Boost Your Childs' Brains and Physical Health
Most doctors recommend no TV or screen time for kids under 2 years old, and no more than two hours a day for everyone older.
This includes computers, video games, and DVDs but beware you do not inadvertently undermine this recommendation by putting TVs in the children's bedrooms. "The best place for a TV and a computer is in a space shared by the whole family," says Susan Linn, EdD, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School.
Kids between 1 and 14 years whose bedrooms are TV-free have lower rates of obesity. They score higher on standardised testing. They go to sleep at least half an hour earlier each night, fall asleep easier and establish a good sleep pattern.
Build up an Immunity to Consumer Culture
Science has demonstrated a link between increased exposure to ads and increased rates of children consuming high-calorie foods, abusing alcohol, and smoking. "You can work with your child from the age of 4 or 5 to build up resilstance to the consumer culture," says Tim Kasser, PhD, a psychology professor at Knox College in Illinois and a father of two boys, ages 9 and 11.
When his family watches TV, Kasser mutes the commercials while his sons make up their own dialogue. "Now if you ask my children what an ad is, they will reply, 'They want your money!' " he says.
Inspire Your Kids to Be More Active
Making a contract with your 8 to 12-year-old child to watch less television will make him or her more active, according to a study at the University at Buffalo. "Give your kids points for spending time outside," says Leslie Sim, PhD, a child and adolescent psychologist at the Mayo Clinic. "Then let them exchange those points for special activities with Mom or Dad.
Do not buy them 'stuff' as a reward. Make the reward something that is inexpensive but is going to be truly meaningful to the child. Most kids want a chance to spend time with their parents and to 'do' things with them, that's a big reward for them and it gives everyone great memories to look back on.
Be a Player, get involved
Brain development research shows that infants learn best through human interaction, manipulation of their physical environment, and open-ended, creative play, says Michael Rich, MD, PhD, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital in Boston.
Yet a host of commercially produced "educational" video products have been created for parents with babies and toddlers. "Any time spent in front of a screen takes away from more developmentally optimal activities (quality time)," says Dr. Rich.
Make Play Fun
Sim offers these simple tips to enhance play: Don't instruct, don't question, do praise, do imitate, and be enthusiastic and verbal in how you describe the child's play. In fact, fathers have a greater effect than mothers on their children's language development in families with two working parents, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.
It doesn't say whether it was a good effect or not but I would definitely discourage the use of 'adult' language around the child. It is clearly detrimental to the development of good vocabulary and social interaction. It's not funny and it's not clever. Buy a parrot if you want to teach something to swear!
Bond at the Dinner Table
Eating in front of the TV is bad and clearly associated with a) a severe dependency or need to spend more time watching TV or b) an inability to break with the habit, or c) a complete breakdown in inter-family communications, according to a study carried out by the University of Washington.
On the other hand, family meals that are taken away from the TV lounge, are associated with smarter, healthier kids, says William Doherty, PhD, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota.
To make family meals work, make it an enjoyable experience:
- Both parents must be commited to doing this,
- Switch the TV off! - Don't just have it on in another room. That will not do!
- Involve the children in the preparation and cleanup of meals. Assign them tasks to do,
- Be prepared for them making a mess in th ekitchen, i.e. spilling milk, breaking the odd cup, covering the cat in flour, etc. Don't make a fuss about it! They're learning,
- Start and finish meals at the same time. The meal is not over until everything is washed up and cleared away.
- Use the knives, forks and spoons supplied. Do not eat with your fingers.
- Don't make food an issue. Don't badger the kids about finishing all their greens,
- Have a round-the-table discussion or talk. Talk about what happened today and any other topics that the kids enjoy. (This could be one of the father's new roles)
- Give each child a chance to speak and encourage them to say something.
- Praise their efforts and value their comments
- Discourage insults and counter any attacks on each other's self esteem
It may be easier to give your children another hour of Nickelodeon or to buy them the latest Transformers model, than to struggle against it but it is more valuable to both you and them, to give them your time and attention instead.
This can be particularly difficult for single parents but do try. If it is proving too difficult, please contact me directly for more information and support on raising a balanced and well rounded child, as a single parent .
Your children want to spend time with you. They want to have a share in, and be a part of, you and your life. Sadly, if you don't spend time with them now, when they are young, they will not feel the need to spend time with you later in life.
Father's think that this can be a particular problem for fathers, because they are told that their primary role is as a defender and provider. Unfortunately, they have a very narrow definition of what 'providing' means and connect with providing money and stuff.
This thinking is stuck in the medieval age and no longer applies today. It hasn't done for centuries. The truth is, fathers have never been clearly informed or have not truly accepted their new role as a father in the modern world.
Two Parent families
In two parent families, fatherhood involves the provision of guidance, teaching and nurturing in a collaborative and cooperative partnership. Equally sharing and taking half the load, in caring, nurturing and being an active player, in developing the best outcome possible in raising a child.
Follow your children's lead and show them that you are part of their world. Let them know you care. You do this by being involved in everything they do. You show active interest in what they think, in what they are doing or in what they want to do.
Studies show that kids who receive more one-on-one attention from their father as well as their mother, grow up more secure, confident and very socially active.
Free Your Child's Creativity
At age 5, kids prefer timeless toys such as generic dolls, stuffed animals, and cars, yet only two years later, these preferences are replaced with brands such as Dora and SpongeBob, imposed on them by targetting the child in TV marketing and other advertising.
Licensed and branded characters come with a pre-constructed set of parameters and abilities. They stifle the creativity, imagination and encourages a shallow sense of materialism. Child development experts recommend buying only unlicensed, unbranded products and encourage parents to discourage the over-exposure of children to marketing vehicles, such as TV, film, cartoons, etc.
Inundating children with branded stuff fills their heads with inappropriate, unachievable expectations and deprives them of opportunities to look inside themselves and imagine, to create their own imaginary worlds and personalised storylines.
A Strong Sense of Self
Children's Creativity, should be positively re-enforced and encouraged to produce an outward expression in the form of art, music, play acting, etc. Being part of the whole process of imagining, creating and producing, the child develops a really strong sense of purpose and self.
A self that can work with and stimulate the child's own imagination. A self that can not only create something unique, but also direct it, or control it entirely by themself, via their own thought processes.
Would you rather have a child with an active animated personality or a personality whose activities are driven by animations?
Just as your child has entered your world, you now must be prepared to join the child in their world, however they imagine it. Always remember to enjoy your time together and you will be laying down happy memories for the future.
Should you have any questions or comments to make on this article, please send me a message and I will respond as immediate as possible.