Ahhhhh Summer…not only is it a season full of sunshine, swimsuits, s’mores, and smiles, it is also a time where kids can let loose and relax. At least until Labor Day rolls around and the days get shorter. Ads no longer feature kids splashing and playing outdoors. Store aisles are lined with school supplies and fall clothing. All of which, of course, signal another school year is upon us. This inevitably means busier schedules, packed lunches, homework help, and earlier bedtimes. Understandably, this can cause stress and anxiety–not only for us, but also for our children.
With the right mindset, however, life doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. In fact, following one simple rule can help you maintain at least some of that feeling of summer aaahs throughout the school year:
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Don’t eat while standing up.
Give me your full attention while I’m talking to you.
Don’t text while walking.
We can all agree that telling children not to do these things is easier than following our own advice. Whether we like it or not, however, children make mental notes every time we say one thing but do another.
Practicing what we preach takes effort. The first and perhaps most challenging step is becoming aware of what we do versus what we say. Next, you will have to focus. Instead of biting off more than you can chew, focus on kicking off the school year on the right foot with these 5 specific ways you can lead by example:
- Inspire the joy of reading. Show your children that reading is not only important, but also an enjoyable way to spend free time. Regardless of whether you read the newspaper, a magazine, or a book, the most important thing is to show your children that you read because you WANT to–not because you have to. Encourage your child to follow your example and open their minds. Expand their world. And use their imagination. Remember, your child doesn’t need to be small to enjoy reading a book together.
- Support your child by instilling optimism. Your young children likely see you as beautiful and perfect. And despite your sassy teen viewing you as the devil, in your child’s eyes, you are pretty much capable and worthy of anything. The question is whether you believe it. Believing in yourself the way your children do sets the tone for how they will likely view themselves. Your confidence is contagious. Start focusing on the things you like about yourself. The things you do well. You can even point it out in front of your children. Like when you are trying to hold a plank, you can say out loud, “Wow, I worked so hard to be able to hold a plank for a minute and after weeks of practicing, I finally did it. I feel so good. I’m glad I didn’t give up!” On top of showcasing your confidence, that one sentence demonstrates goal setting, motivation, commitment and perseverance- to name a view. Fostering positivity, confidence, and success propels us forward, the direction we all want be headed.
- Eat healthy meals. Balance is just as important on your plate as it is in every other aspect of life. Show your children how meals incorporate various food groups and colors of the rainbow. Demonstrate your own willingness to cook and/or try new foods. Fight the urge to grab a handful of chips and shove them in your mouth, and to eat while on the run. Help them learn that dessert doesn’t have to be sweets or junk. Train their taste buds at a young age, before they prefer the sweetest of sweets, by teaching them that fruit or nuts (allergy permitting) can be just as delightful! The most important thing to demonstrate is that sharing a healthy meal together is joyful.
- Engage in meaningful face-to-face interactions. We cannot avoid the fact that children’s primary way of communicating is through screens. But with today’s technology-obsessed generation, encouraging verbal communication is more important than ever. Teach your child the art of conversation – the give and take.The simplest way to do this is to find time to talk about your days. Not just one or two word texts or mumbling in passing. I mean REALLY talk with your children, Share with them what you did that day, your experiences, your interactions, your feelings. If necessary, gently prompt your child to interact by asking a question that invites them into your dialogue, such as, “Do you want to know what I did after I dropped you at school?” Or “Do you want to hear what happened to my sister at work today?”After sharing about yourself, turn the tables. Ask your children about their days and pay attention to what they share. Be sure to incorporate open-ended questions, since they require more than a one word response. CAUTION: We have all been in those situations (most likely with our own parents) when we are not in the mood to talk. Yet the person doesn’t take any of our cues and continues to ask questions. Needless to say, when your child is not in the mood to talk, read the situation and react appropriately. Simply save the conversation for another day.
- Maintain healthy, honest, respectful relationships. As parents, we can all agree our children must understand who’s in charge. Yes, we make the rules, and enforce them. But it’s challenging (and sometimes confusing) when we find ourselves trying to do that while wanting to be seen as the cool, laid-back, hip mom. Not only is it hard to find the sweet spot between being a parent and a friend, children tend to become confused. Of course they understand that you are older and wiser. But that’s not necessarily enough. Children need to know that you are the one willing to set reasonable standards for behavior and discipline. Kids want to know what the rules are and that someone is going to enforce them, because when this happens, the world makes sense.At the same time, it is never okay to disrespect your child. Respect, in-and-of itself, is a key ingredient in ALL relationships, regardless of age. In fact, respect is the very foundation for developing positive and healthy relationships within families. Respect ties into being open minded, tolerant, attentive, good mannered, and honest. These are all qualities that we want our children to display. The most effective way to make this happen is to model the behavior you want to encourage. Every time you politely ask for help, or lend a helping hand, you are showing your children how you would like them to act. The best part about it — they can then go on to model that behavior for their friends and classmates, which is a positive ripple effect of which we can all be proud.
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Our goal at GAALS is to provide best practices that will aid you in helping your daughter to build character, confidence and life skills. However, we recognize that there is no one size fits all solution for parenting. That’s why we are grateful when we hear questions and comments. It enables us to see new perspectives, and to pass along our learnings to our community. Please email us at info@GAALSusa.comShare: