Fighting, Fast Food and Video Games, Plus More Bad Things That Are Good For Your Kids

by Charlotte Hilton Andersen, REDBOOK

Kidnapping. Illness. Grades. Drugs. Bieber fever. As parents, we worry about a lot of things. Some are practical; every parent wants their kid to do well in school. Others are more fear based; your child has a much greater risk of being in a car accident than being kidnapped. To help ease your load, we've found 5 bad things that are actually good for your kids. So go ahead and let them break out the Wii and Twinkies and thanks to science, you can ditch the mommy guilt this time around!

1. Video Games
Widely panned as brain drains and time wasters, video games may have gotten an unfair rap. A recent study shows that girl gamers are "mentally stronger, were more well-behaved and felt a better connection with their families." The effect translates to boys too, surprisingly even when it comes to those violent games they love so much. Studies from Harvard and the European parliament show that "video games can stimulate learning of facts and skills such as strategic thinking, creativity, cooperation and innovative thinking, which are important skills in the information society."

Related: 7 Secrets of Low-Stress Families

2. Boredom
Don't feel bad that you didn't sign your child up for every day camp and learning enrichment activity this summer. According to Dr. Rally of Edge Hill University in England, his research shows that in kids left to their own devices "boredom can actually stimulate the imagination, and motivate creativity. It also helps develop positive behaviour patterns, cultivating patience and appreciation." One more reason to put away that iPad?

Related: iPads at Restaurants, DVDs in the Car, Aren't Kids Ever Allowed to Be Bored?

3. Junk Food
While no one is going to tell you it's okay to feed your kiddos a steady diet of all things beginning with Mc-, a little treat here and there leads to a more stable weight in normal weight children and better weight loss for overweight children held to very restrictive diets. The reason? Kids don't like restrictive diets (my research says grown-ups don't like them either). To avoid bingeing behaviors, teach your child that while we eat healthy food most of the time, it isn't a failure to have a treat once in a while.

Related: The Best Mom Moments of All Time

4. Watching TV
We've all fallen prey to the lure of the electronic babysitter but now, thanks to a number of new research studies, you don't have to feel as guilty about it. While the myriad bad effects of too much television are well publicized, research shows that kids who watch educational TV shows "do better on reading and math tests", "have higher grades, are less aggressive and value their studies more when they reach high school" and even "experience a soothing, painkilling effect." See that? PBS Kids is better than cherry Tylenol and safer for your couch too!

Related: Read 7 Hilarious Tantrum Tales Here

5. Fighting
With three boys and one feisty girl in my house, it's pretty much WWF up in here all the time. I could spend half my day breaking up fights or, according to research, I could let them work it out themselves and give them greater benefits than a band-aid. Carol Stock Kranowitz, M.A. says that roughhousing develops gross motor skills and has neurological, physical and emotional benefits that kids can't learn any other way. In addition Kids who roughhouse with siblings and parents grow up to be more socially competent and empathetic adults.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the new book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.