1. Not Enough Time and Attention
How many hours each day do you spend in direct communication or activity with your children? How many hours each day do your children spend with a caregiver other than their mother or father? The problem with mothers and fathers in high-dollar careers is that those careers demand 40 to 80 hours a week of the parents’ time—which is 40 to 80 hours a week their children don’t receive time and attention from Mom and Dad.
When Nadya Suleman, a.k.a. The Octomom, gave birth to octuplets, the media threw her under the bus after finding out that she was a single mother already raising six other children. Society screamed, “How will this woman give proper attention to 14 children all by herself?” The answer is: She can’t. And neither can a day care center. The average day care center ratio is one adult to 12 children. The Octomom’s ratio is one to 14. Not much of a difference. If your child spends more than six hours a day, five days a week in a day care center, then she is not receiving the essential direct communication from an adult that’s needed for her to develop into a confident, well-adjusted adult.
After you’ve spent eight to twelve hours at work, how much energy and patience do you have left for your kids? Not much, right? By working fewer hours, you’ll not only provide your children with more one-on-one time, you’ll also have more energy to invest in them when you spend time with them. It’s a lose-lose situation when you work all day and your children are with a caregiver all day. But it’s a win-win situation when you can spend more quality time with your family.
2. Not Enough Sleep
According to The National Sleep Foundation (SleepFoundation.org), research suggests that most healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Children and adolescents need even more. The following is a breakdown of the recommended number of hours of sleep people need by age (* including naps):
(0 to 2 months): …………….10.5 to 18 hours*
(2-12 months): ………………………14 to 15 hours*
(12-18 months): ……………………13 to 15 hours*
(18 months-3 years): ……………12 to 14 hours*
(3-5 years): …………………………….11 to 13 hours*
(5-12 years): ………………………………9 to 11 hours
ADOLESCENTS 8.5 to 9.5 hours
ADULTS 7 to 9 hours
What time do your children go to sleep?
What time do they wake up?
How many hours of sleep do they receive each day? ______________
According to the chart above, do your children get an adequate amount of sleep? ______________
3. Poor Nutrition
According to The American Obesity Association, 127 million adults in the U.S. are overweight; 60 million are obese and nine million are severely obese. So basically 200 million of the 300 million people in America are overweight! Well, that’s no surprise, considering what we eat and feed our kids.
Not long ago, a mother told me, “I never give my kids sodas. I give them Sprite.” Since when was Sprite not a soda? Just because it’s clear and “caffeine free,” it’s still a soda and it’s not healthy. It’s not the caffeine in drinks that make them so terrible for children—it’s the chemicals and sugar. Same goes for fruit juice and sports drinks. Read the labels. You’ll be astounded by the amount of sugar in these drinks. If you see a child who’s unruly, emotional or disrespectful, look at what the child had to eat or drink that day. I can guarantee he or she consumed something with sugar.
A few years ago, my daughter attended a school that boasted a National Early Childhood Accreditation. We paid $1,000 a month for her to attend—part time! Yes, the education was excellent, but the food they served the children was atrocious. They served sugar-coated cereal or pancakes with syrup for breakfast, applesauce with added sugar for a snack, fried steak fingers for lunch and cookies or crackers for the afternoon snack. First, can you imagine trying to maintain order with 12 toddlers who had just passed a bowl of sugar through their little bodies at eight o’clock in the morning? No wonder there is such high teacher turnover at pre-schools! I sat down with the school director and said, “It wouldn’t cost the school a penny to make healthier choices in your food program. Why not serve bran cereal instead of Frosted Flakes? Why not serve natural applesauce instead of sugar-added applesauce? What about serving carrots for snacks instead of cookies and crackers?”
Do you want to take a guess at the answer I received from the school director? The director said, “The problem is that the kids won’t eat the healthier food. They’re so used to eating sugar-laden food at home, that they won’t eat healthy food if we serve it—and then we have hungry children on our hands.” See, this health epidemic we face is a revolving door. Parents feed their kids terrible food. Then the schools feel they must feed the students terrible food to keep up with what the parents are feeding the children at home.
I cannot stress this more: everyone must stop feeding children terrible, sugary, fried, non-nutritious food! And the schools have to step up to the plate and say to parents, “Mrs. Jones, we strive to serve only nutritious food here. Johnny isn’t eating much during the day because he is not accustomed to eating vegetables and cereal without sugar. In order for him to eat well here at school, we ask that you start using healthy food at home. Can you work with us on this?”
