Parenting For Dummies book cover

Parenting For Dummies

By: Sandra Hardin Gookin and Dan Gookin Published: 05-20-2002

Written by parents for parents!

We humans are pretty clever. We’ve mastered fire, invented the wheel, calculated the age of the Universe, sent people to the Moon, built machines that think, and cracked the genome. So you’d think that with all our smarts, somebody would’ve come up with a surefire formula for raising kids. Maybe that’s because every child, like every parent, is an individual, and no two parent-child relationships are ever the same. So, you can give up any notions of being a perfect parent. But, you can learn to keep the big mistakes to a minimum and make the parenting enterprise easier and more rewarding for your children and you. Which is where this book comes in.

Whether you’re child is a newborn, a teen, or somewhere in-between, Parenting For Dummies gives you the scoop on parenting basics. From dealing with a crying baby and potty training, to building self-esteem and talking with them about sex, it offers a gold mine of up-to-date advice and guidance on how to:

  • Learn to communicate with your kids
  • Develop a good relationship with your kids
  • Keep your kids safe and healthy
  • Help your kids grow up to be good people
  • Keep your cool and control their behavior
  • Discipline constructively and with a minimum of stress
  • Build self-esteem in your children
  • Avoid committing the parenting sins your parents taught you

Experts Sandy and Dan Gookin—she’s the parenting expert for Parents Magazine and Working Mother Magazine and he’s a father of four—avoid the psychological hype and medical terminology and give you the straight poop on all aspects of child-rearing, including:

  • Speaking and listening to kids
  • The importance of being consistent
  • Keeping a sense of humor
  • Dealing with babies
  • Childhood growth and development
  • Health and nutrition
  • Kids’ changing physical needs
  • Developing a good person

Parenting For Dummies gives you the know-how and skills you need to be the parent of healthy, happy kids.

Articles From Parenting For Dummies

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Parenting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 03-09-2022

Following some helpful advice about parenting will help you keep your cool and forge ahead with enthusiasm even when the going gets rough. In case of a family emergency, make sure you have a list handy of emergency phone numbers and that everyone in the house knows where it is. Parenting comes with a set of absolute rules, so get to know and consistently practice them. When you can't figure out why your baby is crying, go through a list of possible reasons and their remedies from top to bottom.

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Raising Your Child to Have Good Manners

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Don't underestimate the importance of good manners. Your children will grow up to be kinder and more considerate of others if you teach them how to be that way when they're young. You can do that by setting a good example. You must always say "please" and "thank you" to your kids. Even when you are saying, "Please get your bicycle off my foot," or "Thank you for the dead slug." And don't forget good table manners. Everyone tends to be a little too relaxed at the dinner table when it comes to proper behavior. Maybe you think it's funny when Daddy balances a spoon on the end of his nose or one of the kids makes a hat out of his napkin and wears it on his head all during dinner. If you don't mind this kind of monkeying around, even when you're dining out, ignore this advice. But, if you don't think it's appropriate to do this kind of stuff in public, then teach your kids what you think is acceptable and what isn't acceptable, and then make sure that you're consistent about the rules. Kids have a hard enough time remembering household rules. They have an even harder time remembering rules for dinner at home and rules for dinner out, when those sets of rules aren't the same. Some general table manners include no gross jokes, no throwing food, no leaning back while sitting in the chairs, no talking with food in your mouth (including no "see food" jokes) — and definitely no loud belching or passing wind. Yes, in some cultures belching after a meal is acceptable and even encouraged. However, don't let someone's excuse about practicing multiculturalism sway you. If belching isn't allowed in your family's culture, don't allow it at the table. And if you do happen to burp (and who doesn't?), say, "Excuse me." If you laugh about burping, you've created a family precedent, and your kids will belch and laugh about it the first time they have dinner at a friend's house. Good manners that you can teach your children include not interrupting people while they talk and not shoving their way in front of others to always be first, two things that kids are infamous for doing. Other manners you can teach your children include how to Write thank-you notes Make get-well cards for sick relatives Say please and thank you Acknowledge when someone is talking Say good-bye to someone who is leaving Share cookies with a friend Always give their parents the green M&Ms A growing problem in schools is the lack of good manners from children. Children don't treat teachers, staff, or classmates with respect. So schools now are teaching good manners and respect in addition to conflict management. And yet, good manners still begin at home and should be taught by parents. Here are some guidelines that you can use at home: Be kind to others. Telling kids, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," doesn't really mean anything to them. Instead, stress the importance of treating others the same way they'd like to be treated, especially when you see them doing something that you know they themselves don't like. For example, if your son hates to be interrupted and yet he interrupts people, then remind him, "Jonah, you really don't like it when people interrupt you, so please don't do that to Jeremiah." Understand their actions. Help your children understand the harm they can cause by doing or saying thoughtless and unkind things. Ask them, "How would you feel if someone pointed at you, and started to laugh?" In the beginning, you may simply be doing damage control, but eventually you'll be helping them to avoid harmful words or actions. Show them the way. Children do whatever they have to do to express themselves. Sometimes that comes off looking and sounding pretty bad. Playing a role reversal game with your child can help show them how to handle situations. Let them ask the question or behave a certain way, and you respond by showing them how their behavior should appear. Be a good role model. "Do as I say, but not as I do" is a joke. Your kids probably want to respond with, "Yeah, like you'd catch me playing bridge with a bunch of 50-year-old women!" When you want your child to show good manners and respect, you must also practice good manners and respect. Say please and thank you, admit your mistakes, apologize, and treat people, in general, with kindness and respect. The reward of this behavior is that your children will grow up having many friends and a family that loves being around her. Share. Share with your children so they understand the importance of sharing with others. Compliment them when you see them sharing with others. Keep kids healthy. Children tend to behave badly when they're tired or hungry. Kids need sleep and nutritious foods to survive. It's that simple. Practice family politeness. Everyone in the family must practice "please" and "thank-you" policy in which, for example, no request is considered unless the person asking says "please." When one of your children forgets, just give him or her a look that says, "I'm waiting." They soon catch on. Use the same approach for saying "thank you." Thank-you notes. Teach your children the importance of thanking people for gifts. Show them how to write notes and make sure that they are sent promptly after receiving gifts. Praise good behavior. Praise is a wonderful teacher. Tell your children how proud you are when you notice them being polite and following the "please" and "thank-you" guidelines that you've set.

