Parents

Ideas for Raising Children

Harvard psychologists have been studying what it takes to raise ‘good’ kids. Here are 6 tips.

A lot of parents are tired of being told how technology is screwing up their kids.

Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children’s attention, and they’re bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for raising great kids.

But beneath the madness of modernity, the basics of raising a moral child haven’t really changed.

Parents want their kids to achieve their goals and find happiness, but Harvard researchers believe that doesn’t have to come at the expense of kindness and empathy. They say a few tried-and-true strategies remain the best ways to mold your kids into the morally upstanding and goals-oriented humans you want them to be.

Here are six practical tips:

1) Hang out with your kids.

This is, like, the foundation of it all. Spend regular time with your kids, ask them open-ended questions about themselves, about the world and how they see it, and actively listen to their responses. Not only will you learn all sorts of things that make your child unique, you’ll also be demonstrating to them how to show care and concern for another person.

2) If it matters, say it out loud.

According to the researchers, “Even though most parents and caretakers say that their children being caring is a top priority, often children aren’t hearing that message.” So be sure to say it with them. And so they know it’s something they need to keep up with, check in with teachers, coaches, and others who work with your kids on how they’re doing with teamwork, collaboration, and being a generally nice person.

3) Show your child how to “work it out.”

Walk them through decision-making processes that take into consideration people who could be affected. For example, if your child wants to quit a sport or other activity, encourage them to identify the source of the problem and consider their commitment to the team. Then help them figure out if quitting does, in fact, fix the problem.

4) Make helpfulness and gratitude routine.

The researchers write, “Studies show that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving — and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.” So it’s good for parents to hold the line on chores, asking kids to help their siblings, and giving thanks throughout the day. And when it comes to rewarding “good” behavior, the researchers recommend that parents “only praise uncommon acts of kindness.”

5) Check your child’s destructive emotions.

“The ability to care for others is overwhelmed by anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings,” say the researchers. Helping kids name and process those emotions, then guiding them toward safe conflict resolution, will go a long way toward keeping them focused on being a caring individual. It’s also important to set clear and reasonable boundaries that they’ll understand are out of love and concern for their safety.

6) Show your kids the bigger picture.

“Almost all children empathize with and care about a small circle of families and friends,” say the researchers. The trick is getting them to care about people who are socially, culturally, and even geographically outside their circles. You can do this by coaching them to be good listeners, by encouraging them to put themselves in other people’s shoes, and by practicing empathy using teachable moments in news and entertainment.

The study concludes with a short pep talk for all the parents out there:

“Raising a caring, respectful, ethical child is and always has been hard work. But it’s something all of us can do. And no work is more important or ultimately more rewarding.”

11 Tips for Raising a Super Confident Kid

Richard Branson

February 10, 2014
It sure has to be tough being a kid these days. It’s not like when we were kids – today’s kids have so much more on their minds, so much more to worry about than we ever did growing up. The social and peer pressures they face are also much more intense than the ones we have dealt with as youths, meaning some parents simply don’t know how to raise strong, self-confident kids in this modern world.