Society preaches about being concerned over childhood obesity rates in America, but the restaurant industry has done little to help combat the problem. What are the typical foods found on the kid’s menu? Hamburger and French fries, corn dog and fries, chicken nuggets and fries—and all the kid’s meals come with a soft drink! Attention restaurant owners: What about offering fish and veggies with water for kids? What about grilled chicken with fruit?
Proper health and nutrition starts in the home. Your children model what you eat. Do you want your children to grow up and have to face heart disease, cancer or diabetes? Just because other parents hand their children sodas, Gatorade, candy, ice cream, fries and chicken nuggets, does not mean it is acceptable.
What do your children eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner? What do they eat for snacks? What do they drink? Do any of these foods and drinks contain sugar? If you want to see drastic changes in your child’s behavior and foster a lifetime of good health, it is extremely important to eliminate all sugar and fatty foods from your child’s diet.
4. Lack of Positive Affirmations
How often do you tell your children, “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” or “You are so smart”? Many parents make the mistake of thinking, “My kids know I love them. I don’t have to tell them that.” Folks, your children absolutely need to hear you say, “I love you.” When I was a child, my parents never told me they loved me, and I cannot describe the pain that brought me. Your children need to feel loved by your actions and your words. Even if your child has behavior problems, find a reason to praise him—daily. His lack of positive reinforcement just might be the reason for his misbehavior.
5. Lack of Positive Discipline
Were you spanked as a child? How did it make you feel? Scared? Hurt? Angry? Resentful? Do you spank your children? Why? Because they have behaved inappropriately? Have you ever seen an adult behave inappropriately? A colleague who lied to a customer, a boss who raised his voice, a rude customer at a store? What would happen to you if you hit, smacked, grabbed or yelled at an adult because he acted inappropriately? If you were at work, you would get fired. If you were in public, someone would call the police on you and you’d face possible criminal charges.
Folks, spanking is hitting. If you spank your child, then you are hitting your child. I don’t know where or how in our society it became unacceptable for an adult to hit another adult, but completely acceptable for an adult to hit a child.
Dr. Patricia Nan Anderson, author of Parenting: A Field Guide says, “No matter who tells you it’s okay…it is never okay to hit a child.”
When a parent spanks, it is simply because that parent has lost emotional control. There are dozens of alternatives to spanking. I know they work because I use them. When my daughter is unruly, she either goes to time out, loses television privileges or loses time with playmates. And when my blood is boiling and I’m about to lose control of my emotions—I simply walk away. I have learned that many times my daughter throws a temper tantrum simply to get my attention. If I walk away, she has an utter meltdown for a few minutes, but then it’s over. She loses the fight because I didn’t cater to her tantrum, and I won because I walked away and didn’t engage in her behavior.
Dr. Jennifer Helmcamp, our local pediatrician, said her office frequently offers parenting workshops and seminars. She said, “Most of the parents are either too authoritative and aggressive with their children or too permissive in their parenting.” When I asked her what percentage of parents “get it right” by using positive discipline, Dr. Helmcamp said “maybe ten percent.”
If you feel you might be part of the 90 percent who are either too authoritative or too permissive with your children—don’t worry. There are dozens of fantastic books available through FatNoggin.com to help coach you to successful parenting. The only way I have become a successful parent is through good books and resources. I definitely was not born a naturally good parent. It has taken a lot of hard work and education.
6. No College Fund
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is not managing their money responsibly, living beyond their means, living in credit card debt and not planning for the future. One parent I met recently said she did not have a college fund set up for her children and said, “My daughter is very bright. I’m sure she will get scholarships so we won’t have to pay for her college tuition.”
First, her daughter is only five years old. How in the world can she assess at this young age how her daughter will do academically? Second, it isn’t fair to put the burden on your children to pay for school. It is your responsibility as a parent to pay for school. A child should have the opportunity to attend college, regardless of scholarships. For parents who say, “I can’t afford a college fund”—well, my college fund each month costs me less than my cable bill! So, if you can afford cable, you can afford to have a college fund for your children!
As you read in the previous chapter, it is also essential that parents show their children how to live responsibly with money by living below your means and living debt-free.