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Getting Your Children to Listen to You

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Good communication skills are the foundation for building a great relationship with your kids. However, so many different elements get thrown in the way that listening and communicating aren't always easy or effective. Here are some techniques that you can use to improve communication with your kids. It doesn't necessarily mean they'll mind you or agree with what you're saying, which is okay, but at least they'll hear what you're saying. Talking vs. being heard Mother: "I've informed you a googolplex times to abstain from vexing your sibling." Child: "Huh, Mom?" When you talk to your kids, you must keep a few things in mind. If you have something to say, and you want to be heard, do the following: Get down to your children's level. Use simple words. Get to the point. Don't yell. Getting down to your children's level When you really want your kids to hear you when you talk, physically get down to their level. If you can't squat, pick them up and put them on your lap. Look them right in the eyes, speak calmly and slowly, and say what you have to say. Don't be vague or babble and don't try to impress your children with your fabulous expanded vocabulary. Encourage your children to look you in the eye. Kids can be standing right in front of you and have a bobbly head like those dogs that sit in the rear window of some cars. Bobble, bobble, bobble. They're not paying attention. You certainly don't need to get down to your children's level to say, "Good morning," or "Are you hungry?" Save this kind of action for serious conversations such as, "Now, Simon, what did you do with Mommy's keys?" or, "Do you understand why you got into trouble for hitting your brother over the head with the bat?" But don't forget that the most important part of communicating is being a good listener. Communication can't work both ways when you're doing all the talking and none of the listening. Using simple words As adults, parents sometimes are brave enough to say, "What exactly does that mean?" They do this hoping they don't sound too much like a dork. Kids, on the other hand, will smile at you, and nod, or better yet, stare at you with blank looks on their faces. Here are some real-life comparisons of interpretations from your mouth to your child's ears. What you say: "Jordan, you need to be responsible and put your dirty clothes in the clothes hamper every night." What he hears: "Jordan, you need to be rah-pitty-blah and put your dirty clothes in the clothes hamper every night." What you say: "Jeremiah, don't piddle. You're supposed to clean your room." What he hears: "Jeremiah, don't pid hole. You're supposed to clean your room." What you say: "Don't be sarcastic to your sister." What he hears: "Don't be sark a stick to your sister." Talk to your kids by using words that they understand. Getting your point across is easier when your kids know what you're talking about. If you don't think they understand, ask them to explain what you've just said. That is a great test to see how well you're getting your message across. When you don't talk to your kids using words that they understand, you may as well be speaking Swahili. That's why you hear many successful parents talking in short, blunt sentences, using simple commands, although they sometimes sound like they're talking to a pet: "Sit. Stay. No, no, no! Stop, stop, stop! Good boy." At some point, you'll have to expand your vocabulary; you won't always have to talk on a preschool level. When you begin introducing new words to your children, take the time to ask whether they understand what you've just said. Many times, they'll smile meekly and say, "Yes," insincerely. Just ask them to explain what you said. If they're missing your meaning, explain it to them in another way or define the word that's throwing them off. Always ask children whether they understand. If they seem unsure or hesitate, then ask them to explain it back to you. That's really the only way you'll ever discover whether you're getting your point across. Of course, you may have a child who doesn't hesitate to ask you what certain words mean. Then there's no question as to what is understood. Getting to the point Pretend that you're being timed on a conversation egg timer. If you don't say what you need to say within a short time, you've lost the attention of most children. On the other hand, when you're too brief, they'll ask for more information, if they need it. Your kids understand you a lot better when you're specific and when you get right to the point, so: Don't ramble on and on. Don't go into long explanations. Say exactly what you mean. Children don't have to listen to you. They can choose not to listen the same way that you choose not to listen to certain people. You can't force, bribe, beg, or plead enough to get them to listen. They don't care. Even if you're in the middle of a sentence, they'll walk away when they get bored or are just tired of listening. Good communication between you and your children is the foundation for a long, happy, and growing relationship. If your children aren't listening to you, you've lost that foundation to build upon. Don't yell Yelling is the worst way to communicate. Here's a guarantee: When you yell at your kids, they're not listening to a thing that you're saying. All they're doing is sitting there teary-eyed and upset because you're yelling or they're getting angry themselves. Your point is lost, they're upset, and you're upset. Nothing has been accomplished. When you yell, your message doesn't get across. So whenever you reach the point where you're about to yell at someone, stop and leave the room. Just for a second, mind you. Take a few deep breaths, get your composure back, and approach the situation again. Your job is to communicate your ideas to your children in a calm manner. Yelling shows your kids that you've lost control of yourself. You're trying to be a role model and teacher. Yelling isn't a trait that you want to pass on to your kids. In fact, it comes back to haunt you as your kids grow older and their hormones get all stirred up. After all, when you yell, you're only teaching them to yell.

