14 Ways to Show Your Love for Your Child
- Use plenty of positive words with your child.
- Respond promptly and lovingly to your child’s physical and emotional needs and banish put-downs from your parenting vocabulary.
- Make an extra effort to set a good example at home and in public. Use words like “I’m sorry,” “please,” and “thank you.”
- When your child is angry, argumentative or in a bad mood, give him a hug, cuddle, pat, secret sign or other gesture of affection he favors.
- Use non-violent forms of discipline. Parents should institute both rewards and restrictions many years before adolescence to help prevent trouble during the teenage years. Allowing children of any age to constantly break important rules without being disciplined only encourages more rule violations.
- Make plans to spend time alone with your young child or teen doing something she enjoys.
- Schedule family meetings on a regular basis where everyone can talk about the week’s events, share good news, give praise, set expectations, etc. Keep them brief—15 to 20 minutes, longer if desired. Everyone should get input and airtime, but Mom and Dad have the final say.
- Owning a pet can make children, especially those with chronic illnesses and disabilities, feel better by stimulating physical activity, enhancing their overall attitude, and offering constant companionship.
- One of the best ways to familiarize your child with good food choices is to encourage him to cook with you. Let him get involved in the entire process, from planning the menus to shopping for ingredients to the actual food preparation and its serving.
- As your child grows up, she’ll spend most of her time developing and refining a variety of skills and abilities in all areas of her life. You should help her as much as possible by encouraging her and providing the equipment and instruction she needs.
- Your child’s health depends significantly on the care and guidance you offer during his early years. By taking your child to the doctor regularly for consultations, keeping him safe from accidents, providing a nutritious diet, and encouraging exercise throughout childhood, you help protect and strengthen his body.
- Regardless of whether you actively try to pass on your values and beliefs to your child, she is bound to absorb some of them just by living with you. She’ll notice how disciplined you are in your work, how deeply you hold your beliefs and whether you practice what you preach.
- Help your child develop self-esteem by offering steady support and encouragement. He needs you to believe in him as he learns to believe in himself. Loving him, spending time with him, listening to him and praising his accomplishments are all part of this process.
- Don’t forget to say, “I love you” to children of all ages!
(c) 2005 American Academy of Pediatrics.
Back to School Tips
Making the First Day Easier
- Remind your child that she is not the only student who is a bit uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are anxious and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
- Point out the positive aspects of starting school: It will be fun. She’ll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her memory about previous year, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
- Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your youngster can walk to school or ride with on the bus.
- If you feel it is appropriate, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.
- Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
- Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight.
- Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder may also increase curvature of the spine.
- Consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, and they may be difficult to roll in snow.
Traveling to and from School
Review the basic rules with your youngster:
- Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
- Do not move around on the bus.
- Check to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing.
- Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus driver.
- All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
- Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible, and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
- Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4’9″ in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age). This means the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or the throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach; and the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down.
- All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.
- Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You may want to limit the number of teen passengers to prevent driver distraction. Do not allow your teen to drive while eating, drinking, or talking on a cell phone.
- Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
- Ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic.
- Use appropriate hand signals.
- Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
- Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.
- Know the “rules of the road.” [American Academy of Pediatrics – Bicycle safety]
Walking to School
- Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
- Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children can be impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
- Bright colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.
Eating During the School Day
- Most schools regularly send schedules of cafeteria menus home. WIth this advance information, you can plan on packing lunch on the days when the main course is one your child prefers not to eat.
- Try to get your child’s school to stock healthy choices such as fresh fruit, low-fat dairy products, water and 100 percent fruit juice in the vending machines.
- Each 12-ounce soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar and 150 calories. Drinking just one can of soda a day increases a child’s risk of obesity by 60%. Restrict your child’s soft drink consumption.
Bullying is when one child picks on another child repeatedly. Usually children being bullied are either weaker or smaller, shy and generally feel helpless. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social. It can happen at school, on the playground, on the school bus, in the neighborhood, or over the internet.
When Your Child is Bullied
- Help your child learn how to respond by teaching your child how to:
- Look the bully in the eye.
