Allow your kids to sail through life with these eight lessons…
1 Words are valuable
Speak up: your kid is listening. In families with two working parents, fathers have a greater impact on their children’s language development by age three than mothers do, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology. Provide a creative, dramatic play-by-play of the activities you’re engaged in and your surroundings. Use big words, even if they’re unfamiliar to your kid.
2 Tantrums earn you nothing
“When your anxiety visibly rises, you add fuel to the fire,” says family therapist Hal Edward Runkel. And if you simply hand over a sweet, you encourage more bad behaviour. Instead, when your kid starts shouting, be calm and attentive. Don’t ignore it. This signals that you will not be rattled and the child won’t win – ever. It may not work for the first tantrum, but it’s magic by the fifth.
3 Competition leads to confidence
Children as young as four start to compete with their parents – sprinting to the car, wrestling on the couch. Roll with it. Let them win a lot, and then slowly ramp it up so they have to work harder for their victories. “It’s a way for kids to develop a sense of strength and to let them test their muscles,” says psychiatrist Dr Justin Richardson. They’ll walk more confidently and be less of a mark for bullies.
4 Quitting is hard
When his son wanted to quit cricket at age eight, Runkel said to him, “Sure, but you have to tell your teammates and coach.” The boy couldn’t do it. He’s played for seven years since. Show kids the pain of quitting, and they won’t make those kind of decisions lightly, Runkel says. “If your kid says a school project is too hard and that he wants to give up, that’s okay,” says Runkel. “But say, ‘Tell your teacher you’re quitting and that you’ll take whatever mark is appropriate.’ Trust me, he’ll stick it out.”
5 Other people’s feelings matter
It’s easier to connect with others if you understand their perspective, so nurture that instinct in your child. Start with the child’s own feelings. “Say, ‘Man, it must be hard being eight years old. What’s the hardest part?’ ” suggests Runkel. Then mention people your kid knows who are having a hard time – say, a friend whose dad lost his job. Ask what he thinks it’s like for that friend. “They won’t always have an answer, but they’re thinking about it,” Runkel says.
6 Fights can be resolved
Unless one kid is dangling the other out the window, don’t say a word. “As soon as you become involved, they no longer care about a solution. They’ll only try drafting you to their side,” says child psychologist Anthony Wolf. If they pester you, say your solution will be bad for both of them. They’ll learn that pleading is fruitless. More important, they’ll learn quickly to compromise.
7 Independence is earned
When your kids ask to stay later at a friend’s house, ask what time would work for them. Then ask why. If you don’t hear a good answer, it’s okay to say no. If you do, try it, says psychologist Janet Edgette. When parents give children freedom and responsibility, studies show, the children develop stronger morals more quickly.
8 Success requires focus
Maybe you don’t wish for a prodigy, but our competitive society suggests otherwise. That’s why so many kids have trouble focusing, says psychiatrist Dr C Andrew Ramsey. Make sure your kids know your expectations. Celebrate improvement first. And explain the value of slow mastery. “Whether your kids love Pat Lambie or Beyoncé, let them know that these people succeeded because they mastered one skill,” says Ramsey.