Parenting Styles

Responding to misbehavior is one of the greatest challenges every parent faces. Your child does or doesn’t do something, and you must know how to respond. Parents who understand basic parenting styles are better prepared to choose the right response for their child. There are four parenting styles every parent must recognize and understand.

The first style is authoritarian parenting.  In this approach the parent’s feelings, thoughts, words and actions dominate the parent-child encounter.  The feelings of the child are not listened to, dismissed or disavowed. The authoritarian parent says: “I am right, and you are wrong. Do what I say because I said so.” This attitude does not support reciprocity or shared communication.  In this parent-centered approach the feelings, thoughts, words and actions of the child are neglected, unobserved or lost and forgotten.  This approach hinders sincere and honest parent-child communication and neglects problem solving.  It diminishes a child’s self-esteem and self-worth and often leads to hidden anger or hostile and aggressive behavior by the child.

The second style is authoritative parenting. Parents who utilize this approach demonstrate unconditional love for their child while at the same time setting clear and consistent boundaries. These parents rely on empathy and emotional awareness to see what their child sees and understand their child’s emotions and behavior. By seeing the situation through the eyes of their child they are able to recognize and understand the reason behind their child’s behavior. This allows parental responses to be guided by the child’s emotions. Authoritative parenting supports the development of strong, healthy and trusting relationships and teaches children how emotions work as well as how to manage their own emotions.

The third parenting style is permissive parenting. Permissive parents view the parent to child relationship primarily as a friendship. They avoid rule-making out of fear that their relationship with the child will be damaged and their child will be less attached to them. With permissive parenting parental authority is not supported, and this approach teaches children not to respect or honor their parents. These parents accept their child’s emotions no matter how the child behaves. Boundaries are not identified and often children become confused while their behavior continues to deteriorate. Permissive parenting often leads to extended temper tantrums, acting out behaviors and an inability to handle emotions, recognize social cues and develop reciprocal shared relationships.

The final parenting style is that of the uninvolved parent. Uninvolved parents lack attachment to their child. They act as if they did not know or care about their child’s emotions or actions and often avoid direct touching contact with their child. Uninvolved parents verbally and visually neglect their child or like authoritarian parents use dismissive or disavowing response techniques to distance themselves from their child. This parenting style leads to disengagement, separation, low self-esteem and underachievement. These children have difficulty connecting and listening to others. In rare situations children raised under this style become highly resilient overachievers with over developed coping skills and immature relationship skills. These children tend to hide their own emotions and have difficulty resolving emotional conflicts while at the same time neglecting the emotions of others.

By being aware and understanding these parenting styles you are able to teach your child respect, cooperation and the ability to recognize, understand and respond to personal emotions and the emotions of others. Listening and emotional coaching are the greatest parenting gifts you can give your child.

Healthy Eating

Every parent knows a healthy weight is an indicator of good health and a gateway to chronic disease. Today’s parents, however, are busy and time and finances are limited. This is why it is essential for all parents to model healthy eating for their children.

The first step is to model mealtime as family time. Parents must support shopping, cooking, eating and talking together if mealtime is to be a memorable event.  Boundary setting, consistency and communication stop the tug of war that is commonly seen when parents become the food police. Parents must aim for progress not perfection when pursuing a healthy diet. By planning wholesome and well balanced meals, including a wide variety of healthy foods, eating in not out, planning family meals and not skipping meals, parents set the tone of what and when they expect their children to eat. Mealtime becomes a social event that is as much about one another as it is about the food that is eaten.

Parents must be patient with their children and allow children to serve themselves. The focus must be on avoiding excess portion size rather than forcing a child to “clean the plate” and sample every food that is served.   Water must be the first part of every meal or snack. Milk should be fat free or low in fat for all children over age 2 years. Juice does not need to be part of your child’s daily food intake. It is best to eat the fruit rather than drink the juice. Limit milk intake to three 4 ounce servings per day and consider substituting low fat yogurt or cheese in place of the milk.

Consider using a luncheon plate rather than a dinner plate for meals. Half of the plate should be fruits and vegetables and one fourth of the plate should be a whole grain carbohydrate. There has never been a controversy about eating too many vegetables. The protein you choose constitutes the final fourth of your plate. Half of all protein chosen should be plant based and fish or lean meat is preferable over high fat cuts of meat. In this way meat becomes a garnish to your meal rather than the main course. Beware of certain high fat foods such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, sausage, cheese, hot dogs and butter.