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Going Over Breastfeeding Guidelines

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Don't assume that just because you naturally produce breast milk you will, without a doubt, know how to nurse your newborn. It doesn't work that way. For many mothers, breast-feeding takes time and practice before everything goes along smoothly. Then there are those mothers who grab their babies while on the birthing table, hold their newborns to their breast, and never have to think twice about nursing their children. Keep these thoughts in mind when you're nursing your child: Breast-feed your baby immediately after birth. This first breast-feeding time may take up to an hour, but it's the first step in a healthy baby/mom relationship. Don't get nervous or upset if your baby doesn't latch on to your breast the first, second, or even third time. But do get help right away. Figuring out how this should be done is critical to a good breast-feeding experience. You and your baby are new at breast-feeding, and becoming accomplished at it may take coordination, time, and practice between you two. The older your child gets, and the more practice you have, the easier breast-feeding will be. Sometimes newborns seem too darn small and floppy to try to hold and feed at the same time. Just keep trying and get some help. Don't impose any restrictions on the length or frequency of breast-feeding. If a baby is nursing well and getting the milk, she won't be on the breast for hours at a time. If your baby is staying attached for a long time, she's probably not latched on well and not getting the milk. Not being latched on is kind of like trying to suck from a bottle with a nipple that has only one tiny hole. Babies also will use their mother as a pacifier or they may be feeding for a growth spurt. Don't assume that just because you've successfully nursed one child, the second child or the third one is going to be just as easy. Remember, babies are different people, and each starts as a beginner at nursing. They aren't able to get any good advice from their siblings. Don't feel pressured to succeed the first time you try to breast-feed. You'll probably have a nurse, husband, or a roomful of spectators anxiously waiting to see your performance. Try not to get nervous or flustered. But if you do, just ask your visitors to leave. Don't be surprised if you tend to sweat a lot during your first tries at breast-feeding. This state is a combination of your body going back to normal with hormonal changes, calories that are burned, nervousness from breast-feeding for the first time, and the let-down process your body goes through when it's time to nurse. Get comfortable when it's time to nurse. You'll be nursing quite a bit, so find a comfortable chair, couch, or bed, use pillows to prop yourself up, put pillows underneath the arm you're using to support your baby's head, lean back, and relax. Have your supplies ready. New mothers are busy, busy, busy. So, take the time while you're nursing to have a large glass of water and a snack. Look at it as sharing lunch with your baby. Don't forget the football hold. If you're having problems nursing your baby with the cradle hold (baby's belly against your belly), try the football hold. You hold your baby like you would a football, tucked under your arm: Your baby's belly is against your side. Take care of yourself. Nursing is not the time to go on a diet to shed those extra pounds. You have the rest of your life to diet. You need to be eating and drinking from 2,000 to 2,700 calories per day. Simple food is the best, so have plenty of fruit around for you to grab, keep bowls of nuts and raisins out, and keep a sports water bottle filled with water for you. Don't fill it up with soda pop. Your body needs pure, healthy water. Watch what you put in your mouth. Many things can be transferred to your breast milk: alcohol, medications, illegal drugs, and even some spicy foods. Always consult with your doctor before you take any medications. Drink lots of water. You're producing milk — a liquid. The more water you drink, the more liquid you'll produce. You should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. Follow the basic rules of breast-feeding. Hold your breast with your thumb and forefinger behind the areola (the dark area around your nipple), make sure your baby's mouth is wide open like a little bird's, and quickly put the nipple in her mouth before she shuts it. Holding your baby tummy-to-tummy will ensure that she doesn't pull your breast or break away from it. If you want to breast-feed but are having trouble getting started, consider using a breast pump and then finger-feeding your child. The pump keeps your flow of breast milk going, and you'll still be able to feed your baby. But, more important, finger-feeding also buys you some time so that you can continue working with your baby to get her to breast-feed without the fear of her going hungry. Some hospitals have breast-feeding classes or lactation consultants to educate mothers about breast-feeding. They cover basic breast-feeding techniques, suggestions about how to reduce sore nipples, and plenty of other helpful information. You can also contact childbirth educators (like Lamaze instructors), midwives, or the La Leche League.

