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5 Keys to Raising Happy Healthy Kids

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5 Keys to Raising Happy Healthy Kids

A few weeks ago I baked my world-famous oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. I am so good at baking these little suckers that I don’t even need to follow the recipe anymore. (Is that a good thing, or a scary thing?). So, I was making the dough and it wasn’t thick and gooey like it usually is. The dough was crumbling in my fingers. I did my best to make little balls to put on the cookie sheet. After they came out of the oven, they looked okay but they were hard and crunchy and they tasted like….

My husband came home from work. I said to him, “Try these. I made these how I usually do but they came out terrible today. I don’t know what’s wrong.” The first words out of his mouth were, “Did you put in the eggs?”

I completely forgot the eggs! How could I have forgotten the eggs? I was so mad at myself (and more frustrated that my husband caught the error and I didn’t!)

In many ways, successful parenting correlates to successful cooking. If you leave out even ONE simple ingredient, you’ve got a mess on your hands.

The 5 Secret Ingredients to Raising Happy, Healthy Kids:

  1. Time and Attention – The average child today spends 5 minutes with dad but 20 hours watching television each week. There is no regulation on how long an infant or toddler can be left at a daycare center each day. 71% of American households have double income parents. One of the biggest crisis’ we face in America these days are the millions of children growing up without parents giving them true one-on-one, direct interaction each day. Investing time and attention into your children is the greatest investment you will make in your entire life – and the life of your children. When you walk in the door from work, turn off your cell phone, unplug the video games and spend time with your children. When their emotional tank is full, they have far fewer meltdowns and temper tantrums.
  2. Healthy Nutrition – Yes, we are a junk food nation…and our children are paying the big, big price. Kids are inundated with processed foods, sodas, juices, fast food and mass-produced cafeteria food – Daily! It is critical that parents lead by example and implement healthy options at home and avoid sugary and processed foods. Cook healthy meals at home, pack healthy sack lunches and learn to read food labels. Be an advocate for healthy nutrition for you and your kids!
  3. Adequate Sleep – Studies are showing that children who receive even 15 minutes less sleep than their fellow classmates not only have lower IQs but also fall into the B and C category of grades at school. Inadequate sleep also has a tremendous impact on obesity, depression and overall brain development. So enforce strict bedtimes and make sure your children receive at least 10 hours of sleep each night.
  4. Positive Discipline – 80% of parents are either too permissive or too authoritative. Just like in cooking, if you under-cook a batch of cookies they are gooey and nasty. If you over-cook a batch of cookies, they are burnt and covered in carcinogens. The secret is to bake the cookies on the right temperature for the right amount of time. Same rule goes for parenting: Discipline when necessary by taking away privileges or enforcing time outs – but criticism, yelling and corporal punishment creates fearful children with low self-esteem. Find that perfect balance so your kids come out nice and yummy!
  5. Be a Coachable Parent – Where do you get your parenting advice? Your mom, best friend or sister? Are any of them child psychologists, pediatricians or licensed parenting coaches? Probably not. The biggest mistake parents make is going about parenting without the guidance of trained experts. Read credible parenting books, take the advice from the experts on Advantage4Parents, meet with a family counselor if necessary. Parenting is the most important job in the world. You are doing your children a huge disservice by not allowing yourself to be coached by experts – instead of your best friend.

The first critical mistake parents make is not following the “recipes” for parenting. Most parents try to figure things out on their own or think their sister or neighbor is their best coach. My parenting books are my lifeline and as soon as I stop utilizing them for proper guidance I know I am going to leave out the “eggs” with my children. Read 5 parenting books, then read 5 more. And then keep re-reading them. If you follow the advice that professionals offer, you are insuring yourself to have happy, well-adjusted, confident kids – and a little sanity for yourself!

Kate Raidt Kate Raidt is author of The Million-Dollar Parent: How to Have a Successful Career While Keeping Family a Top Priority and founder of advantage4parents.com. She is also an alumnus of the Southwestern Company's summer work program. Kate is also the mother of two young children.
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