- Stand tall and stay calm in a difficult situation.
- Walk away.
- Teach your child how to say in a firm voice:
“I don’t like what you are doing.”
“Please do NOT talk to me like that.”
“Why would you say that?”
- Teach your child when and how to ask for help.
- Encourage your child to make friends with other children.
- Support activities that interest your child.
- Alert school officials to the problems and work with them on solutions.
- Make sure an adult who knows about the bullying can watch out for your child’s safety and well-being when you cannot be there.
When Your Child is the Bully
- Be sure your child knows that bullying is never OK.
- Set firm and consistent limits on your child’s aggressive behavior.
- Be a positive role model. Show children they can get what they want without teasing, threatening or hurting someone.
- Use effective, non-physical discipline, such as loss of privileges.
- Develop practical solutions with the school principal, teachers, counselors and parents of the children your child has bullied.
When Your Child is a Bystander
- Tell your child not to cheer on or even quietly watch bullying.
- Encourage your child to tell a trusted adult about the bullying.
- Help your child support other children who may be bullied. Encourage your child to include these children in activities.
- Encourage your child to join with others in telling bullies to stop.
Before and After School Child Care
- During middle childhood, youngsters need supervision. A responsible adult should be available to get them ready and off to school in the morning and watch over them after school until you return home from work.
- Children approaching adolescence (11- and 12-year-olds) should not come home to an empty house in the afternoon unless they show unusual maturity for their age.
- If alternate adult supervision is not available, parents should make special efforts to supervise their children form a distance. Children should have a set time when they are expected to arrive at home and should check in with a neighbor or with a parent by telephone.
- If you choose a commercial after-school program, inquire about the training of the staff. There should be a high staff-to-child ratio, and the rooms and the playground should be safe.
Developing Good Homework and Study Habits
- Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Youngsters need a permanent work space in their bedroom or another part of the home that offers privacy.
- Set aside ample time for homework.
- Establish a household rule that the TV set stays off during homework time.
- Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
- To help alleviate eye fatigue, neck fatigue and brain fatigue while studying, it’s recommended that youngsters close the books for ten minutes every hour and go do something else.
- If your child is struggling with a particular subject, and you aren’t able to help her yourself, a tutor can be a good solution. Talk it over with your child’s teacher first.
Close Supervision Improves Parenting Skills
By Sally Koch Kubetin
Pediatric News, September 2003
Adults become better parents when they abandon the power struggle and start supervising their children, Dr. John Walkup said at a meeting on pediatric trends sponsored by Johns Hopkins University.
Parents of children with behavior problems describe their children as if they were opaque. That lack of knowledge of their children comes from not monitoring them, according to Dr. Walkup.
“I think that supervision is the basis of conscience. To this day, when I am in a store and pick up a glass, I hear my mother’s voice say, ‘Put that glass down,’” said Dr. Walkup, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the university.
Lack of supervision of young children increases the risk for everything from accidents to fire setting. A lack of supervision in adolescence increases the risk for substance abuse, premature sexual activity, and delinquent behavior. “The guy who robs the 7-Eleven store without a mask in front of cameras that he can see and then is surprised he gets caught, was not supervised [as a child],” he continued.
Parents who supervise and thus get to know their children do not engage in power struggles with them because such struggles are unnecessary. Power struggles are based on negative reinforcement, with the methods of coercion escalating over time: Each behavior by the child elicits a response from the parent and each behavior by the parent elicits a response by the child.
In an example given by Dr. Walkup, this is the course of a power struggle over whether the child will make his bed:
On day 1, when the parent asks the child to make the bed, they argue back and forth until the parent makes a threat and the child gives in.
On day 2, the child ends the argument by locking himself in the bathroom and remaining silent; then the parent will tell the child that he does not have to make the bed today, just come out of the bathroom.
On day 3, the parent stands in front of the bathroom door during the argument.
On day 4, the child runs out of the house.
“Public humiliation of a parent is always a good strategy,” Dr. Walkup quipped.
The effective parent makes sure that the life of a young child has structure. That includes both a predictable daily schedule and expectations of behavior. It also includes specific rewards for meeting the behavior expectations and punishments for not meeting them. Once that structure is in place, the parent’s job is one of relapse prevention.
When adults become effective parents, children feel competent because they are responsible for details of their daily routines, such as making the beds. There is less nagging, and children can extend the basic organizational principles they see in place at home to other areas of their lives.
For their part, parents learn what it feels like to be successful and in charge. “They learn what it feels like to ‘ignore behavior,’ ‘set firm limits,’ and ‘be consistent,’” Dr. Walkup said.
Effective parenting of teenagers is really a matter of monitoring them.
As part of supervising their teenage children, parents should know where the teen is, what the teen is doing, and whom the teen is with. It comes down to attending to the details of the adolescent’s life.
Behavioral therapy is an effective way to teach parents how to change their behavior toward their children. Dr. Walkup gave the audience the web sites of two groups of behavior management therapists: www.aabt.org (Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy) and www.academyofct.org (Academy of Cognitive Therapy).
What Do We Do Now?
Tips for Parents Adopting Internationally
By Marybeth Lambe, MD in Adoption Magazine
- Appeal to your baby’s senses. Hold off washing the outfit he came home in, and keep it near him in the crib. Newborns are very sensitive to smell and can be comforted by a familiar aroma.
- Avoid excessive eye contact. Even a newborn will let you know when it’s too much—he’ll look away, close his eyes or fuss. Give him time.
- Speak quietly and move with a gentle motion. Most infants will startle at sudden movement.
- Leave the room as little as possible. If you can, stay in the hotel room, rest, and hold your baby or rock or croon to him—these early moments of bonding are priceless. Try to avoid distracting visitors, noise or commotion.
- Snuggle up. Hold your infant as much as possible to facilitate bonding. A baby cannot be spoiled by too much holding time. Consider a baby sling or front carrier; most infants prefer being securely swaddled. Like a baby kangaroo, your child will benefit from close contact.
- Be patient with yourself, your spouse and your infant. Caring for a new baby in a hotel room in a strange city is exhausting. Give yourselves the gift of patience while you adjust.
- Know your doctor beforehand. You will have many questions during your first few days with your baby. So be sure, before your baby comes home, that you have a medical provider you can trust, one who will take your calls from the city where you meet your baby. (See below for how to find an adoption-sensitive doctor.)
Putting a diaper on backwards, fumbling with bottles and nipples, holding a slippery baby in bath water—these are common struggles in the first days of parenthood. Relax. You will make many mistakes throughout your child’s life. He will grow and thrive and love you in spite of them.
Finding an Adoption-Sensitive Pediatrician
Choosing a doctor is a big decision for any family, and the choice is especially important to adoptive families. There are several steps you can take to make your choice a good one.
Begin by asking your friends, neighbors, adoption support group members and adoption agency for recommendations. With names in hand, check with the American Academy of Pediatrics to find out which doctors are board-certified.
Schedule a short visit to meet the potential doctor (as well as his office staff), and ask some or all of the following questions:
- What is your philosophy about antibiotics?
- What is your philosophy about vaccinations and immunizations?
- Do you have daily phone-in hours?
- Who covers for you when you are on vacation?
- How do you feel about raising a child as a vegetarian?
- What is the average wait for well-baby appointments?
- To whom do you refer children who are developmentally delayed?
- Describe your medical training and special areas of interest.
Cries in the Night: Nightmares and Night Terrors
A parent first hears the cries, then perhaps the sound of little feet, and then the small body hurtling into your bed. Could it be the result of “a monster in the closet?” More likely, it’s your child reaching out while experiencing a nightmare.
What are Nightmares?
Nightmares are simply scary dreams. Dreams during sleep are similar to imaginary play during waking hours in that they help our children process new information and complicated events. Children are trying to make sense of their world, even during sleep, and sometimes the world they imagine can be confusing and scary. Children under one year may begin having nightmares, but most occur to children eighteen months and older. For toddlers and preschoolers, the cause of nightmares can stem from thoughts of being separated from their parents, sleeping in the dark, or just the unknown. School-age children may have bad dreams about friendships gone awry, schoolwork, failure, or even violence. When a child remembers a nightmare, it may be a confusing mix of events.
What are Night Terrors?
During night terrors, a child may appear to be awake, even with their eyes open, but they are really asleep. Children with night terrors may scream, kick, panic, sleepwalk, thrash, or mumble. Night terrors usually occur within two hours of the time a child goes to sleep and can last from 10 to 30 minutes. Night terrors occur in about 2% of children between the ages of 1 and 8 years. Frightening as it is, most children don’t even remember the episode in the morning. The most dangerous part is protecting children from themselves. Night terrors are otherwise harmless, and each episode will eventually end in deep sleep.
Should Parents Worry about Their Children’s Nightmares and Night Terrors?
Parents often worry that nightmares and night terrors reflect trauma or emotional distress. These sleep disorders rarely, if ever, reflect underlying illness. The only time a doctor’s intervention might be necessary is if the nightmares affect a child’s ability to function during waking hours. The reassurance and support of parents is usually the only treatment required to help our children. Nightmares and night terrors usually disappear as the child matures.
USING TIME-OUT FOR BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS
Guidelines for Parents
Time-out involves placing your child on a chair for a short period of time following the occurrence of an unacceptable behavior. This procedure has been effective in reducing problem behaviors such as tantrums, hitting, biting, failure to follow directions, leaving the yard without permission and others. Parents have found that time-out works better than spanking, yelling, or threatening your children. It is most appropriate for children from 18 months through 10 years.
- You should purchase a small portable kitchen timer.
- A place for time-out should be selected. This could be a chair in the hallway, kitchen, or corner of a room. It needs to be a dull place (not your child’s bedroom) where your child cannot view the TV or play with toys. It should NOT be a dark, scary, or dangerous place. The aim is to remove your child to a place where not much is happening, not to make your child afraid.
- You should discuss with your spouse which behaviors will result in time-out. Consistency is very important.
- Before using time-out for discipline, you should practice using it with your child at a pleasant time.
- Tell your child there are two rules when in time-out:
- Rule 1: The timer will start when he is quiet. Ask your child what would happen if he talks or makes noises when in time-out. Your child should say the timer will be reset or something similar. If he does not say this, remind him of the rule.
- Rule 2: If he gets off the chair before the timer rings, you will replace him in the chair. If necessary you may hold the child if he/she is out of control–avoid looking at the child at these times or doing anything he/she would construe as physical affection.
- After explaining the rules and checking out your child’s understanding of the rules, go through the steps under “C”. Tell your child you are “pretending” this time.
- Mention to your child that you will be using this technique instead of spanking, yelling, or threatening. Most kids are pleased to learn this.
- Step 1: Following an inappropriate behavior, say to the child, “Oh, you… (describe what the child did).” For example, “You hit your sister. Go to the time-out please.” Say this calmly and only once. It is important not to lose your temper or begin nagging. If you child has problems getting to the chair quickly, guide him with as little effort as needed. This can range from leading the child part way by the hand or carrying the child to the chair. If you have to carry your child to the chair, be sure to hold him/her facing away from you so he/she doesn’t confuse a hug with a trip to time-out.
- Step 2: When your child is on the chair and quiet, set the timer to a specific number of minutes. The rule of thumb is one minute for each year of age up to five minutes. A two-year-old would have two minutes; a three-year-old, three minutes; a five-year-old, five minutes. For child five years and above, five minutes is the maximum amount of time. If your child makes noises, screams or cries, reset the timer. Do this each time the child makes noises. If your child gets off the chair before the time is up, replace the child on the chair, and reset the timer. Do this each time the child gets off the chair.
- Step 3: After your child has been quiet and seated for the required amount of time, the timer will ring. Go to the time-out chair and ask your child if he would like to get up. Do not speak from across the room. A nod of the head or a positive or neutral answer is required. Answering in an angry tone of voice or refusing to answer is not acceptable. If your child is still mad, he will probably get into trouble again in a short period of time. Should your child answer in an angry tone or refuse to answer, reset the timer. Your child may then answer appropriately, but once the timer is reset it must go to the full amount of time. You are the one who should decide when your child gets off the time-out chair, not the child.
