Via Becoming Unbusy: 10 Benefits Kids Gain From An UnBusy Life

Take life at the pace that suits you & your family.

I sit with feet stretched out in front of me, bark chips in my sandals and the sound of playful children in my ears.

It’s been twenty minutes since school got out, and already it’s only my three kids and a few others left on the playground.

When a public park sits right in between your elementary school and the parking lot, you have a prime opportunity for people watching. Five days a week.

Every day I watch as parents gently prod their children past the park, their kids throwing longing looks over their shoulders. (Swings must look exhilarating when you’re five years old and headed for a booster seat in a dark SUV.)

Plenty of parents let their kids burn off some energy before heading on, and some stay long enough for their kids to get immersed in a game of tag while they chat with fellow parents.

That said, not many of them linger past the half-hour mark; they have places to go.

But a lot of days, I stay, my feet planted in the bark chips as I push a soaring child on the swings or cheer another one across the monkey bars.

We have time to linger. We’ve got no reason to hurry.

Maybe you’re the same kind of parent, soaking in the sun at a park five states away from me. Or maybe you tend to keep a full schedule and are curious about doing life and parenthood another way.

I believe everyone should take life at the pace that suits them, and the pace that happens to suit my family is a slow, purposeful one. If you too would like to embrace an un-hurried life, here are ten benefits I’ve noticed in my own kids from living at the pace we enjoy.

10 Benefits Kids Gain from an UnBusy Life

1. They have more time for unstructured play, more time to tinker.

Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. — Fred Rogers

2. They spend more time in nature than busy kids.

I want my children to know nature—to feel the crunch of dried pine needles under their shoes, to take in the view from the upper branches of a tree—so that they can grow to love it. For us, that simply means making the time to get outdoors.

3. They have time to follow their curiosity.

4. They are less entitled.

I’ll be the first to tell you that our family fights entitlement in other places; I think all parents do. But my kids don’t expect to be signed up for the next sports season before the current one even ends. Expensive art classes or private music lessons aren’t on their radar. In this sense, their entitlement meter is blessedly low.

5. They have less agitated parents.

When we rush our children from one activity to the next, we sacrifice the ability to be in the moment. Worry and agitation build. A slower lifestyle often translates to calmer parents and calmer kids, and I think calm and content parents is one of the greatest gifts we can give our families.

6. They sleep better.

A brain that is firing from one thing to another has a harder time settling into deep sleep. Children included.

7. They’re familiar with boredom.

You’ve seen it, right? Boredom carves out this amazing space where kids can draw on their own resources and get creative with their time. Plus, kids who are familiar with boredom often develop rich inner lives.

And someday, they will be excellent at waiting to grab their luggage and de-plane.

8. They’re free for playdates, any time.

How rare is that these days?

9. They don’t feel rushed to grow up.

With fewer outside influences in their lives, kids can remain kids just a bit longer.

10. They come to value simple living.

Someday in the not-too-distant future, my kids may start asking for more activities, more lessons, more museum trips, more social engagements. And when they do, I’ll follow their lead—but with caution. I know myself and my kids, and I’m more than willing to set up boundaries that allow us plenty of downtime, plenty of white space for our souls.

My hope is that when they’re grown, they’ll remember dozens of afternoons at the park across the street and hundreds of evenings with toy lightsabers, pink scooters, and neighborhood friends out on our front lawn.

They’ll remember complaining to their mom about being bored and then finally giving up and getting lost in the world of Harry Potter on the top bunk.

They’ll know that their mom did her best to find a pace that suited her—and them.

And they’ll build lives of their own, with an awareness that pace and contentedness go hand in hand.

Via What To Expect: 7 Single Moms’ Secrets to Successful Parenting

When it comes to parenting advice, just about everyone — your mom, aunt, best friend, neighbor — seems to have something to share (whether you asked for it or not!). But when you’re raising children on your own, some things — well, a lot of things — you deal with every day are unique to single moms. That’s why we turned to single mothers from the What to Expect community to get their secrets for successful parenting. Here are seven beautiful, wonderful and, most important, helpful tips they shared.

