One of the most important things we do as parents is helping our children develop social skills for their future.
Social skills are the building blocks for developing good relationships with others. Some of these skills, like sharing and taking turns, can be learned in the classroom and on the playground. But really, these fundamentals come from the lessons taught at home. Some children learn by observation. Others need more direct instruction or more frequent reminders. Take time to encourage and nurture your children's social skills in order to prepare them for the future. The following are some tips for teaching good social skills to your children:
Model Appropriate Actions and Behaviors Children learn through our actions. Model patience while waiting in a long grocery line. Talk politely on the phone (even when it's a solicitor). And consistently use "please" and "thank you" in everyday conversation. It's not always easy to remember, but keep in mind that your children are watching and learning from you, every step of the way.
Praise Desired Behaviors Positive reinforcement is always great. Pointing out even the smallest thing that your child does well and letting him know how proud you are can help encourage the repetition of desired behaviors. For example, "I like they way you sat quietly until I finished my phone call. What game would you like to play?" Or, "I'm so proud that you shared your toys today with your friends!"
Practice, Practice, Practice Encourage your child to practice new positive behaviors whenever an opportunity presents itself. Say "good morning" to classmates on your walk to school. Say "thank you" to the parent who holds the gate open. Exhibiting patience often needs to be practiced, repeatedly. If your child interrupts when adults are talking -- or when you're making a phone call -- teach her a non-verbal cue she can use to let you know she wants to talk once you finish your current conversation.
From your own family experiences, do you have any tips to share about teaching social skill to children?View Thread
Parents often feel pressure to involve their children in all the activities that their friends' children are involved in. But with hours spent in school, doing homework, and helping at home, how many evening or weekend activities should be squeezed into an already busy schedule? While sports, music, gymnastics, dance, boy/girl scouts, religious school, play dates, and other activities can enhance a child's life, a balance must be established. Your child does not need to be rushing to an activity every day of the week.
After introducing your child to a variety of activities, it is best to let her take the lead and participate in one or two activities that she truly enjoys. It is also important to teach your child to follow through with commitments and show up to games, lessons, practices, or whatever other events the activity demands. Therefore, one or two extracurricular commitments per season are really all a child should be expected to handle.
Unstructured playtime every day is also important. Down time is essential for creativity, as well as for the mind and body to rest. Over scheduling can interfere with down time, study time, and the 10 hours of sleep that children need each night. Too many commitments can also lead to unnecessary stress that children do not need -- stress that can even be harmful to their health and future.
Do you think your child is over scheduled? How, if at all, would you work to remedy it?View Thread
Elaborate vacations or impromptu walks in the park -- both count as important time spent together as a family. I asked friends, patients, and my own family what their favorite family adventures are, whether indoors, outdoors, at home, or away. Here are some of their top answers and a great list you can enjoy with your family!
1.Indoor Fun. Don't worry about rain or snow! Go bowling, visit a museum, or head to your local library. Teach your children the importance of giving back to the community by volunteering. Or simply grab your family to take care of errands or for a trip to Costco (my sister's idea). 2.Fresh Air Adventures. Grab your sunscreen -- or your coats -- and head outdoors for some fresh air and physical activity. Take a hike, have a picnic, bike, walk on the beach, or around your neighborhood. Don't forget to look to your own yard for inspiration. Plant a garden, or wait for dark to look at the stars -- even camp out. 3.At-Home Bonding. Morning, afternoon, or night -- there are many bonding opportunities in your own home. Prepare a meal, have family game night, play cards, read books, or tell stories. Get creative and conduct your own science experiments. Or follow my neighbor's lead and transform your dining room into an arts and crafts table. Move your muscles indoors and have a dance competition, or build a fort. 4.Get Out Of Town! Pack a bag and take a road trip. Head to the mountains, a historic site, or a major park, be it national or amusement. If flying to an exotic or far away destination is more your style, plan your dream vacation and enjoy it. Don't forget that staying with family and friends a distance away can be a fun adventure, no matter where they live.
These are just a few of the many opportunities that your family can enjoy. Remember what counts most -- you're together as a family. Leave your worries behind and enjoy spending time with your family, no matter what activities you choose.