- Step 4: After your child finishes a time-out period, he should start with a “clean slate.” It is not necessary to discuss, remind, or nag about what the child did wrong. Within five minute after time-out, look for and praise good behavior. It would be wise to take your child to a different part of the house and start in a new activity. Remember, catch ’em being good.
Summary of the Rules:
- Decide what behaviors you will use time-out for ahead of time. Discuss these with your child.
- Don’t leave your child in time-out and forget about him/her.
- Don’t nag, scold or talk to your child when he is in time-out. All family members should follow this rule!
- Remain calm, particularly when your child is being testy.
- Go immediately to time-out when you’re asked to. Don’t argue.
- Remain quiet and stay on the time-out chair until your asked to get down. You’ll spend less time that way.
- The timer is not to be touched by any child in the house. If you do touch it, you will be placed in time-out.
For Brothers and Sisters:
- If you tease, laugh at or talk with your brother or sister while they are in time-out, you will be placed on the chair and your brother or sister will get down.
Things to Check When Time-Out Doesn’t Work
- Be sure you are not warning your child one (or more) times before sending him/her to the time-out chair. Warnings only teach your child that he/she can misbehave at least once (or more) before you’ll use time-out. Warnings only make things worse, not better.
- All adults who are responsible for disciplining your child at home should be using the time-out chair. You should agree when and for what behaviors to send your child to time-out. (You will want new sitters, visiting friends, and relatives to read and discuss the time-out guidelines.)
- In order to maximize the effectiveness of time-out, you must make the rest of the day (“time-in”) pleasant for your child. Remember to let your child know when she/he is well behaved (“catch ’em being good”) rather than taking good behavior for granted. Most children would prefer to have you put them in time-out than ignore them completely.
- Your child may say “Going to the chair doesn’t bother me,” or “I like time-out.” Don’t fall for this trick. Many children try to convince their parents that time-out is fun and, therefore, not working. You should notice over time that the problem behaviors for which you use time-out occur less often. (Time-out is not supposed to be a miserable experience.)
- When you first begin using time-out, your child may act like time-out is a “game.” She/He may put him/herself in time-out or ask to go to time-out. If this happens, give your child what she/he wants–that is, put him/her in time-out and require your child to sit quietly for the required amount of time. Your child will soon learn that time-out is not a game. Your child may also laugh or giggle when being placed in time-out or while in time-out. Although this may aggravate you, it is important for you to completely ignore your child when she/he is in time-out.
- You may feel the need to punish your child for doing something inappropriate in the chair (e.g., cursing, spitting). However, it is very important to ignore your child when she/he behaves badly in time-out. This will teach your child that such “attention-getting” strategies will NOT work. If your child curses when out of the chair (and it bothers you), be sure to put the child in time-out.
- TV, radio, or a nice view out the window can make time-out more tolerable and prolong the length of time your child must stay in the chair by encouraging him/her to talk. Try to minimize such distractions.
- You must use time-out for major as well as minor behavior problems. Parents have a tendency to feel that time-out is not enough of a punishment for big things and thereby discipline inconsistently. Consistency is most important for time-out to work for big and small problems.
Eleven Things to Do Instead of Spanking
And a Few Suggestions If You Feel You Must Spank
Dr. Jon Jantz
Ignore. Ignore behavior that: will not harm them; bad habits, whining, bad language, tantrums. It is hard to do nothing. However, this lack of attention takes away audience they are seeking.
Suspend privileges. Match the suspension of privilege to the action as closely as possible-e.g., fighting over TV brings loss of TV time. Suspend privilege for short periods -long suspensions only build resentment, and the child forgets the original wrongdoing, reducing the effectiveness of the lesson to be learned.
Logical consequences. Let the action do the “talking”: e.g., abusing the use of a toy means the toy is taken away for a period of time, crayons on the wall are washed off by the “artist,” or the amount of time by which a curfew is missed is subtracted from the next outing.
