Do you want your child to grow up to be a happy, resilient teen? Offspring catches up with renowned parenting expert, Kathy Walker, about what you can do now to help that happen.
Let’s face it – saying life is busy when you are taking care of a young child is an understatement. Each day is a juggle between swimming and ballet lessons, playgroups and visits to the library, toilet-training and trying to get them to eat a balanced meal (when will they eat a vegetable without it being disguised with cheese?).
Everything you do for your child, you do to make them happy and to give them the best start in life – but have you started thinking about how you will equip them to deal with future challenges, such as peer pressure?
It seems like a long way off, but a stern word about responsibility the first time your teen asks for your car keys is too late to shape them into a young adult that makes good decisions.
Leading parenting expert Kathy Walker and author of Future Proofing Your Child says by establishing boundaries and by being a good role model, parents can equip their children, from a young age, with the skills and qualities to become a happy, resilient and emotionally-intelligent teen. She calls it ‘future proofing’. “We are spending more time on electronic devices and in Australia we have increasing rates of suicide and depression,” she says. “I felt that anything we can do early in life, the better…future proofing is about prevention rather than cure.”
“(Parents) want to give their children many opportunities but they then end up overscheduling so their children don’t have the opportunity to self-entertain.”
So how do you ‘future proof’ your child?
According to Kathy, parents need to be proactive in helping their children create strong relationships to instil self-discipline, learn emotional intelligence, master mindfulness and a sense of self, and develop resilience – all of which are very important skills and qualities to have when they reach teenage-hood and beyond (when they are likely to be exposed to stressful situations).
Kathy says all parents focus on making their children happy, however, things like setting boundaries, learning about disappointment and frustration (such as realising they cannot win all the time or missing out on something they want to do), being able to make mistakes and solve problems, and having time to ‘be bored’ can all help your child learn develop qualities that will be invaluable for them in the future.
For example, one example Kathy uses is by respectfully saying no to some requests (she says many parents don’t like saying no to their children for fear of them missing out), children can learn:
- We don’t always get what we want when we want it.
- We can feel frustrated, angry and disappointed but we will get over it.
- We can’t manipulate people with our emotions.
- It is okay to say no to someone. (Source: Future Proofing Your Child by Kathy Walker, Viking, 2015).
One of the most common mistakes, she says, is when parents overschedule their children because children need time to play to learn, discover and make mistakes – but she says having time to be bored is a good thing! “I have been working with families for over 30 years and all parents want is the best for their children, but they don’t know how to say no,” she says. “They want to give their children many opportunities but they then end up overscheduling so their children don’t have the opportunity to self-entertain – and self-entertaining is so important. In life, you have to look after yourself, and if the pattern early in life is that every minute is scheduled, then you don’t get that opportunity to initiate your own ideas.”
Kathy’s top 3 tips for parents:
> Really listen to your children.
> Always end each day with love.
> Never discipline when you are angry.
Kathy says you don’t have to be the perfect parent – but it is important to be reflective as parents and take on strategies to keep communication open with your children and create a strong relationship – which will make your child feel valued and secure. Then hopefully this will mean that in the future, your child becomes a teen that keeps communicating with you and will come to you with any worries or concerns.
Limiting screen time is an important aspect, according to Kathy, who says long periods of screen time can promote isolation. “Just because children have the skills to work these devices doesn’t mean they have the maturity to use them,” she says. “I wouldn’t let a toddler use an iPad. For older children, I would set a timer so they have a set time to use them. They need to communicate in the real world and get outside and play.”
Parents need to be proactive in helping their children create strong relationships to instil self-discipline, learn emotional intelligence, master mindfulness and a sense of self, and develop resilience.
“Remember that you are models for your children,” she advises. “One example I think of is going to a restaurant and seeing every member of the family on an electronic device – the kids are watching their iPads and the parents are on their phones, so no one is communicating with each other. You need to spend quality time together to keep communicating with your child.”
To help future proof your child, Kathy provides the following top tips:
- To create strong relationships with your child – Spend quality time together.
- For self-discipline – Follow through with consequences.
- To learn emotional intelligence – Parents need to acknowledge a child’s emotions.
- To master mindfulness – Learn to slow down the pace of life. We all rush too much and we need to remember that children are not mini adults – they weren’t designed to work at adult pace.
- To develop resilience – Let children make mistakes. It is important to sometimes let kids make discoveries for themselves.
Kathy Walker’s latest book, Future Proofing Your Child, RRP $32.99 (Viking) is available now.