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How to raise nice children

The world watched with shock when the news hit the waves of Tolu Kalejaiye, a Nigerian woman who was allegedly slaughtered by her own son in the United Kingdom. The incident has raised fresh concerns about Generation Y children and how to raise nice kids in an increasingly violent world. Here are general tips:

1.         Lighten up!

Joking with your toddler helps set them up for social success, according to research presented at the Economic and Social Research Councils’ Festival of Social Science 2011. When parents joke and pretend, it gives young kids the tools to think creatively, make friends and manage stress. So feel free to play court jester — your kids will thank you later.

2. Be Positive

Parents who express negative emotions toward their infants or handle them roughly are likely to find themselves with aggressive kindergartners . That’s bad news, because behavioral aggression at age 5 is linked to aggression later in life, even toward future romantic partners. So if you find yourself in a cycle of angry parent, angry baby, angrier parent, try to break free.

3.Build Compassion

Research suggests that self-compassion  is a very important life skill, helping people stay resilient in the face of challenges. Self-compassion is made up of mindfulness, the ability to manage thoughts and emotions without being carried away or repressing them, common humanity, or empathy with the suffering of others, and self-kindness, a recognition of your own suffering and a commitment to solving the problem. Parents can use self-compassion when coping with difficulties in child-rearing. In doing so, they can set an example for their kids.

4.Let them Go!

When the kids fly the nest, research suggests it’s best to let them go. Young adults with hovering, interfering “helicopter” parents  are more likely to be anxious, self-conscious and less open to new experiences than their counterparts with more relaxed moms and dads. That doesn’t mean you should kick your offspring to the curb at 18, but if you find yourself calling your child’s class teachers to argue about his grades, it may be time to step back.

5.Be positive

This is of utmost importance. Research suggests that depressed moms struggle with parenting and even show muted responses to their babies’ cries  compared with healthy moms. Depressed moms with negative parenting styles may also contribute to their children’s stress, according to 2011 research finding that kids raised by these mothers are more easily stressed out by the preschool years. The findings seem glum, but researchers say they’re hopeful, because positive parenting can be taught even when mom or dad are struggling with their own mental health.

6.Build the Bond

A close relationship with their mothers can help keep boys from acting out, according to a 2010 study. A warm, attached relationship with mom seems important in preventing behavior problems in sons, even more so than in girls, the research found. The findings, published in the journal Child Development, highlight the need for “secure attachment” between kids and their parents, a style in which kids can go to mom and dad as a comforting “secure base” before venturing into the wider world.

The mommy bond may also make for better romance later in life, as another study reported in 2010 showed that a close relationship with one’s mother in early adolescence (by age 14) was associated with better-quality romantic relationships as young adults

7. Mouthy Kids are Good

Teens who talk back to their parents may be exasperating, but their argumentativeness is linked to a stronger rejection of peer pressure outside the home. In other words, autonomy at home fosters autonomy among friends.

Don’t worry, though: The study doesn’t suggest that kids should have adversarial relationships with their parents. In fact, a secure bond between teens and mothers is also linked to less bowing to peer pressure. Teens need to practice standing up for themselves, the researchers reported, but they also need support from their parents.

8. Know Your Kids

Everyone thinks they know the best way to raise a child  but it turns out that parenting is not one-size-fits-all. In fact, kids whose parents tailor their parenting style to the child’s personality have half the anxiety and depression of their peers with more rigid parents, according to a study published in August 2011 in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. It turns out that some kids, especially those with trouble regulating their emotions, might need a little extra help from Mom or Dad. But parents can inadvertently hurt well-adjusted kids with too much hovering.

9. Model kindness yourself

Kindness can be contagious: when we see someone else perform an act of kindness, we are more likely to feel an impulse to help out, too. Research suggests that altruistic children have at least one parent (usually of the same sex) who deliberately communicates altruistic values to their kids. Similarly, when preschoolers have nurturing caregivers who deliberately model helping others, they tend to be more helpful and verbally sympathetic to other children when they hurt themselves. There are many ways to model altruism for your kids.

10. Don’t reward helping behaviour.

Very young children who receive material rewards for helping others become less likely to help in the future compared with toddlers who only receive verbal praise or receive no reward at all. This research suggests that even the youngest children are intrinsically motivated to be kind, and that extrinsic rewards can undermine this tendency. Expose them to need. Too often we protect our kids from pain and suffering, and in so doing we shelter them from others’ needs. Consider the counterintuitive notion that compassion is a positive emotion strongly correlated with happiness, and provide them with opportunities to feel compassion. Teach kids that this compassion is a gift—it is a way to give their time, attention, and energy to another.


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