Rearrange space or place. Be creative in the elimination of problems. Have baskets and low hooks to make room clean-up easier, avoid misplacement of school notes or homework by having a special table or counter for materials, make chores easier to remember by having a chart for who does what and when.
Redirect behavior. If one behavior is a problem, channel the energy into another, positive action. Have paper available to avoid crayoning on the wall; give them a ball to throw instead of throwing sand. If they are having trouble taking turns, have them use another toy, or let them help an adult to use up some of the need for power.
Grandma’s rule. When …Then option – when you pick up the toys, then you can have the TV on; when you come home from school on time, then you can have a friend over. Caution: you need to tie what you want with what they want to make this work.
Fines. In some families, imposing fines (.01, .05 or .25) for bad habits, rules violated or forgotten responsibilities, does work. Ideally, the “kitty” of money goes for a family outing.
Work detail. Creative use of energy to “make up” for rule violations is especially effective for children 8 years and older. A list of jobs that need to be done is posted, and the child chooses one or more jobs to “work off” the problem that was created.
Time Out. Use time out for dangerous and harmful behaviors – biting, aggressive hitting, purposeful destruction. Follow these guides:
- Keep time out to 1 or 2 minutes.
- Have them sit or go to a boring place.
- Tell them what they did wrong and what they are supposed to do instead.
- Use an egg-timer – saves sanity!
- When time out is over, notice something they are doing right as soon as possible and comment on it.
Praise. Be specific about praise you give a child for the good things they’ve accomplished, e.g. “Wow, all the towels are hanging up where they belong in the bathroom, beautiful”.
Just say “No.” Get down to the level of your child, make eye contact and say “No, we don’t do that at our house.”
If you believe you must spank, I recommend that you always warn your child in advance that a specific misbehavior could result in a spanking. Then, when a spanking is warranted, escort your child to a private location to avoid public humiliation. Administer one or two spanks to buttocks only. Calmly review the reason for the spanking with your child. Tell your child chat you dislike the behavior but still love him/her. Some parents like to offer a hug at this time.
“Dad, Do You Know How to Read?”
Television Can Be Dangerous for Our Children
by David Epstein, MD and Jon Jantz, MD
Regardless of whether they are in your care as a parent or as a day care provider, television can be dangerous to our children. Why? Consider the following:
- American children watch, on average, 21 to 23 hours of TV per week from preschool through high school, with younger children watching more. This data does not include time in front of the television for purposes of watching a video, nor does it include video games or computer time. The average child sees more than 20,000 TV commercials per year, and will spend seven to ten years of their life watching TV by the time they reach 70 years of age.
- By the sixth grade, children witness an average of 8,000 murders and over 100,000 other acts of violence on television, including rapes and aggravated assaults. Children’s Saturday morning programming shows 30 violent acts per hour, compared to 5 violent acts per hour on prime time evening television.
- Research has shown several major effects on children of seeing violence on television, including desensitization to the pain and suffering of others, becoming more fearful of the world around them, becoming more likely to behave in aggressive or harmful ways toward others, and imitate the violence they observe on television.
- American teenagers see an estimated 14,000 sexual references and innuendoes per year on television, but only 150 of these references deal with sexual responsibility, abstinence or contraception.
- The average US teenager views 1,000 beer and wine commercials yearly, which glamorize the use of alcohol. Teenagers will see 25 to 50 such commercials for every public service announcement.
- Most of the time a child spends with TV is wasted time, compared to getting exercise, reading or practicing social skills. Television has been linked to obesity: children who watch more than four hours of television per day are twice as likely to be obese. Television has been linked to lowered academic performance: the typical American eighth-grader spends four times as many hours watching television as completing homework.
- In one study, watching only nine minutes of scenes of sexual violence against women, selected from television programs and R-rated movies, lowered college students’ disapproval of rape. In another study, the same increased tolerance for rape could be obtained by viewing 3 hours of sexually explicit films over a six-week period.
