Throughout this series of articles, we explored children – how they grow, develop, discover themselves and others, learn and play. We also covered health and safety issues.
In the process, a few things were made clear about positive parenting. To start with, it is like going on a journey with your child. Marked by distinct milestones, the way is laden with ups and downs. Often heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, every moment is made more precious by experiencing it with your child.
This journey is made not with you presiding over your little one but rather, working with him. His goal is to be all that he can be. Yours is to nourish, protect, teach and most of all, befriend him.
From a baby in your arms to the strapping youth he will become, your child needs the right nutrition for each stage of his development.
When an infant, let him feed upon your breast and receive the complete nourishment that a mother can give. As he grows older, let his body and mind thrive on a well-balanced diet that supplies complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and also fats in the right proportions.
Contending with quirky eating habits and finicky appetites can be a challenge, particularly during your child’s toddlerhood or pre-school years. Avoid fretting or worrying if you don’t seem to be making any headway. It can be tough and frustrating but rest assured, your child will not starve himself to death. Therefore, there is no need for threats and force; instead, encourage him with love and patience. He will eat when he’s good and ready. However, if your child’s body weight and overall health appears to be declining, consult the doctor.
Other than that, you should enthusiastically continue offering nutritious foods. Those that are wholesome, fresh, fortified or enriched are good choices. Give each of them a place and time in your child’s day. Like a glass of milk to start off his morning, another to see him through the afternoon. Or vitamin-enriched snacks for an added boost, and refreshing fruits after dinner.
Milk is a good source of nutrients (such as energy, protein, vitamins, calcium and other minerals). As such, it would be ideal for your child to keep drinking it throughout his growing years.
Many children in Malaysia tend to go off milk from as early as two or three years of age. Offering milk with an easy-to-digest formula during this formative period could help him stay on milk for longer.
Providing right nutrition is an indispensible part of the joy of watching him grow up happy, healthy, energetic and ever ready to discover the world of exciting possibilities that life has to offer.
Your child is vulnerable. So positive parenting is about exercising foresight to protect him and teaching him to fend for himself.
Imagine being a child yourself. What hazards would you encounter? Prevent those that cause or contribute to falls and tumbles, motor vehicle accidents, drowning, poisoning, burns & scalds, and choking and strangulation. Never abuse your child, no matter what the reason.
Another threat is disease. Those like hepatitis, tuberculosis, polio and so on, are more than your child’s immune system can bear. Have him vaccinated against them, faithfully and on schedule. Yes, each visit to the doctor can be very stressful for him and you. But gently help him endure each ‘ordeal’. A child’s tears are a small price to pay for protecting his life.
Common illnesses – like coughs, colds, sore throats, diarrhoea and so on – are part and parcel of growing up. While not dangerous when compared with certain other viral and bacterial infections, common illnesses still have to be properly managed. They can get in the way of his development by interrupting his learning and socialising. They can also present the risk of complications which tend to be more serious.
Right nutrition does play a role in keeping your child healthy. For instance, the so-called ‘anti-oxidants’ – vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene – can help strengthen his body’s resistance against certain illnesses. Good sources include fruits and vegetables, along with fortified milks.
But nutrition is one thing. It is just as important to ensure a healthy environment around your child – whether at home, in pre-school or elsewhere. Also, he needs to be taught good hygiene practices (like washing his hands) and other behaviours that prevent infections (eg not sharing eating plates, cups and utensils) outside the home.
LEARNING AND PLAYING
Positive parenting is about getting involved in your child’s learning experience. Yes, he has to learn the three Rs, but there is so much more. What about learning about himself – his identity, abilities, limitations, emotions?
The first six years of life set the foundation for formal learning. So, make the most of that time. Talk to him to help him speak. Show him pictures to teach the written word. Play games to help him count. With all these, he will be more than ready for the intellectual and academic pursuits that begin with pre-school.
Don’t be surprised at how much he can learn from the examples others set. Within a loving and caring family environment, he can learn love, mutual respect, a sense of consideration and self-discipline. Even his inclinations can be similarly influenced; he will be more likely to practise healthy eating habits and enjoy sports or physical activity if these are a part of the family’s lifestyle.
Your child is constantly learning by watching you. So set a good example and watch what you do.
MAKING FRIENDS BEGINS AT HOME
In positive parenting, there is yet a fourth R that needs to be reckoned with. It stands for relationships. Your child needs the ability to form healthy relationships with adults and peers, not only for social reasons but also for the sake of his mental and emotional well-being.
But making friends involves making himself likeable in proper ways (like sharing and taking turns) and learning how to engage others. As a parent, provide every opportunity for your child to practise these skills.
Especially during his first three years, spend time playing with him. These occasions will be invaluable for making him think he’s a worthy play partner and do wonders for his self-confidence. When he is older, be sure to allow him to play with other children and later on, to invite them home on occasion.
But even for supremely self-confident children, a parent’s counsel can go a long way in avoiding unnecessary social fumbling and humiliation. It also helps to protect your child’s sense of self-esteem and self-worth in the face of peer rejection. Congratulate his success in making friends and help him find ways to gain acceptance when it is harder to come by.
Remember, you have to let him make his friends for himself and learn to deal with the pains of rejection. Resist the temptation to make friends for him or to intervene too readily when you see your child facing difficulties. You will play a more constructive role by coaching him from the sidelines. The constancy of your friendship, your positive attitude and your moral support is all he needs to win this game that he has to play on his own.
Positive parenting is about working with your child to achieve wonderful dreams. From the foundation set by a happy and healthy childhood, he will flourish and be all that he can be.