1. Focus on Being a Mom — Not a Single Mom

“I am a mom first. The adjective ‘single’ comes later and only describes my marital status and not how I am as a mom. So many people put the focus on the adjective and not the noun. The stigma of being a single mom is outdated and does not do justice to the many incredible, hardworking, loving and supporting moms that just happen to not be married. So my secret is to put your primary focus on the word ‘mom.'”

— Wishesdocometrue2015

2. Just Say Yes (Really!)

“I take all the help I can get from friends and family.”

— Poppylove1101

3. Remember, It Takes a Village

“I had six kids when my husband died unexpectedly. I had five sons and one daughter. I knew I could teach my daughter how to be a young woman, but I could not show my sons how to become a responsible man. Also my youngest ones would never see a marriage in action to use as a blueprint if they ever decided to marry. What I did was to become friends with a few moms with wonderful husbands. I asked if they would help me. Then I began to invite the whole family over for a cookout or dinner. The guys and dads would play baseball or basketball, while the girls and moms did something else. People were glad to help. Dads began to invite my boys canoeing or take them to sporting events. We would trade boys back and forth for sleepovers. We made some lifelong friends that became like family. One of the dads even gave my daughter away on her wedding day on behalf of her dad. People can be so caring. It is amazing!”

— Marshmallow2018

4. Stay Organized

“You just get up, get dressed and do it. And a Google calendar helps immensely!”

— towns1902

5. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

“Honestly, a big thing for me after having my daughter was having a vision and working toward a goal. That helped me keep my sanity. I have plans for my life, finances and living situation that I wrote down and am working on. It keeps me motivated and reminds me to keep going. I also just do what I can when I can. Although I have aunts and cousins around, everyone seems to have a lot on their plate so I end up asking for help only when I absolutely need it. I’m learning as I go. Every day and every phase is new. If I have a bad day or week, I pick myself back up and keep going.”

— chesica2

6. Two Words: Maintain Perspective

“Just smile. You made a little human that loves you. As long as he is healthy, don’t think about anything else.”

— Poppylove1101

7. Give Yourself a Break and a Pat on the Back (and a Glass of Wine Now and Then)

“When the rare moment happens that I get a few moments to myself, I read or have a glass of wine (if the budget allows). I’m happy that I have my daughter and she will always know how much I love her, but I truthfully didn’t know how hard it would be to parent alone without a support system. I wouldn’t change my life now (okay maybe parts), but I also wouldn’t wish this on anyone. This isn’t what I thought it would be like. However, I also never anticipated being a single mom with a special needs child. I’ve learned a whole new level of appreciation for single moms and of good red wines!!!”

— bakingbaby1

Via Fatherly: The Science of Dad and the ‘Father Effect’

Children with involved fathers are less likely to break the law and drop out of school. Guided by close relationships with their dads, these kids disproportionately grow up to avoid risky sex, pursue healthy relationships, and hold down high-paying jobs. They’re unlikely to become homeless or rely on welfare and more likely to have higher IQ scores than their peers by age three. Longer term, they suffer from fewer psychological problems and may be less prone to obesity.

“When fathers are actively involved with their children, children do better,” Paul Amato, a sociologist who studies parent-child relationships at Pennsylvania State University, told Fatherly. “All of this research suggests that fathers are important for a child’s development.”

If that sounds like a no-brainer, rest assured that it is not. Research on fatherhood and the downstream effects of engaged, thoughtful dad-ing is scant, relative to the extensive literature on motherhood. Strange as it may sound, fatherhood is an emerging field of study. But there’s a race underway to make up for lost time. Almost daily, scholars are now releasing new data that illustrates how men can both help and hurt their children. Some of these results — ugly divorces aren’t great for kids — are relatively logical. Others are not. One wouldn’t necessarily guess that the correlation between a fatherly presence and lack of aggression would be consistent across class. It is. One wouldn’t assume dad staying home would be negatively correlated to female delinquency. It is.

“The Father Effect” is the umbrella term for the benefits of a paternal presence. These effects can be numerous when fathers actively participate in family life. “There needs to be a minimum amount of time spent together, but the quality of time is more important than the quantity of time,” Amato says. “Just watching television together, for example, isn’t going to help much.”

