There are many ways to raise happy, well-adjusted kids, but science has a few tips for making sure they turn out okay. From keeping it fun to letting them leave the nest.
Support the shy ones
A little bashfulness is one thing, but kids with behavioral inhibition — a trait that refers to shyness and also extreme caution in the face of new situations — may be at higher risk of developing anxiety disorders, according to researchers. And parents who shelter kids demonstrating behavioral inhibition (in effect, encouraging this inhibition) may actually make the situation worse.
So how do you support shy kids? The key is to get them out of their comfort zones without trying to change their nature, said Sandee McClowry, a psychologist at New York University. Why not just break them of their shy habbits? Research has shown that shyness is a part of some children’s character and a very difficult trait to change. In other words, it’s better to work with shyness than against it.
Live in the moment
Adults tend to constantly think about the future, but kids — especially preschool-age kids (ages 2 to 5) — live in the here and now, scientists say. To get on a kid’s level, parents need to learn how to live in the moment, too.Instead of telling a 3 year old that it’s time to get ready for some future action, like going to school, parents should give their child a set of instructions. Replace ambiguous statements like “it’s almost time for school” with clear, simple explanations and directions, such as, “We need to leave for school. It’s time to get your coat.”
Tell them how they feel
While older kids are widely regarded as the kings and queens of self-expression, young children often lack the vocabulary to properly label their own emotions, according to researchers who study child development.
Kids ages 2 to 5 are just starting to understand emotions like fear, frustration or disappointment, according to Klein.
You can help your kid express herself by calling out such emotions when you see them. For example, a parent might say, “It’s disappointing that it’s raining outside, and you can’t go out to play,” .
The hectic schedule of adulthood doesn’t always vibe with the relaxed pace of childhood, according to Klein.
“Children move at a slower rate,” and parents should try to match that pace, Klein said. By scheduling extra time for the little things, like a bedtime routine or a trip to the grocery store, parents can turn hectic chores into more meaningful time with their children, she said.
Strictness has weighty consequences
Playing the part of the strict or controlling parent can have long-term negative consequences on your children’s physical health, according to research published in 2014. Specifically, kids of strict parents are more likely to be obese.The researchers found that kids ages 2 to 5 who had parents who set strict limits on activities, didn’t communicate much with their children and didn’t show them much affection were 30 percent more likely to be obese than their peers whose parents were affectionate and openly communicated with their children.