Over the course of the past 12 months, Muscogee Moms has had the pleasure of working with Project LAUNCH Georgia – a five-year federal initiate supported through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
The mission of Project LAUNCH is to improve the social and emotional health of Georgia’s children (ages birth to age 8). Ultimately, the goal is for all children to enter school with the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills they need to succeed and thrive.
Muscogee Mom’s part in this project has been to spread the word about 10 Parent Cafe Discussions (or community conversations). These casual “meet and greets” bring local parents together so they can network, discuss parenting topics, and ask questions of parenting experts.
During a recent Parent Cafe Discussion, the attendees were asked to brainstorm ways that parents and caregivers can raise thriving kids.
Here are some of their responses:
Give your child positive attention
Children need attention, plain and simple. If you don’t keep their “attention basket” full with positive attention, they will seek out any attention they can get — even negative attention.
Positive attention is when you respond to your child with warmth and interest. You can do this by smiling at your child, making eye contact and being physically gentle and caring. “Catch” your child being good and tell her exactly what you like about what she’s doing. If your child gets mostly positive attention from you over time, she’ll feel more loved and secure.
Teach the difference between little, medium, and big problems
Problems are a part of life. But sometimes our feelings about a problem are much bigger than the problem itself! Teach your child how to figure out the size of a problem.
Big problems are serious ones that need an adult to solve. Medium problems are ones we didn’t expect to happen and can’t be quickly fixed. Kids may need an adult to help solve a medium-sized problem. Small problems, or glitches, are ones your child can quickly fix on her own if she stays calm. Small problems are “no big deal.”
Model good behavior
What you do is so much more important than what you say. One of the most powerful tools for teaching good behavior is to model the behavior you want from your kids.
Sharing, being kind, being respectful, apologizing and giving praise are all ways to teach your child how you expect her to behave. Children are natural mimics. When you say “Thank you,” “please,” “excuse me”, and “I’m sorry” to your child, she will copy it.
Sure, it’s hard to model appropriate behavior for your kids all the time. However, you have opportunities every day to provide your kids with learning experiences so they can see how to behave appropriately.
Have regular family time
Sometimes we forget that giving our kids our time is more important than providing them with cool clothes or the latest gadgets. Families who share everyday activities together form strong, emotional ties. The important part is just being together and enjoying each other’s company.
You can create family time by eating meals together, doing household chores together, and spending some evenings popping corn and watching movies together. Some families even schedule one evening every week for special family activities.
Family time creates warm memories for parents and children alike. Studies show that children and adolescents who spend more time with their parents are less likely to experiment with substances like cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana.
Set house rules and be consistent
It may sound like a dream, but you can transform a chaotic home into a haven of peace. House Rules are an effective way of setting out what behavior is acceptable in your household — and what behavior is not.
House Rules can be general, such as ‘No shouting’ or ‘No swearing’. What’s important is that everyone in the house agrees to stick to them.
Decide on ten realistic, age-appropriate rules. Write the rules out and post them on your fridge for all to see. Refer to these rules when you’re going about your daily routine and praise your children when they follow the House Rules. Be consistent in enforcing the rules. If you change the rules on a whim, your child may feel cheated and break them.
Demonstrate your personal core values
Mahatma Ghandi once said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.”
What do you believe in? What values would you like to pass on to your children? Most people make decisions according to a few “core values.” However, many have never taken the time to articulate just what those values are.
To figure out your core values, you must first determine what you believe in—what is most important to you? Reflect on your lifestyle and how you spend your time. Does your lifestyle reflect your values? If not, adjust your lifestyle.
Remember, your children will learn more from your actions and lifestyle than from your words.
Be a “hands on” parent
Parents have a tremendous impact on a child’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Your parenting style is equally important. Your parenting style determines the kind of environment a child is raised in.
Research shows that the best-adjusted children have authoritative or “hands on” parents. These parents have high expectations and clear rules for their children. They are also warm and responsive to their child’s needs. They monitor their children on school nights, keep dangerous prescription drugs out of their children’s reach, and are engaged in their child’s life.
The truth is that children need their parents to establish rules and expectations. It’s one way they feel loved and protected. Research consistently links hands-on parenting to the best outcomes in kids.
Pay attention to developmental milestones
Developmental milestones are things most children can do by a certain age. You can follow your child’s development by watching how she plays, learn, speaks and acts. Talk with your child’s doctor at every visit about the milestones your child has reached and what to expect next. Be sure to tell your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice any signs possible delays in your child’s development.
For more information, or to access free screenings for healthy child development, call 706-321-6322 or 844-DREAMGA.
For more information on Project LAUNCH Georgia, visit www.BigDreamsGA.org.