Wise parents do certain things for their children to help them become strong and healthy people in all areas of their lives; physically, emotionally and spiritually. There are ten things that we think are important for you to do to help your child as they grow up. We hope you will do all ten of them.
- Pray for your children. The power of a parent’s prayer in the life of a child is great. It acknowledges that God is in control and releases His power to help your child and your family. God has said that He answers your prayers for your children to the next several generations.
- Express your love to your child openly and often. Let them hear you say, “I love you” in both word and deed each day. Hugs, kisses and other appropriate physical touch from parents to their children are like water for plants. They are essential for the healthy emotional growth of your child. The emotional needs of a child for affection have been likened to a “love tank” that needs to be filled with unconditional love from their parents. If the tank isn’t full, you can expect emotional problems from your child, even resulting in behavior problems. Many of the behavior problems that we see in our patients are the result of un-met emotional needs of unconditional love from their parents. You can not assume your child knows that you love him or her. You must tell them and show them on a daily basis. We recommend that you read the book by Drs. Ross Campbell and Gary Chapman, called the “Five Love Languages of Children”. This book describes the ways that we as people both express and receive love. Briefly, these five ways that parents can express their love to their children are by physical touch (hugs, kisses, pats on the shoulder, etc.), words of affirmation (genuine praise), acts of service to the child, quality time spent alone with the child receiving the parents undivided attention (Children spell the word “love”, “TIME”), and lastly, gifts that come from the parent’s heart. We urge you, love your children and demonstrate that love to them. It will help them more than anything you can do for them. Give them memories of loving, rich family experiences.
- Communicate well with your child. Listen to them. Talk with them. Give them your undivided attention. Try to avoid shallow communication. Talk deeply with them. Talk about feelings and the meaning of life events. Don’t let the end of the conversation be something like this, “do this because I told you so”. Teach them the principle behind your words. Let them see the reasons for what you are saying. Be honest with them in your communication about your family and the world around them. There is no way to “fool a child” with words or shield them from the truth. “The truth will set you free” is a very true statement. The opposite is also true, “a lie will enslave you”. Children can see how things really are without words being spoken. In addition, children will not trust parents who are not honest with them. The truth always comes out. So, if your child is adopted, tell them so, from their birth. Make the story of their adoption part of their story. It will make them feel special. If your child has a behavioral problem for which you are seeking medical attention, don’t whisper it to us in a office visit or ask for a private conversation, be honest. Let your child know your concerns. It’s a big step towards good emotional health. Be truthful.
- Train your children. Teach them. Instruct them. Correct them. Teach them how to obey. Talk about obedience and then coach them on how to obey. For instance, don’t pick up your child’s toys on the floor or snatch something from their hands that they shouldn’t be holding. Instead, ask them to put the toys up or release the thing that they are holding and keep up your encouragement for them to obey until they actually do it. It takes longer to help them to obey you, but is necessary for them. Teach your child wisdom, knowledge, courtesy and common sense. Teach them, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (the Golden Rule). Make sure that your child is in a good school where they are well taught with the values that you believe in. We at All For Kids Pediatric Clinic believe that you should teach them the Bible.
- Study your children. Learn what makes them tick. Know their needs, their personality, and their temperament. Children are all different and they need different things from their parents. So, what worked for one child may not be what the next child needs. Wise parents know this and strive to meet those individual needs. As you discover the innate personality and emotional makeup of your child, modify your parenting style to maximize your child’s potential. One of the needs of every child is stability in their home environment. Strive to give them this needed stability.
- Think and talk about your child often. Think about their physical, emotional and spiritual well being. Read, reflect, communicate. Talk about their condition with your spouse and other important people in your life. Seek our guidance when needed.
- Control your family’s access and use of television, video and the Internet. Values are taught and caught by children. Make sure that they are getting the right ones. Internet pornography is a major problem, especially for adolescent boys. Attention to ratings on television shows and movies is important, as well as filters on Internet sites. Violent video games have also been shown to be problematic in the instillation of values in young people. Be careful what they watch.
- Help your child build good relationships with others. Associate with family members and friends whose life-styles are a positive example for your child. Do not allow your child to associate with “people from a rough crowd”. They will most definitely be affected by them in a very negative way. Who your child associates with will in a large extent determine their values and behavior. Help your child choose healthy friends.
- Inspire hope in your child. Help them dream dreams. Talk about their future and what they want to be and to do when they grow up. If your child wants to be a fireman, visit the fire station. Lay foundations of hope for the future, this will help ensure success.
- Discipline your children. Discipline is very important in a child’s life. It will mold how they interact with others and how they view themselves. There are great articles on needed child discipline on the website of the American College of Pediatricians: acpeds.org. In addition, the following paragraphs describe Dr. James Dobson’s philosophy on discipline in a book entitled, “Dare to Discipline”. The discipline philosophies below are borrowed from him (with a few of our additions) and are fully explained in his book. You are referred there. The discipline that children receive and the integrity of the family structure in which children are raised, are of enormous importance. Although exactly how you discipline your child can vary considerably, there are some principles of applying discipline that every parent should know and follow.
The following guideline will help you with needed child discipline:
- DEFINE THE BOUNDARIES BEFORE THEY ARE ENFORCED. The most important step in any disciplinary procedure is to establish reasonable expectations and boundaries in advance. The child should know what is and what is not acceptable behavior before he is held responsible for those rules. This precondition will eliminate the overwhelming sense of injustice that a youngster feels when he is spanked or punished for his accidents, mistakes and blunders. If you haven’t defined it, don’t enforce it! Be fair.
