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Effective Parenting

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"Hugh, have you given any thought as to how we should raise our kids?" asks Laurie who is expecting her first child.

"Well, not really," admits her husband. "I suppose I just assumed that I would raise my children the way my parents raised me. I turned out pretty good, right?."

"Well, yes. But from some of the things you've told me, I think you turned out okay in spite of your parents. Your father was a believer in corporal punishment. And your mum was a scold. Is that really what you want for our family?"

"Well, when you put it that way..."

Laurie and Hugh are probably having one of the most important discussions of their parenting careers.

Most parents today have common goals when it comes to child rearing. They want to raise physically and emotionally healthy children who will grow up to become confident and responsible adults.

To achieve that goal, new and seasoned parents would do well to examine their personal assumptions about parenting. Have they adopted their own parent's credo? If so, they might ask themselves if the child raising practices used by their own caregivers really did foster positive development.

Did Dad's hits really make Hugh a good boy? Or did they make him feel afraid and resentful? And is there a lasting connection between his sometimes low self-image and his mother's old criticisms?
The next step is to develop a philosophy of parenting that will actually help children become the fine people parents envision.

As they embark on this journey, mothers and fathers may want to keep in mind the Golden Rule. If parents treat a child as they wish to be treated, then they will undoubtedly raise that child in an atmosphere of love, dignity and encouragement. It's a climate in which any one of us would thrive.

As Emma watches her ten-year-old daughter, Sara, playing exuberantly with three of her friends in the family room, she wonders, not for the first time, how this child could be so different from her. An orderly woman who prefers to spend a lot of time alone, Emma has difficulty dealing with the chaos before her.

Sara, a child who sees no point in having one friend in to play when five will do, is in her element. With a stereo accompaniment, the youngster is exhorting the other kids to learn the lines of a new play she had just written.

As the young director tramples over leftover peanut butter sandwiches and the scattered pieces of a discarded board game, her growingly anxious mother makes the wise decision to leave the room.

One of the most important issues of effective parenting concerns temperament. Analyzing your offspring's innate temperament -- as well as your own -- can help you to understand your child and avoid the senseless conflicts that so easily happen when a parent and youngster of different temperaments meet.

For instance, Fiona, an easygoing woman who takes life as it comes, used to think that her young son, Bradley, was being merely willful when he refused to wear certain clothes. It was only when she took time to listen to her boy's explanation that shirt labels "hurt" his neck and that his underwear "wasn't comfortable" that Fiona realized that her son was sensitive. Today she routinely cuts off scratchy labels and buys Bradley boxer shorts with the result that dressing is not the battle it used to be.

Meanwhile, Lee has come to recognize that his three-year-old shares his intense personality. That's why, he now lets her know five minutes ahead of time that they are about to leave the playground, take a bath or prepare for bed.

Like Emma and Fiona, he's a parent who understands that respect for a child's temperament is crucial to good parenting -- not to mention family harmony

When 12-year-old Barbara ripped the brand new kilt she had insisted on wearing on a school field trip to a nature sanctuary, her mother, Sandy, gave her daughter a choice. Barbara could either work to pay for a new kilt or she could arrange to have the skirt professionally mended. Sandy then left the problem and its solution in her daughter's hands.

Discipline, one of the cornerstones of effective parenting, is perhaps the antithesis of punishment. Punishment, whether a slap, verbal criticism or banishment to a room, is all about a parent's control over a child. It's also about adults judging young people and finding them and their behavior lacking.

The results of punishment may well be improved behavior. But punishment also breeds humiliated and fearful children who learn to be submissive. Or it produces angry kids who become society's rebels.

Discipline, on the other hand, is about teaching children to make their own decisions as they become able to do so. Discipline also involves giving a child ownership of his or her problems and helping them to determine solutions to these problems that will leave both dignity and self esteem intact.

As opposed to punishment, discipline lets a child know that you believe in him and that you have faith that she is capable of solving life's difficulties. It is a positive, life affirming process.

Witness Barbara's actions following her field trip mishap. Thanks to a Friday after-school baby-sitting assignment she arranged with a neighbor, the pre-teen saved up the money to have her kilt repaired. Better yet, from her mother Sandy's point of view, when the next school outing day arrived, Barbara, of her own choice, donned an old pair of jeans for the occasion
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