What are some favorite activities you enjoy with your whole family?View Thread
I remember leaving Starbucks before my non-fat latte was even on the counter, apologizing to my friends, and carrying my screaming 18-month-old out the door and straight home. Almost every parent has a story about a full grocery cart left in the checkout line, or an uneaten meal at the restaurant because you needed to flee the scene during your child's temper tantrum.
The fact is tantrums are a normal part of childhood, especially during toddlerhood. Such behavior can occur for a number of reasons, including being tired or hungry, feeling over-scheduled or sensing inconsistencies in their routine, or maybe because yesterday your little one got a treat at the grocery store, and now that you're shopping at a different store today, he doesn't understand why he can't have the same treat again… and right now!
The following are some tips you can use to minimize the occurrence of tantrums with your child: 1. Avoid tantrum situations. If your daughter always has a meltdown on your second errand, limit your to-do's to one task before her nap and another task after. 2. Bring novel items along when you travel. Keep a special toy or book in your bag or in the car for times when you need something to distract or occupy your toddler. Try to bring something he hasn't seen before, or that only comes out during specific occasions, such as while you're shopping or dining at a restaurant. 3. Have healthy snacks on hand. Since we already know that hunger can be a tantrum trigger, keep healthy snacks in your bag in case you are away from home longer than expected and your toddler wants to munch. 4. Make sure your child is well rested. Overly tired kids are more prone to tantrums than those that get adequate rest. Ensure that your child gets plenty of sleep and try to keep sleep schedules as consistent as possible. 5. Praise good behavior. Any outing with a well-behaved toddler deserves lots of recognition -- hugs, kisses, even a phone call to Daddy.
And when all else fails: 1. Give your child one warning. "I'm giving you one chance to calm down. Then we are leaving the play area." Make sure you follow through. One play date cut short from a tantrum says Mommy means business. 2. Ignore unpleasant behaviors. You can't always walk away from your child when you are in public. But you can ignore them and continue what you're doing while waiting for your toddler to calm down by himself. 3. Leave the location. Simply scoop her up and leave. It may be hard to leave your cup of coffee or a cart full of groceries. But it does work.
Have you experienced any public tantrums with your children? How did you handle the situation?View Thread
Parents often ask me what a safe age is to leave a child home alone. I don't have a simple answer, as it really depends on the age and maturity level of your child. Some states have laws regarding when children can be left at home alone, while others don't. But regardless, your child needs to feel safe and you need to prepare them. Here are some things to consider before you make the decision:
1. Is your child responsible when it comes to homework, chores, following house rules, and caring for himself? 2. Is he able to prepare food safely? 3. Can he care for minor injuries, such as a cut or a scrape? 4. Does he know how to reach you, or another responsible adult, should he need to? 5. Can you get home quickly, or is there a relative or neighbor nearby to help if needed? 6. Does he know not to answer the door if an unfamiliar person knocks, or what to say when a stranger calls the house?
If you feel your child is ready to stay home alone, here are some steps you can take to prepare her:
1. Ask her if she feels ready. Some children may be frightened by the idea of staying home alone. 2. Do a few test runs. Let her stay home while you visit the neighbors for a few minutes. Or take a short trip to the grocery store for no more than a half hour. 3. Role-play what to say or do if the phone rings or somebody comes to the door. Consider leaving a script by the phone. "My mom can't come to the phone right now. Can I take a message." 4. Show her how to operate any alarm or security systems you have in your home. 5. Post emergency info near the phone or on the fridge. Include your cell phone and work numbers, other relatives' and neighbors' contact information, and Poison Control. 6. Make sure she knows how to care for simple injuries that she might sustain, such as cuts or scrapes, and when to call 9-1-1 in an emergency. 7. Have her practice cooking or preparing simple meals, like a sandwich or even dry cereal. If you decide it's OK for her to use the microwave or stove, make sure she knows how to safely use them. 8. Set rules regarding homework or limited screen and phone times. 9. If she'll be arriving home alone, have her call you when she gets home. Be sure to chat for a few minutes to ensure that the house is secure, and that she's inside safe and sound.