- Many parents do not realize how much television their children watch. You might try keeping a diary for a week: record how many hours of TV (including video games and movies) your child watches in a seven-day period and you will probably be surprised at the large amount of TV your child is exposed to. Imagine what they could do with that amount of extra time!
But for better or worse, television is here to stay. It is estimated that 99% of US homes have televisions, and about 66% have two or more televisions. Television is frequently used as a babysitter for overworked parents. Unfortunately, we frequently do not scrutinize this babysitter as well as we evaluate our human babysitters and day care providers.
It’s important to set limits, but we should also teach our children how to deal with what they are seeing and hearing. Making television safe is hard work, but well worth the effort.
Eight Principles for Television Viewing
Limit television to 10 hours per week.
A nice way to do this is allot a “TV allowance,” just as a child might receive a monetary allowance each week. Try making paper slips with the phrase “1/2 hour TV time” written on them. A child might receive 20 such slips every Sunday night, and “pay” 1 slip for each show or half hour of video games they play. This way the total TV exposure is limited, and you do not have to haggle over each show.
One family limits television viewing by trading a half hour coupon for each book the children read. This family reports their children rarely watch more than three hours of television a week—they are too busy reading.
If this is too complicated, try limiting viewing to two hours per day with no carry over; so, if the time is not used on Monday, the television is NOT available for four hours on Tuesday.
No one should eat while the TV is on.
Eating in front of the TV is a prescription for obesity. That’s where the phrase “couch potato” comes from!
Talk about the show with your kids.
Ask for your children’s thoughts about what they are seeing. (“Would you have done what that character did?” “Can you think of a toy that’s more fun than that one?”).
For an insight into the characters, ask which character they identify with most strongly; for example, in The Lion King, would it be Mufaso, Scar, Simba or Nala, and why?
Talk about how the TV characters solved their problems. See if you can come up with a better (or more realistic) solution.
Discuss TV violence. Try to decide why it happened. See if your child can think of a non-violent solution to the same situation.
Vote on whether or not each show is worth watching again. Keep your family’s decisions on a wall chart, so everyone can refer to it.
Talk about commercials.
Television is a business, and businesses exist to make money. From the start, begin teaching your young children about commercials.
Compare toys you have purchased or toys and food you see on shopping trips, with the claims made n the advertisements. Have your children “redo” the commercial based on what they know about the product.
Make children aware of the large amount of time devoted to commercials during their favorite shows. Time them, or count them, for fun.
More simply, consider using the “mute” on the remote control during the commercials.
Take control of the TV.
Don’t let television schedules run your schedule. Make a chart for each family member. Let him or her record what they watch, and how much time is spent. Add up the totals over a week.
Keep the TV out of kid’s rooms, and out of heavily used family areas. Don’t put a TV in a playroom.
Rent, borrow, buy or make video tapes. “Time shift” using the video recorder, then plan a “family TV night” as a family activity. Try to avoid random TV watching, such as “channel surfing.”
Put the TV in perspective for your children.
Tell your child that the violence is “faked” for TV shows. Tell them how it is done.
Help your child think of nonviolent solutions to TV situations.
Reassure children that their world is basically safe. TV news and shows often leave children feeling unsettled. Explain that “news” is chosen so that people will watch.
With younger children, watch cartoons carefully. Point out when “real life” won’t work that way. . .like dropping an anvil on a person’s head.
Use TV to learn.
Ask your child to draw a picture, or write a story, about a show he has seen.
Have your child list TV shows that have interested him or her. Then take trips to the library to find books that can tell you more. Try to visit sites he/she found interesting on TV.
Practice makes perfect.
All of these suggestions assume that the parents are aware of what their children are watching on TV, and how much. The more you teach your children to be active TV viewers, the more natural these skills will become. Pretty soon, you’ll be showing your kids a new way to think for themselves.
What We Can Do
- Support the Children’s Television Act of 1990. This Act makes broadcast of high-quality children’s programming a condition of license renewal, specifically mandating some programming of educational and instructional benefit to children, as well as limiting the amount of advertising time allowed during children’s programming.
- Urge that sexuality be portrayed responsibly by the media.
