It is obvious that children should have access to the most fundamental things -- healthy food, a comfortable bed, appropriate clothing. But some of the most important things for a child to have in their upbringing and environment are things that are not always tangible and can only be provided by a caring, attentive parent.
1. Freedom from Chaos
Young children thrive when they are surrounded by organization, structure and routine. Of course some days will be shaken up a bit, but aim to set up a schedule for feeding, sleeping, bathing and other daily activities and try to stick closely to it. Children are less prone to tantrums when they know what to expect. Provide your child with a space for toys that they can access on their own and allow plenty of time for one-on-one and independent play.
2. Protection, Inside and Out
Pediatricians and parenting books put a lot of emphasis on the importance of child-proofing your home. Don't brush this idea aside. Little explorers can't tell the difference between what's safe and what isn't; they just follow their curiosity. Depending on your child's personality, you may not have to go to the greatest lengths of childproofing. Start with the most obvious things like outlet covers, safety gates, and storing medicines, cleaning supplies and other chemicals out of reach. Then address the specific threats of your home: cord keepers for blinds and electronics, drawer and cabinet locks in accessible locations, and bathroom safety supplies. Outside of the home, it is also important for parents to always be aware of the surroundings to anticipate safety issues. Proximity to streets and open gaps in playground equipment are some things to keep in mind. Never let your child wander out of your sight.
Discipline for young children should be firm, consistent and appropriate for the offense. Taking away a toy or a privilege, or putting your child in time out are a few ways you can discipline your child. Be brief when you speak to your child about their punishment; for example, you can say, "I saw you hit your friend. It's not nice to hurt people. That's unacceptable behavior. I'm putting you in time out for three minutes." Timeouts should usually last one minute per year of the child's age. Be sure to follow through with your discipline, and be consistent so that they know you mean business. If you only enforce discipline part of the time, negative behavior will most likely continue. Never hit your child. That is not a form of discipline.
4. Love and Support
The most important thing you can give your child is unconditional love and support. You are their parent, protector, teacher, nurse and so much more. Tell your children you love them, and offer praise when they engage in positive behavior. Tell them how proud you are of them when they accomplish something on their own, and complement them every day. Take the time to talk and play with your child. Ease their fears when they are afraid, and help them when they struggle. Showing love and support for your child will foster a strong, trusting bond between you and your child that will be the foundation and the theme for your relationship as they grow.
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