At what age do you think a child can be left home alone? How can you tell if a child is ready?View Thread
I know that maintaining a healthy diet takes hard work and perseverance, especially in a culture of fast food nutrition and couch potato fitness. But it's worth it for your child's well-being and happiness. Below are a few tips you can use to help your child eat a healthier diet:
1. Drink water. One of the best things you can do for your child is get him used to drinking water at a young age. Many kids and teens drink more calories than they eat each day. Soda, juice, fruit smoothies, and flavored coffees all contain sugar that kids don't need. And they definitely don't need the caffeine. Remember to set the example by drinking water yourself. How can you expect your kids to drink water if you don't?
2. Serve fruits and veggies more often. This can be a tough sell, I know. But the more fruits and veggies you give young children, the healthier food choices they will make when they get older. Don't give your child junk food just because he doesn't like what you made for dinner. If you're going to offer him a back up, it needs to be another healthy option.
3. Toss the junk food. Get all the chips, cookies, and candy out of the house. If there are only healthy snack items at home, your kids won't have a choice but to snack on what's good for them. And with time, they'll get used to carrot sticks with ranch dressing, or apples with peanut butter.
4. Increase dairy, but decrease percentages. After age 2, all children should drink either non-fat or 1% milk. There's a lot of extra fat and calories in 2% and whole milk that kids over 2 don't need. Non-fat milk has essentially the same important nutrients as whole milk, including protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Remember, non-fat and low fat yogurts and cheeses are great for getting the 3 servings of dairy recommended for children each day.
5. Limit portion sizes. Thanks to super-sized products, our children have grown accustomed to much larger portions of everything. An age-appropriate portion size is about what fits in the palm of your child's hand. Never let your children snack out of a large bag or container. Instead, give them an appropriately sized portion and put the rest away. Only allow kids to get seconds when eating fruits and veggies. That way you don't have to say no to food if their hungry, but their choices are simple and healthy. It's also best not to teach kids that they must clean their plate. Help them learn when they are full and when to stop eating.
As a parent, it's up to you to be the role model of healthy habits for your family. I rarely see a child who has a healthier diet than his parents. The sooner you encourage healthy eating habits at home, the sooner you'll see a difference. It's a lifelong commitment for you and your whole family.
So how do you ensure healthy eating habits at home with your kids?View Thread
You are right that kids are naturally curious, but sometimes their curiosity can lead them to inappropriate material, especially on-line where other potential dangers such as on-line predators lurk. If you haven't already, move the computer to a central area in the house so you can keep an eye on it (and him). Make sure you have clear rules about what sites are appropriate and what are not. In addition, remember to place a time limit on screen use (1-2 hours a day). Remind him never to give you his full name, phone number, address or photos on the Internet.
Regarding the content itself, discuss the topic, what it is and why you don't want him looking at it, or why it isn't allowed in your house. Perhaps he has questions about sex, his body or his sexuality. Let him know he can come to you with such questions. Be open and honest about your personal values and beliefs.View Thread
Smart phones, iPads, and laptops! Oh my! We are living in a digital world (cue Madonna's "Material Girl") and our children are digital kids. So instead of avoiding the topic, or forbidding your child from using the computer, teach them how to surf the web safely. While the Internet can be a fun and educational tool for kids, don't forget that there are also potential safety risks (such as cyber bullies, predators, and thieves) that you need to take seriously.
Dr.Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, author of CyberSafe, says, "It isn't appropriate to "ban" kids from using the internet until school age or older and then think they'll "get it". By then, they will have already snuck online but without guidance. We live in a digital world so our job is to help them gain the digital skills needed to operate in that world. It's the same way we teach them to be safe in the kitchen or learn to walk around on their toddler feet safety. We have to take that same common sense parenting approach to everything digital."
The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a list of links and resources to help parents keep children and adolescents safer when browsing online (http://safetynet.aap.org/ ). I recommend that all parents review it ASAP. In addition, here are a few of my own tips to keep your family safe on the Internet:
Keep the computer in a central area in your home.
Learn about the Internet.
Spend time browsing the web with your child.
Bookmark age-appropriate and educational sites for your child.
Set screen time limits for leisure usage, such as 1 hour per school day and 2 hours a day on weekends.
