Promoting Positive Health & Development in Children

By Megan McClelland, Ph.D.
(Oregon Parenting Education Week Newsletter – 2015)

Although many young children have healthy and positive childhoods, disturbing numbers of children continue to experience abuse. There are a number of ways that this can be prevented including supporting positive and effective parenting strategies. Here are a few tips that parents can use to promote positive health and development in their children.

1. Work on your own self-control Parents who keep themselves calm are more able to respond patiently to their children, even when children are having a temper tantrum. Parents who have an understanding of typical child development are more likely to link children’s behavior to their stage of development. This helps put a child’s behavior in perspective. Children also model their parent’s behavior. For example, if you start yelling in your car in a fit of road rage, your child will learn to solve problems by yelling too. Promoting strong self-control in children is important because it predicts how they do in school, how they get along with others, and many long-term outcomes such as stronger health and better educational attainment (e.g., graduating from college).

2.Develop a warm and responsive parenting style but keep your expectations high too! Parents who are warm and responsive with their children have stronger relationships with them. But don’t give up your expectations! Children with warm but firm parents are more likely to comply with adult demands and act in more moral ways. They are also more likely to do better in school, have stronger self-esteem, and a better sense of who they are.

3.Talk, talk, talk with your child! Key to developing a positive relationship with your child is to talk with them as soon as they are born and keep talking to them! Use trips to the store, bath time, and meal time as important time with your child. Do not spend this time on cell phones or other mobile devices – it can lead you to be impatient and inattentive with your child. Even if your child is too young to talk, talk to them about what you have to do that day or what you are buying at the store. As they get older, listen to them and ask open-ended questions. Early vocabulary and language skills are important precursors to school readiness and will also promote a strong bond with children.

4.Get help when you need it! Parenting is Hard! We all need breaks, even if we have resources, a supportive partner, and a job that we love. Remember to give yourself a break! Exercising (even if it’s just going for a walk), having time and space to calm down, and getting enough sleep all helps promote positive parenting. For example, research has shown that using mindfulness practices and meditation can lower cortisol (a stress hormone) and promote better parenting. Learning positive parenting strategies is an important way to improve your parenting and your child’s development. Go to parenting classes and access resources! A few good resources include: http://www.joinvroom.org, www.pbs.org/wholechild/parents/building.html, and http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/.

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