Fortunately, it seems that this is what modern fathers want and, in a broader sense, what society expects of them. When we were expecting our son, it was essentially a given that I, the father, would take a hands-on role from pregnancy through birth (and beyond, obviously). I didn’t blink when my wife asked me to attend a birthing class with her, and, as a matter of fact, there were few pregnant bellies in the room that weren’t accompanied by anxious, aspiring dad bods. The question of whether I would be involved in the labor was never even raised — it was simply a matter of how close I wanted to be to the action. And for the baby’s first diaper change, the nurses dutifully passed the tarry black baton to me. It felt both squishy and natural.

It wasn’t always thus. That’s why the emerging consensus on the importance of fathers during every stage of a child’s development is worth monitoring. Scientists are studying, on some level at least, a new phenomenon. Their findings support a conclusion that might change how we parent.

It Starts With Sperm

Fathers are more than just sperm donors, but that doesn’t mean one can discount the importance of sperm. There is perhaps no greater and more universal Father Effect than genetic information.

First of all, some parents are inevitably going to pass genetic diseases onto their kids. One way to mitigate that and decrease the odds of passing along the most debilitating diseases is to seek genetic counseling before conceiving, especially if you’re a member of a high-risk group.

But for everyone else, there’s epigenetics — the study of changes in DNA that are caused by lifestyle choices, the environment, and other outside factors. While we tend to blame mothers for ruining the genetic information in their eggs with drugs and alcohol, until recently we had little concept of how fathers’ vices might impact their sperm. We now know that the decisions a man makes before conception can have lifelong impacts on his kids. Studies suggest that men who drink before conception are more likely to have sons who abuse alcohol, and that poor dietary choices in men can lead to negative pregnancy outcomes. At least one study suggests that men who are stressed before conception may predispose their offspring to high blood sugar.

“We know the nutritional, hormonal, and psychological environment provided by the mother permanently alters organ structure, cellular response and gene expression in her offspring,” said Joanna Kitlinska of Georgetown University, who ran a study on the subject in 2016, in a statement. “But our study shows the same thing to be true with fathers—his lifestyle, and how old he is, can be reflected in molecules that control gene function.”

Great Fathers Are Incubated

Until the 1960s, experts seldom encouraged dads to take part in parent groups, to participate during labor, or to care for infants. It was generally understood that dads existed to teach their toddlers to walk and their kids to play catch, not to handle baby — or, gasp, pre-baby — stuff. But the past few decades of research suggest that the earlier a dad gets involved, the better. In a 1997 book on the subject, researchers argued that fathers who are actively involved in labor are effectively developing relationships (albeit one-way relationships) with their children as early as possible, and subsequent studies suggest this leads to stronger early attachment to the baby.

Whether early attachment to a baby breeds more serious involvement in the long-term is a matter of debate, but there’s plenty of evidence that it does. In a 2011 literature review on paternal involvement during pregnancy and labor, the authors claim that the preponderance of evidence suggests that dads who are actively involved and invested in the baby before he or she is born disproportionately remain involved in the child’s life. And, as numerous studies have shown, more paternal involvement means better outcomes for kids. To foster this connection, some scientists have argued that healthy women and newborns should return home as soon as possible after delivery, especially if the father is not allowed to stay overnight in the hospital.

This is not to say that fathers play a critical role in the development of fetuses — after their initial epigenetic contribution, they’re down for the count until after delivery. But pregnancy and labor are when the groundwork for the Father Effect begins, and its importance cannot be overstated.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Engaged Fathers

Before we dive into how involved fathers help their kids (and how uninvolved fathers harm them), it’s important to highlight what an engaged, active, involved father looks like. First of all, as ever, showing up is half the battle. Dads who live with their kids and take time out of their days to attend important events are far more likely to have a positive impact than absent fathers.

For dads who live apart from their kids, there are limited options for engaging fatherly interactions. “Writing letters, phone calls — even if you’re not in physical proximity, knowing your dad cares and wants to be involved to the extent that they can is really important,” Marcy Carlson, a sociologist at the University of Wisconsin, told Fatherly. If you can’t even do that, buying love isn’t the worst idea. “There’s tons of evidence that financial support of kids is good for their outcomes,” she says. “If dads can provide for their children, that goes a long way.”

