottles of sanitizer to keep in your bag too—kids have a knack for sneezing on you the minute you’re nowhere near a sink. Doing all this may sound obsessive, but considering that most infections are spread through hand-to-hand contact, the extra effort is worth it.

2. Make the Kitchen Off-Limits

Your child may like coloring at the kitchen table or banging on pots and pans, but you should encourage him to hang out somewhere else when he’s sniffling. “The kitchen is one of the germiest rooms in the house,” says Charles Gerba, Ph.D., a microbiologist who studies soil, water, and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Bacteria can survive on countertops and tables, so your child’s germs could easily be transferred to your food and make everyone sick.” At the very least, don’t let him help himself to food in the refrigerator. People open the fridge door more often than any other one in the house, making the handle the perfect germ-swapping spot. Plus, bacteria breed there easily, since many people hang damp, food-spattered dish towels over the handle.

3. Switch to Hot Water on Laundry Day

Using your washer’s cold-water cycle is an earth-friendly move, but when your kid is sick you have Mother Nature’s okay to use hot H2O. Why? Hot water kills more germs than cold, says Dr. Gerba. Switching makes a difference: “Studies show that people who wash clothes in hot water miss fewer days of work and their children have fewer sick days from school,” says Harley A. Rotbart, M.D., author of Germ Proof Your Kids. When your child is ill, do as much of her laundry as possible in hot water and chlorine bleach to kill germs. (When washing darks in hot water, add a non-chlorine, colorfast bleach; this kind of bleach isn’t a germ-killer, but it protects against fading and running.) Avoid touching your nose and mouth while you do the laundry. Remember, you’re handling germy stuff like the shirt your child used as a tissue. Scrub your hands when you’re done, and sanitize the washing machine between loads by running an empty hot cycle with bleach.

4. Cut Down on Cuddles

We know it sounds totally unrealistic, but try to put some distance between you and your kid when you can. Fortunately, you don’t have to quarantine yourself, since viruses can’t travel beyond three feet, according to research from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Try using hands-off ways to soothe your child—create a hand signal that means “hug,” blow kisses, or simply say “I love you” more often. If you can’t resist giving him a kiss, aim for his forehead or the top of his head instead of his mouth, says Philip M. Tierno Jr., PhD, director of clinical microbiology and immunology at NYU Langone Medical Center. Also okay: letting him curl up in your bed. “No one’s sure why, but there’s only a one-in-a-thousand chance of contracting germs from a blanket,” says Dr. Gerba. Just don’t snuggle up with him—you don’t want to be in the path of your kid’s coughs and sneezes.

5. Declare a No-Sharing Rule

You try to teach your kid to be generous, but when she gets sick with a cold or the flu, selfishness is a plus. “Viruses and bacteria can survive anywhere from one hour to a few days on a moist surface, so don’t your let children share toys, towels, or even a tube of toothpaste if one of them gets sick,” says Dr. Rotbart.

6. Break Out the Disinfectant

Your cabinets are probably stocked with every type of cleaning product, but some are better than others when it comes to killing your sick kid’s germs. Here’s the dirt on getting clean: According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you should use a cleanser with an EPA registration number and the word disinfectant on the label. That means the product contains the big guns of germ fighting, like ammonia or bleach, and has met the government’s standards for effectiveness. Use it to scrub spots that everyone in the family touches—the phone, toilet handle, remote control, and doorknobs—a few times a day when your child is sick to keep his germs contained.

7. Put Off Washing Your Kid’s Toys

Even if they’re scattered all over your house, let them be. You’ll slash your risk of getting sick if you wait to tackle your child’s germy toys when he’s well. (He’ll re-infect them every time he plays with them, so why keep touching his germs when it’s not necessary?) Once your kid is feeling better, attack his stuff using Dr. Tierno’s bug-fighting routine: Clean them with peroxide or white vinegar, wash them with soap and hot water, then rinse in peroxide or vinegar. “It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s the best way to prevent germs from spreading,” he says.

3 Top Germ Hot Spots

Bacteria and viruses can lurk just about anywhere, but they really love to hang out on some of the stuff parents have to touch constantly.

  • Grocery-cart handles A University of Arizona study found that 55 percent of them were contaminated with fecal matter. “Carry hand sanitizer in your purse and use it when you’ve finished doing your shopping,” says Dr. Charles Gerba.
  • Playground equipment When researchers from the University of Arizona College of Public Health examined various playgrounds, they found feces, urine, and even blood on the equipment. Always wash up when playtime’s over.
  • Your kitchen sink It’s covered in germs—500,000 of them per square inch. Why? When you rinse some foods, particularly raw fruits and veggies, bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella wash down the drain and accumulate there. Scrub the sink with bleach and water at least twice a week.