While none of us want our kids to become overconfident to the point where they become arrogant, not having enough self confidence is quite a big problem for kids these days, and the problem starts in their developing years.
In order to take an active role in developing a strong sense of self confidence in your child, we have compiled this list of tips that will guide you on your path to raising a responsible, self confident boy or girl.
1. Encourage them to be themselves – This one seems obvious, but you might be surprised by the amount of parents who are (often subconsciously) trying to mold their children into miniature versions of themselves, and not letting them become their own person. You can encourage your kids to be themselves by finding out what their interests are and helping them to participate more in the activities they enjoy.
If your child loves to ride their bicycle, take them out riding a couple times a week. Even if their interests seem a bit strange to you, encourage them to pursue them anyways (as long as they are not dangerous).
What you want to avoid at all costs is telling them not to do the things they like, or criticizing their interests – no matter how you personally might feel about them. If they start to believe that the things they like are “wrong” or “stupid” (even if you don’t use those words – remember their interpretation of what you say is all up to them), they will become hesitant to take on new interests and hobbies in the future, and likely just latch on to what the crowd is doing. While enjoying the activities of their friends around them is not necessarily a problem, if they are participating in other people’s favorite activities exclusivity, they will lose the sense of self confidence to make their own decisions.
2. Have them participate in household chores – No, this isn’t just a way to squeeze a bit more free elbow grease out of your children, it actually helps them develop a higher sense of self confidence. The feeling of working at something that contributes to the household makes children feel good about themselves, even if they are too young to understand the connection between their efforts and the way it makes them feel.
Make sure to give your child chores that are suitable for their age and maturity level. Trying to get a 5 year old to wash all the dishes in the house is not going to do much for their self confidence – in fact, it will have quite the opposite effect.
With chores that are easy to accomplish and even fun for them, they gain a feeling of accomplishment and the self confidence that they can do a good job at something when given a task. Make sure to always praise your children when they do a good job too, that’s worth more self confidence points than completing the chore itself.
3. Don’t let home/school work go unfinished – We all know how difficult it can be to get some kids to do their homework. Also, let’s be honest – sometimes we try to help them complete it and even we don’t understand it! An embarrassing, yet common problem.
The tough part is, even if your child hates homework and would rather avoid it all costs, they probably still feel very bad when they walk into school the next day with their incomplete assignment in hand. Kids can quickly begin to feel like a failure in this situation, especially since most teachers are not so lenient on kids who don’t complete their assignments (and rightly so).
If homework is a pain point for your child, take an active role in helping them to complete it. Even if you have to sneak one of their books into your bedroom at night to get yourself up speed, your assistance in helping them to become a better student will do wonders for their self confidence levels.
4. Enforce positive thinking by practicing it yourself – Nothing hurts more than hearing your child say “I can’t” or “I’ll never be able to do that!” before even giving it a try for themselves. Children who give up before they even start on a regular basis are far more likely to have self confidence issues throughout their adolescence.
To practice this in front of them, make a point not to use too many negative words like “can’t” and “never”. For example, if your child asks, “Can we have hamburgers for dinner tonight?”, don’t say, “No, I can’t make hamburgers in time for dinner” – instead say “the hamburger meat is still frozen, it won’t be ready before dinner time”. It might seem like a small change, and one that your child won’t notice consciously, but children have an amazing habit of picking up actions from those around them, especially their parents.
If you can frame their state of mind so that “I can’t” is far away from their mind when answering a question, they will be much more confident in their perception of what they actually can do.
5. Create fun goals for your child – This can work as a way to reward them for good actions or behaviors with things like treats or special activities, or simply as a way to raise their self esteem. The goal system helps them feel better about themselves for the fact that they are constantly achieving something.
This can also be a great way to make them more motivated to the things they should be doing anyways and in turn, instill them as good habits. Things like keeping their room clean, making their bed and brushing their teeth can all be included as daily things that need to be done, that they are rewarded for after a week of not missing a day.
Your child will likely be far more focused on the reward they will receive, but it will subconsciously be building their self confidence levels.
6. Encourage them to be free with their emotions – While a parent’s natural instinct is to comfort a crying child, be careful that they understand the fact that they are crying and upset is NOT the problem at hand. Your children should feel free to express their emotions freely whether positive, negative or anywhere in between.
If you try too hard to make your child stop crying, just for the sake of not having to hear them cry, they will not only suppress their emotions, but will become hesitant to open up to you when they have a problem.
When they don’t feel comfortable expressing their emotions, or to talk with their parents about something that is bothering them, it can have a huge effect on their self confidence throughout the rest of their childhood.
7. Don’t be afraid to get silly with your child – Kids love being silly and provided they aren’t doing it at inappropriate times (school, church etc.) you should be encouraging them to let their silly side come out and play.
Have you ever seen a child who was so serious at all times, they almost come across as an adult? We all have, and some of us even admire children like that for being so grown up.
The thing is, children that are far too mature for their age end up missing out on a huge part of their childhood, something that affects them now as well as later in life.
8. Let them decorate their own room – After all, it’s their room, they should like their own room, shouldn’t they?
Now, don’t get too carried away, your child likely doesn’t have an eye for design yet to be able to make more intricate decisions, but involving them in the decision process for things like wallpaper and paint color makes them feel important and as if their opinion actually matters –
9. Don’t let their fears overcome them – Children often have fears that can seem illogical to the adult brain, but that doesn’t make them any less terrifying to the developing brain. Trying to completely avoid anything your child is afraid of will only serve to make sure they stay scared of that thing in the future too.
At the same time, you don’t want to overwhelm them by forcing them to experience the things they are afraid of all at once. The perfect balance is by slowly exposing them to the things that cause them to feel fear, and having them realize there is nothing to be afraid of.
Once your child overcomes their fear of a certain thing, it will make them feel brave, proud and confident. Nothing feels better, whether child or adult, than finally standing up and facing something that’s been scaring you.
10. Allow them to have their own time without you – Ask any parent and they will tell you that while seeing their kids grow up before their eyes is one of the greatest joys in life, it is also saddening. Every second older they get, is a second closer to them being independent and eventually moving away from home.
Still, we need to let them have their own space and not be on top of them at all times. If they have friends over, leave them be and let them play with their friends without you trying to follow along too. A child who has friends outside of the home or neighborhood will feel much more confident about going out and making new friends on their own.
11. Let them figure out some problems on their own – If they are having some sort of problem, and it’s not time sensitive or putting them in some sort of danger, take a step back and let them try and figure it out for themselves. Not only is it a great way to see what sort of approach your child takes to problem solving, but finally figuring out the solution to one of their problems can be a big point of pride to any child.
As parents, we want to do the absolute best for our child, even if sometimes it can be tough to see them grow up so quickly. While it is true that self confident children do grow up and become independent faster, they will appreciate all the effort you put in to prepare them for their adult lives. So, even though we would love our children to stay young and cute forever, in the end, all this parenting is really to prepare them to grow up to be respectful, responsible and confident adults.
Help your children learn self confidence from a young age – it’s something they will use for life!

