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4 Secrets to Building a Stronger Child
Use these steps to foster your child's growth into adulthood.

Relax, your child's growth depends on your actions as well as their own.

We’re hearing about it from all corners of the news: helicopter parents versus free-range kids, a "Nation of Wimps" versus "To Catch a Predator." It’s hard to know exactly how you should raise a child these days and make sure that your getting it right.

And that’s the point; you’ll never be sure to get it right. One of the reasons that parents struggle so much with helping children grow up the right way is that they are sure the decisions they make on a day-to-day basis will forever effect the outcome of a child’s life.

The real story is more complicated. Not only do parents raise children, but children raise themselves. Sometimes, in fact, children affect the growth and development of parents! Are you struggling to make sure you do it all perfectly? Are you trying like the dickens to make sure that your child is never exposed to bad events, injury or pain? Do you replay discipline issues over and over in your head, wishing you’d get it right? Do you spend hours trying to push homework or soccer practice on your kid?


The real secret to having a happy family is to help children feel strong emotionally and physically. Here are some tips on building a better child, without self-destructing in the process.

1. Be a good role model: Children, even teenage children, look up to you and expect you to be a set an example for them. Smoking, drinking or failing to live up to our obligations will teach your children that these things are okay, even if you tell them otherwise. Work on having a quality relationship with your spouse then show your kids not only that you and your spouse can get along with each other, but that you and your partner make up a parenting team.

2. Let the kids out: Fresh air and exercise are essential ingredients to a growing child, and it won’t cost you a cent! Encourage your children to spend time outside daily. Have some sports equipment available, and observe your child to see what direction he or she is going in. When I taught Sunday school, I noticed one eight-year-old girl, Emily, ran faster than all the other children. I encouraged her parents to foster her natural talent, and years later I read that Emily was All State in track.

3. Help shape positive emotions: Keep up your emotional radar when you’re with your child. Be aware of your child’s emotions, and recognize these emotions as an opportunity to get closer to your child and for teaching him or her. It’s tempting to jump in with advice or reassurance, but resist the temptation. Instead, listen empathically and validate your child’s feelings. Then help the child verbalize his or her emotions. This will allow your kid to label and better understand the experience.

4. Teach them how to find solutions: Give me a fish, I eat for a day, right? Tell a kid how to fix things, and they have one solution. But, teach him to be creative and see how to solve problems, and you give him or her skills for a lifetime. Helping your young child to become good at handling difficult decisions will give him skills later in life when his peers try to steer him in the wrong direction.

By helping your child to value his physical health, by consistently honoring the fact that he or she has very real, and very important emotional reactions to things, and by helping him or her recognize and master those emotions, you're improving your child’s ability to mold into a strong adult. And you don’t even have to hover!

Dr. Haltzman is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Brown University. He is also the author of the newly released "The Secrets of Happy Families: Eight Keys to Building a Lifetime of Connection and Contentment" You can find Dr. Haltzman at www.DrScott.com

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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