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While a wonderful and rewarding job, parenting can also offer a variety of challenges as parents try to negotiate the unique hurdles that come with each age and stage of their child’s development.

Parents who have grade-school age children can have an especially difficult time, as they try to encourage their children to adopt a positive self-image and a healthy lifestyle. However, when you add the budding signs of puberty and the inevitable emotional and social bumps that popup along the way, it’s all but expected that a few mistakes will be made along the way.

Since kids unfortunately don’t come with an operator’s manual, parents are often left wondering if they are making a major mistake when it comes to raising their grade-schooler. To help you along on your child’s journey to puberty, here are a few of the most common mistakes parents make with grade-schoolers and how to avoid them.

Refusing to Admit Your Child is Overweight

Many parents view a potential weight issue with their child as something he or she will eventually grow out of. Parents also typically make excuses for their child, such as he just has a different body type or she’s just big-boned. Despite a parent’s willingness to give their child the benefit of the doubt, refusing to see a budding weight problem only makes the issue a bigger problem down the road.

While a lot of physical changes occur to kids during this period that can cause them to gain weight, most kids never actually grow out.

Diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure are no longer conditions reserved for the middle-aged. In recent years, the number of children who qualify as obese has skyrocketed, and diseases that were once consider rare in kids, such as type-2 diabetes, have become increasingly more common.

If you notice your child has started to put on too much extra weight, you need to address the problem early on before his poor eating habits become ingrained. The earlier you start reinforcing positive dietary habits and physical activity, the bigger a difference they will make when it comes to your child’s weight.

Parents do need to be careful with the words they use when taking to their kids about their weight, however. During a child’s preteen years, she begins to become body-conscious, and can develop a negative body image. Pediatricians first start to see children with eating disorders by the time they reach the fifth or sixth grade.

Not Meaning What You Say

Despite a parent’s best intentions, what mom or dad says doesn’t always come across as helpful, and can easily be viewed as critical or nagging by their children.

Parents need to be very clear with their children when providing praise, and only do so when they actually mean it. Telling your child you’re proud of her trying a new sport will come across as insincere if you don’t actually want her taking up lacrosse or softball.

Being specific with your praise will also help to reinforce certain behaviors in your child. Saying to your child, “Thank you for cleaning your room. It makes me very proud of you when you act so responsible,” will let him know what behavior you appreciated and why you liked it.

Not Doing What You Say

The old adage of “Do what I say, not do what I do” is one of quickest ways to ensure your child doesn’t listen to anything you have to say. Keep in mind that parents will always serve as their child’s primary role model. If you don’t want your child to smoke, drink heavily, eat unhealthily, cuss excessively, handle stress poorly, make fun of people, or use drugs, you need to set the example first. By ensuring you make a solid role model for your child, you can prevent them for picking up any bad habits you set the standard for to begin with.

Delaying “The Talk” for Too Long

Since puberty can begin in kids as early as nine years old, it becomes important they understand the changes their bodies are about to go through before they start to happen. Having the talk early can be especially important for parents of young girls, who can experience their first period at the age of 10 or 11.

Parents shouldn’t rely on their children learning about puberty and the changes that are about to occur from health class in school either, as what their kids learn and how they interpret that information may not be the same as having the information explained by a parent.

Timothy Lemke is a freelance writer. To read more of his work, visit the website of Dr. Sara Barber, a Vancouver, Washington dentist. 


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