But just because you’re around doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels and hope that sitting near your children will somehow raise their IQs or inoculate them against risky sexual behaviors. “The quantity of interaction doesn’t really benefit kids, but if you have more high-quality, engaged parenting that does seem to be positively related to outcomes for children,” Carlson says. Warmth is also a key factor. Fathers who spent a lot of time with their kids but are dismissive or insulting tend to have only negative impacts.

“Low quality fathering can involve behaving coldly toward one’s children, insulting them, or engaging in problem behaviors that are largely incompatible with being a present and engaged father,” Danielle DelPriore, a developmental psychologist at the University of Utah, told Fatherly.

Why Your Infant (and Toddler) Needs a Dad

As a science-oriented person, I try not to be unrealistic about what my toddler understands. Although it pains me to admit it, I understand that he probably doesn’t miss me much when I travel for work, and I know that he lights up in my presence in pretty much the same way he lights up for puppies, apples, and rice cakes. This is frustrating for me, and I’m not alone. There’s a reason that fathers often find themselves wondering why they should even bother investing time and energy into infants who, for at least another couple of years, won’t care or remember.

An entire book, The Role of The Father In Child Development, was arguably written to answer that very question. To make a long story (672 pages!) short, many of the emotional, social, and behavioral benefits mentioned earlier are linked to having a dad in the picture in early childhood. One 1991 study cited in the book found that infants attained higher cognitive scores at age one if their fathers were involved in their lives when they were one month old. Preterm infants similarly score higher at 36 months if their dads play an active role from birth, and a separate study found that infants who played with their dads at nine months enjoyed similar benefits.

(Although the trend holds across several studies, it is important to note that at least one study did not find a link between fathers playing with their infants and cognitive development).

When infants transition into toddlers at around age one, Father Effects become even more pronounced. Studies suggest that when fathers are involved in everyday tasks — dinner, playing in the backyard — rather than expansive but one-off trips, toddlers and young children benefit. Dads also seem to offer a unique touch, with at least one study suggesting that fathers are better than mothers at teaching children how to swim, because they are less overprotective and more likely to let their children venture into the deep end or swim facing away from them.

As anecdotal evidence indicates, sons especially need their dads. In the book Do Fathers Matter? Paul Raeburn describes how scientists observed that U.S. and Norwegian boys whose fathers were off fighting in World War II during their childhoods later had trouble forging relationships with others as they matured. Similar studies cited in the book show that sons who grow up without fathers (or with disengaged fathers) tend to be less popular in preschool. Broadly, the research suggests that boys lean on their fathers more than anyone else as they develop social skills. And one large study of nearly 9,000 adults confirmed that a father’s death affects sons more strongly than daughters, leading to the same sort of health problems seen after an ugly divorce.

In other words, kids — even very young kids — need their dads. And, despite conventional wisdom (and its underpinning sexism), daughters need them too. But for different reasons.

Why Your Daughter Needs a Dad

Most studies suggest that, until children hit puberty, the Father Effect is roughly equal for boys and girls. Both boys and girls who are fortunate enough to have dads in their lives excel and, in some cases, outperform their peers. But when raging hormones kick in, studies demonstrate that dads suddenly become the arbiters of sexual behavior, too. And that is most acutely felt by teenage daughters, who take fewer sexual risks if they have strong relationships with their dads.

“Numerous past studies find a link between low quality fathering and daughters’ sexual outcomes, including early and risky sexual behavior,” Danielle DelPriore, who has studied how dads impact risky sex, told Fatherly. “A father who is cold or disengaged may change daughters’ social environments and sexual psychology in ways that promote unrestricted sexual behavior.”

One of DelPriore’s studies on the phenomenon — or “daddy issues”, as it is popularly portrayed — tracked 101 sister pairs between the ages of 18 and 36. This was a particularly well-controlled study, because it allowed DelPriore and her colleagues to examine how two women with similar genetics who were raised under similar environmental conditions might differ in their sexual risk-taking. She found that, when one sister grew up with an active, warm father and the other was raised in a broken home or after their father became less engaged, the former grew up to largely avoid casual unprotected sex while the latter often embraced it. Although DelPriore examined several outside factors — including relationships with mothers — one of the most salient links between a woman and her sexual decision-making was how close she felt to her father.