Teach your children not to give out or display any personal information online, including their real names, phone numbers, addresses, the name of their schools, or any personal photos.
Let children know they can and should always let you know if they come across anything disturbing or upsetting online.
So what are your experiences and thoughts on letting children browse the Internet? How do you keep your family safe from online dangers?View Thread
Happy New Year! What resolutions did you and your family make for 2011? Hopefully a few involve replacing unhealthy routines with healthy ones. Making the resolution is easy. But making the change can be a challenge. Here are my suggestions for family-friendly resolutions, along with some solutions to help make these changes actually happen.
Resolution: We will drink more milk and water, and limit soda and fruit juices. Solution: Don't buy soda and juice for your home. Allow your family to choose one sweet beverage when eating out for a special occasion, like a birthday party.
Resolution: We will exercise more. Solution: Have every member of your family choose a sport (such as soccer or basketball) or physical activity (such as walking the dog, dancing, or playing tag), and encourage them to perform that activity at least 3 times a week.
Resolution: We will eat healthier. Solution: Eat at least two different colors of fruit and vegetables each day.
Resolution: We will put away our toys, books, games, shoes, clothes, etc. Solution: Label storage bins with the names of items that belong in each one, such as cars, balls, books, laundry, etc. Encourage everyone in the house to put back what they take out before moving on to something new. To set the example, make sure Mommy and Daddy use labeled bins to clean up, too!
Resolution: We will limit media use --TV, video games, and computer time. Solution: Set a timer. Allow up to one hour on weekdays and 2 hours on weekends.
Has your family made any resolutions for the new year?View Thread
Do you wake up to find that your children have somehow found their way into your bed? Whether you invite them in at 2 AM -- hoping to get just a little more sleep -- or they wander in on their own, it is completely possible to reclaim your bed and teach your children to sleep all night long in their own rooms.
While the exact steps may vary based on the age of your child, the principle is the same. Set rules, be consistent, and praise desired behavior. With that being said, the best-laid plans at 7 PM won't always carry over at 3 AM, when you're sleep deprived and making quick decisions. But stay on track. And keep your goal in mind -- to have kids sleep all night long in their own beds. It should only take a week (usually only 2 or 3 nights) for everyone to enjoy more nighttime Z's in their own beds.
Scenario 1: Infant or Toddler in a Crib: She wakes up in the middle of the night and screams until you cuddle with her, rock her, and ultimately take her to bed with you.
Solution: Choose a night to start. Friday often works well, just in case you don't get much sleep the first night. Put her in bed awake. Read a book or sing a song. Let her know how long you expect her to sleep. Saying it aloud helps you reiterate your own plan. When she does wake up, allow her the opportunity to soothe herself back to sleep. If you always rock, feed, or cuddle her back to sleep, she will need you to perform that ritual every night. And she won't figure out how to lull herself back to sleep. There may be a few nights of crying as she learns. But if you resist the temptation to intervene, there will be less crying with each night that passes. In the morning, tell her how proud you are. Clap, sing, and dance! Even if she's too young to understand, it's a good routine to start.
Scenario 2: Toddler or Preschooler in a Big Kid Bed: He wakes up every night, gets out of his bed, and comes into your room. If you try to put him back, he screams and wakes up the whole neighborhood. Sometimes you're so tired you don't even hear him come in. Then you wake up to find he's sleeping next to you.
Solution: Set aside a few nights in a row where it's OK if you don't get any sleep (perhaps a long weekend). Keep his bedtime routine consistent and let him know what's expected of him: to sleep all night long in his own bed. Get him a special new toy or pillowcase to help him sleep. When he does get out of bed, take his hand and march him right back. Say, "At night we sleep in our own beds." Tuck him in and leave. Do not cuddle or make eye contact. The next time, simply say, "Bed," and march him right back again. The first night, you may do this 18 times...Yes! Eighteen! But the next night, it will only be a few times. And usually, by the third or fourth night, he will stay in his own bed all night long. In the morning, tell him how proud you are that he slept all night long in his own bed. Don't forget to cheer, dance, or throw a party -- whatever it takes to encourage everyone in the house to continue with the routine.
Have you been struggling to get your bed back? What have you tried?View Thread
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