Guest Post by Julie Medeiros on Parenting of Child in the early years
Let’s look at parenting this way: there are 18 summers to enjoy your child before they are officially called an adult. Even less, to be realistic, since when they become a teenager, their summer holidays will look a lot different (and may not even involve parents at times) than when they are young. Take away the current age of your little one who is in the early years and you’ll see that they get close to 10 years left of the powerful parent role to raise your child.
This does not of course mean that you stop being a parent when your child grows up. What it does mean is that your influence as a parent will decrease dramatically as they become older. This is why parenting in the early years is so important and needs to be geared towards the main goal: preparing your child for the future when they leave your cosy nest.
Obviously, in the early years, there is great dependence on parents to help young kids develop basic skills, such as hygiene, self-care, communication and social skills among others. The list is long enough and also includes a love of learning, developing responsibility, taking calculated risks to explore the world close around, etc. As a teacher and a parent, I believe all of these activities should be viewed as steps toward building life skills the child will take into their adulthood.
Yet, there are other crucial things parenting children in the early years should focus on because of the immense power it has on kids:
Setting an example.
Whether it is healthy eating, an active lifestyle, self-development or anything else, it is important to remember that young kids view the world through their parents’ eyes. There is little value in educating the kids in the early years about the benefits of exercise if parents themselves do not live by those values. Or it is really hard to explain the importance of education if parents do not pursue it themselves in the first place. The early years of learning is important for kids as well as parents.
So set the example you want your child to follow. Unconsciously, they will build those positive associations with the type of food you make, the activities you engage in together, learning, or whatever it is you want them to learn from you.
Being the main educator.
As a parent, I know too well that life gets very busy, especially when the kids are young. And when they start school, it is natural for parents to expect teachers to educate them about essential life skills, as well as academic knowledge.
Yet, the most important teacher of your child is you. It is you who helps them understand the importance of learning and how it will help them achieve their dreams when they grow up.
It is you who sets up the routine and learning environment and ultimately decides which activities to engage the kids in especially in the early years of education.
It is you who dedicates the time and effort to creating various experiences for your children.
So while it may be tempting to expect the school to educate your child about what they need to learn, ultimately, it is you who is and will remain their main teacher as the key role model until their teenage when your child starts to separate from you and may replace your authority with another.
One of the ways to build trust between parents and kids in the early years is by giving children quality time. It is a regular portion of time dedicated to nothing else but engaging in activities kids like the most. Whether it is playing with blocks, sweeping the backyard or cooking a meal together – kids value parents’ attention and listening to their thoughts, concerns or questions.
So, plan to have this time with your kids despite the busy schedule you may have. This time is the most valuable (in addition to being free) investment to let your child know you are in their team, you know what’s on their mind and you are there for them in any situation.
Developing as a person
There is much more to being a parent than simply taking care of kids. We need to be interesting for them so they look up at us and feel inspired or curious about discovering different aspects of life. I’m not saying our kids should follow our steps and pursue the same interests we do. My idea is to develop our own personalities so we can captivate and develop our kids by filling their hearts and minds with new thinking or new feelings.
Building confidence in exploring the world and understanding their own selves goes a long way. At the end of the day, let’s admit that we will not teach kids everything they need in life. It is simply not possible since we don’t know which path they will choose to follow. However, instilling the desire to be curious, to break barriers or challenge themselves is something kids will rely on when they grow up.
So empower your child and teach them they have everything they need within them. The rest can be learnt.
Thus, parenting begins with shaping the parent’s mindset first. So take the most out of those 10 years or so and start preparing your child for the best start in life through the early years.
About Julie Medeiros
Julie is a teacher, mum and entrepreneur in Melbourne, Australia. She is also a founder of Miss M Online Classes the online project for children 8-12 that educates kids about marketing, time management & critical thinking skills to make independent buying decisions in the shopping environment.