DelPriore suggests that daughters might learn from disengaged fathers that they shouldn’t expect men to invest meaningfully in long-term relationships, and so they settle for riskier casual flings. It’s also possible that “daughters with disengaged fathers receive less parental monitoring and are more likely to affiliate with sexually promiscuous friends,” she says. “On the other hand, having a father who is warm and engaged can protect against these outcomes.”

DelPriore defined “engaged fathers” as those who behave warmly and interact meaningfully with their kids. They’re the sort of dads who help with homework and attend sporting events, seldom insulting their children or behaving coldly. “When it comes to daughters, taking the time to listen to them, learn about their lives, show up for important events, and provide emotional support, could protect against early and unrestricted sexual behavior,” she says. “Dads do not have to be perfect, and making a genuine effort to be there for their daughters could make a big difference.”

What Happens When Dad Disappears

Children who lose a father to death or incarceration suffer much like those who have uninvolved fathers and represent an easier community to study than the abandoned.

Several research projects have focused on how a father’s incarceration can harm children. The largest of these efforts is Princeton University’s Fragile Families Study, which is currently following a cohort of 5,000 children born in the United States between 1998 and 2000. Most of the children in the study have unmarried parents and absentee fathers, for a variety of reasons. One of the most sobering findings of the FFS is that, when a dad is behind bars or otherwise far away, there is relatively little he can do to have a positive influence on his children.

“For dads that live far away, it doesn’t seem there’s tons of evidence that what they do matters for their children,” Carlson told Fatherly. “Dads living with their kids are much more involved; they read stories to their children and put their kids to bed. If you look at comparisons of resident and non-resident dads, there’s a consistent difference in average involvement.”

When dads are absent due to prison sentences, kids face additional challenges — sometimes more serious ones than what they would have faced had their fathers died or left due to divorce. “Most of the literature on widowhood shows that kids whose dads died are better off than kids who go through divorce,” she says. As for incarceration “there’s a lot of stigma and stress. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s worse for kids when their dads are away due to incarceration.”

How To Be A Good Dad

A lot goes into being a solid father. Making healthy decisions before conceiving so that your kid has the best shot in life, genetically speaking. Coaching your partner through pregnancy and birth so that your bond to your child starts early. Playing with your infant even though he’ll never remember. Counseling your teenage daughter about making smart choices. But those are the mechanical parts of fatherhood. In a more general sense, these studies all emphasize the importance of not just parenting, but parenting well — not just being present and doing what the studies suggest, but legitimately caring for your children and modeling good behavior.

Perhaps most importantly, dads need to realize that their kids are always watching, and that what they do matters. How well a dad parents influences a child’s psychological, cognitive, and social development, and strongly steers him or her toward adulthood. Because dads do matter.

“Fathers and mothers are children’s most important teachers,” Amato says. “Fathers might ask themselves, what are my children learning — about life in general, about morality, about how family members should treat one another, about relationships — from observing me every day?”

Notes from MOMmy:

I shall try this with my kids.

Via Messy Motherhood: The Most Powerful Response When Your Child is Inconsolable

If you’ve ever tried to help a crying kid calm down, this might sound familiar to you.

My 4 year old stands there bawling in the middle of his room.

All I did was ask him to put away the Duplo bricks that have been haphazardly strewn all across his room, and he loses it.

“Kiddo, I don’t understand why you’re so upset, can you tell me why you’re so sad?” He looks at me and bawls harder.

I drop to my knees and pull him into a big hug and say “Hey buddy, it won’t take too long to put away the Duplos…” his loud cries interrupt me.

I start to get frustrated. All I want him to do is put away the random bricks laying around the room, it’s not that big of a deal. To me at least.

Impatiently, I hold my boy a little longer and ask him again to tell me why he’s crying.

Between the hiccups and wails, I hear him say something about his inventions.