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Making Time for Your Mate

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Pick up any magazine in the grocery store, and you'll find at least one heading that reads, "How to keep the romance alive!" or "Take our survey, are you a good kisser?" or "Is beer more important to him than you are?" A hidden rule that you as a parent must follow is that you must be good to yourself. If you feel good about who you are, your children will learn to feel good about themselves. Remember, your kids learn by example. If you're happy and laughing and having a grand old time with your partner, your children also have a better chance of becoming happy people. On top of everything else that you have to consider and work on as a parent, you must also remember that your partner needs love and attention too. Once people have kids, they tend to take their relationships for granted. Relationships tend to fall into the coexisting stage as opposed to one that is still growing and developing. What you need to do is: Go on dates. Make it just you two. You don't have to spend money on dinner and a movie. Walk around the mall, go to a free concert in the park, go play tennis, cruise to Tahiti (no wait, that would cost a few bucks). Do something together without the kids. If your lives are so busy that three weeks have gone by and you haven't done anything yet, get a calendar and write it down, schedule it. Make a rule that if it's on the calendar, neither of you can back out. And while you're out, try to avoid the usual conversations about children and work. Instead, talk about your hopes and fears and regrets. You know your partner drinks a double latte with sugar-free vanilla every morning, but do you know his most embarrassing moment or her biggest regret in life? Get physical. Yes, once upon a time you both used to have sex together — and at the same time. This may be another activity that you'll have to write down on the calendar. That sounds really unromantic, but if scheduling sex is the only way you can work it in your schedule, then by all means, schedule it. Flirt with each other all day. Don't forget to hug and give kisses and all the other lovey-dovey stuff you used to do when you were trying to win each other over during your dating days. And if you're really pressed for time, then just touch. Holding hands, kissing, and cuddling on the couch are fun and important. E-mail or journal to each other. Sending each other notes throughout the day via e-mail can be fun. If you're not a computer junkie, then keep a journal where you both can post notes to each other. Include separate wish lists in your messages. Giving someone something that they ask for is great caring behavior: "Please let me sleep in tomorrow morning for 15 minutes." "I'd love it if you brought me home Mint Milano cookies tonight." That way, when you want to do something special for the other person, you'll have a whole list of things they like. Create rituals. Make dinner together every night. Go for a walk after dinner. Get up early for coffee so you're without kids and interruptions. Make the 25th of every month your official date night. Remember the important words. Acknowledging that your spouse or partner is special is an imperative. One way you can do this is through the words that you use. Don't ever say, "Well I don't need to tell him/her that I love him/her. He/She already knows." That is irresponsible. If anything, your children need to hear that you love each other. Besides, if you don't profess your love to your mate, how do you know whether you're remembering to tell your children that you love them? Helping your partner feel appreciated and loved is important, but you must first know the terminology he or she needs to hear to feel that way. You can say, "Gee you look hot tonight," thinking that really makes your partner feel great, but in reality, such a comment may offend your partner. Your first step is finding out what your partner likes to hear. Sit down and ask the vital question, "What do you like to hear that makes you feel appreciated or loved?" Don't be surprised when you get a puzzled look for a response. You may even be asked "What did you just ask me?" or, "Don't you know?" You're not asking a typical question, but you may need to ask it more often. People appreciate hearing that he or she: is a good parent, looks nice, and smells good. . . . They also love hearing things like "How can I help you right now?" and "Would you like to have a date?" It's healthy for your kids to know that you have a life outside of and away from them and that you're more than just Mom and Dad. Don't feel guilty about wanting to spend time alone. Your children will discover that you both love each other, want your relationship to grow, and that neither of you takes each other for granted.

