“Children are like wet cement. Whatever falls on them makes an impression.” So goes the wisdom of Dr. Haim Ginott, schoolteacher, psychologist, and best known for his book, Between Parent and Child. Every single day offers parents a chance to make an impression on their children — whether that impression is good or bad is all up to them.
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky found that 1,041 children in Boone County, 1,540 children in Campbell County and 3,550 children in Kenton County were reported in 2013 as being abused or neglected. In Hamilton County, there were 5,013 reports of abuse (reports of abuse does not mean substantiated, or met legal criteria, as reported by the Hamilton County Job & Family Services). Local organizations and families are hard at work to make a difference in those numbers. The Family Nurturing Center, a non-profit social service organization that provides child abuse education, prevention and treatment programs, helps parents be at their best when it comes to raising their children in a loving, safe home. The center offers programs like Every Parent’s Library, a free parenting video lending service for expecting parents and parents of children up to 2 years old, as well as Stewards of Children, a public education program that teaches adults how to recognize, respond and prevent child sexual abuse.
Nurturing your own children is as easy as telling them you love them each and every day. Try it out, along with these other tips from the experts at Family Nurturing Center on how to nurture your child. They’ll help you encourage the best in your own kids, and shape them into caring adults that will one day leave good impressions themselves.
Say “I love you” at least once every day.
Carol Lapin, MSSW and Director of Prevention Services at Family Nurturing Center, says “Children of all ages need to hear the actual words every day.” Because little ones don’t always understand the innuendo behind actions, and because teenagers are often caught up in their own lives, speaking the words aloud adds value to them.
Punishments show children what not to do; only guidance and teaching can show children what to do.
Parents may not know that the word “discipline” actually means to guide or to teach, says Lapin. Punishment focuses on the negative, and leaves out the most important, and more positive, piece — what a child should do.
Put down what you are doing to listen to your child when they’re talking to you, and make eye contact.
“In order for the child to feel valued, you need to show that what they’re saying is important to you,” says Lapin, adding that this is also how parents can demonstrate to their children the best listening skills.
Catch your child “being good.”
The best way to encourage children to repeat a positive behavior is to praise them for it. It’s pretty simple: what you pay attention to is what you get more of. It’s easy to pay attention to the negative, says Lapin, because it’s typically bold and glaring. “We have to be intentional about seeing and praising the positive.”
Let your child pick out a movie from the library and have a family movie night. Don’t forget the popcorn!
“It’s about empowering children,” says Lapin. Children need to have a choice once in a while, so they learn to make decisions.
Remember that testing your limits is a healthy part of your child’s growth and development.
“Children should be able to explore the world in safety,” says Lapin, adding that it’s up to parents to establish safe boundaries, to be prepared for children to push those boundaries, and to have patience on those days when they do!
Remember that family rules are for everyone in the family — including parents.
“This is about values,” Lapin explains. “When the whole family follows rules, you’re role modeling for kids to see how to behave.” She adds that family rules are really more about things you believe as a family to be true, such as no hitting and valuing our bodies, rather than specifics like curfews.
Remember that you are the voice of reason in your household and that you will have to tell your child “No” sometimes.
“Part of nurturing means saying no,” says Lapin, adding that offering an explanation of why you’re saying no is helpful. For example, if a child wants candy at the grocery store, and you say no, add that the reason why you’re saying no is that you don’t have enough money to buy both the candy and the special cereal she wanted (and this gives you an opportunity to let the child make a choice of which item she would rather have).
Love is not conditional. Children need to know that you will love them when they succeed and fail.
Telling a child you love them because he set the table or made his bed can set him up to become a people pleaser.
The time in has to matter so the “time out” can be effective. Just giving out punishments will not deter a child from misbehaving.
“If you’re not spending quality time with your child, then your child is already in ‘time out,’” explains Lapin. Enforcing a time out won’t have real meaning because it’s not that different from what’s normal.
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month
There are plenty of ways to show your support for those who work tirelessly to protect children from abuse. The Family Nurturing Center will host multiple events throughout April in honor of this special month:
• On Tuesday, April 1, families are invited to the Blue Ribbon Ceremony at Tom Gill Chevrolet (7830 Commerce Drive, Florence) featuring Larry Gildea, the father of a child sexual abuse victim, and Dan Ryan, a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer.
• Throughout the month, families can make donations to the Family Nurturing Center at local Bank of Kentucky branches and receive blue ribbons to wear and show your support.
• Visit your local library branch to learn the story of the blue ribbon or help decorate a Blue Ribbon Tree. Take a photograph and e-mail it to the online Blue Ribbon Registry at familynuture.org.
• Local businesses are invited to create a Blue Crew — invite everyone to wear blue to work and snap a group photo to share on the Blue Ribbon Registry.
For more ways to show you support protecting children this month call The Family Nurturing Center at 859-525-3200 or visit familynurture.org.