Consider making vegetable juicing a part of your family’s diet for children of all ages. Homemade vegetable juice that is free of pulp and fiber becomes liquid gold. It is a fast, convenient and efficient way to dramatically increase the intake of vegetables for your entire family. Because you make it yourself it is fresh and unpasteurized. You are able to limit the amount of sugar it contains while at the same time protecting the enzymes and heat sensitive nutrients that are key components of the vegetables. As a general rule try to use fresh vegetables that are locally produced and organically grown. Because you are using a large quantity of vegetables contamination with herbicides and pesticides can be an issue.

Vegetables that are high in minerals and beta carotene such as kale, cabbage, romaine lettuce and dandelion greens are good choices. High energy vegetables include carrots, beets, cucumber and celery. For added sweetness add one part fruit for every three parts vegetables and for a palate cleansing flavor consider adding half a peeled lemon. A half-bunch of cilantro or parsley also increase the depth of flavors. Other options include a few drops of honey or maple syrup or a dash of cinnamon or all spice. Always juice the stems and bases of cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus and try to drink the juice slowly or during a meal. This allows your digestion to “catch up” with all the nutrients. Storing vegetable juice is difficult. It is best to drink vegetable juice soon after it is made. If stored, consider doing so in an air tight mason jar that is refrigerated and kept out of sunlight.

Fruit smoothies are another healthy addition into the family diet but be aware of high sugar intake. Fruit smoothies can be made in a high speed blender rather than a juicer so the fiber is not left behind. Always include protein and some healthy fat in the fruit smoothie. Nuts or protein powder are easy protein sources  and extra fiber can be found in flax or chia seeds, Fat can be found in added coconut, avocado, flaxseed oil, fish oil or coconut oil. This allows the sugar to be absorbed more slowly and lowers the glycemic index of the drink. Avoid sweetened yogurt and fruit juices.

By taking the time to plan and eat healthy meals even busy parents can become a model of healthy eating.

Summer Safety Checkup

With the arrival of summer all parents need to perform a safety inspection of the house and all play areas inside and out. It is also the time for vacations, road trips, play dates, sporting events and summer camp. These new opportunities for exploration, experimentation and discovery make the arrival of summer the perfect time for a safety checkup.

A visit to the doctor is often the first step in this process. If your child has not had a yearly checkup, schedule a well-child visit with your pediatrician. Children grow and change so fast that a yearly checkup is essential. Immunizations can be given; vision and hearing screening performed and your child’s growth charts can be reviewed. Healthy lifestyle opportunities can be discussed and dietary, sleep and exercise opportunities can be reviewed.

The next step is to check out all outdoor play equipment. All outdoor playground equipment needs to be inspected and tested. All climbing structures must be inspected for soundness. Make sure rungs, stairs and guardrails are placed appropriately and attached correctly. All openings must be less than 3.5 inches and guardrails must be at least 29 inches tall for preschool children and 38 inches tall for school-aged children. Rope and climbing nets pose a strangulation and entrapment risk and must be inspected. Sliding boards must have at least a 4 inch side and closed slides are preferable.

Make sure all swings are well-attached and are made of soft and flexible materials such as a synthetic rubber or plastic. A full bucket seat is safest for small children and make sure all swings are separated by at least two feet to decrease the risk for collisions. Splinters, loose nuts and bolts and surface padding must all be checked. Having six inches of ground surface padding made out of shredded tires, pea gravel or bark is essential as is making sure the play area is away from trees and other objects that could become a hazard. Having the play area in a clear zone away from brush and trees also decreases the risk for tick bites and contracting Lyme disease.

Summer safety also includes teaching your child about playground safety and learning how to take turns with equipment. Learning how to climb a ladder, use monkey bars, avoid swings and moving away from the bottom of a slide are essential skills to review with your child. Some playground equipment can also become very hot if it is made out of metal and is in direct sunlight. Wooden equipment may also be a source of splinters if it is not well cared for.

During summer the rays of the sun are intense. Skin care is very important. The use of wide brimmed hats, clothing and sunscreen are important, as is making sure your child receives adequate hydration due to increased water intake requirements due to heat and increased activity levels and sweating. Clothing can also be a risk for your child if it can lead to entrapment or strangulation. Avoid drawstrings on all clothing.