7. Lack of Follow-Through
I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw a parent say, “Johnny, if you hit your sister again, we are going home.” Then of course, Johnny hits his sister again, but the parent does not follow through with her words and take the child home. Children are exceptionally smart. It takes you caving in only one time for Johnny to say to himself, “Ah ha, I won.” If you threaten your child with, “If you do that again, there will be no dessert after dinner” you must always follow through—or don’t make a threat you can’t (or won’t) follow through on. Also, it is important that the punishment fits the crime. Is it really fair or practical to say, “If you don’t clean your room, then I’m going to cancel our trip to Disneyland”? Are you really going to cancel a trip to Disneyland? Of course not. Your threats must be practical; they must fit the crime, and you must always follow through. Dr. Helmcamp says, “Parents need to realize that they do not do their children any favors by being permissive. It is essential that children are raised with discipline, structure and boundaries.”
Who do your children associate with? Do you know them? Have you met their parents? What do their parents value? Do they correlate with your values? Up to a certain age, parents are the most influential people in a child’s life. Then come peers. A day will come when your children’s peers have a greater influence on the decisions they make (and usually it’s the bad decisions) than you do. So know your children’s peers. Know them well. Know their parents. Know them well. If their morals and values do not mesh with yours, it’s time to find Bobby some new friends.
9. Not Making Marriage Your #1 Priority
Before I had children, I’d always heard the phrase, “children come first.” Then I started reading books about marriage and a common theme emerged: “Marriage comes first.” So which is it? The kids or you? As selfish as this might sound, you and the well-being of your marriage must be a priority. Why? If Mom and Dad aren’t happy, the kids aren’t happy. If Mom and Dad don’t show love and affection toward each other, then neither will the kids. If Mom and Dad aren’t mentally and physically fit, then the kids won’t be either. Success starts at the top. If you want to have a successful family, then Mom and Dad must be successful in love, marriage, respect and friendship.
Haven’t you heard a woman say, “My husband and I were madly in love when we got married. Then we had children, focused one-hundred percent on the kids, and then my husband and I drifted apart”?
When was the last time you had a “date night” with your spouse (translation: a night alone without the kids)? If you want to maintain a happy, healthy and well-connected marriage, it is critical for you to have a date night with your spouse at least once a month (twice a month is ideal). Your dates do not have to be expensive. First, to avoid paying a babysitter, find a family in your area with similar-age children and do date night swaps: You babysit their children while they have a date night, then they babysit your kids while you have a date night. It’s free! Since my friend Tasha and I started babysitting swaps, I have not paid for a babysitter in two years!
I recommend you choose an activity that creates communication and bonding between you and your partner. Don’t sit in a dark movie theater for two hours. Go play putt-putt golf, go on a picnic, go bicycle riding, enjoy a quiet, romantic dinner together, see a stand-up comic, etc. In a nutshell, do something fun or romantic that will bring back memories of why you fell in love with your spouse in the first place. Re-connect. Tell old stories. Laugh.
When I get agitated with my husband, the first question I ask myself is, “When was the last time we had a date night?” The answer is always, “Far too long ago.”
10. Lack of Spiritual Foundation
A big mistake people in general (especially parents) make is trying to solve their problems alone. Have you ever been in a rut and couldn’t seem to find the right answers or positive support? For the first 30 years of my life, I tried to solve my own problems and make decisions based on what Kate thought was right. Then I gave all my power to God. When I needed to make a decision as a parent and entrepreneur, I asked, “What would Jesus do?” instead of, “What would Kate do?” Soon I realized I was making much wiser decisions. Parents who communicate daily with God and use Him as their lifeline, support and mentor walk through life with a warmer heart, a peaceful soul and a greater moral compass.
Children raised in a church or spiritual environment generally have a smaller chance of getting involved in drugs, alcohol and teenage pregnancy. On the flip side, Christian parents need to realize that raising children in a church-going home doesn’t mean you don’t have to discipline and set boundaries. God won’t send your kids to “time out” or take away the computer—you will. I have seen many church-going families where the parents are kind and lovely people, but when it comes to disciplining their children, they are very passive—and their kids are little terrors. God should be the moral compass for your family to follow, but it’s up to Mom and Dad to follow through with discipline, rules, respect and boundaries.
Who is your family’s mentor? What are you teaching your children about God? Do your daily actions show your children that you’ve given your life to a Higher Power?
Go to http://www.FatNoggin.com and you will find dozens of excellent books on parenting. A good book is the smallest investment with the biggest results!