MSU EXTENSION: Opportunities for raising healthy, happy kids

By Teresa Clark-Jones

Michigan State University Extension

The scary part of parenting is that you never know when you’re making a permanent impression on your kids or what lesson your child is taking from it. Most of the lessons we’ll teach will be conveyed over the course of our living together. And yet, as parents, we are not completely at the mercy of random chance and circumstance. Life provides many ordinary, but teachable, moments that we can use in raising good kids. Take some time and come up with your own list of teachable moments. To help you get started, here are six opportunities to teach your child well.

  • Foster empathy: From early on make it a clear expectation that sharing is part of living as a family as well as living in society. An example might be when you see your child acting cruel or unkind, stop the action and review the situation together. Help them understand the effects of this behavior and how the other person may be feeling.
  • Foster responsibility: One of the best ways to help your children in life is to coach them in taking responsibility for their actions. Unfortunately, many parents don’t allow their children the benefit of experiencing the consequences of their decisions. An example of how to foster responsibility is helping teach your child how to make amends. Brainstorm together ways to set things right whenever, wherever possible.
  • Table time: The family meal seems to be an endangered tradition, just when we as a society need it the most. Family life expert Dolores Curran explains, “The family that wants to improve its level of communication should look closely at its attitudes toward the family table”. A family table is a place where many kinds of nourishment are offered. Examples of opportunities would be learning proper social skills and the value of communication.
  • Introduce your children to grown-up life: Get your children involved in worthwhile work. Let them know that they can contribute to the common good. Involve your children in community service activities. Give them an important role to play in the family like a household chore.
  • Foster an understanding of self and others: It’s easy for family members to misunderstand one another. Stephen Covey says that at the heart of most family pain is misunderstanding. Seeking first to understand can save a lot of trials and tribulations between parent and child. Taking the time to understand what the deeper issue is will allow you to help kids through difficulties rather than add to them.
  • Foster limits: To raise great kids, you need to establish a range of age-appropriate guidelines. For example, consider your rules for what your kids can eat and when or where they get the car keys; who can ride with them, how many can ride with them, how far are they allowed to travel, etc. Be clear about why you believe an action is right or wrong. Determine which issues matter to you and establish some house rules that support your values.

Parenting is the most difficult job you will ever have but it will also be the most rewarding job you will ever have. Parenting is a process of launching children into the world with the best preparation we can give them. Just by the fact you read this article indicates your effort.