Though it’s difficult for some parents to admit, the reality is that we won’t be around forever to guarantee your kids make good decisions. Sooner than we like, our little ones will be all grown up and once the children are out of the house, there’s not much a mother or father can do to influence their day-to-day decisions. We can, however, help them develop smart habits now that will benefit them massively in the future. To that end, here are four ways moms and dads can help kids make healthy choices on their own:
Set a Good Example
Parents are a child’s first role models. Whether you realize it or not, children watch every move we make from a very young age. Both consciously and subconsciously, they’ll take a number of cues from us. As such, we should make it a point to follow a smart health plan, which should include plenty of exercise and healthy foods. Parents who stock their pantry with nothing but junk snacks, for instance, establish that as the “norm” in their child’s mind. Remember, you are your child’s first, and most important, frame of reference on virtually everything.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Ideally, it shouldn’t be a chore for children to make healthy choices. Rather, they should enjoy nutritious foods, exercising, and staying fit. One great way we can develop desirable habits is through positive reinforcement Rather than threatening bad behavior with punishment, focus on rewarding good decisions. Furthermore, we can make healthy choices themselves the rewards! Fruits make great treats and taking your child to the park or a museum as a bonus ‘treat’ is a fantastic idea.
No parent looks forward to discussing taboo subjects like drugs, sex, and violence with their child. Yet – at a certain age – kids need to be made aware of the many perils the world contains. It’s important that parents answer their children’s questions and educate them properly on these pressing yet sensitive issues. Explaining the complicated nature of drug abuse or where to find STI testing near you may not be the most pleasant of conversational topics, but they could prove vital all the same.
Find “Teachable Moments”
No half-decent parent ever exposes their child to a dangerous or unhealthy situation on purpose. But sometimes kids do dumb things; they eat bags of Halloween candy and get sick; they approach strange dogs; they run out into the street without looking. While we always try and prevent your kids from making unwise decisions like these, we can always frame their mistakes as “teachable moments.” If a child doesn’t understand they’ve done something wrong or put themselves in danger, there’s a good chance they’ll repeat that behavior again.
While we can’t control children’s lives forever, we do have a massive influence on how they act on a daily basis. Don’t underestimate how important our actions are in forming a child’s sense of what’s healthy, what’s dangerous, and what’s important. In truth, how we go about parenting now can affect the choices our children will make ten, fifteen, even twenty years into the future.