Every parent wants healthy, happy and well-adjusted kids. And raising kids is not intricate rocket science. With a little mindfulness and common sense, we make this happen. However, we need to ensure we avoid doing certain things during their formative years.
Your child does not need expensive tonics or high-tech gyms to be healthy. It is all about making your home environment a place where good habits are formed and imbibed. What your child experiences during his developmental years are the blueprint of his likes and dislikes – in sum his personality.
As a mother of an adult son, I can vouch that by just avoiding a few things helps our kids grow up healthy and happy
1) Avoid Sugar Giving Sugar
Sugar is a white poison. It is not healthy and is highly addictive. We all know that consuming foods high in sugar leads to several health problems, such as obesity, tooth decay, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. Moreover, it all has negative effects on the brain, like memory loss and mood disorders. Once addicted to it, we need our sugar-fix to feel better.
And, yet as parents, we are negligent of what food we give our kids. We start off not breastfeeding enough and push the bottle on to our child in our rush to get on with our careers. We opt for ready to eat foodstuffs and cereals which is loaded with sugar and other additives.
Furthermore, we are okay when friends and relatives entice our kids with chocolates and sweets.
Thus by the time our kids are in pre-school they are addicted to sugar and sugary stuff. Thus making them prone to numerous health issues from dental carriers to obesity.
2) Avoid Giving Smartphones, Television & Computers
Most parents today are busy, with no extended family to help with childcare. So, what do most parents do, switch on the digital nanny – smartphone, TV or computer. And magically, your child is glued to it and does not disturb you. But this is the worst thing you can do for your child. You are making him a digital junkie, he gets addicted to this form of self-soothing and it’s as bad as drugging your child.
Tech innovators like Steve Jobs did not allow his kids to play with his iPhones as kids because he understood the detrimental effects of these devices on a child’s development.
Under-threes, in particular, need interactive play with other kids, exploring the natural environment, manipulating physical toys. They need adults to guide and teach them skills. These are the years when brain development is maximum and sitting with a smartphone or in front of a screen does not help the brain.
All these tech devices negatively affect your child’s attention, motor control, language skills, and eyesight.
Infants are wired to look at parents’ faces to try to understand their world, and if the eyes of their parents are glued to their phones, not attuned to them and their needs how will they learn the social cues of interacting with the world.
Moreover, the bright screens can interfere with your child’s natural bodily rhythms, preventing melatonin, an important sleep hormone, from being released.
So, please don’t give your child easy access to a screen nanny, the long term effects are really bad.
3) Avoid Hitting, Shaming or Comparing
When dealing with your child always remember you are bigger, smarter and more capable than your child. As parents when we are triggered due to our own past we tend to react as kids ourselves. We get into the state that they should understand me. No, YOU are supposed to understand them.
So, don’t use your brute force to make them fall in line or verbal aggression to subdue them.
Studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children.
Corporal punishment, even at a low level, leads to increases anxiety in kids.
Further, being very warm with a child whom you hit rarely makes things better. It can actually make matters worse, it makes them more, not less, anxious. It is simply too confusing and unnerving for a child to be hit hard and loved warmly all in the same home.
Shaming is another terrible way to control your child.
When your child does something wrong focus on the child’s behavior say ‘What you have done is not right’ instead of ‘You are a bad boy.’ Calling a child bad is like stamping him with your verdict for life. The feeling of not being good enough gets encoded in his mind.
Moreover, feelings of shame can be excruciatingly painful. Brené Brown, calls shame an unspoken epidemic. It is the reason behind many forms of broken behavior. And is highly correlated with addiction, depression, violence, aggression, bullying, suicide, eating disorders.
Comparing destroys self-esteem, relationships, and authenticity.
Why can’t you be like your brother Tim, he is so smart and well-behaved? One innocuous statement and forever you have destroyed that relationship between siblings. Most parents unknowingly drive a wedge between childhood relationships by comparing one child to another.
Regardless, whether it’s to a sibling or the child of a friend, subjecting your child to comparisons damages their self-esteem and makes them feel inadequate.
Getting hung up on the Jones’ kids, we end up not appreciating our child’s intrinsic uniqueness. Sadly, it makes them less spontaneous and creates a gulf in our relationship with them. Their natural joy and aliveness get smothered as they try to fit in and win our approval. This suppresses their true potential.
4) Avoid Forcing Your Child To Do Something
Avoid forcing your child to do something he dislikes, he will end up resenting you and hating his life. Instead, expose your child to different activities and give him the space to pursue his own natural interest.
Don’t force your child to eat a particular food just because it is good, there are other alternatives if he does not like some veggies. Please avoid making mealtimes and eating a battle of wills. Being bigger you will win but the long-term outcome is food becomes a source of stress which could eventually lead to eating disorders i.e overeating or anorexia.
More importantly, never ever force your child to hug someone they don’t want to or share their things with someone just to be nice. Allow them space and autonomy to develop their own boundaries and have an open discussion later on about their choices.
5) Avoid Making Academics & Competition Their Existence
There is wisdom in the saying ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’, and enough studies have proven that playing is the cornerstone of social, emotional and even academic development. Avoid trying to make them in mini Einsteins or Roger Federer in tennis. Don’t live your dreams through your child.
Children need to play freely without rules and direction from adults. Free play is essential for allowing children to develop a sense of who they are and to value the thoughts and feelings of others. It also helps them to maintain emotional balance and sound mental health and well-being.
6) Avoid Giving a Name-tag ‘Cry-baby’, ‘Sissy’, or ‘Special’
Recently, I watched The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. In the series, the killer, Andrew Cunanan’s father spoiled Andrew giving him a car when he was only 14 years, and the master bedroom and private schooling while bypassing Andrew’s other siblings. Furthermore, at every given opportunity his father reminded him how special he was. Not surprisingly, he grew up feeling entitled, unable to handle rejection and lacking in self-responsibility.
Also, never ever call out your child for giving vent to his emotions. Allow him space and time to cry, feel afraid and scream. YOU need to handle your emotions and reactions. YOU are the adult not them. That’s how they learn to manage and self-soothe difficult emotions later as adults.
When you use underhand tactics of identifying a child by his emotional reactions or behavior rather than understanding the underlying cause of it, you teach your child to suppress his emotions. This becomes a default coping mechanism. Now enough research has proven that suppressing emotions is bad for health.
Listen, acknowledge and validate your child’s emotions without identifying him with that emotion. Tagging a child only leads to shame and resentment.
7) Avoid Trying to Be Perfect Parents
There are no perfect parents, and kids don’t want their parents to be perfect. Mistakes make us human and when our children see us goofing up and behaving oddly they are forgiving if we too allow them the space for trial and error.
Avoid making family and parenting an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians where showing off the perfect family is all that matters
Respect your child for his uniqueness and avoid the above following things, believe me, your kids will turn out to be well-adjusted, happy and healthy.
Remember Kahlil Gibran’s poem on children:
‘You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable