Raising children isn’t easy. As parents, we are expected to do a lot of things for our children to insure their safety and wellness. Sometimes, it’s tough to know what is right for them, and what isn’t. After all, they have technology available to them that we never had. They also have a lot more distractions than we did. They are consumed with stuff! These things in life don’t always scream “hey, this is really going to hurt them later on down the road!”

So what are the essentials in life, in order to raise a happy and healthy child? I wanted to make a list of the most important things to remember, since life is so busy. I wanted to show parents that simple is best, sometimes, and raising a child in this day and age doesn’t have to be so difficult.

Here is a list of ten things we need to do with our children, to make sure that they will be well- adjusted, and to give them the best chance at life, when they become adults.

1. Establish a daily routine. Be consistent with the routine as much as possible. Children become grounded if they have a routine to look forward to and depend on. It is a form of security for them. It gives them stability and relieves stress.

I saw the need for this in my own son. My ten year old son is very forgetful, and when I add more tasks into his daily life, he starts to forget the normal expected tasks, one by one. When he had sports or team practices, he was stressed out and couldn’t sleep. He would forget his homework the next day and even his lunch. On the days when there was no practice, he was much better.

We had to sit down and talk about this and get a hold of his fears and his worries. I had to help him remember things and be his cheerleader to encourage him. We were both looking forward to the end of the season, and we aren’t sure if he will play that sport again. It was too time consuming with 3 hour practices after school almost every day. He had to have his down time, and this sport was getting in the way of his brain being able to function correctly.

Be sensitive to your child’s personality in regard to what they can handle. Sit back and analyze if this is worth it, or if it is affecting their stress level and school work.

2. Read with your child, or read to them, every day. Find a book that they are interested in and finish it together. A book opens their mind and lets them experience things that they haven’t lived yet. Reading also helps in school, and that is always a good thing!

I noticed that my children had a hard time finishing books that they started. They always wanted to quit after the third chapter. I had to encourage them to finish what they started. At the second or third chapter of a book, the characters have rarely even introduced the challenge in the story, yet. They hadn’t even given the book a chance to get good! Don’t let them quit.

Get involved in the book with your child. This is a way to make memories with them, and help them to finish the story. It’s best to read at night before they go to bed, to calm their mind. It gives them something good to dream about. At the end of the book, they have a sense of accomplishment that is so valuable as a teaching tool.

3. Create a system of chores and rewards. Kids always like to get an allowance, but I know that some kids don’t do what they are supposed to until it’s pay day. They think they can get it all done in ten minutes on Saturday, and then get money. That’s not real life. Set boundaries for them and tell them your expectations. If they get paid an allowance for every day’s chores, make sure that they do it every day. Otherwise, pay them for the one day they worked, or pay them by the chore, as they complete it. This method worked better for us.

A reward system is a good way to establish expectations and create a work ethic. This will take time, and won’t happen overnight. The parent has to do a little work too, like reminding them of what needs to be done, and making a chore list for them. If you pay them at the end of the week, make sure you encourage that they save for something or have a goal of what to do with the money. Open a savings account for them, and allow them to open up their monthly bank statements when they are mailed! Mail is exciting and so is watching their money grow.

4. Play outside with your child every day. Take them to the playground or play outside in your backyard. Make time to bond through play. This is the stuff memories are made of! Every kid wants to play. Get some outdoor toys at your home, a backyard swing set, or go to the local pay area. Just getting outside is important.

We need to be active and be sure that our child sees us enjoying life. It’s healthy and feels good to play outside. It makes us laugh and smile. Even in the cold weather, enjoy the outdoors for a little while each day. Sunlight releases vitamin D in our bodies, and that is essential for healthy development.

5. Insure that they have a healthy diet. Limit fast food to once a week or less, and see that they get a fruit or vegetable at every meal. This is a good rule for us, too. Our bodies need good food to keep us going. Our busy schedules make it hard for us to eat right, so plan ahead! Make a weekly menu to make sure that your family is eating right, or cook ahead.

This one was hard for my family. We are busy people, so grabbing fast food was easier. We had to make a commitment and make plans to stay home. This had also become a really bad habit! But after a month, we realized that we had saved money and gas in the car. My kids seemed to have more energy (me too) after eliminating fast food from our diet. We weren’t as sluggish. We were glad we made the change, and happy with the results!

6. Limit their video games, TV, and texting time. The suggested time limit is one hour a day for TV. If they play video games, that is the same thing, so place a limit on that too. Texting gets tricky to limit. I try to take the cell phone away from my daughter before we eat dinner together, then I give it back then next morning. I want to make sure she talks to us! Take away the distractions, so that they can see that family is more important.

For my son, the TV usage and video games are a problem. I take those away after one hour, so he can read and do his homework. If you look at a kid’s schedule, there really isn’t enough time for everything, so enforcing limits on TV and video games is really important.

A typical kid only has 5 hours at home before they have to go to bed for the evening. In that time they have homework, dinner, shower, playtime, sports and TV or video games. There just isn’t enough time for a lot of TV. It’s more important to make them read or study for upcoming tests at school.

7. Play board games or other games that require mental stimulation. Learn chess, checkers, Connect Four, or Battleship (depending on your child’s age level and skill). My family played a lot of games while I was growing up, and I loved it! Games are a fun way to laugh with and bond with your child. You can learn their strengths and weaknesses, and learn their mannerisms. It’s good, clean fun and an enjoyable past time.

8. Encourage intellectual conversation. Don’t just ask “how was your day?” Ask them “What did you enjoy the most about today, and why? What did you do that was exciting? What did you do that you didn’t like?” Don’t ask yes or no questions. Make them think about their answers!

I learn so much from my kids when I get them talking. Details come out from the day’s activities that I never would have known, otherwise. Sometimes you have to ask deeper questions to peel a layer back, piece by piece, to see what they are really thinking or feeling. I don’t want a surface relationship with my children, and you probably don’t either. To get some real answers, you have to dig deep, but that’s where the diamonds are.

9. Discipline your child when they have done something wrong. If they tell a lie, don’t finish their homework, don’t do as they are told, or other expected things, make sure you follow through with an effective disciplinary action. They need to learn about consequences at home before they go out into the real world. If you told them to do their homework or they wouldn’t be able to spend the night at a friend’s house this weekend, then follow through with what you said. If they tell a lie, you should take privileges away that will make them remember that they don’t ever want to do that again.

When we are busy, we sometimes forget to enforce rules, and this will hurt our children in the long run. It’s important that we show them what we expect. If a discussion won’t work, then grounding them from their favorite past time is a good alternative. In our house, we continue to take privileges away until the message is received and the behavior truly changes.

10. Let them pick a fun activity to do with you. Give them 4 or 5 choices to choose from (museum, library, playground, picnic, movies, concert, make a craft together, etc.) and see what they want to do! This is a learning experience for us, to see what they like. It helps form early opinions and early decision making ability. Do it once a month, or more, if possible. As long as you limit the choices they have, you are ok to let them pick from those.

To help you in your efforts of raising a well-rounded child, here are a few good links to some healthy kid’s websites.

For kids play set equipment or outdoor toys, go to: http://www.gorillaplaysets.com/
For healthy kid’s recipes: http://kidshealth.org/kid/recipes/index.html
Saving money ideas for kids http://www.kids.gov/k_5/k_5_money.shtml

Author's Bio: 

Celeste Simmons is a published author of 2 children's books and is a copywriter full time.
She is also a CPR and First Aid instructor through American Heart Association.