Childbirth, caring for a newborn, SIDS, pre-school, picky eating, toilet training, bullying, homework, friendship issues, discipline, tween issues, teen issues, dating, college…is that really what the last 20 years of my life has been about? Ok…I am actually thrilled that is what the last two decades represent.
My kids are at the end of the rainbow...talk about the Wizard of Oz! Yet when I pull away the curtain now, there is no wise, elderly man shaking in his boots. It’s just me! And I have only one question to ask…only one question that will be asked of me. Did I do it “right”? Do I get the Academy Award for great parenting and raising great kids?
According the today’s leading experts there are several qualities that demonstrate that kids will thrive as adults. Here are six to consider:
1. Compassion: According to author and International parenting expert, Alyson Schafer, "Human beings are social animals, and as such, they are wired for caring and compassion towards others. That faculty however, needs to be stimulated and developed. This is the job of the parent. Even a two year old can be helpful to others by helping hold a door open for another, or by pushing in their chair after leaving the table. They can help their parent by putting cans on a shelf, or by tidying their toys after playing. In these small ways we show children the give and take of living with others, which ultimately develops a care and concern for others. After all, that is really what compassion is all about.”
2. Resilience: Raising a resilient child is crucial to life long success. Don’t be afraid to challenge your child, academically, spiritually or socially. The more your child overcomes obstacles using their internal compass, the more they will develop this critical trait. Learn the difference between protecting your child and sheltering your child.
3. Empathy: Parenting expert and author Dr. Michele Borba says one of the top traits kids need to thrive as an adult is empathy. According to Borba, “to teach kids empathy, you must show kids empathy. The best moments to teach empathy are usually not planned- they just happen. Capitalize on those moments to help your child understand the power that ‘feeling with others’ can have.”
4. Flexibility: Mom Coach Jamee Tenzer says that teaching kids to admit when they have made a mistake and make amends is a crucial trait for success. “Has your child ever made a mistake and fixed it? It doesn't matter if they hurt someone's feelings or missed a due date - were they able to fix the problem?
Making mistakes is a part of life. Learning how to acknowledge those mistakes and take responsibility is a skill that will serve your child in all situations.”
5. Connection: Loneliness is the source of much pain in life and failed goals. Give your kids a way to connect to others in a meaningful way no matter where they are. This will help them always know they can contribute, make a difference and connect, giving them the gift of focus, pride and a sense of community. All of which are essential ingredients to true happiness.
6. Self-Care: Caring for others starts with caring for one’s self. Nutrition and proper eating is by far the biggest challenge most parents face, especially in older kids. Research suggests an expectant mother's food choices while her child is in utero can affect a child's weight, how they store body fat, disease risk, and even the desired foods far beyond birth.
According to best-selling author and nutritionist Erika Herman, “it's harder to change a teenager's dietary habits if a nutritionally conscious foundation has not been laid earlier on.” Herman says “if you focus on what can be done at home, you can set your children or teenagers up to make smarter choices simply because you're leveraging their biochemistry to not crave junk food. You achieve this mastery over cravings by eating for satiety—not taste.”
Herman offers two tips to achieve this. First, serve more satiating meals and snacks (read: fat-rich and moderate protein). Second, decrease sugar (even natural sources) and excessive starch consumption. These two simple shifts will balance the reward centers of children and teenagers’ brains so when they are away from home they are less compelled, on a neurochemical level, to crave sugary, starchy, vegetable-oil filled junk foods--all of which are inflammatory, heighten disease risk, suppress the immune-system, and lead to weight gain.
Raising caring kids is no simple task. Role modeling, daily care and concern and a true rapport with your child will goo along way to enjoying a caring adult who will then also care about you and the world around them.
Anne Leedom is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of www.parentingbookmark.com. She has been quoted in national print including Parents, Redbook and Nick Jr. Magazines and NPR. She contributes regularly to online publications and lives in Northern California with her two daughters. She is also the Founder of LeedomPR.com, a premier agency promoting authors, coaches, speakers and others who utilize her services to expand their media platform.