Then it clicks.

I look around the room and see them. His inventions.

My boy has spent all week long building inventions out of Duplos. He spends hours getting them just right and even more hours playing with each and every one. It’s all he’s played with for days.

And here I am, asking him to put away his Duplo.

Of course, he’s upset.

But there’s been a miscommunication problem here. I wasn’t asking him to take apart his inventions. I was just asking that he put away all the extra bricks that weren’t being played with.

So I try to tell him that he gets to keep his inventions.

More crying.

I ask him to only put away the extra bricks that aren’t being used.

Even more crying.

I try reflecting his feelings. “Oh honey, you’re so upset. You don’t want to clean up your Duplo.”

Now he’s wailing.

This kid is so upset that he can’t hear me.

His brain is being so flooded with emotion that he literally can’t think straight. He can’t calm down enough to understand what I’m trying to tell him.

He needs to calm down.

So, I think back to my days as a therapist and I pull out my #1 favorite calm down tip for kids.

I put my hands on his shoulders so that we’re face to face. I whisper to him “Hey buddy, do you want to play a little game really quick? It will be fun.”

His tear-filled blue eyes look up at me and he nods.

“Okay, it’s super simple. Can you point out 5 things that are blue?”

He hiccups in sorrow but looks around the room. Slowly he walks over to his Duplo bin and says “this is blue….one.” He continues walking through his room pointing out all the blue things.

His cries stop and he starts smiling as he goes.

“Two blue, three blue, four blue, five blue! I got 5 blue things, Mama!”

“Awesome job kiddo. Now can you find 4 yellow things?”

With a huge smile on his face, he does it again.

When he’s done, I ask him to sit in my lap.

I explain to him that I know how important his inventions are and that he can keep them out as long as he’d like to.

Together, we find the perfect place for them to go.

Then I ask him to look around and to put away any Duplo bricks that aren’t being used and starts to clean. That room is picked up in mere minutes.

Help Kids Calm Down With A Brain Game

When we get upset, our brains are functioning in it’s more primitive brain or the limbic system. This part of the brain controls our emotions.

This happens in adults and children alike. But, the adult brain is fully developed (if you’re over 25 that is). So, we can control our emotional brain a little better than kids can.

When our brain is functioning in the limbic system, it has a harder time functioning in its upper brain where logic takes place. Literally, we’re so emotional that we can’t think straight.

One quick hack to get people, including kids, to calm down is to get them thinking. This moves brain functioning from the emotional brain to the logical brain.

Whenever you notice that your child is overwhelmed…

Get their attention first by doing something unexpected. Turn on and off the lights, get really excited and jump up and down, whisper so that they have to lean in to hear you.

Ask them to play a quick game and challenge them to…

  1. Name 5 things that are blue
  2. Tell me 3 things you hear right now
  3. What’s 2+2? (ask based on their ability)
  4. What are 3 things you can touch right now
  5. Keep it simple but get them thinking.

Keep it simple but get them thinking.

It’s frustrating when a child melts down and becomes illogical.

You want your child to listen and to do what’s asked of them. But an upset child will never be able to pick up those Duplos…

So, help your kid calm down so that they can do what’s asked of them.

It’s a win-win for both you and your child.

Psst: This brain game works well for frustrated Moms too 🙂

Notes from MOMmy:

I always see these so called “bad behaviors” among children. We as a parent, tends to forget that our kids are still learning on handling their emotion.

Via UpWorthy: 10 ways kids appear to be acting naughty but actually aren’t

When we recognize kids’ unwelcome behaviors as reactions to environmental conditions, developmental phases, or our own actions, we can respond proactively, and with compassion.

Here are 10 ways kids may seem like they’re acting “naughty” but really aren’t. And what parents can do to help.

1. They can’t control their impulses.

Ever say to your kid, “Don’t throw that!” and they throw it anyway?

Research suggests the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don’t fully mature until the end of adolescence, which explains why developing self-control is a “long, slow process.”

A recent survey revealed many parents assume children can do things at earlier ages than child-development experts know to be true. For example, 56% of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden whereas most children don’t master this skill until age 3 and a half or 4.

