“Our role as parents is not to ensure our kids are always happy, it’s to prepare them to find their own happiness. So it’s good to let kids fail. They will learn to cope when things don’t go their way, and gain the self-confidence to try new things, and go for it”
Marc Lore, co founder of Diapers.com
I recently came across this quote from Parenting Magazine. I found it extremely inspiring and it really got me thinking about my own parenting and that parenting of my peers. Of course we all want our children to be happy. But how will they ever know true happiness unless they know what sadness feels like too?
Many of us struggle with “being happy” way into our adulthood. In fact in a recent survey only about 84% of Americans consider themselves “happy”. (This statistic found on Nationmaster.com is compiled from responses to the survey question: "Taking all things together, would you say you are: very happy, quite happy, not very happy, or not at all happy?". The "Happiness (net)" statistic was obtained via the following formula: the percentage of people who rated themselves as either "quite happy" or "very happy" minus the percentage of people who rated themselves as either "not very happy" or "not at all happy".)
We want everything to be perfect, and if it’s not perfect than we might consider ourselves “not happy”. Especially in this day and age where everything is so visual….instantly photos and messages are posted on Facebook that remind us just how quickly we need to “keep up” with perfection and even our happiness. This of course trickles down to the happiness we want for our children. Providing them with every opportunity, fixing their problems, and not necessarily giving them a chance to figure out things on their own.
This common phenomenon is often referred to as “overparenting” or what some authors refer to as "high responsiveness and low demandingness" parents." “These parents are highly responsive to the perceived needs and issues of their children, and don't give their children the chance to solve their own problems”.
These parents might be the ones who rush to school at the whim of a phone call from their child to deliver items such as forgotten lunches, or assignments. It might be the few who actually demand better grades on their child’s report card or threaten withdrawal from school. (yea, that actually happens).
Some might consider the parent that still zips their 8 year olds coat everyday an “overparenter”. Or let’s take for example letting your daughter skip school on Monday because she had an exhausting weekend due to a sleepover and birthday parties and needs a mental health day to ‘re-coup’. Doesn’t seem so harmless when it’s once in a while right? But how do we keep a handle on this so called indulging and coddling?
Parents who are overprotective of their children in this way are perhaps molding children that do not learn to take responsibility (and the natural consequences) of their actions. The children may develop a sense of entitlement causing friction not just in school with their teachers and other children, but might follow them later on when they enter the “real world” and their “real job”.
While intervening in every aspect of their day may make things easier for them in the moment, it may also inadvertently send the message that they will always need your help. It could also send the message that failing is unacceptable, they are not good enough and failing in general is terribly traumatic. Watching your child suffer in disappointment is never easy but experts say it’s one of the best things you can do for them and their future.
In addition, it is important to recognize that your child is responsible for their own happiness. By letting go and giving them a chance to figure things out you are allowing them to experience sadness, anger and frustration. If we fix every problem for them or do dances to keep them smiling we are almost holding them back from becoming realistic functioning adults.
Instead here are a few other things you can do to help your child “be happy”:
1. Control your happiness, because children learn everything from us our moods definitely matter.
2. Parents.com stresses the importance of nurturing your relationship with your spouse. “if parents have a really good committed relationship, the child’s happiness usually follows”
3. Try to give your child a Growth mind set…the belief that people achieve their goals through hard work and practice.
4. Be careful not to only praise their innate traits such as their prettiness, athleticism, or intelligence. This can in turn make them feel they are being judged on something that is perhaps out of their control, and can not be changed.
We’ve all heard the term “magic soap” used before. You know, that really fun stuff that hangs from a dispenser on our wall at The Little Gym….you know, the one your toddler is OBSSESSED with pushing over and over again making that cold gooey liquid pour out? Or maybe your Grade Schooler is a Bath and Body Works fanatic and wants every scent of “magic” gel hanging from their back pack? Or maybe you go crazy wiping up every inch of your house with those very convenient antibacterial wipes three times a day?
Well you are not alone! In recent years, more and more of these products have been sold to the public as effective ways to wash our hands and the environment when traditional soap and water are not available. Advertisements sell us on the convenient packaging and their “on the go” methods of staying “germ free”.
However, studies suggest that ultra-clean environments and the persistent use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers may inhibit proper immune system development in children. Higher levels of exposure to common everyday bacteria may play a helpful role in the development of the body's inflammatory systems and our immune system's fight against infection.
Hand sanitizers actually work by stripping away the outer layer of oil on the skin preventing bacteria present in the body from coming to the surface of the hand.
According to About.com, this can INSTEAD potentially increase the amount of bacteria on the hand.
Other side effects can include: Increased UV sensitivity, negative effects on thyroid hormones and estrogen levels, and in some cases food allergies. These results are what scientists are calling “The Hygiene Hypothesis”. Research studies show that higher levels of triclosan (an ingredient in products like hand sanitizer or mouthwash ) found in people's urine was linked to food allergy sensitization.
The CDC warns that alcohol-based hand sanitizers “are not effective on children's hands that are visibly dirty or that are contaminated with organic materials, such as after food preparation or bathroom use.” The CDC also suggests that alcohol-based hand sanitizers may also provide limited help against certain bacteria and the norovirus, another term for the common stomach flu.
“Keeping things clean is smart, but going crazy using antibacterial hand soaps, buying antibacterial kids' toys and other products, and overusing antibiotic medications are actually killing off the microbes that can help strengthen the immune system. Antibacterial products may help to reduce some infections, but they also promote the growth of drug-resistant organisms and weaken the good bacteria within us. Rather than focus on killing germs, we need to think about how to encourage their growth.” says Dr. Alan Greene at Parenting.com.
In fact, supporting the “right” bacteria can have a huge health payoff for our children: fewer ear infections, tummy aches, diarrhea, urinary-tract infections, and food allergies can all be prevented. It can even help kids fight off coughs, colds, and fevers.
Keeping the body's bacteria in “balance” doesn't take a lot of effort and can have huge benefits! Check out some things we SHOULD focus on, and ways that we help keep our children healthy for life.
1. Give them foods that naturally contain helpful organisms. These include yogurt, pickles, dark chocolate, and feta cheese. Cook with foods that contain good germs like garlic, onions, ginger and cinnamon.
2. Keep your kids away from cigarette smoke; exposure can kill off that good bacteria.
3. As for antibiotic drugs, don't insist that your pediatrician prescribe them when he says they're not necessary. These drugs also eliminate both good and bad bacteria. It may also be useful to give a probiotic supplement like acidophilus containing beneficial live bacteria on a regular basis.
4. Don’t be a total germaphobe! Dr. Dennis Ownby, chief of allergy and immunology at the Medical College of Georgia, found that babies in households with multiple pets have fewer allergies at age 6 or 7 not just to animals, but also to ragweed, grass and dust mites.
5. Don’t stress about Day Care! Studies of babies in day care have found that while they have more infections early, they have fewer allergies and less wheezing later.
Still not clear?? We found this really fun and interactive tool on Webmd that takes you through the daily life of your child. It gives some helpful reminders and stresses the important things we should focus on to prevent serious germs and contamination. Spoiler alert! Remind your child NOT to put their backpack on the floor of the bus and don’t eat food that has fallen into the kitchen sink : )
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