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Raising a Child Who Can Be Happy
1. When your child runs to hug you at the door, stop the world and do it then! Don't wait until you've taken your shoes off, or started dinner. Enjoy the moment as much as your child.
2. Jump in a mud puddle, make some mud pies, play in the rain. Have a silly time. Play follow-the-leader. Giggle. Let your child remind you of what life is without adult concerns.
3. Practice encouragement, not condemnation. Even well-meaning parents will focus on what a child needs to do to try harder, instead of encouraging all the little steps along the way.
4. Give up your illusions of who you want your child to be, and let your child develop his or her own talents and interests.
5. Don't teach racism to your child. Teach a child to trust people based on behaviors, not who they are or the color of their skin. Wouldn't that be a nice way to start to change the world?
6. Let your child have as much control as possible, depending upon his or her age. You can begin to relinquish control early, by letting a toddler select his or her clothes for the day from two or three outfits you lay out on the bed. What difference does it make if something doesn't match exactly? He'll be proud of his ability to make a decision -- if you give him that input. Ideally, the older they get the more control they may have. However, you may find a time during early adolescence when they again ask for a parental safety net, and may need strong, dependable parental structures. That doesn't mean parents take back all the control and independence they have taught. It just means parents sit down and discuss limits and expectations with their child, with agreed upon consequences if these are not respected. Parents have to do their part, too, in letting go of the apron strings.
7. Develop a sense of security in your home. Do this by establishing consistent patterns and healthy rituals. For instance, when a child is young maintain a pattern around a set bedtime that may include book reading or story telling. For teens, establish a realistic curfew. Family rituals can range from saying a prayer at meals, to having family-only jokes. Rituals may include sending notes in lunch boxes, or packing a favorite stuffed animal in a bag when someone travels. You decide on a healthy ritual.
8. Work to establish a cohesive unit of love that a child can rely upon, whether or not you are a single or two-parent family. Tell your child you love him daily. Don't forget to say it when he gets older, because he may need to hear it even more. And, tell your spouse that -- in front of your child. Treat each other with love and respect.
9. Teach your child that he or she deserves respect, too. They may not be so big, or they may not be quite an adult, but they have important things to say and deserve to be treated as a human being, not as something you own.
10. Think about giving your child a hug, the next time that is the very last thing you feel like doing. If your child is acting up (whether he's two or 17), this can melt away the distance between you.
11. Don't take out your anger or frustration about work, your spouse or even your life on your child.
12. Be realistic with your promises. Children don't thrive with a lot of money and gifts thrown at them. They thrive with individual attention and love.
13. Enjoy your kids! We don't want to let parental responsibilities make us forget what a gift we have in front of us.
If you'd like to learn more ways to raise a healthy, happy and self-confident child, enroll in our online course Raising a Child Who Can and Improving Your Parenting.
Brenda Crawford-Clark, LMHC, LMFT, NCC
Author: Body Sense Balancing Your Weight and Emotions
©Copyright 2001 Brenda Crawford-Clark