As children, we wanted as much of everything we loved as we could get our hands on. If our parents allowed it, playtime could last forever and Halloween candy just a few hours. Instead, we had to stop at some point to understand the importance of moderation even if we didn’t like it. Discover how to teach your child moderation — without cramping their style — by reading the following tips.
Limit Internet Usage Outside the Home
Awareness of their surroundings is important wherever a child is, and engagement with them is even more valuable. The internet provides powerful stimuli for easily-distractible children and therefore an adverse effect on the way they view the world. Limiting internet access outside the home can do wonders for your child’s social and observational abilities.
Increased engagement with their environment will breed independence, curiosity, and an improved ability to focus away from the screen. It will also be helpful to teach your child how to use their phone while online in a healthy way. Constant strict limitations can be harmful to their phone use habits as they grow. The less we can have of something, the more we want to experience it — and children are natural explorers.
You can find a happy medium by giving your child a kids phone for outside communication while monitoring at-home internet access. With the freedom such phones provide, they can feel safe to explore the world around them while not getting distracted by internet access. You’ll also be right at their fingertips in case they are not feeling safe or comfortable.
Establish and — Mostly — Enforce a Daily Bedtime Schedule
Young children commonly go to bed at a consistent time each night or fall asleep soon after it. As they grow and their needs and desires change, it might be more difficult to maintain this routine.
When your child is old enough to talk about it, discuss with them the importance of a consistent sleep schedule. At the same time, allow them the freedom to occasionally stay up past their bedtime as long as they try their best.
Doing this encourages them to be independent in their decision-making and to feel the repercussions of personal mistakes. It stresses the importance of maintaining good habits while also helping them learn from not doing so. In addition, giving them this permission can reduce the anxiety about occasionally breaking the rules, which is inevitable and stimulates critical thinking. While rules are important, fear of breaking them can be excessive in some children.
Understandably, you don’t want your child outright ignoring their bedtime, and every child has different behavioral habits to take into account. Nevertheless, the earlier you grant independence and trust to them, the more likely they are to take root.
Don’t Overdo Media Restrictions
Children’s relationships with media like television, video games, and social media platforms have a bad reputation for several reasons. Many of these concerns are indeed valid: Overuse, addiction, and harmful content have a very real effect on development. There is, however, another side to this coin. The freedom to consume the media they want can help your child develop their interests.
Remember that watching TV and surfing the internet are things we all do — and moderating them is something we all struggle with. Yet everybody, including your child, deserves some downtime. And one advantage of taking a lighter hand toward restrictions is the social aspect. Many children bond over certain shows, and your child will feel left out if they’re the only one at school who can’t watch.
Your child might also have a show or film with which they deeply connect. It’s important to allow them to experience characters and storylines, which can expose them to others’ feelings and perceptions. If they’re interested in a particular show or subject, you should foster that interest as long as you consider it appropriate.
Set your media restrictions with this in mind, supporting your child’s healthy consumption while moving them away from unhealthy habits. Keep an open mind as well. Some video games, for example, can build valuable skills — like faster reaction times and improved teamwork — if harnessed properly.
Teach Them Healthy Portioning Habits
The culinary goings-on of any child’s home form the foundation of their eating habits as they grow and change. For example, being forced to finish their meals is likely to cause problems with gauging hunger levels later on. In a household with many people at dinnertime, children might learn to take food simply to secure it regardless of hunger. Depending on your situation, difficulties at mealtime will lead to unhealthy habits down the road.
If the mealtime focus is on clearing one’s plate rather than reaching satiation, it can cause a fundamental misunderstanding of fullness. Help your child avoid unknowingly overeating throughout life by teaching them to eat only until they are satisfied. Portion control is an important part of bodily health and fitness as well as knowing one’s limits. It also prevents anxiety surrounding food in the future.
Even if the remainder of your child’s meal goes in the trash, recognize that it would have been going to waste either way. You can teach them a secondary lesson by creating a compost bin where this food can be deposited. This way, they won’t have to worry about where their uneaten food is going.
Allow Treats in Moderation
Children love sweets and foods designed with taste in mind over all else. The immediate satisfaction of indulging in junk food every now and then is the best part of being a kid. These treats may not be healthy as fruit or veggies, but avoiding them totally makes them harder to resist. Having no access to junk food at all may make it a lot more enticing when it’s available.
Permitting your child to eat treats in moderation provides satisfaction while teaching them not to constantly seek them out. Instead of less-than-healthy desserts every night, for example, you can serve conscious, fruit-based treats like banana bread or blueberry muffins. While brownies and cookies aren’t off the table, perhaps you’d do well to tie them to exciting times like after school on Friday. This can help your child learn to consider unhealthier desserts a relatively rare, special-occasion treat.
However you want to treat junk food in this regard can help create healthy norms around it. You’ll realize that your child can have the occasional ice cream sundae without things getting out of hand.
The goal of these tips is to allow your child the freedom to explore things without veering into excess. Of course they need restrictions in many areas to help them learn about life and the world. But at the same time, a level of freedom is necessary to put these lessons into context and practice. That’s why moderation, rather than prohibition, can help a child develop boundaries in a healthy, non-restrictive manner.