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Addressing the Great Diaper Dilemma

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The freckle-faced kid at the checkout counter asks, "Paper or plastic?" You seem to lose with either choice: Do you want to use paper and kill a tree to take home your groceries, or do you want to use plastic and fill up landfills? Another major life puzzle you'll face as a new parent is cloth versus disposable diapers. People can become fanatical about the subject, and boxes of literature have been produced arguing the pros and cons of both. Solid advice: Use cloth or disposable and don't feel bad about your choice. It's a diaper. It collects poop and pee. Nothing more. The choice of what diaper to use seems to be a hot topic among parents. Some may look at this as wasted energy. Disposable diapers Good luck when you start hunting for disposable diapers. The shelves are plum full of different brands, sizes, shapes — even those intended for girls, those for boys. It's amazing. Here are some pros and cons for using disposable diapers: Pros Disposables are easy; you just throw them away. Traveling is easier with disposables. Disposables are great for kids who have diarrhea because these diapers don't leak. Cons Disposables don't disintegrate — so they fill up landfills more. Disposables can be expensive. Using disposables may increase the time it takes to potty train your child because the little one can't feel it when he's wet. Cloth diapers Most folks have heard somebody's "war stories" about how Aunt Tillie or Grandma Myra used to hang diapers out to dry when there was snow piled up to her knees. Can you imagine how cold those diapers were when she took them down? (And how did she warm them before wrapping them around the appropriate posterior?) Oh well, cloth diapers have some advantages as well as some disadvantages. Pros Cloth is more natural. Cloth diapers now come with Velcro straps, so you don't have to worry about safety pins. If you don't like washing diapers, you can use a diaper service that will pick up, wash, and deliver diapers to you on a weekly or biweekly basis (provided you don't live too far out in the hills). Washing your own diapers is less expensive than using a service. Cloth diapers, regardless of whether you use a service or wash them yourself, are less expensive than disposables. Cloth diapers make great burp rags (placed on your shoulder so the liquid burps don't get on you). When your kids grow out of them, they make great dusting rags. Cons Cloth diapers use water and electricity to wash. Cloth diapers must be rinsed out in the toilet, and you have to deal with the mess and the smell. Cloth diapers leak more than disposables (even with the plastic outer pants). Cloth diapers are not good for travel because you have to carry the used diapers with you. The problems with both disposable and cloth diapers are that both can cause diaper rash equally, and both smell really bad after they've been used. The diaper solution One possible solution to the diaper dilemma is using a combination of cloth and disposable. Yes, that's allowed! Use cloth diapers at home and then use disposable diapers for trips, outings to the store, when your child has diarrhea, and possibly even for nap and bedtime. If you decide to go with the cloth diapers, use a diaper service for the first couple of months after you have your new baby. You're going to be too tired and busy with your newborn to take the time to wash out diapers. You'll be surprised by how much potty material a little newborn can produce.

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Being in Charge without Being a Tyrant

