14 Steps to Raising a Well-Rounded Child That Every Parent Should Know
Every parent wants to raise a healthy and happy kid. But as a child grows and the pressures to excel intensify, it's easy to lose sight of how to live a balanced lifestyle. From stress about grades and school to feeling like they have to be the most talented outside of the classroom, it can be difficult to know when pushing your child becomes detrimental.
"The goal as a parent is to help your child feel competent and confident, and to help her develop a sense of passion and purpose," said Susan Stiffelman, MFT, an educational therapist and author of Parenting Without Power Struggles. It's not only important to help your child develop their particular strengths but it's equally essential to teach them about failure. Kids need exposure to a variety of experiences without the pressure of having to be the best at everything. As a parent, take a break from the busy schedules — don't underestimate the power of downtime! — and check out these 14 steps to raising a well-rounded kiddo in today's high-pressure society.
While pursuing different interests and focusing on those hobbies is important, it's equally essential for children to build friendships with their peers. Not only will these relationships expose them to other activities and ways of thinking that they may never have considered, but friendships also help kids grow emotionally and develop vital social skills.
Foster Your Child's Sense of Self
A well-rounded child not only has a healthy self-esteem but they also have a strong self-identity. Allow your kiddo to discover who they are and give them the freedom to express their individuality within reason. "With the younger ones, their world is you. The biggest thing that parents do [wrong] is make it about them, so they base their kid's identity on what they didn't get as a kid," clinical psychologist Dr. Lisa Hartwell said.
Keep your child's curiosity alive by creating an open-minded environment where they feel safe to ask any questions. Bring them into conversations and answer their questions respectfully and thoughtfully — not with "Because I said so."
Do It Yourself
Be sure to model a healthy and balanced lifestyle for yourself. Your child picks up behaviors from what they observe at home, and it's the things he or she learns before they even start school that shape what type of child they will become. "Allowing your child to see you trying something new may inspire her to do the same," Stiffelman said.
Open Their Mindset
Labeling your child as "smart" or "the athletic one" will limit how they view themselves and close them off to trying different experiences. Not only does a person's mindset influence their behaviors, but children with fixed mindsets are more reluctant to take on new challenges and leave their comfort zones. Be sure to praise your kid for their effort instead of commenting on how talented or gifted they are.
Build an Active Routine
Not only does physical exercise stimulate the brain and is essential in a healthy lifestyle, but team sports also teach children invaluable social skills. From exposing them to competition and the importance of teamwork to teaching them how to handle challenges and working toward a team goal, incorporating athletics into their routine is key to raising a well-rounded kid.
Keep Their Creativity Alive
In addition to athletics, kids need to be exposed to the arts in order to have the most well-rounded upbringing possible. The arts help children receive information in a different way and enhance traditional education.
Let your child try out all of their interests and hobbies. By allowing them to sample different experiences without pressuring them to master just one at a time, your kid will not only gain exposure to an array of activities but will also be able to find where their true passions lie.
Don't Be a Helicopter Parent
Even though it might feel like you're protecting your child, hovering over them will actually stunt their growth. Letting your child stumble will teach them not to fear failure and give them the confidence to deal with challenging situations.
Be a Positive Force
Showering your child with love physically and emotionally — whether it's physical encouragement with hugs and kisses or endless support to explore their interests — is important for children to build positive self-identities and confidence. Studies show that children who don't receive adequate affection can suffer from chronic stress that prevents parts of the brain responsible for learning and memory from developing. "There's nothing like the human touch to give a child a sense of security," said Susan M. Heim, author of It's Twins! Parent-to-Parent Advice from Infancy Through Adolescence.
Expose Them to the World
For your child to be well-rounded, they need to be exposed to not only their community but also the world. Teach your children to have empathy by giving them firsthand knowledge of how others live. "When you teach kids to care about others and volunteer, it forces them not to be self-centered," said Kanoe Nanoe, mother and CEO of INPEACE, a nonprofit for children.
As busy parents, it can be easy to underestimate the importance of free time. Children learn social skills through unstructured play with other kids and also develop keen imaginations. Free play should be made a priority and taken just as seriously as extracurricular because it builds curiosity, creativity, and collaboration. Whether the answer is limiting screen time or rearranging packed schedules in order to make room for old-fashioned exploration, just remember that free play builds a strong foundation for future learning.
Have a Balanced Home
Raising a well-rounded child starts at home. Create an environment filled with open communication without yelling or fear. "Make it safe for them to come to you no matter what, even if it's that they don't like their vegetables right now," Hartwell said. That sense of safety and transparency gives children the freedom to explore ideas without being afraid.
Remove the Social Stress
Broaden your child's horizons by removing any pressure to excel from new experiences. "You want a child who's exposed to a variety of things," said Dr. David Elkind, a child development expert and author of The Power of Play. "It's much more important to have a solid, enriched environment, doing things like traveling and involving them with different people, places and things, rather than racing to teach them more mathematics."