My three daughters are the center of my world.
Like all moms I know, I want nothing but the best for them. I want them to live a life that is rich in experiences, and filled with meaningful relationships. I want them to be bold, confident, and to dare to dream.
More than anything, I want my girls to believe without the shadow of a doubt that they can be whomever and whatever they choose to be, and that there is no limit to what they can achieve.
Lofty goals? Perhaps, but I want to give them all the ‘tools’ I can for a happy life.
When we think of success we think of school — choosing the right educational environment for each child plays a huge part in their learning experience and how much they will blossom. Academics are important but even more so, in my opinion, is a learning environment in which my girls feel safe to explore the world around them as well as their creativity. I want them to embrace their curiosity and be encouraged by their teachers and other school staff to keep asking questions!
I want my girls to have a positive mindset, to embrace this crazy journey and learn powerful life lessons along the way. Teaching them this mindset and imparting the right values to them is as important for me as choosing the right learning environment. And I believe that laying down a foundation of healthy life habits is central to helping them reach their full, brilliant potential.
This has been my mission for the past sixteen years since my oldest daughter first stepped into her preschool classroom. I’ve remained involved in my daughters school to feel the pulse of day in and day out activities and mood. I’ve volunteered in and out of the classroom and kept myself well educated through reading, conferences and conversations. There is much that goes into raising successful kids and it all starts with a solid foundation of healthy daily habits, what I call the Five Pillars of Success that will allow your child to thrive in and out of school:
Successful Kids need Daily Routine
Children need routine. Routine establishes an orderly framework that provides comfort. They need their world to be predicable and thrive on sameness and repetition. Knowing what to expect allows your children to be more free, and open to new challenges. Routine provides the safety net that in turns encourages them to be bold and adventurous.
This translates to a mind that is ready to learn and open to new experiences.
Most importantly, routine teaches children how to constructively control themselves and master their environment. It is the foundation of healhty life habits that will set your child up for success through college and beyond.
One of the cornerstones of routine is a regular bedtime. Having a set bedtime allows your child’s body to settle into its proper rhythm and allows sleep to come easily. The nightly ritual that precedes bedtime — brushing teeth, getting into pajamas, and reading — is a sure way to eliminate power struggles between parent and child and allows your child to take charge of their own activities.
Successful Kids need a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting the right amount of sleep is crucial for children of all ages. All children need a minimum of 9 uninterrupted hours of sleep each night to perform their best. Especially teens! Their bodies are going through tremendous changes, and restorative sleep is essential to their physical and emotional health.
My family learned this the hard way last year with my oldest daughter, who was 14 at the time, and routinely slept 6 to 7 hours. I did not know then, that even when she went to bed on time, she would toss and turn for hours unable to actually sleep. This led to her becoming very sick and missing a significant amount of school.
Sadly this seems to be a rising trend with teens. Today more teens are dealing with severe illness than ever before, and lack of sleep is a key contributor to this problem.
Having trouble falling asleep is not at all unusual for teens. As the world around them quiets down the chatter inside their mind picks up. Anxiety and doubts kick in. The crush they may have on a classmate, or some teen idol, becomes all consuming…
Knowing how to unwind and quiet his mind is the most important skill you can teach your child, whatever the age. A comforting bedtime ritual is essential in accomplishing this. This ritual will vary with the age of your child but the routine of it is key.
Your child’s environment will play a big role in his ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. The ideal setting is a complete blackout, with no distracting pets. So keep the dog, cats, or hamster in another room.
Keeping thier cell phone with them when they go to bed, is an unhealthy trend with most teens today. Do not allow your child to keep his cell phone or laptop on or near the bed. The cell under the pillow is an absolute no-no. This unhealthy habit makes it hard for your teen to disconnect. The incessant flow of incoming messages will prevent your teen from shutting down, or wake him just as he is about to fall into a deep slumber.
