As parents, and teachers, we grow with our children and the practices we follow with them have a lasting impact on their behaviour.
Every child is unique. Every child is special. Therefore, it seems natural that the set of parent practices that work with one child may or may not work with another. Never the less, from experiences shared by our parent community and from our own learning, we would like to share with you a set of practices that seem to work successfully with most children.
Ready for school
- Waking up children to good music or fun songs drafted by parents brings joy to the act of rising to a new day.
- A proper sleep schedule should be followed wherein children get at least 9-10 hours of sound sleep for a healthy mind and body. The child then gets up fresh, attends to his toilet needs (freshens up) and is good to start the day.
- It is best to dress children in comfortable clothes, and give them light breakfast comprising of fruits.
- TV at mealtimes prevents the body from absorbing the benefits of the food consumed, because the brain’s oxygen requirement at TV time is very high.
- Meal times must be together with the entire family. Encourage children to serve themselves, finish everything on their plate and even keep back plates, dishes, etc.
- Children should be introduced to all seasonal vegetables and fruits, in order for them to develop a wider taste pallet as well as to build up immunity.
Evening & Bed time
- Schedule of the evening – 1-1.5hr physical play, bath, dinner, story in bed, sleep by 8-8.30pm latest. Keep talking about approaching sleep time to prepare your child for sleep.
- Introduce children to yog nidra before sleeping. This will help them calm down.
- Bedtime stories are a good way to help children fall asleep. Playing soft music at bedtime is also a soother.
- Children aged 3-5 years typically sleep 11-13 hours each night and most do not nap after five years of age.
- Children aged 6-13 need 9-11 hours of sleep. At the same time, there is an increasing demand on their time from school (e.g., homework, projects), sports and other extracurricular and social activities.
Sleep Tips for Children:
- Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule.
- Teach children about healthy sleep habits.
- Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
- Make child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
- Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
Welcoming a Sibling
- The arrival of a sibling means the elder child has to step off the pedestal of exclusive attention, that the child has been used to till then. It is a difficult time for the new “elder” brother/ sister, who is expected to “understand”, “accommodate”, “share”, “be careful”. The most difficult part is having to share the mother. The physical closeness between mother and baby can create resentment in elder child, if he/she is not provided the same closeness. Elder child needs one-on-one time with mother, without the presence of anyone, including baby. Do not scold; provide lots of physical closeness, hugging, warmth. Emotional health of elder child needs lots of attention at this time. This is a big change. DO NOT make any other changes at this time. Do not introduce anything new, any changes in schedule, don’t start/ change school/ day-care/ transport at this time. Do not plan weaning off of bottle/ diaper at this time. Let everything be as stable and predictable as possible.
Children are typically able to do more than many of us think. Here’s how we can encourage them:
- Expect more. Children, like us, have a way of living up (or down) to expectations. At school, we expect children to keep their shoes and bags, to finish their meals, to wind up — and they do. But then when at home, they often have things done for them. Raise the bar and your child will probably stretch to meet it.
- Question more, Answer less. If your child questions you about something, try and encourage him/her to search deeper into the topic rather than simply answering it for him/her. Question him/her further on that, this will not only build curiosity but also develop his/her mental faculty.
- Resist doing for your child what he/she can do himself/herself. While it may be quicker and easier to do it yourself, it won’t help to make your child more self-sufficient. Appealing to your child’s sense of pride, often works. When trying to help children to dress, put on shoes, sit on chairs during meals and so on, we often ask them: ‘Do you want me to help you or can you do it yourself?’ These words are like magic; children always want to do it for themselves.
- Don’t redo what they’ve done. If your child makes his/her bed, resist the urge to smooth the blankets. If he/she dresses in stripes and polka dots, compliment her “eclectic” style. Unless absolutely necessary, don’t fix what your child accomplishes. He/she will notice and it may discourage him/her.
- Let them solve simple problems. If you see your child trying to assemble a toy or get a book from a shelf that he/she can reach if he/she stands on a step stool, pause before racing over to help, provided that they are safe. Those moments when you don’t rush in, when you give children a moment to solve things for themselves, those are the character-building moments.
