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On Your Best (Parenting) Behavior

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    Your Best Parenting Behavior You know the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do”? Yeah, that pretty much never works as a parenting tactic. In fact, your impressionable little babe who can’t even speak full sentences takes most of her cues from you. So before you let another curse word slip into conversation, check out these 12 important things your kids learn from your behavior.

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    1: Bad words

    Bad words Your little guy may not speak too much, but he hears everything, and there will come a day (be sure of it) when he will cheerfully parrot back, “holy #$!%!” in front of your mother-in-law. Or, better yet, he’ll repeat those nasty things you said about your neighbors/friends/in-laws at the most inconvenient times. Remember, if you have nothing nice to say, say it to your best friend, who knows you'll kill her if she talks.

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    2: Affection

    Affection Shower your child with affection, and she will respond in kind (even if she isn’t cuddly, she’ll express love in her own way). Show that you care about family members, pets, and the other important people in her life so that your child can mimic and eventually internalize that behavior. Studies have proven that children thrive with loving attention, cognitively as well as physically.

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    3: Manners

    Manners Model good manners at the table, at a restaurant — anywhere — and your little sponge will absorb it. Show others respect, always use “please” and “thank you,” and apologize when it’s appropriate. You’ll notice how she begins to use those magic words, too.

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    4: Sharing

    Sharing “Mine!” is one of a toddler’s favorite words to use in action, but if you share with him and with others in front of him, and explain why you’re doing it, he’ll eventually follow suit. Encourage sharing at playgroup and the park, and praise him when he does it.

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    5: Eating healthy

    Eating healthy Of course your little gal is going to get annoyed if you give her a carrot while you eat a chocolate bar — she knows the difference. Foster good eating habits in your children by practicing them yourself. Go out of your way to offer balanced meals and have multiple healthy snacks available — and promote the heck out of them. Cubes of juicy mango can be just as rewarding as jelly beans if you play up their deliciousness and make your child believe she’s in for a real treat. The bonus is that your body will be happier too (though you might have to work harder to convince yourself).

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    5: Patience

    Patience Does your kid take a long time to walk down the street? Can dinnertime stretch out f-o-r-e-v-e-r? Nobody can blame you for being irritated by your child’s snail’s pace, but just watch your step. If you are continually impatient with your kids, they will learn to be impatient with you and others. (And think about it: a 5-year-old demanding immediate gratification is infinitely more aggravating than a slow-as-molasses toddler.)

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    7: Charity

    Charity Show your kiddo how to be considerate and get her involved. Hold the door open for strangers, volunteer your time for charity, write thank-you notes. Let your little one help you in these endeavours, and eventually she’ll put them into practice when you’re not around, too. Added bonus: one day you can bask in the compliments when everyone talks about how well she was raised!

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    8: Confidence

    Confidence Encourage your kid’s self-esteem by maintaining your own. Be careful not to be self-deprecating in the mirror, on the scale, or when you make a mistake. If your child grows up with a healthy self-image, he’ll be able to clear countless hurdles (romantic, professional, or otherwise) throughout his life. Praise your little one when he succeeds, and make him proud to be himself!

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    9: Self respect

    Self respect While it’s important to teach your kids how to share and be kind, it’s equally important to show them how to set boundaries for themselves. If you’re a pushover, your child may learn that it’s easy to take advantage of you, or he may think it’s appropriate to always acquiesce and never get what he really wants.

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    10: Respect for others

    Respect for others Sassy kids are awesome — on TV shows and other people’s social media posts. By the time your precocious little smarty becomes a kindergartener, his inherited sense of sarcasm could morph into full-on smart-aleckness, which won’t serve him well. Try to save your cynicism for your grown-up only conversations, and if your child is within earshot, make sure you speak to him and to others with respect.

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    11: Tolerance

    Tolerance Acceptance, empathy, and equality are best learned by exposure. If you demean other cultures and beliefs, your kid will too. Though tolerance can be a difficult thing to teach, there are little things you can do to show your tot the value of diversity. Does she like one fruit or more than one kind? Does she wear only one color or lots of colors? Pointing out these small varieties will help her understand the bigger complexities as she gets older like why people don’t dress the same or have the same beliefs and that that’s ok.

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    12: Respect for the environment

    Respect for the environment Let’s face it, your child is going to inherit an Earth that’s a little less robust than it used to be. Incorporate environmental awareness into even the smallest activities to encourage an appreciation for the natural world. Start at home with small things like recycling, turning off lights, or planting a garden. Go to the park together and point out how litter is a bad thing. These are just little actions that can beget huge differences.

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    13: Reading

    Reading If you enjoy reading, chances are your kid will grow to love it, too. Keep books throughout the house, and make reading a normal activity each day. Turn off the TV for story time, take trips to the library or the bookstore together, and you’ll squeeze in some quality bonding time while fostering an interest in reading.

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    14: Appreciation for the arts

    Appreciation for the arts If you have a passion for (or even a passing interest in) the arts, make an effort to share it with your little one. Take her along with you to museums and kid-friendly performances. Hang up art in your home, and keep a stash of (washable) crayons/markers and scrap paper accessible for your little artists to experiment. Allow music to play in the house rather than keeping the TV on. Exposing your kids to the arts as a part of daily life will help her enjoy the same things you do.

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