 

This article was written by Elise Nersesian from Parents and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Trying to Build Your Kid’s Self Control? These Other 2 Skills Will Help

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This will put your child on a path to better behavior.

Ben is repeatedly being poked with a pencil by his sister, Cassie, while they’re sitting at the kitchen table writing thank-you notes. Despite the message on the refrigerator door that reads, “Make good choices,” he’s about to hit her back.

Self-control is the ability to stop behavior. It means you won’t get in the way of yourself when working towards a goal. Lots of studies have established how important self-control is for life success, but disturbingly, researchers have also shown how our kids’ capacity for self-control has diminished over the past few decades.

We can’t expect our kids to magically have high levels of self-control without help. Self-control can be thought of like a muscle—exertion in the short-term can leave you feeling depleted and tired. But over time, exercising self-control will bulk it up and strengthen it.

The fact that it can be taught is both a ray of hope for parents and a light at the end of the tunnel for kindergarten teachers everywhere, but it comes with the burden of figuring out how we should be actively teaching and practicing self-control. We get there faster by cultivating the two skills that make self-control efforts more effective: creativity and empathy.

1. Teach Creativity

As a society, we say we value creativity, but we don’t teach it and we don’t really encourage it. Creativity is very important when generating ideas to solve self-control issues. If a child can imagine the consequences of his behavior, he might come up with a different path to achieve a goal. These both require imagination.

We can teach Ben to think through possible outcomes in his head. If we stop emphasizing what not to do and teach what can be done, Ben has way more options here than just sit or hit. Ben can cry. Ben can tell his sister to stop, he can pretend to be surprised by something he sees out the window, or he can choose to change seats. He can say, “Hey, are you going to do that all evening?” in a low funny voice. Make it Ben’s job to come up with creative alternatives to the situation.

Imaginative processes are also powerful tools that can control attention in younger children, and thus boost self-control. Take the incredibly hard task of standing still. This is nearly impossible for kids to do for long periods of time (or for some kids, impossible to do for 10 seconds). But if you ask preschoolers to stand at attention while acting as “lookouts,” they can be still for 12 minutes, whereas when simply asked to stand still, they average four still minutes.

Another study found that adding an imaginary friend who watches to see if a child can follow directions boosts the amount of time that she can spend doing a super boring task. (I might enlist this trick to get my kids to unload the dishwasher next week!) Doing things like this with your kids is fun and it will help make self-control a habit.

2. Teach Empathy

Teaching empathy is important for self-control too because there has to be a reason to not act that way. You can either control your behavior to reach your own long-term goals, or you can control it out of consideration for other people’s feelings.

A great imagination sets the stage for increased empathy, which helps your child understand how others think or feel and can lead to a self-control boost. Does Ben’s sister deserve a good smack back? There’s likely a lot more to the story.

Maybe she’s simply bored, but maybe she’s anxious about her test tomorrow. Maybe she has ADHD. Maybe she thinks Ben stole the bigger lemon bar for dessert. Maybe she has difficulty spelling and her dad clearly pointed this out when she sat down with that pencil and a blank pile of notecards. Ben will understand the situation much better if he can appreciate the wide range of days his sister might have had.

Self-Control Is Not Our End Game

Self-control is a straight “no.” That’s hard to hear at any age. But if you can see and choose a better way of getting what you want, that becomes self-regulation. Self-regulation says, “You can’t do or have what you want in this way, but let’s figure out another way to do it or get it.” When you color the edges of self-control with creativity and empathy, you see things differently. You become a “yes.”

We don’t want kids who simply have amazing self-control. We don’t want our son to just sit there being poked with a pencil for an entire hour by virtue of his impressive willpower. No, we want our son to be a problem solver instead. We want him to decide to resolve the situation creatively, with respect for all parties involved, even when he has depleted self-control at the end of a long day.

To get there, we just have to practice. There are neuroscience-based ways to teach our kids great self-regulation using a few minutes every day. The goal of practicing is to make a habit of creativity, of empathy, and of self-control so our children eventually do the right thing as effortlessly as possible.

We want our kids to have good behavior spring up from well-oiled brain machinery. This allows these future adults to save their intentional energy for higher-level thinking, for compassion, and for changing the world.

