Five parenting MUSTS, and five things you should chill out about
Parenting styles differ. You may insist on a 7:30pm bed time on weekends, while your best friend might let her kids stay up till all hours watching DVDs and eating popcorn. You may pack your daughter’s sports kit for her, while your sister might believe that it’s her son’s responsibility. In most cases, there is no right or wrong approach, and parents just go with whatever works for them. However, there are some parenting rules that you should always stick to.
The 1Life blogging team rounded up five of these non-negotiable rules and then listed five things that parents tend to worry about that they actually shouldn’t.
- Strap your children into car seats and seat belts
Car crashes are the leading cause of injury-related deaths for children under five in South Africa – and remain a leading cause of death for South Africans all the way to adulthood. The most significant preventative measure you can take against your child dying in a car accident is making them wear a seatbelt, or strapping them into an age-appropriate car seat or booster seat, every time – no matter how far you are from home.
- Limit their sugar intake
Globally, we’re only really beginning to understand the detrimental effects of sugar. Consumption of sugar over a lifetime contributes to just about every lifestyle disease, including certain types of cancer. One of the biggest favours you can do your child is to teach them to limit their sugar intake. Don’t give them sweet treats as rewards, don’t have sugary beverages in the house, and reduce the dietary sugar they ingest in cereal, snacks and school lunches.
- Control screen time
Children learn so much from educational and entertaining television shows, and from iPads or computer games. But these great learning tools should not replace physical activity, games that hone their fine motor coordination, and outdoor play. Children these days are far too sedentary, are at risk of lifestyle diseases as a result of inactivity, and are way behind the children of previous generations when it comes to tactile skills like puzzle building or shoelace tying. By all means, let your children learn and unwind using screens, but make sure that they are getting far more physical and mental stimulation elsewhere as well.
- Let them struggle
As a parent, it can be hard to see your child having a tough time – but while you should always be there to support them, it is vital that you let them solve problems on their own. Whether your small baby is frustrated because she can’t reach a toy, or your teenager is struggling to complete a project, the best help you can offer them in life is not intervening. They will grow far more from sorting it out for themselves than they will from having things done for them.
- Accept that your children aren’t perfect
While you should love your children unconditionally, you shouldn’t be blind to their negative characteristics. Helping them to understand when they were at fault and how to make amends is far better parenting than blindly taking their side in any altercation. It’s also important to help them to understand that they will improve at piano, sports, maths, writing or dance through hard work, rather than telling them they were brilliant to start with.
And these are no big deal…
- Don’t worry too much about varied, balanced meals
Don’t feed your children junk or sugar, but don’t let yourself get bent out of shape about the limited range of foods that they eat. As long as they are getting something like a balanced diet, it doesn’t matter if they are eating the same five foods day in and day out. Forcing your children to eat whatever’s put in front of them is more likely to give them issues with food in the long run. Give them – and yourself – a break at mealtimes.
- Don’t stress about the hours you have to work
If you’re a working parent, it’s natural to wish that you had more time to spend with your kids. But don’t let that wish turn into guilt. Rather put measures in place to make sure your children are looked after and homework is done, then focus on spending quality time with your them when you are together – which counts for far more in the long term.
- Don’t force them to do a range of extra-mural activities
Some kids seize every opportunity to do extra-curricular activities with both hands; others would rather come home and play alone or read a book. Neither child is on a path to guaranteed success, fulfilment or health. While it’s a good idea to guide your children towards activities that they might find interesting or engaging, don’t let it worry you if they don’t seem interested. Let them discover their own interests in their own time, rather than forcing the issue.
- Let them proceed at their own pace
Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t put pressure on your child and yourself by expecting them to be more like others. Of course, if they are lagging behind in milestones or not achieving decent marks at school, you should speak to their teacher or a therapist to find out if there’s a developmental problem, but if little Johnny down the road is earning gymnastics medals or participating in maths Olympiads and your darling isn’t, it’s no big deal. Celebrate them for what they are, not what you wish they could be.
- Don’t beat yourself up about breastfeeding
Breast is often touted as best, but while this may be true, formula is not poison – it’s a pretty good alternative. Breast is only best if it’s best for your baby AND you, so if you’re struggling with it – or if you struggled with it – give yourself a break. You haven’t put your baby at risk of a lifetime of drawbacks and struggles.
Pick your battles
Every parent wants to be a great parent, and achieving that is about finding the balance between things you absolutely have to do, and things that you don’t really have to worry about. Chances are that if you care enough to have read this article, you’re getting it mostly right, so give yourself a pat on the back. Well done!
The 1Life Blog (link to http://www.1Life.co.za/blog) provides readers with information that will help them to live better lives, ensure happier healthier families, and manage their finances effectively.