It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love – being a parent is full of ups, downs, and many moments of joy. You want your child to be the best person he or she can be, and therefore you want to take steps to open up opportunity and help your little one develop his or her personality. Play dates, music classes, and school teams are all great things to participate in if your child is interested, but what might have the biggest influence on kids isn’t what’s found outside the home – it’s what they observe in their own house that really counts.
From the moment they are born, children learn from their parents. Those little minds are like sponges, absorbing everything around them, including your good and bad habits. That’s why it’s so important to set a good example in everything you do, because your kids will likely follow suit. The “monkey see, monkey do” mentality can be used to a parent’s advantage when it comes to ingraining important values in kids, so don’t take the opportunity for granted. Here are five simple ways to positively influence your child and set a great example for them to live by:
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Furthermore, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. Nutrition plays a key role in health and maintaining a proper weight. Are your eating habits having a positive or negative influence on the way your kids eat?
Kids who see their parents eat a variety of healthy foods are more likely to try new things or at least be open to the idea of eating more than macaroni and cheese. Set a good example by following the USDA MyPlate recommendations that replaced the food pyramid most of us followed growing up. MyPlate calls for a healthy balance of vegetable, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy at every meal.
In addition to setting a good example with your own eating habits, you can encourage picky eaters to try new things by inviting them to participate in the selection of foods and cooking of meals. Bring kids to the grocery store or local farmers market and have them pick out veggies – they’ll be more excited to try them back home if they have a role in the purchase process. Then, have kids participate in age-appropriate cooking tasks, such as chopping produce, stirring sauces, and rinsing fruit. They will be proud to help out and will want to eat the dishes they help create.
Every parent wants their children to excel in the classroom. Help kids go to the head of the class by always offering support and playing an active role in their education. Ask them not only what they love about school, but also what they don’t like so much. Then take steps to help them in areas where they struggle or are not as confident – it will mean the world to know a parent cares no matter what and that they always have a support system.
Children also look to their parents for guidance in how to value and embrace education. Did you finish your college degree? Maybe you always wanted to start but never found the time. There’s no better time than the present to pursue your bachelor’s or master’s degree, and show your child that education is a lifelong pursuit. The flexible education opportunities available at online colleges make it simple to fit an education into your busy lifestyle. Study when you have open time – potentially right alongside as your child does his or her own homework!
When a child observes a parent valuing education and working hard toward success, he or she will be more likely to follow the lead. There are even programs available for transferring earned college credits and affordable tuition options that put an education in reach of any adult who desires a higher education degree.
Do people say your child has a bad attitude? Do you wonder where he or she gets it from? Oftentimes it takes a hard look in the mirror in order to discover where children learn attitudes about life. Parents who are constantly negative are more likely to have children with the same attitudes, so it might be time to evaluate the example you are setting for your family.
It can be easy to feel down or blame others about the bad things in life. Before you verbalize your discontentment, realize your children absorb your attitude each and every day. How you handle problems is likely how your kids will handle problems in the future, so always be aware of how you react.
Instead of getting angry and being negative when something bad happens, try focusing on the solution. Demonstrate to children that perseverance will always help a person overcome any obstacles. Another option is to redirect and focus on something else that is more positive, being grateful for good things rather than letting the bad things overshadow other more important aspects of life. Finally, if you are just too angry or frustrated about something to let it go, excuse yourself and go into another room and spend a few moments calming down. Then you can emerge and discuss the problem rationally rather than let negative emotions take over.
Children need routine to know what to expect and parents need routine to bring order to an often hectic and chaotic life. Routine and discipline are adopted by some kids more easily than others. Want your kids to stick to a positive daily routine? Set one for yourself and show them how it’s done.
Get up when the alarm goes off. Always make time for a healthy breakfast. Prioritize time for reading and educational activities. Set times for outdoor play. Create a bedtime and always stick to it. These types of activities are key parts of a positive routine and can be good for adults and kids alike. Set a routine and demonstrate discipline to children so they know what to expect. When they see you follow a schedule, they will be more likely to follow their own schedule.
Before you know it, they might even be doing their routine on their own! Just imagine a world where no one argues about bedtime, kids automatically brush their teeth in the morning without being asked, and everyone eats together as a family at dinnertime – it all can start when you set a routine.
Living a healthy, balanced life is important, and exercise and physical play should be a part of every child’s day. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, kids should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day. That hour should be a mix of aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening.
The good news is that children can get much of the exercise they need simply by playing and being kids. Riding bikes, playing on the playground, and participating in an exciting game of tag with the neighborhood kids can quickly add up to 60 minutes or more. The key to keeping kids active is to make time for physical play and demonstrating that exercise is a priority in your house. Give kids an hour to play outside before dinner, sign them up for a local team, or register for a family fun run.
Keep in mind that one of the toughest hurdles to keeping kids active is screen time. Modern technology is appealing to children, and while technical knowledge can be a positive part of life, children shouldn’t be spending all their free time staring at a screen. Set rules that makes sense for your household about screen time. Maybe you only allow one hour of TV time during school nights or let kids play on the computer only after they’ve played outdoors and completed homework. Helping kids find balance while encouraging exercise is a win-win for everyone in the household.
Remember, you are the best living example for your children, so make sure the choices you make and the things you do demonstrate to your children the ideals you value most. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they follow your lead.
Lizzie Wann is the Content Director for Bridgepoint Education. She oversees all website content and works closely with New Media, Career Services, and Student Services for Ashford University.