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

The fact that you need to discipline your children is not an open invitation to treat them with a lack of respect or decency. It also doesn't mean that you take on the role of Czar with your children as the peasant slaves. Letting kids be kids Kids will be kids and should be allowed to make mistakes, make messes, and get mad and upset. You can't expect miracles from people who may not be as old as your favorite suit. Kids are awkward at times, spilling and dropping stuff, knocking things over, and generally doing things that are goofy. They typically are not malicious or evil. Be careful that you neither punish typical kid behavior nor give them unrealistic expectations that they can never meet. Don't make words less meaningful by using them again and again Instead of always saying "No" or "Stop," offer alternatives to whatever your children are starting to do. When you see your children starting to color on the walls, say: "Don't color on the walls. Here is a piece of paper. We can color on the paper instead." If you're always yelling out "No," "Stop," "Don't," "Quit," or "Help me, my children are taking over," your words lose their effectiveness after a while. You don't always have to win Discipline shouldn't be a series of wins and losses in an on-going battle between you and your children. Discipline sometimes can leave room for compromise between you and your children as long as you get your point across. It isn't important that you always win the clothing-selection war, for example. Clothing may be one of the first areas in which you find yourself coming to a mutual compromise with a child. Your goal is getting your child dressed, but your child may want to exert her independence by helping to choose the clothing. This is a situation in which you compromise by coming up with an outfit that you both can live with. Parents tend to think that whenever they don't always get their way, they're letting their child run over them. Think about the getting-dressed scenario. Your goal is getting clothes on your child. Does it really matter whether your child wears the blue button-down oxford shirt or the Mario Brothers T-shirt just as long as your kid gets dressed? No, of course it doesn't. Handling situations with gentle guidance Getting your children to do something often is just as easy as coaxing them not to do something. Likewise, being gentle about getting them to do it is just as easy as yelling and screaming at them. Don't forget that your goal in disciplining your child is to teach. Your children are more open to listening to and hearing you when you express what you want to say in a kind and gentle manner. Don't be surprised, however, if you can't always accomplish that. You may find yourself quickly losing your temper and yelling when you walk into a room to find mud all over your white carpet. The goal here is to at least try. Using enthusiasm to guide your children If you're trying to get your children to do something they don't necessarily want to do, approach the situation with great enthusiasm, making it sound like fun. When you make the process of getting your kids' shoes on them fun and like a game, your children will think doing it is fun, and then maybe they'll forget to scream, kick, and throw the shoes across the room. Don't harass your children You always need to have faith that your children are going to do what's right. You can't sit waiting, like a cat perched in front of a mouse's hole, for your children to do something wrong so that you can pounce on your prey. Neither should you fall into the trap of scolding your children before anything happens or in anticipation that something may happen. That is just nasty behavior on your part and needs to be avoided.

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Teaching Honesty and Responsibility to Your Children