- WHEN DEFIANTLY CHALLENGED, RESPOND WITH CONFIDENT DECISIVENESS. Once a child understands what is expected, he should then be held accordingly. That sounds easy, but most children will assault the authority of their elders and challenge their right to lead. In a moment of rebellion, a little child will consider his parent’s wishes and defiantly choose to disobey. Like a military general before a battle, he will calculate the potential risk, marshal his forces and attack the enemy with guns blazing. When that nose-to-nose confrontation occurs between generations, it is extremely important for the adult to win decisively and confidently. The child needs to know that when he chooses to disobey his parents that he will never win in that confrontation. In moments like these, if you choose to spank your child, always apply the discipline to the bottom. The bottom is a padded safe area to spank which will not harm your child. Beating, slapping of the face, use of instruments to strike the child, shaking of the body and other abusive actions should never be done. Also, you should never spank your child if you are angry. If your child’s misbehavior causes you to become angry, it is better to leave the room than to physically abuse your child. Always explain why your child is being disciplined before it occurs.
- USE TIME OUT. A very good tool to help with defiant, disobedient behavior in children is time out. Time out is a moment when the parents or caregivers place a child in a boring corner to give them a moment to consider their actions and as a punishment for bad behavior. This is a primary discipline tool for those parents and caregivers who chose not to spank and for those caregivers of children in state custody when corporal punishment is not allowed. After an episode of misbehavior, defiance or rebellion, place an appropriate size chair facing a boring, out of the way corner of the room, with the child facing the corner. You should allow no food, beverages, books, toys or screens during a time out. There should be no entertainment, this is punishment. It should be boring. In a time out, a child must sit in the corner, quiet and respectful, facing the corner for 1 minute for each year of their life. So, a time out for a two year old is two minutes. The time out doesn’t start until the child is quiet. Explain what you expect of them before the time out begins. Be calm. Take your time. It is a good idea to explain a time out to child at a time that is not in the heat of the moment. So, they will know what to expect. When time outs are first implemented, a two minute time out may take an hour or two to accomplish. You must hold the child in the chair until their fit stops and they choose to obey you. Then, start the timer. Once the needed punishment time is ended, they are released. It’s that simple. Of course, children will test your resolve with their screams and fits as you implement your time out strategy. You must win every time or it will only strengthen your child’s resolve to be disobedient. Temper tantrums will invariably accompany the initiation of time outs. Remember that a crying fit is a relational tool that children use to get what they want. They are quite good at throwing them. Be patient. Be kind, but firm. Your child must be quiet and submissive before the time starts and though the required time. Only then can they be released. Time out for the child, is time in for the parent. You must engage.
- DISTINGUISH BETWEEN WILLFUL DEFIANCE AND CHILDISH IRRESPONSIBILITY. A child should not be spanked for behavior that is not willfully defiant. When he forgets to feed the dog or make his bed or leaves your tennis racket outside, remember that these behaviors are typical of childhood. Be gentle as you teach him to do better. If he fails to respond to your patient instruction, it then becomes appropriate to administer some well-defined consequences (he may have to work to pay for the item he abused or be deprived of its use, etc.). Childish irresponsibility, however, is very different from willful defiance, and it should be handled more patiently.
- REASSURE AND TEACH AFTER THE CONFRONTATION IS OVER. After a time of conflict during which the parent has demonstrated his right to lead (particularly if it resulted in tears for the child), the youngest between 2 and 7 (or older) may want to be loved and reassured. By all means, open your arms and let him come! Hold him close and tell him of your love. Rock him gently and let him know again, why he was punished and how he can avoid the trouble next time. The purpose of your discipline is not to hold your child at an emotional distance, but to lovingly correct him.
- AVOID IMPOSSIBLE DEMANDS. Be absolutely sure that your child is capable of delivering what you require. Never punish him for wetting the bed involuntarily or for not becoming potty-trained by 2 years of age or for doing poorly in school when he is incapable of academic success. These impossible demands put the child in an unresolvable conflict; there is no way out.
- LET LOVE BE YOUR GUIDE! A relationship that is characterized by genuine love and affection is likely to be a healthy one, even though some parental mistakes and errors are inevitable.
- SUPPORT. Mom and Dad have to agree on when and how to discipline their children. Parents must be supportive and consistent, not allowing the child to win the battle by Dividing and Conquering.
- TEACH OBEDIENCE. When it’s to put something down, don’t snatch it from your child. Give them an extended time to follow your instructions. Use your hands to gently guide them into obedience. Gentle nudges are great!
We need to recognize that there is a growing tendency in our society to attack the integrity, authority and even the very existence of traditional family structure. The price of this attack on the family is paid by our children. The nurturing, stable, loving environment of a family is of vital importance to children as they grow up. Take the lead in your child’s life. Be involved. Teach them. Train them. Discipline them. But most of all, LOVE THEM.
We at All For Kids get some questions regarding the use of corporal punishment in children. We agree with the position statement of the American College of Pediatricians. The following is an exerpt from their website.
The American College of Pediatricians carefully reviewed the available research on corporal punishment in developing a position statement on the subject. Its conclusion: Disciplinary spanking by parents, when properly used, can be an effective component in an overall disciplinary plan with children. The details are contained in the following statements. Each of these statements is a printable Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format.
The American College of Pediatricians is a national medical association of licensed physicians and healthcare professionals who specialize in the care of infants, children, and adolescents. The mission of the College is to enable all children to reach their optimal physical and emotional health and well-being. More information is available at www.BestforChildren.org.