10 Tips for raising happy, responsible children

Reader's Digest Editors

Raising children is limitlessly rewarding but no doubt challenging. And we could all do with a little help sometimes. Follow our twelve top tips for raising a happy, healthy and responsible child

1. Get the TV out of the bedroom

Studies find that kids who have televisions in their bedrooms are more likely to be overweight. But here are other crucial reasons for ditching the telly: When a TV is in a child’s bedroom, you have no control over what he’s watching, nor do you have any opportunities for family bonding time—when everyone piles onto the sofa to watch a favorite show.

 

2. Get them used to doing chores from a young age

We all know a parent who still makes their high school daughter’s lunch every day. Don’t find yourself in this situation! By the time your two-year-old begins talking, he’s old enough to start helping around the house. Here are some age-appropriate chores to give your kids to teach them responsibility, and how a household is run:

  • Two to four years old: Ask them to put toys away, help to set the table, and put dirty laundry in the laundry basket.
  • Five to seven years old: They should begin emptying the dishwasher (at least putting the silverware away), setting and clearing the table, emptying bins, and doing light garden work with your guidance (such as pulling weeds).
  • Eight to ten years old: Kids should be changing sheets, dusting, vacuuming, putting away laundry, and bringing groceries into the house.
  • Eleven and up: They’re ready for almost any tasks that you can throw at them. This might include cleaning bathrooms, mopping floors, washing and folding laundry, putting away groceries, and simple meal preparation.

 

3. Teach them how checking accounts work 

If you really want to teach your teen about money, then stop handing over the credit card and the “allowance.” Instead, put your kid on a budget, open a checking account for him or her, and let your teen really learn to manage money. Tell your kid that all clothing, movies, entertainment, fast food, and cell phone bills come out of his or her checking account (which you fund). If your son or daughter has a job, then cut back the amount you’re funding by the amount they’re making. Just make sure you also set up a savings account for your teen and insist that at least one third of any savings or money from you be put away.

 

4. Don’t interfere with sibling scuffles

Stay out of fights between siblings unless bloodshed is imminent, recommends Stacy M. DeBroff, author of The Mom Book, a compilation of tips for moms from moms. She notes that fighting actually teaches siblings valuable skills such as assertion, managing anger, and compromise. If ignoring a fight doesn’t work, send them to separate rooms until they cool off.

 

5. Limit choices

An inexperienced parent will ask a four-year-old, “What do you want to wear today?” Uh-oh. Offering such an open-ended choice just ensures you’ll wind up with a little girl wearing black tights, a pink tutu, and a sequined top that reads “I’m Hot.” Instead, pull out two outfits and ask which she wants to wear. The same goes with food. “Hamburger or spaghetti?” replaces “What would you like for dinner?”

 

6. Talk about sex

Get over your embarrassment and let your teen know that they can talk to you about sex without fear of lectures or retribution. The reality is that 85 per cent of North American teens have had sex by the age of 19. Open discussions at least ensure that the sex they’re having is safe, and may even convince your teen to hold off a while longer.

 

7. Monitor your teen’s driving speed

If your teenager has a lead-footed tendency, step in and address it. A University of Florida study found that teenagers who break the speed limit are more likely to gamble, use drugs, and drink alcohol than those who don’t. Think of speeding as an early warning sign of worse to come.

 

8. Mums, get closer

If you think you’re not necessary now that your kid is driving, think again. A large government study finds that the closer Mum is to her teenager, the less likely teens are to start having sex. Some ideas: Set a weekly date for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Have a mother-kid weekend away a couple of times a year. Start an activity that you can do with your teen, such as tennis, jogging, or even performing together in the local theater. Begin a marathon gin rummy game that goes on until one of you hits 100,000 points (or goes to university). And in the midst of all of this, say the researchers who conducted the study, slip in a few comments about the importance of education—it also helps.

 

9. Set your expectations high

Just because you drank and smoked weed in sixth form, don’t think it’s reasonable for your child to follow suit. If you vocalise the expectation that your child will not drink or do drugs when in school—and make that expectation known to your teen—you reduce the risk that your child will engage in such behavior.

 

10. Visualise the future with your children

It’s never too early to begin talking to your child about his or her future. By age ten, kids are old enough to start looking ahead and figure out the value of an education (for instance, “I go to school so I can go to university so I can get a good job so I can afford that holiday in Aruba”). Why bother? Because studies find that teens who can visualise themselves with a future are less likely to do those things that destroy a future, such as engaging in reckless sex, drinking, drugs, and crime.