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Teaching honesty and responsibility takes a considerable amount of time and patience, and it isn't anything like teaching your kids how to tie their shoes, where they understand the basic concept after a few lessons. You'll have to keep hammering away at these lessons for a long time. Can we be honest? You teach honesty by encouraging your kids to tell the truth and to let you know what's on their minds. Having your children tell you what's on their minds shouldn't be a frightening thought. When you've taken a toy away from your child because she was throwing it, you know she's going to be mad. Ask her how she feels. Tell her that it's okay to tell you whether she's mad, and let her know that you won't be angry. Then ask her why she's mad. This strategy teaches your kids that they can talk to you honestly without you getting upset or yelling. Your part in this business is that you must be prepared for this kind of input from your children. A second way of encouraging honesty is avoiding confrontations in which telling a lie is made easy for your child. Instead of saying, "Simon, did you color on the wall?" say, "Simon, you know you're not suppose to color on the wall." Avoid direct confrontation when you already know the answer. Asking him if he colored on the walls, when you saw him do it, sets your child up to tell a lie. Don't put your kids in situations where fibbing is easier than telling the truth. Even as an adult, when someone asks whether you ate the last chocolate chip cookie, you get a little nervous — like maybe you did something wrong. Learn, however, to stick out your chest and proudly announce, "Yes! I ate the last cookie, and I must be honest, it was the best cookie out of the whole package." Now, if Emily really didn't color on the wall, she can easily say, "But, Mom, I didn't color on the wall; it was Dad!" Figures. The third and most important way of teaching honesty is being honest yourself. Don't ever lie to your children. You're setting an example. When you lie to your children, they'll think that it's okay to lie. But, on the other hand, when your children lie to you, you get mad. You can't have double standards. Thinking that you'd never lie to your children is easy. However, you must be careful about unintentional lies (see Table 1): "I'll be back in just a few minutes" — and you're gone for several hours. These kinds of white lies can teach your kids not to trust you. Table 1: Traditional White Lies White lie Truth "It's just medicine. It tastes good!" It tastes like lighter fluid. "This won't hurt." Gestapo-approved torture tactic. "I just have to grab one thing from the store." Two hours later, you own the store. "We're going to Aunt Mildred's." Any time at Aunt Mildred's is a long time. We won't stay long. The correct ways to make the intended statements represented by the white lies in Table 1 are: 1. "The medicine helps to make you feel better." 2. Not saying anything about pain is best. When you can't get away with that strategy, say, "This may not feel so good." 3. Either grab your one thing and leave or say, "I have some shopping to do. I don't know how long it's going to take." 4. "We're going to Aunt Mildred's. We'll leave by 11:30." Show your children on the clock what 11:30 looks like when they don't know. Kidding and teasing can be fun. Everyone does it and thinks that it's a hoot. But be careful not to overdo the kidding with your kids. They don't have the knowledge and experience to determine what's a joke and what isn't, so they take everything you say to heart. When your kids get to the point where they follow everything that you say by asking, "Really?" then perhaps you ought to hold off on some of the joking until they start believing what you say without questioning it. Being responsible boys and girls Teaching your children responsibility starts out with small tasks and chores. When your children are old enough to understand simple commands, start giving them a job or two. Now, that doesn't mean sending your 2-year-old out for a paper route. Rather, begin with simple tasks. Ask them to give the book to Grandma, take the paper to the trash, and put the spoon in the drawer. After they've completed the jobs, let them know what a terrific job they did. Give them lots of praise — and, of course, hugs and kisses. Your children will beam when they realize that they've completed a task that made you happy. As your kids grow older, you can start adding to their responsibilities. Teach them how to make their beds and put their dirty clothes in the hamper. You're not only developing their sense of responsibility, but you're also starting good habits and teaching them valuable lessons about how important it is for everyone to help clean up around the house. An important part of teaching chores to your children is to do the chores with them until they understand how you want the chores done. After they've learned how to do their chores, follow up by making sure that they don't start slacking off. They'll need your constant supervision for a long time — even though they may think they don't need it. Avoid giving money for housework. Paying your child to make their bed leads down a path you don't want to go. Your kids need to know that all family members must work together as a family; therefore, everyone is expected to help with chores. When you want to pay your children for work, give them extra work like raking the yard or painting the doghouse or additional household chores that are not a part of their usual chore list, like washing windows. Make tasks and responsibilities fun. Your kids will enjoy doing them more when you turn setting the table into a game, or picking up clothes into a race. When giving your children responsibilities, avoid the let-me-help-you-with-that syndrome. Your children need find out how to handle small tasks and may not want you to help. Sometimes your younger kids may be too preoccupied with something to want to stop and help you. That's okay. You can't force a 2-year-old to do something if she doesn't want to (short of picking her up and physically moving her). And you really don't want to use force. Having responsibilities should be fun. As your kids get older, you can start using gentle persuasion when they decide they can't break away from Superman Saving the World. Be aware that your kids may go through a stage when they don't want to handle their responsibilities. Don't let them whine their way out of their jobs. And don't let them put their jobs off until later. This behavior starts them down that road to procrastination.

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Children's Behavior: Preventing Tantrums while Shopping

