Raising Healthy Kids

We asked local parenting expert Liz Pearce, Director of Parent Engagement for the Children's Museum of Richmond and former Executive Director of Commonwealth Parenting, to weigh in on the topic of raising healthy kids. 

Here, she offers her thoughts and recommends some local parenting resources.

By Liz Pearce, MEd

When it comes to raising kids today, it is natural for parents and caregivers to compare their own children to what they define as “normal,” whether it is other children in the neighborhood, their extended family, or their school. Child behaviors that often demand attention include eating and sleeping patterns, behavior at school, getting along with family and friends, or coping with stress.

Many parents and caregivers seek answers to the question, “Is my child’s behavior normal?” when they consider the following:

  •   how the child is developing
  •   the emotional well-being of the child
  •   what the child says, thinks, and feels
  •   how the child acts

While families may have limited control over many of these behaviors, parents DO have control of their own behavior, and their parenting style. We are lucky in central Virginia to have a wealth of helpful organizations for families. Many groups that provide parenting education can also provide social support systems for parents. Parenting classes can help families expand their social contacts, improve their knowledge of child development and improve their confidence in their own parenting abilities. Mutual support or self-help groups can provide a network of support to members adjusting to new roles, problems or changes in family circumstances.

Local parenting resources

Commonwealth Parenting Center

FAMRichmond.org (a project of Greater Richmond SCAN)

Virginia Dept. of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services - Children & Families

Chesterfield County Prevention Services

Henrico County Prevention Services

Jordan’s Quest

Virginia Cooperative Extension Services – Henrico County

Hanover County Public Schools Parent Resource Center


Read What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health from Mental Health America.


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 A word about child development and “normal” behavior

Developmental milestones are behaviors or skills that children achieve over a range of months, such as waving bye-bye, walking, talking, etc. When children do not achieve these skills within that range of months, they might have a developmental delay, and this should be discussed with a pediatrician. Most likely, the child will achieve the skill, but we as parents may become overly concerned if they do not seem to be reaching milestones.

Some behaviors that may cause concern for parents are quite normal. For example, stuttering. Children between 24 months to 5 years tend to have periods of "normal dysfluency." This can occur when a child’s receptive language progresses faster than his expressive language. Sometimes what we call stuttering is a child searching for the correct word, and the stuttering, or repeating the same words over and over gives his brain a chance to catch up and move on. A child may say, “ … and then, and then, and then, and then the teacher called on me!”

Also in the preschool and early elementary years, children will exhibit temper tantrums and oppositional behavior. This is definitely normal, and a stage that must occur for a child to learn self-control, self-management and socialization skills.

During the middle school and adolescent years, milestones are achieved as well. Moving toward independence, for example, can be seen behaviorally as occasions of rudeness, which is actually a decrease in overt affection toward parents. This is a developmental milestone, and completely normal. Testing rules and limits, such as telling white lies, or stretching the truth, is another developmental milestone, and completely normal.

If problems persist over an extended period of time and especially if others involved in the child's life are concerned, consultation with a pediatrician or other clinician specifically trained to work with children may be helpful.


Date Reviewed: October 29, 2014