Babies are wonderful bundles of joy. These are easy to love. Nature has cunningly designed them to be irresistible. This helps new parents cope with the hardships of getting up at night and caring for their infant’s immediate needs – which tend to be food, drink, exhalation of wind and clean underwear. So far so good. It is the next part that is more difficult and which many parents flunk. As well as fulfilling their physical needs you have to cope with other important demands for growing children. Here are some key rules for those years from toddler to early school. As a parent you should definitely:
1. Spend time with your child. The one thing you should never deny your child is your time. You should play with him or her, talk and listen. Treat them with respect but with a great sense of playfulness.
2. Read to your child. Just playing, eating, chatting or watching TV together is good but it is not enough. From an early age you should sit and read with your child. It helps develop language, understanding, verbal intelligence and a love of books. Picture books, nursery rhymes, fairy stories and all the old favorites are great. As your children get older listen to them read and discuss the stories and what they meant.
3. Set rules and say ‘No.’ Many parents indulge their kids, smother them with love and deny them nothing. But this is not doing you or the child any favors. Children have to learn the difference between right and wrong; and between safe and dangerous. You have to firmly correct them when they do bad things. You have to set rules and boundaries and make sure the child understands. Children get this quickly and they respect restrictions provided they are applied fairly.
4. Set a good example. Children learn from those around them and especially their parents. If you swear, shout at your partner, kick the dog, leave a mess and don’t tidy up then why shouldn’t they?
5. Encourage a healthy lifestyle. Many teenagers who are obese couch potatoes started with bad habits at an early age. Give your toddler fruit, vegetables and sugar-free drinks and he or she will grow up liking them. Encourage your children to walk, cycle and play and they will love exercise.
Children are a blessing. Having a child is a privilege. Parenthood can and should be a source of happiness and wonderful fun. But it is also a duty; one of the most serious that you will ever undertake. Do it well and the benefits last a lifetime.
Paul Sloane writes and speaks on lateral thinking, leadership and innovation. He has three daughters and two grandchildren. www.destination-innovation.com