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You can reduce the number of times your children have outbursts in stores or other temper tantrums with a simple method of communication: Explain to your kids what you expect of them. Tell them how they are to behave. Kids like to know what's going on just as much as you do; they like being prepared and informed. Set the ground rules before you go anywhere or do anything. Use this strategy when you can, and you'll see things go smoother with your kids. For example: "Jonah, we're going into the toy store to buy Simon a birthday present. We're not buying you a present. You can look around. You can tell me what you like. But we're not buying you anything today. Today is for Simon. Do you understand?" Don't be surprised when your child protests, whines, or still comes up to you with a toy, explaining that he's always wanted this special LEGO Millennium Falcon, and if you get it for him today, he never will ask for anything again. Your response needs to direct your child back to the original conversation about Simon's birthday and explain that you both had an agreement. You'll be in big trouble whenever you give in to the whining and the major fits. Your kids won't believe you the next time, if you tell them they can't buy anything and then give in and get them that one little toy. Buckling under the pressure only leads you to more tantrums because, obviously, the tantrums work. Keep these pointers in mind to prevent tantrums: Before whisking your children out of the house, give them time to prepare whatever things they need. That's important. Their preparation may mean only tucking Barbie in her Malibu Barbie house before she leaves. It may mean searching for ten minutes for a toy to bring along. Whatever it is, give your children time to do their thing before you leave, and that way they won't feel rushed. Giving your kids a countdown helps. Tell them you're leaving in 30 minutes. Then tell them you're leaving in 15 minutes. Then give them a five-minute warning. Walking out the door is a breeze when your children are prepared. Look your children in the eyes when you get to where you're going, making sure that you have their attention, and then tell them what your expectations of them are and why you expect this behavior. Be precise and clear about what you mean. You don't need to go into long explanations unless they ask for more information. But don't expect miracles. Children are children, and they'll behave as such. They squirm and wiggle and make noise and voice their opinions. Never assume your kids know what you want. When you stop talking and start assuming, you get into trouble. For example, suppose that you're going to your cousin's wedding. Tell your kids what a wedding is, and what it's going to be like. Then tell them their job is to sit quietly and watch. No talking or getting up is allowed. Tell them that they need to get a drink and go to the bathroom before the wedding starts, so they won't have to do those things during the ceremony. Be a smart parent and bring a pen and pad of paper so your child can at least draw during the wedding. And, again, understand that kids are kids. Weddings and other formal events aren't exactly fun for them. Plan wisely before putting your kids in an environment that's going to be difficult for them. Don't expect a 2-year-old to sit quietly in a theatre, at a wedding, or in an upscale restaurant. And, remember that it's unfair of you to scold a child for being a child when he's in an environment that he shouldn't be in to begin with. If you have to put your child in a situation that isn't appropriate for his age, then giving him instructions beforehand is much easier than trying to set the rules while you're already involved in that activity. You end up saying, "Shhh-you-need-to-be-quiet," or, "No, you can't have anything," way too much. Instead, you'll be giving a few reminders of the rules you've already gone over. Explaining things to children in advance works really well, too, especially when you're in a hurry: "We're going to the store for just a few minutes. Don't ask for anything." It may take awhile for them to believe that you really mean what you said, so they may go ahead and ask for something. But, don't give in, and eventually they'll get the idea. Such planning works only when you don't give in to whining and change your mind about the rules. If you set rules but don't stick by them, you're in serious trouble. Your kids will always push you, whine, and throw fits whenever you go back on your word. This is a parental behavior that also is known as not being consistent.

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Sharing the News: A Sibling's Expected

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

You may be at the time in your life when you expand your family. Oh happy, happy, joy, joy! But you may be wondering how your other children are going to respond to a new family member. That's a very good question, and one that deserves special attention. The news that a new baby is going to be in the house is going to prompt many interesting questions from your children. Don't be shy about answering them. Here are some suggestions about how to handle the arrival of a new baby: Don't tell your children that they're getting a new playmate. Playmate may be true at some point in the future, but not for now. Don't give your kids any expectations that as soon as their little brother or sister gets home, life will become instant fun — because it won't be. Newborns don't do much to entertain, other than spitting up every now and then. Don't forget to recognize that your children are special to you, just like the new baby will be. Do something special. Give them a gift "from the new baby," or make them a special T-shirt so that they know they're still special in your eyes. Don't neglect your older children. Make an effort to do something with them after the baby comes. This activity is something you'll have to schedule. Having a new baby in the house can swallow up a large amount of time before you know it. Continue to share "dates" with your children. Give them an honest idea of what life will be like when the baby comes. Tell them that at first the baby will demand a large amount of time and that little brother or sister will mostly just cry, eat, sleep, and not a whole lot more. Also let them know that Mommy will be tired and will have to take naps to rest. Call your local hospital to see whether a sibling class is offered for your children to take. These classes go over what babies like and dislike, what it's like to change a diaper, and other basic information that your children need to know. They must learn that it isn't okay to toss a Tonka truck into the crib with baby. See whether your local hospital has a sibling class that you can take with your children. These classes give you a general idea of how your children may act with a sibling around and offer some things that you can do to prevent them from being jealous. Get your kids involved with the preparation and arrival of the new baby. Ask for their help. Have them draw pictures to put in the baby's room, pack the diaper bag (after you lay all the stuff out), and fetch diapers or bottles for you. Getting your kids involved with the baby helps them feel more like a part of the baby's life. After you've done this preparation, how are your children going to act toward the new sibling? That depends on your children and their level of maturity. When you take a "new sibling" class, you'll find that behavior usually is sorted out by age. Normally, a 2-year-old is expected to show anger or jealousy toward a newborn while an 8-year-old may be exhilarated. But that isn't always the case. You may find that you have to keep an extra eye on your 2-year-old who wants to help you by carrying or picking up the baby — while your 8-year-old suddenly seems to be angry with you for no apparent reason. Whatever the ages of your children, they may experience increased bouts of crying, temper tantrums, and regressions (such as bedwetting, acting like they can't feed themselves, wanting to be carried when they're fully capable of walking, and so on). You may find that your younger children actually try to take the baby out of your hands so they can crawl into your lap. These actions usually are signs that your children aren't being heard and need your attention.

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