Before you dismiss this as yet another article on which classes to enroll your child in or how to get your child to top all his subjects in school, this isn’t it. What I will be sharing, are some of the basic principles that I believe are important in enabling our children to grow into healthy and well rounded individuals.
1. Getting enough sleep
We hear this all the time, but we may not be practicing this as sufficiently as we ought to. My sons are vastly different; one cannot sleep without eating enough, the other needs sleep more than food. Despite their different priorities, their common denominator is the same-without sufficient sleep, they will misbehave. I am ‘nazi’ about my boys’ sleep, simply because it has implications on their behaviour, attention span and ability to focus on almost anything. There have been times when I get frustrated with my elder son’s repeated disobedience, only to realise later on that his sleep had been less than adequate due to the day’s activities. A well rested child makes for a happy child, and happy parents!
The amount of sleep required varies according to the child’s age, so begin by understanding the minimum number of hours that your child needs. A 14 month old may only need one long nap in the day but sleep almost 12 hours at night, while a 2 year old may still require 2 naps in the day and have a later bedtime. Understand your child’s needs, and try to keep to a regular nap and bedtime. Ensure that naps are not sacrificed, but if you have to, try to put your child to bed earlier that night. Keep in mind that too long a nap late in afternoon or evening can interfere with bedtime as well.
2. Eat right: lay off the sugar & processed food
This almost sounds like a no-brainer but sometimes, we do not realise that a sweet treat here and there can slowly set off a pattern for our offspring and result in a habit of poor food choices. It can also inevitably spoil their appetites for a proper meal when lunch or dinner swings around.
Toddlers should consume no more than 17g of sugar for their daily intake, and children below 1 year old, should consume little to no sugar at all. Sugar is present in presumably healthy foods-yogurt, breakfast cereal, fruit juice drinks and instant baby cereal. Do you know that a fruit juice drink has a lot less actual fruit juice (and a lot more sugar) in it compared to fruit juice? Check the label! Furthermore, children aged 1-6years old should drink less than 180ml of juice in a day1. Too much sugar can affect children’s oral health as well.
Processed food is another group of food we may unknowingly fall into a habit of feeding our children. Nuggets, fish fingers, sausages, hams, ‘crab meat’, processed cheese and fries are all popular with young children and often served at parties. However, there is a high amount of sodium in most of these food, and other ingredients are added to prolong their shelf lives. Give our children a healthy start in life with unprocessed food, cooked in the healthiest means as much as possible. Check out these Scrumptious Finger Foods For Babies.
3. How to live with a ‘no’
Any parent knows how this is so challenging to live by. Children begin to assert their will and protest from as young as when they are infants; take a beloved toy or object away and the tears flow and wails resound. And it can be so much simpler to placate the child with whatever he/she wants! That may be detrimental to our well being in the long term, the parents AND the child. Saying ‘no’ to a child, denying toys and snacks at their every whim and fancy teaches them to recognize and accept boundaries, living with disappointment and facing rejection. A child is never too young to learn these, as he/she will be equipped from young that there are other people and factors to consider other than their desires. Learning to live with a ‘no’ may not be easy for some children, and it IS okay to cry, if that is all they need to deal with their disappointment before they are able to move on to something else.
4. A wealth of knowledge
Help your child to fall in love with books! Therein lies a depth of imagination and creativity, worldviews of endless perspectives and a place where one can delve deep into literary prowess. In our digital age, reading also helps children to develop and lengthen their attention span. Start reading to your child before birth, and keep at the habit with a variety of books and illustrations.
You can borrow up to 6 books with your IC, and up to 8 if you are a Passion Card member. You can apply for a library card for your child simply by bringing his/her birth certificate to the library and he/she can borrow up to 8 books each time!
“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counsellors, and the most patient of teachers.”
― Charles William Eliot ―
5. Identify strengths and weaknesses, and grow with your child
While many parents may be heavily focused on the children’s grades in school, it is important to help them identify what their strengths and weaknesses are, and help them to be aware of it. Some children are book smart and excel easily in examinations. Others may fare lesser in tests, but are able to show what they have learnt by talking, or by making something that displays their knowledge. The local education system may not be the best in allowing our children to share what they have learnt in the best way that they are inclined to do so. Helping to identify their strengths academically and non-academically can significantly reduce the pressure on them to perform well in examinations and help them to know that they are worth more than what they have to show for in their grades.
When we as parents, are able to release the expectations of a perfect score card as a reflection of how well we have raised our child, or how intelligent (or not) our child is, we can help to equip him/her to choose a path in life to excel in.
6. Personal creative expression
Before you skip this section altogether because you think you have zero creative cells in you (and your spouse), pause to think what you like to do as a hobby. From cooking to crafting (all sorts!), dancing, singing, sports or even meddling with electronics, all of these are a form of creative expression, and outlet. What is key, is that it may not manifest in the same way in our children, and when it does not, we need to remember to not reject the child because of it.
The idea of rejecting a child due to a different creative expression may sound absurd, but it can be so subtle and buried deep in our subconscious state that we are unaware of it. If you are a lover of classical music and become horrified that your child falls in love with rock ‘n’ roll, try to resist kicking him out of the house. It is important to the child to be given room to explore the variety of creative expressions there are available, and try your best to support or to understand the creative expression. As a start, if your child absolutely DELIGHTS in colouring outside the lines and creating abstract art, don’t brand her as ‘naughty’ or ‘rebellious’. Encourage the freedom of expression so that she will learn not to fear judgement of expressing herself freely.