- Responsible member of the Family. Putting your child in charge of a regular, simple task will build his/her confidence and sense of competency. A child who is entrusted to water the plants or fold clothes is likely to believe he/she can also get dressed or eat independently. However, be sure the chore assigned is manageable and that it’s real work, not busywork, since even children know the difference. The goal is to make your child feel like a capable, contributing member of the family.
- Minimize Television Impact. TV is poor quality work that the brain has to do. For children under 7 yrs., it is equivalent to a dose of poison. It is only processing of lot of high-impact visual and auditory data, without any thinking, creativity, imagination, problem solving. It affects a child’s ability to think independently and creatively even after TV has been switched off.
Personal time with your Child
- Parents should engage in various activities with their children instead of giving them things to do and becoming observers.
- Parents should share their experiences with their children, which in turn sometimes opens up the conversation channels with children.
- Acknowledge the emotions of your child. Do not brush them off. Keeping them connected to reality builds emotional strength in children and helps them cope better with situations in life.
- Parents and children should keep some personal time to keep their energies in sync with one another to exchange new experiences and learning. Quality time with kids helps them get time to find their own rhythm and understand themselves better.
Winning your child’s cooperation isn’t as difficult as it seems. A few simple pointers could help make this an easier process:
- Praise is key, especially if your child is not in a cooperative phase. Try to catch him/her being good, even the slightest of good behaviour. Praise them, as children repeat behaviours that get attention.
- Develop predictable routines. Children seem to cooperate in school because they know what’s expected of them. While it would be impractical to have the same level of structure at home, the more consistent you are, the more cooperative your child is likely to be. Decide on a few routines and stick to them: Everyone gets dressed before breakfast. When we come in from outside, we wash our hands. No bedtime stories until all children are in their night suits. Eventually, following these “house rules” will become second nature to your child.
- Changing tasks to games. If your child refuses to do something, try turning it into a game. Humour and games are two great tools that parents sometimes forget about in the heat of the moment.
- Warn of transitions. If your child pitches a fit whenever you announce it’s time to switch gears –whether that means shutting off the TV, stopping play to come eat, or leaving a friend’s house — it could be that you’re not giving enough advance notice. At school we let children know when transitions are coming so they have time to finish whatever they’re doing. If you need to leave the house at 8:30 a.m., warn your child at 8:15 that he/she has five more minutes to play, then will have to stop to put toys away.
- Give structured choices. If, for example, your 3-year-old refuses to sit at the dinner table, you might offer the choice of sitting and getting dessert — or not sitting and missing out on a treat. At first, your child may not make the right choice, but eventually he/she will, because they will see that the wrong choice isn’t getting him/her what they want. Just be sure, if you want your child to choose option A, that option B is less attractive.
- Firmly Reframe. Make requests in language that assumes cooperation. “If you finish putting away your crayons, we can go to the park,” suggests that perhaps your child won’t clean up his crayons. Try instead: “When you put your crayons away, we’ll go to the park.”
- Do it to music. There’s a reason the “wind up” song works. “Set a task to music, and suddenly it’s fun. Children enjoy doing almost everything to music.
- Sharing. You may speak about the goodness of sharing with your child, however, willingness to share is something that cannot be forced, and will develop over time.
- Let your child work out minor squabbles. Instead of swooping in to settle disputes, stand back and let them work it out (unless they’re hitting each other). You won’t always be there to rescue your child.
- If your child is jumping on the couch or grabbing his/her big sister’s doll, distract him/her by asking if she’d like to draw a picture or read a short story together.
- Involve your child in righting his/her wrongs. If you find your child coloring on the walls, have him/her help wash it off. If he/she knocks over a playmate’s water bottle, ask him/her to help clean up.
- Encourage Learning from Actions. When a child does something inappropriate:
- For toddlers (0-3 yrs), physically restrain the child from hitting or pushing. At the same time, stress on doing good things with hands and feet.
- For children that are 3 yrs and above, when you see them doing something inappropriate, look at the situation objectively. Separate the wrong action from the child and avoid any personal attacks at the child. These are two separate things.
- Be firm on what you expect from the child. Give them tasks to help correct their wrongs. These tasks should not come as punishment. Instead empathize with the child and help him/her complete the task, thus the wrong act becomes a good learning for the child.