What parents can do: Reminding ourselves that kids can’t always manage impulses (because their brains aren’t fully developed) can inspire gentler reactions to their behavior.

2. They experience overstimulation.

We take our kids to Target, the park, and their sister’s play in a single morning and inevitably see meltdowns, hyperactivity, or outright resistance. Jam-packed schedules, overstimulation, and exhaustion are hallmarks of modern family life.

Research suggests that 28% of Americans “always feel rushed” and 45% report having “no excess time.” Kim John Payne, author of “Simplicity Parenting,” argues that children experience a “cumulative stress reaction” from too much enrichment, activity, choice, and toys. He asserts that kids need tons of “down time” to balance their “up time.”

What parents can do: When we build in plenty of quiet time, playtime, and rest time, children’s behavior often improves dramatically.

3. Kids’ physical needs affect their mood.

Ever been “hangry” or completely out of patience because you didn’t get enough sleep? Little kids are affected tenfold by such “core conditions” of being tired, hungry, thirsty, over-sugared, or sick.

Kids’ ability to manage emotions and behavior is greatly diminished when they’re tired. Many parents also notice a sharp change in children’s behavior about an hour before meals, if they woke up in the night, or if they are coming down with an illness.

What parents can do: Kids can’t always communicate or “help themselves” to a snack, a Tylenol, water, or a nap like adults can. Help them through routines and prep for when that schedule might get thrown off.

Image via iStock

4. They can’t tame their expression of big feelings.

As adults, we’ve been taught to tame and hide our big emotions, often by stuffing them, displacing them, or distracting from them. Kids can’t do that yet.

What parents can do: Early-childhood educator Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful feelings such as screaming, yelling, or crying. She suggests that parents “let feelings be” by not reacting or punishing kids when they express powerful emotions. (Psst: “Jane the Virgin” actor Justin Baldoni has some tips on parenting through his daughter’s grocery store meltdown.)

5. Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement.

“Sit still!” “Stop chasing your brother around the table!” “Stop sword fighting with those pieces of cardboard!” “Stop jumping off the couch!”

Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement. The need to spend time outside, ride bikes and scooters, do rough-and-tumble play, crawl under things, swing from things, jump off things, and race around things.

What parents can do: Instead of calling a child “bad” when they’re acting energetic, it may be better to organize a quick trip to the playground or a stroll around the block.

6. They’re defiant.

Every 40- and 50-degree day resulted in an argument at one family’s home. A first-grader insisted that it was warm enough to wear shorts while mom said the temperature called for pants. Erik Erikson’s model posits that toddlers try to do things for themselves and that preschoolers take initiative and carry out their own plans.

What parents can do: Even though it’s annoying when a child picks your tomatoes while they’re still green, cuts their own hair, or makes a fort with eight freshly-washed sheets, they’re doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing — trying to carry out their own plans, make their own decisions, and become their own little independent people. Understanding this and letting them try is key.

7. Sometimes even their best traits can trip them up.

It happens to all of us — our biggest strengths often reflect our weaknesses. Maybe we’re incredibly focused, but can’t transition very easily. Maybe we’re intuitive and sensitive but take on other people’s negative moods like a sponge.

Kids are similar: They may be driven in school but have difficulty coping when they mess up (e.g., yelling when they make a mistake). They may be cautious and safe but resistant to new activities (e.g., refusing to go to baseball practice). They may live in the moment but aren’t that organized (e.g., letting their bedroom floor become covered with toys).

What parents can do: Recognizing when a child’s unwelcome behaviors are really the flip side of their strengths — just like ours — can help us react with more understanding.

Image via iStock

8. Kids have a fierce need for play.

Your kid paints her face with yogurt, wants you to chase her and “catch her” when you’re trying to brush her teeth, or puts on daddy’s shoes instead of her own when you’re racing out the door. Some of kids’ seemingly “bad” behaviors are what John Gottman calls “bids” for you to play with them.

Kids love to be silly and goofy. They delight in the connection that comes from shared laughter and love the elements of novelty, surprise, and excitement.

