Our Town: Nine keys to raising healthy children

Herhere is Williston Park resident Alexander Adell spending Sunday morning with his two boys.

Every parent on earth wants one thing and that’s to raise happy and healthy kid who is motivated to work hard, be happy and become successful in their chosen profession. In today’s highly competitive world, the wish to raise a happy and hardworking child is extremely difficult.
There are countless dangers, distractions and difficulties that any family must face.

A major stumbling block could be that both parents must work and return home depleted. Divorce is also relatively commonplace and this is usually a major threat to a child’s mental health.

Even if the family remains intact the child may be faced with bullying, a hypercompetitive environment, distractions brought on by mindless digital games, and of course during teen years the danger of drug and alcohol use is a constant problem.
I’ve worked with children and families for over 30 years and I’ve had an insider’s view on both the right way and the wrong way to raise kids.
Here are the nine best ideas I have learned:
1. The foundation of the family is the love between husband and wife. Children feel good and safe when they see affection and respect between mother and father.

The way that love is maintained between spouses is to spend time together, fight fairly, use humor and also get away from the kids from time to time and take your own vacations. When I grew up I always knew my parents loved each other. They would get away by themselves at least once a year on long trips and would come home happy and refreshed.
2. Parents should be role models on how to lead a full and happy life. It’s crucial to demonstrate this with the way your life is being led.

You need to have fun hobbies and take enough time off. This gift you give to yourself is a gift to your children as well.

Children will automatically emulate these kind of behaviors.

As a simple example my dad would always bring two dozen donuts to his golf club every weekend, so the other members could enjoy the goodies before they all teed off.

When I became an adult I have the habit of always bringing a dozen donuts to professional conferences and seminars when I attend. I learned that nice form of gift giving by modeling my dad.
3. Kids need a stable and a predictable environment at home. The more you can establish routines and expectations about how the day and the week will go the happier the kids will be.

When there is no set time for breakfast, dinner or weekend processes the child will tend to feel anxious, and confused. This is why divorce is so devastating since the predictable home environment like holidays, barbecues, birthdays and dinners tend to be demolished. Without this stable routine and especially with divorce the child learns to worry and to expect bad things to happen.
4. When you child wants your attention, put down the newspaper, turn off the TV and listen to them. This form of attention is needed by your child and they will learn self-respect and strength if you do it.

The best parenting skills I have ever seen is Earl Woods and how he raised Tiger Woods. He did exactly what I described.

When Tiger wanted his attention Earl would put down the paper and give his young son undivided attention. One of the central reasons people come to therapy is because no one has ever listened to them once in their life.

So save you children all those therapy costs in the future by listening to them when they ask for your time and attention. I
5. If you want your child to act a certain way all you have to do is to watch for the behavior you are looking for and then compliment them when they do it.

Most parents resort to yelling and screaming but that tends to create hard feelings and it doesn’t work. It is hard to be patient enough to watch for good behaviors but if you can persevere and do so over time the child will comply.

When they do homework compliment them. When they help around the house tell them you appreciate it. Universally kids want nothing more than parental approval.
6. Verbally educate your child on the way to speak, walk, dress and behave.

Etiquette is the lubricant that keeps society going and it falls on parents to do much of this work. Teaching your child to sit upright, to look the person in the eye when speaking, to say thanks and please, to dress well and to groom themselves well are all crucial parts of upward social mobility and it takes training to learn it.

I was shopping in Brooks Brothers last weekend and watched as a father happily spent a small fortune on his kids clothing in preparation for the boys first year at Boston College. And that’s a good investment.
7. Spend money on your child’s sports or artistic interests.

They will be in an environment that instills discipline, social skills, competitiveness and fitness all while being supervised by adults. The net result is huge gains in self-respect, social connections, fitness and improved mood.
8. Teach courage by example. One of the most important things a child can learn is that it’s okay to take chances, to fail and finally to succeed.

You can encourage this by modeling it yourself and they will learn by example. Here is a story of courage that I always tell my interns about the value of courage. The first time I was on TV the producer came out during the break and said I was doing a nice job.

I asked him why he had invited me on the air and he remarked: “You were the only one who called.”

I took that as a great compliment because he was right. I was the one who had a concept I wanted to talk about, I hunted down the producer’s phone number and made my pitch. And by the next day, I was in a limo, driven into Manhattan and did the show.

Most people would like to be on TV but apparently I was one of the few who had the courage to actually call up and ask to be on.
9. Towards the end of his life, noted American writer Henry Miller was interviewed in his home in Big Sur and was asked what advice he would give to parents on how to raise a healthy child.

He smiled at the interviewer and said “That’s very simple. Make sure you tell them you love them every day. I think many parents make the assumption that their child knows this but it’s worth reminding them each day.”
Life is filled with problems and competition and challenges and kids need parents that can show them the way. I certainly hope my little stories help you in raising happy, healthy, successful and brave children.

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