Creating a Healthy Home Environment: Essential Parenting Tips and Advice

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Healthy Home Environment

Almost without exception, adults base their relationships on mutual respect. We expect respect from spouses, our coworkers and supervisors, our friends – all the people we encounter throughout the day. We then give respect back, showing other people courtesy, appreciation and consideration in everyday interactions.

As parents, we expect our children to show us respect, but what is overlooked is the fact that, to build a healthy relationship and help children develop into positive, happy, and capable adults, parents need to give their children respect right back.

Dr. Hassan Alzein, board-certified pediatrician at Alzein Pediatrics in Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn, Illinois, says, “Mutual respect is the backbone of effective parenting. To get kids to comply with values and rules, listen, and best of all, engage in real conversation, parents need to treat children as individuals. Parents need to acknowledge and respect children’s feelings, encourage and talk through cooperation, and build their children’s self-confidence. By modeling these behaviors in your interactions with your children, they will eventually model the same behaviors towards you and others.”

Of course, says Dr. Alzein, “There are some hard and fast rules that all kids – and parents – need to follow: don’t hit, don’t call names, don’t play with fire. Then, there are a lot of rules that are negotiable. Giving your child the freedom to select clothes appropriate for the weather is more important than requiring a paired outfit. If your child will only sleep under their bed instead of on their mattress, really, that is fine as long as they are getting enough sleep.”

Accept and Acknowledge Your Kid’s Feelings

Children’s behavior is predominantly based on emotions, not logic. “For instance,” says Dr. Alzein, “There is no logic behind your 5-year-old being upset because their chicken is cut in the wrong size pieces at dinnertime. There is a lot of emotion, though. As a parent, accept that this meltdown is happening over something that your child considers quite serious, even though you may think it’s ridiculous.”

Show your child empathy, Dr. Alzein recommends. “Use language to describe their feelings so that they know how to identify their emotions. Say, “I know you feel really disappointed when you expect bigger pieces of chicken and you get small pieces. It makes you feel frustrated.” Talking about the problem from their point of view can de-escalate the situation and help your child feel you are both on the same team together.”

Get Rid of Punishments

Punishing a child by putting them in time-out multiple times a day may correct behavior in the short term, but it will lead to bigger problems and a damaged relationship in the long term. Kids don’t learn any lessons by being punished – instead, they learn they themselves are a problem, not the behavior that they have the power to change.

“When your child draws on the wall, describe to your child what you are seeing and the problem it presents,” says Dr. Alzein. “You can say, “The picture is so beautiful, but crayons can ruin the paint on the wall and it is hard to scrub the crayon off. That makes me feel tired and disappointed.” That’s a big difference from “I told you to only color on the paper!”After you finish talking to your child about the behavior and your feelings, you can brainstorm solutions together. Is the paper stored too high to reach on their own, so they thought the wall was the next best thing? Does your child want a specific wall they can draw on? How about creating a whiteboard wall in the house? If you listen to your child about why they engaged in certain behavior, you will often find that they weren’t trying to be “bad,” they are still in the process of figuring things out.”

Use natural consequences instead of punishment. For instance, and your child a cleaning cloth and tell them you look forward to seeing all the crayons removed from the wall by bedtime.

Encourage Independence and Self-Confidence

The goal of raising children is to have them eventually become independent from their parents. “This separation starts almost immediately, marked by every accomplished milestone, beginning in infancy and continuing through teen years to adulthood,” says Dr. Alzein. He recommends giving children parent-approved choices and then respecting their decision. For example, when it’s time to get ready for bed, you might ask “do you want to brush your teeth first or put your pajamas on?” Either decision accomplishes the goal of getting your child in bed, but they will know the method to get there was their choice and will cooperate more positively.

Encourage self-confidence by letting your child struggle a little when learning new tasks. “It can be difficult when you’re stressed for time or don’t want to see them wrestle with things. Take a breath,” says Dr. Alzein. “Be patient yourself. Be there to provide support and encouragement, but not to immediately jump in and do it for them. This does not help them learn how to accomplish the task. They also won’t want to try if parents make everything appear simple.” He recommends that, instead of saying “Zipping up a jacket is easy – you can do it!”, parents say, “Zipping your jacket is difficult at first, but let’s give it another try. If it doesn’t work this time, then maybe I can help you line up the zippers.” This method recognizes that learning new skills can be challenging, but as a parent, you have confidence in their ability to get the skill mastered, while offering help in case they’re not ready to do it today, notes Dr. Alzein.

Of course, life as parents would be substantially easier if our kids, at all ages, just did what they were told to do. But, Dr. Alzein says, that method wouldn’t encourage children to develop their own thoughts, to learn how to express themselves, or to understand what it means to be treated with respect  – and treat others with respect – when they are adults.

Dr. Alzein says, “The interactions children have with their parents, from the very youngest of ages, will shape their interactions with peers, teachers, coworkers, friends and family as they grow. The healthier, more effective and more communicative your kids are you with, the better their relationships will be with everyone they meet, all throughout their lives.”

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