How Focusing on Your Own Habits Will Improve Your Child’s Choices

Set a good example for your children and they'll likely follow suit

How Focusing on Your Own Habits Will Improve Your Child's Choices

Contributor: Sara Lappé, MD, MS, FAAP

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Anyone who has flown in an airplane has heard the safety instructions to put on your own oxygen mask before helping another passenger. Why is this so imperative? Because parents need to be capable in order to help their child. If parents are deprived of oxygen, they will suffer before they can help any others.

This safety tip can also be applied to everyday life, especially for parents. Not only do parents need to remember to take good care of themselves for their own health, but they also need to be healthy in order to take good care of their children.

Our kids learn from our actions. They learn both the good and bad, while also paying attention to how parents navigate the world.

The habits of parents can significantly influence the perception of a child’s habits in ways one would not typically consider. Always remember to take care of yourself and set a good example, because your child will naturally follow your positive actions.

Here are some ways to model good behavior:

1. Lights out together

A study recently published in the journal Pediatrics found that sleep-deprived parents believed their children had much worse sleep quality and quantity than they really do. Poor sleep habits often start with the parents and trickle down to the kids, leading to everyone in the house being fatigued.

If you stay up late watching TV or playing on the computer, your child will likely want to join you. To improve your child’s sleep, try to create a healthy bedtime routine for yourself first. Set a goal bedtime and stick to a routine that helps you get to bed by then.

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RELATED: How to Tell if Your Child is Getting Enough Sleep

2. Combat stress the right way

How do you react in stressful situations? Do you start screaming and yelling or ignore the situation? Do you try to develop a plan to fix it? Do you eat when you’re stressed, or do you go for a walk and get some fresh air?

When parents are stressed, they’re likely to be less tolerant of their child’s needs, which can result in poor behavior.Find a method that helps you de-stress, maybe a method that can even include the kids.

Try 10 minutes of family yoga before the kids go to bed, take the kids on a walk, turn on some music and dance, play catch or talk about the situation as a family. Always remember to focus on the positive in your day — what did you do well today? What have you accomplished? Take time at dinner to ask each person about one thing that he or she did well that day an you’ll see the positivity will become contagious.

3. Limit the electronics

Many parents in my office become frustrated when their child refuses to put the screens away, always focusing on video games and TV. Addiction to social media, games and videos has been on the rise in both adults and children.

As a result, adults are suffering the consequences of decreased work productivity, distraction when around other people — including their kids — and sleep deprivation.

Gradually try to decrease your dependence to your electronics and see if you notice improvement with work and relationships. As a bonus, you will be setting a good example for your child.

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RELATED: How Electronics Could Be Affecting Your Child’s Health

4. Encourage healthy eating habits

We all know that vegetables are good for your health. Adults often go through similar battles, just like children, when trying new foods. Many families express concern for their young children not eating vegetables — but they should be eating them, too!

Studies have shown that if the parents start eating healthier, children are likely to follow. Many adults use their children as motivation to make a change, and vegetables may be a great place to start.

Add some colorful vegetables and leafy greens to your plate at least once per day to set a positive example for your children and their eating habits.

Use these tips to not only provide better care for your children, but yourself, too.

More information
Parents’ guide to choosing a pediatrician

This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic. 

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