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education. Martin Luther King, Jr.

10 Surprising Ways to Help a Child Learn to Read

Sing

Sing, recite, and act out nursery rhymes. Be like Elf and just make it up as you go! Word play and rhyme help children feel the rhythm of language, anticipate what’s next, and not take language (or themselves) too seriously. Importantly, music seems to be able to drive an improvement in reading skills in typical readers. While you’re at it, put the words on pages and make a song book. Some kids love to follow the words as they sing along.

Dance

Did you know that children who can keep a beat often demonstrate higher levels of reading fluency? But wait —there’s more! Rhythm mastery can even predict reading abilities in developmental dyslexia. So, clear a space, turn on some music, and get moving!

Build Stuff

Provide (and create) building blocks and constructive play materials for children. Extend their play by adding props such as small people and animal figures, vehicles, and street signs—and let the stories unfold.

Let’s Pretend

Research shows us that pretend play fosters many of the necessary skills and behaviors that enhance reading experiences: getting ‘lost’ in a fantasy; turn taking; practicing different roles; creating and acting out stories with beginnings, middles, and ends; expressing thoughts and ideas; and interacting with others. These are just a few of the gains. It’s easy to see how these things come in handy when we, ourselves, get lost in a good book!

Explore

Leave the books and tablets at home and visit museums, galleries, libraries, farm markets, aquariums, water falls, fishing stores, hatcheries, farms, firehouses, post offices, gardens, train yards, airports, and any other place that you can go with a child. Be curious. Ask questions. Talk to people you find at these places. Children benefit from hearing a wide variety of voices, encountering different personalities, and sensing various moods, energies and enthusiasm.

Read

Now, I’m not talking about reading to your child. It’s no surprise that reading to children is important for their own reading lives, but did you know that parents’ reading habits play a role in the way children perceive reading? Make time for your own reading life. Find material that you enjoy or that satisfies a particular curiosity. Read what you like, from books, magazines, cookbooks and e-readers, and let your child catch you reading.

Forget the Words

Go on an image hunt and capture images on camera that seem to go together (even better if your child is able to take their own photos). For example, snap a favorite toy at the breakfast table, in the bathtub, on the swing outside. Use the photos to tell stories, recall events, predict what’s next. You can even print and glue them into a blank book, or upload them to one of the many websites which can transform them into books! Wordless books help children invent stories, express their stories orally, work with sequence, all while giving practice with turning pages right to left. If they go left to right, you have a perfect opportunity to mention other cultures that do the same.

Take a Listening Expedition

Go for a walk and listen to everything. Record the sounds on a recorder or cell phone and then listen when you get home. Can you recall what made the sound? Where were you? What did it make you feel? Have you ever heard that sound before? Not only are sounds important to reading, but so is the ability to listen to others and pay attention to surroundings.

Give Books

Yes, children who are not yet readers can appreciate owning, and even tasting, their own books! Having books in the home leads to improved reading performance, and influences the length of time spent reading as well as overall mindsets about reading.

Read a Poem a Day

Read a poem a day to your child. Why? Because, people who read poetry, in school or at home, are better readers, and better writers. Incidentally, if you want to read a poem a day Every Day Poems can help with that.

This is not to imply that children don’t need to learn the mechanics of reading, the letters, phonics, and rules of grammar — but that wouldn’t have been much of a surprise. And isn’t it inspiring to think that all this play is a big part of learning to read? L.L. Barkat reminds us just how valuable this play business is in her recap of Dr. Stuart Brown’s book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. She reports, in the words of the author, the verdict is in, and it looks good for those who spent their childhoods (and still spend a portion of their adulthoods) in play.