A new study sponsored by the mobile phone companies themselves, has shown that bedtime use of cell phones can lead to headaches, confusion and depression. The radiation from the phone interferes with our ability to fall into a deep sleep and remain in that stage long enough for our bodies to complete the repair of daily damage.
Even if he uses his cell as his alarm clock, keep it on the night stand, or better yet, on his desk so he will have to get up to turn it off.
Successful Kids need Proper Hydration
I cannot stress enough the importance of drinking enough water! Sadly many children today still rely on juice and soda pop as their main source of fluid, but the water content in these beverages is just not enough. Add to that the high sugar content and it’s a recipe for disaster.
The brain, which is about 85% water, needs water to function properly. Water provides energy and allows for proper neurotransmission, the movement of signals from one part of the brain to the other.
How much water is enough? As a general rule half of your child’s body weight in ounces is the minimum amount he should be drinking every day. So if he weighs 100 pounds he should be drinking 50 ounces or seven glasses of water a day. Again this is the minimum. If your child is involved in any sport, this amount should go up to compensate for the additional water demands of his physical activity.
Here are a few simple ways that I use to make sure my girls get at least four glasses a day.
- Make sure they drink at least one glass of water first thing in the morning
- Pack a water bottle with their lunch — no juice
- Give them a glass of water when they come home from school
- Only serve water at dinner time.
If your kids have always enjoyed juice, then start by cutting the juice in half with water, then slowly decrease the amount of juice to one quarter. This will ease the transition and keep them from feeling completely deprived. Allow one glass of juice a day, perhaps with snack, as a special treat. Adding a slice of lemon will make the water taste better and help to balance their blood PH which is essential for good health.
As for sodas, replace them with fresh squeezed juices cut with sparkling water. Sparkling water has the added benefit of helping to eliminate toxins from the blood.
It’s easy to lose count of how many glasses they drink, and kids often believe they drink more than they actually do, so keep a chart and make it fun. With young kids you can use stickers as a fun visual reminder of their accomplishment.
Successful Kids need a Breakfast of Champions
You’ve heard this a thousand times before, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And it is! A healthy breakfast sets your child up for success all day.
Do not skip breakfast, no matter what. If you have time for a sit-down breakfast, try scrambled eggs with veggies, and a serving of fresh fruit. Make sure your meal is balanced and includes a good source of protein. Quinoa is a great substitute for oatmeal or cream of wheat as it contains 7 grams of protein per serving.
If you’re short on time prepare a smoothie to drink on the road. My girls and I have a 45 minute commute every morning so they enjoy a green smoothie in the car. A green smoothie is a fabulous way to start the day. Greens have countless health benefits, and are a great source of even and sustained energy. Greens also help with mental clarity.
Though your child may prefer a big bowl of coco puffs or lucky charms, sugary cereals are not a good choice. The sugar buzz they start the day with leads to a massive crash at just about the time they settle at their desk and begin their first lesson. So keep those as a treats for the weekend.
Successful Kids need a Healthy Lunch
That mid-day pick me up should be just that, a pick-me-up. So load up your child’s lunch box with delicious foods that will provide him with clean, sustained energy.
Fresh greens, lean protein and fruit are the best choice. If your child won’t eat anything but pizza, make it at home and include green veggies such as zucchini or spinach. Celery with peanut butter and dried cranberries is a great snack, which contains healthy fats that won’t slow your child down.
Remember that digestion will kick in about 20 minutes after your child’s meal and if he’s eaten heavy, sugar laden foods, he is going crash.
As with all the wisdom we try to pass on to our kids, the best way to teach is of course to lead by example.
My daughters are the first to tell me I’m slipping. If for example, I remind them to get their much needed sleep and they know I haven’t been so good about it myself, they’re going to have a nice rebutal.
The reality is that these five habits are good life habits no matter what, and moms need to adhere to them as much as our kids to. I may slip once in a while, but I do my best to practice what I preach.
I know I’m a much happier and fun mom, with energy to spare, when I respect those five simple rules. And you will be too!