- Support efforts to eliminate alcohol advertising on television and encourage extensive counter advertising.
- Be aware of the negative effects of televised violence on children and adolescents and actively join the debate on strategies to reduce the amount of violence shown.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the information and statistics and ideas from the following sources:
American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Communications, 1995, pages 786-787.
American Academy of Pediatrics Speaker’s Kit, Children, Channels, Choices: TV and Your Family.
Contemporary Pediatrics, January 1996, Sex, Teens and the Media, Strausberger, V.C., page 29.
One of the greatest gifts that parents can give their children is that of listening to them. Involved parents pay attention to what their children have to say. They are conscientious about the things happening in their children’s lives, including their circle of friends.
Because they genuinely care, they listen attentively to their children’s words, watch their expressions, and monitor their actions, all of which send insightful signals to discerning dads or moms.
- Do you ask conversational questions?
- Do you reflect with interest on what your child says?
- Do you regularly engage in the exchange of thoughts and ideas, or do you just hear words, not giving these words your full attention or sincere interest?
Listening is truly one of the great obligations of love, an obligation that every parent owes his child.
Active listening is listening and responding to each other so that each understands the other.
Active listening parents listen attentively.
- They focus on what is said.
- They give full attention to every word.
Listening takes much patience and effort. Parents have to want to listen to their children, which means they must listen attentively with interest.
Passive listening is hearing but giving little attention to what is said. Just hearing what your child says is not the same as listening to what he says. If you are too busy to slow down and listen to your child, you are busier than you should be. Passive listening parents half listen; they are preoccupied with other things, showing little interest because they feel that they have limited time and many things to do.
Your child’s words are powerful. Listen to him and he will listen to you. The following ideas will help you improve your listening habits:
1. Be patient when listening. Give your child time to finish what he wants to say without trying to complete his sentences or anticipating what he will say. Patient listening says, “I respect what you have to say.
2. Set a time to listen. A good listening time could be during or immediately after dinner or just prior to bedtime.
3. Maintain eye contact. Do not ignore your child by half listening, breaking eye contact, or doing something else while you attempt to listen. Instead, show attentiveness and interest, and when eye contact must be broken, reestablish it as quickly as possible. Quality listening and conversation build relationships.
4. Avoid distractions. Resolve that distractions will not keep you from concentrating on what your child says. Refuse to give in to the physical and mental distractions that compete for your attention.
5. Stay alert and attentive. You are better prepared to participate in a conversation when you are perceptive of every word your child says.
6. Ask questions. Take a few minutes every day to ask your child about the day’s events, about friends, and about school studies. Listening considerately to your child’s answers helps him feel loved and appreciated. Asking questions also keeps you informed about your child’s spiritual, social, and school life.
7. Answer questions. Answer your child’s questions honestly and lovingly. At the same time, try to understand why your child asked a question or made a certain comment. Discernment will give you insight, and it will help you demonstrate patience and love.
8. Use praise comments. The words “please,” “great job,” “I’m proud of you,” and “thank you” yield dividends. Use praise comments when your child responds thoughtfully in conversation and in response to your comments.
9. Give feedback. Smile and give feedback at every available opportunity. For example, use appropriate gestures such as nodding your head or saying “Go on!” “What happened next?” “Really!” “Wow!” This confirms you are listening.
10. Think as you listen. Your child may be having a difficult time telling you something. Think as you listen. Encourage your child to say what he wants to say, and try to see thin as from his point of view. If he cries, do not try to stop the crying. While this is happening, have compassion and understanding. Instead of planning what you will say, just listen and pray for discernment and understanding.
Listening is more than hearing words. It involves interpreting body language, reading between the lines, and drawing inferences while displaying a genuine awareness of every word your child says. Always try to read your child’s feelings and to analyze his words.
Keep in mind that:
- younger children often have a difficult time saying what they mean;
- older children tend to withhold important facts and details.
An attentive ear can often be as beneficial as good advice. When you listen, you are saying, “I love you, and I genuinely care about you.” When your child knows this, he will listen to you. When both the parent and child are listening respectfully to each other, relationships grow.