Parents and experts alike often say that children are like sponges, constantly soaking up everything they see and hear. This is exemplified through research out of Cornell University, as the study explores how young children learn about cause and effect through their everyday experiences. It’s only natural that a great deal of what children pick up comes from their parents.
In a recent article by The Urban Child Institute, a nonprofit aimed at the well-being of children, the institute discusses the fact that direct life experiences have a huge impact on a child’s brain, even as young as 2 years old. The institute notes that children are particularly at risk to any persistent negative experiences at this time, but these early years can also act as a significant opportunity for parents and other authority figures to positively influence children early on.
What better way to take advantage of this opportunity than by taking actions that set great examples for your kids? Here are four things you can do as a parent to positively influence your children.
Laugh with your spouse
Research shows that the way you and your spouse interact in front of kids can have a profound effect on them.
In an article posted on Psychology Today, Lisa Firestone, clinical psychologist and director of research and education with Glendon Association, writes about the feelings of guilt that children can often have when their parents’ relationship is not going so smoothly.
“[Children] often feel they must take care of the emotional needs of everyone; a pressure that can leave a child feeling depressed and stressed," Firestone says.
When you laugh and smile with your spouse in front of your children, it makes them feel more stable and secure, and Firestone notes that when the parents are happy, their children feel happy too. So take the time to laugh, smile, joke and play with your spouse as often as you can, as there are numerous benefits for everyone.
Go to your child’s school events
A 2012 study from North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the University of California-Irvine found that the more parents become involved in their child’s school life, the higher that child will perform academically.
Toby Parcel, a professor at North Carolina State and co-author of the study, noted that attending school events and getting involved in your child’s school life “is where the payoff is” in regards to academic achievement.
Perhaps you can make time to visit your child’s classroom once a month as a room-parent, or volunteer at their annual book fair. When your child sees you making his school activities a priority, he sees just how important school is.
Cook healthy meals at home
Childhood obesity is not a new problem. The Centers for Disease Control found that in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese and that childhood obesity has doubled in children in the last 30 years.
Eating healthy is a simple yet highly effective way to set a great example for your children, for your health and theirs. A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the main culprit responsible for childhood obesity is not fast food, but in fact the observed and learned food and eating habits that children see at home. Showing your children how to cook nutritious but still delicious meals is one thing they must see growing up.
Put your smartphone down
It’s not just kids that are guilty of the smartphone obsession.
A 2014 NPR article cited an anthropological study conducted by Boston Medical Center, where researchers observed 55 different sets of parents eating dinner with young children. They found that 40 out of the 55 parents used a mobile phone at some point during the meal, and many were more interested in the phone than the children.
Setting the example of putting the smartphone away and out of sight when at a family meal may resonate with the kids and their own future behavior with smartphones. Showing them that face-to-face interactions are more important than looking at a screen is something that kids today desperately need to see.
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