Using mouth guards or eye protection while engaging in certain sporting activities is as important as it is to use sport-specific protection such as wrist, knee and elbow guards while rollerblading. For any “wheel” sport including bikes, skateboards and scooters a helmet must be used, and make sure the helmet fits your child correctly. The chin strap must be adjusted to allow only one finger to be placed between the strap and your child’s chin and the helmet must not be able to rock back from your child’s forehead.

Inspect all bicycles and perform yearly maintenance. Take your child’s bike to a bike dealer if you have any concerns about bike safety such as size, fit, brakes or steering. Children are becoming more adventurous with bicycle stunts, ramps and jumps. Discuss these activities with your child. Set boundaries for what is and is not acceptable and consistently enforce the rules you decide upon.

Do not allow your child to use a trampoline unless it is part of a supervised training program under the direct supervision of a coach or sport specific trainer. Backyard trampolines are dangerous and lead to over 100,000 injuries per year in the US.

Summer can be a time of concussions, broken bones and head and neck injuries. Your attention and preparation can eliminate most of the risk for these injuries and replace these severe injuries with minor sprains, strains, bruises, cuts and scrapes. With a little effort and attention you and your child can be ready for a fun and safe summer.

Sun Protection

The sun can be damaging to your skin. Sunlight contains both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that are damaging to your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. UVA light causes premature aging and UVB light causes burning. Both types of ultraviolet light increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Throughout life the average person has a 1 in 5 chance of developing skin cancer and a 1 in 50 chance of developing the most dangerous skin cancer called malignant melanoma.  Excess and unprotected sun exposure and ultraviolet light exposure from tanning parlors dramatically increase your risk of premature skin aging and developing skin cancer.

Unprotected exposure to the rays of the sun burns your skin. The effects often appear within hours of exposure but may not appear for 6-12 hours after the damage has occurred. Your skin becomes red and warm. Swelling often occurs and is accompanied by pain and in severe cases blistering. This skin damage often leads to peeling and further itching in the days following the injury.

If you are taking various medications including antibiotics (sulfa drugs, tetracycline and doxycycline), acne medication containing retinoic acid (Retin A) or a thiazide diuretic for blood pressure control, you have an increased risk for severe skin rashes and increased skin damage after sun exposure.

Sun exposure may also lead to a skin photosensitivity or so-called sun allergy. Such sensitivity may occur hours to days after sun exposure and can include redness, swelling and blistering of the skin. This type of eruption is called a polymorphous light eruption (PMLE).

The first step in sun protection is to protect yourself and be a model for safe sun exposure for your children. Always hunt for the shade and stay out of direct sun during the high sun periods between 10am and 4pm. Remember that sun rays do bounce off water, sand and concrete and always dress right. Wear a wide brimmed hat and clothes that are light in color and have a tight weave that prevents the UV rays from penetrating your clothing’s fabric. Some clothes have been treated with chemicals to prevent these dangerous rays from reaching your skin. A water or surf shirt that is tight fitting and has a high crew neck and long sleeves is also very helpful especially for those who are in the water where sunscreen is rapidly washed off. Sunglasses that offer 99% UV protection are also helpful and protect your eyes from sun damage.

Choose a sunscreen that provides broad spectrum protection for both UVA and UVB. A sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 protects you from 93% of harmful UVB sun rays. A SPF of 30-35 is adequate to protect you from 97% of the rays. Higher SPF’s are often not needed and are more expensive. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure and every 2 hours while you are in the sun. Some sunscreens are water resistant and need less frequent application. No sunscreen, however, is waterproof and the more sweating or water exposure the more rapidly the sunscreen is washed off your body. Everyone must pay extra attention to high exposure and hard to reach areas. Finally, directly applied lotions are better than spray on sunscreens, but spray on sunscreen is better than no sunscreen.

For young children and sensitive areas of your skin consider using a sunscreen that has zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient. These types of mineral based sunscreen are best for sensitive skin and do not carry the risk of chemical exposure that chemical sunscreens pose. Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone or a class of chemicals called parabens that are included in many personal care cosmetic products as a preservative to decrease the growth of bacteria, mold and fungi. If you need to choose a chemical based sunscreen, choose one that list avobenzone or mexoryl as the active ingredient.

Lastly, when you or your child are are spending time in the sun always be on the watch for heatstroke especially if you are engaging in intense physical activity. Make sure you take frequent breaks and drink plenty of water. If you are not urinating frequently or your urine has a strong color or odor you need to rest, get out of the sun and increase your water intake.