Erin Clabough, Ph.D., is a mother of four who holds a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Her parenting style has been highly influenced by her background in brain development research. She teaches biology and neuroscience at Hampton-Sydney College and conducts research in developmental brain function and other areas. She writes for popular media such as Psychology Today, TODAY Parenting, and other publications. She is the author of Second Nature: How Parents Can Use Neuroscience to Help Kids Develop Empathy, Creativity, and Self-Control (Sounds True, January 8, 2019). Dr. Clabough resides in Charlottesville, VA.

 

This article was written by Erin Clabough Ph.D. from Working Mother and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

What Is Authoritative Parenting and Should You Try It?

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While The Goddard School does not endorse the use of time-outs to discipline children, we do understand that parents have their own philosophies on parenting, so we present this article in its entirety.

You know what they say: Raising a kid doesn’t come with instructions. Fortunately, there are a few helpful tools at your disposal, including a tried-and-true parenting technique called “authoritative parenting.” Here’s what you need to know.

What is it? Coined by developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind in the 1960s, authoritative parenting is a style of child-rearing characterized by setting high expectations for your kids but giving them the resources and emotional support they need to succeed. It’s considered to be the happy medium between authoritarian parenting (where the focus is on obedience and punishment) and permissive parenting (a style with a lot of warmth but few rules). In other words? It’s all about balance. Experts agree that authoritative parenting leads to happier and healthier children who are well-equipped to handle future challenges.

How do I do it? Authoritative parents are warm and nurturing, making sure to listen to children and validate their feelings. But they also let them know that there are consequences for bad behavior and consistently enforce these boundaries. Unlike authoritarian parents, however, they don’t expect their kids to obey blindly—they take the time to explain why and work with their child to turn mistakes into learning opportunities. Here’s how an authoritative parent might handle their kid hitting another child.

Child: Charlie took my toy away!

You: It’s all right that you’re angry right now.

Child: I want my toy back.

You: I understand that you wanted to get your toy back. But hitting someone is not OK and when you do that, you get a time-out. 

Child: I don’t want a time-out.

You: Hitting is not nice. When you hit someone, it hurts them and it could be dangerous. Can you think of something else you could do the next time someone takes your toy away instead of hitting?

Child: Get a grown-up? 

You: That’s a really good idea. After your time-out, let’s think about some more things you can do when you get upset so that you don’t hit.

The important thing here is to follow through (don’t forgo the time-out just because your kid looks miserable and it was kind of Charlie’s fault) and to let your kid know that you’re here to help them learn how to navigate the conflict.

How does it work? Authoritative parenting fosters independence, teaching kids how to be responsible and make good decisions on their own. Consistent rules also help kids know what to expect, ensuring they’re not anxious or confused about who’s in charge. (That’s you, obviously.) Sure, it’s more work than authoritarian or permissive parenting, but like most things in life, the extra effort is so worth it.

 

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How to Turn Washing Dishes Into a Stress-Relieving Activity

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When done a particular way, washing dishes can reduce stress and boost your mood.

Let’s be real, doing chores isn’t exactly a blast. Cleaning, vacuuming, and scrubbing the dreaded toilet may not sound pleasant, but as it turns out, at least one thing on your to-do list could be good for your mental health. So long as it’s done right.

In one small study, researchers at Florida State University had 51 student participants wash dishes. No, this wasn’t just a way to get the kids to do some housework, but rather a way to understand how mindfulness affects everyday tasks.

Half of the participants were asked to wash the dishes after reading a short descriptive dishwashing passage. The other half were asked to perform the task after reading a passage on mindfulness. The mindfulness passage read in part:

“While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers concluded that participants who washed dishes in a more mindful way increased their feelings of inspiration by 25 percent and lowered their nervousness levels by 27 percent. Conversely, the group that simply washed the dishes didn’t gain any benefit from completing the task.

“It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,” the study concludes.

“I was particularly interested in how the mundane activities in life could be used to promote a mindful state and, thus, increased overall sense of well-being,” Adam Hanley, a doctoral candidate in FSU College of Education’s Counseling/School Psychology program the study’s author, shared in a statement.

So, how can you turn your dishwashing into a mental break? Do as the participants did by focusing on the good things involved in the task like the sweet smell of the soap, the warmth of the water on your hands, and the feel of the dishes passing through the water. Then, just stay present in these moments and take them as a glorious few minutes to be quiet with yourself. Who knows? You may start liking your chores after all.

 

This article was written by Stacey Leasca from Real Simple and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.