What parents can do: Play often takes extra time and therefore gets in the way of parents’ own timelines and agendas, which may look like resistance and naughtiness even when it’s not. When parents build lots of playtime into the day, kids don’t need to beg for it so hard when you’re trying to get them out the door.

9. They are hyperaware and react to parents’ moods.

Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it. Kids especially pick up on their parents’ moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always on the verge of frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead.

What parents can do: Check in with yourself before getting frustrated with your child for feeling what they’re feeling. Their behavior could be modeled after your own tone and emotion.

10. They struggle to respond to inconsistent limits.

At one baseball game, you buy your kid M&Ms. At the next, you say, “No, it’ll ruin your dinner,” and your kid screams and whines. One night you read your kids five books, but the next you insist you only have time to read one, and they beg for more. One night you ask your child, “What do you want for dinner?” and the next night you say, “We’re having lasagna, you can’t have anything different,” and your kids protest the incongruence.

When parents are inconsistent with limits, it naturally sets off kids’ frustration and invites whining, crying, or yelling.

What parents can do: Just like adults, kids want (and need) to know what to expect. Any effort toward being 100% consistent with boundaries, limits, and routines will seriously improve children’s behavior.

Notes from MOMmy:

I shall try these tips on my kids. Let me know what happens after you practice these tips.

Via Bright Side: 5 Ways to Teach a Kid How to Wait

Not every adult is able to wait patiently, to say nothing of kids. But there are methods that can help you develop self-control and not die of boredom — without resorting to any gadgets at that.
We at Bright Side were surprised when we discovered that’s even possible. Yet here’s more proof that true genius lies in simplicity.

5. Visualize time

Children start to develop abstract thinking around the age of 9. Before that, their mind works in a more concrete way, which is the reason why it might be hard for them to tell the difference between 15 and 45 minutes. To bypass that, it’s useful to visualize time whenever possible.

Wrong: “We’re leaving in an hour.“ ”You have 10 minutes to put your toys away.“

Correct: “Dad will be home from work when the sun goes down behind that roof over there.”

Waiting will not be so excruciating for a child if he or she can make a comparison like ”Oh, this’ll be as quick as brushing my teeth.”

4. Teach your kids games they can play alone

There are several reasons why playing alone is important for children. One of them is being able to entertain themselves anywhere and anytime. Children’s imaginations have no boundaries, and these games do not require any preparation or special objects.

Wrong kind of games: Smartphone or tablet games hinder the development of imagination and creativeness (the course and result of the game being predetermined by its developer).

Right kind of games: Jigsaw puzzles, treasure hunts, making up fairy tales, role-playing, etc.

There are several ways to teach a child to play independently, and the results will exceed all expectations if you arm yourself with patience.

3. A lifesaving game for public places

It’s always boring for children to wait until the bus arrives or mom comes back from the shop. For these occasions, there is an excellent way to divert their attention.

The game: Two participants make a wish and agree on a feature they will look for in the surrounding objects (color, shape, first letter of a name). The one who is first to count 20 (or any other number) objects with the chosen feature wins and has the right to demand the fulfillment of his or her wish. For instance, you can count passing cars while waiting at a bus stop or signs while traveling.

What’s the trick: Firstly, this is a very addictive game which also allows you to adjust the rules depending on the child’s age. Secondly, a parent doesn’t have to actively participate since children usually count for two.

2. A simple way to not interrupt adults

Allison Hendrix is a blogger and mother of two whose Interrupt Rule blew up the Internet with its simplicity and brilliance.

The rule: When a child wants to say something while their parent is talking to someone else, they should just put their hand on their parent’s arm or shoulder. If the parent touches their hand in response, it means that the child has been “heard” and will be attended to as soon as possible.

Why it works: By maintaining contact the adult makes it clear that the child is being treated with respect and not ignored.

1. Waiting for big events (birthday, Christmas)

Even if children learn to not interrupt adults and have fun on their own, it is still difficult for them to wait for important dates (Christmas, birthday, vacations, and so on).

How to help: An Advent calendar can help make the wait shorter. Each day before the upcoming date is marked by postcards with wishes or creative tasks, little sacks with presents, or packets of candies. Any of these options will be enjoyed by children of all ages: they all love surprises, after all.