Are you delighted that school has started again, and your child is out of your hair for a few quiet hours?
Is “NO!” her favorite word?
Does he continue to throw temper tantrums long after the terrible two’s should have passed?
Does she keep demanding what she wants until it drives you crazy?
If you have answered yes to any or all of these questions, I have a few suggestions for you, depending on the age of your child. If you are the parent of a new baby or toddler, The Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful, and Cooperative One- to Four-Year -Old, by Dr. Harvey Karp is a good place to start.
Harvey Karp, MD., is an assistant professor of pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine, and a parent himself. He helps parents understand the world from the point of view of the toddler, using the metaphor that toddlers are little cave people with undeveloped language and logic, ruled primarily by their emotions and basic needs. They will do whatever they can to get what they want–as long as you, the adult, allow them to.
Tip #1: Don’t take things that your child says or does personally. Toddlers are works in progress.
Karp divides toddler behavior into three categories: “green light” behaviors, which are positive and should be encouraged; “yellow light” behaviors, which are the annoying but not completely unacceptable things toddlers do; and “red light” behaviors which are unacceptable because they are either dangerous or they disobey a key family rule.With great humor and a gentle touch, Dr. Karp gives specific suggestions for encouraging the positive and eliminating the negative behaviors common to this stage.
Tip #2: Know what you can and should expect from your child at any given stage of development.
Ask your pediatrician, your child’s teacher or other parents if you are in doubt about what is “normal”. For birth to age 5, you can check out books like The Wonder Years: Helping Your Baby and Young Child Successfully Negotiate the Major Developmental Milestones, by The American Academy of Pediatrics and Tanya Remer Altmann.
If your child has survived toddlerhood but not yet hit adolescence, then another book may be helpful. Written by Richard Bromfield, a child psychologist on the faculty of Harvard Medical School, the book is called How to Unspoil Your Child Fast: A Speedy, Complete Guide to Contented Children and Happy Parents.
Rather than merely offering tips for more effective discipline, Dr. Bromfield first looks at the reasons why parents overindulge their kids in the first place, describing the gradual process by which parents become more and more ineffective with their children.
He also clearly lays out just what is at stake if parents allow the slippery slope of spoiling to continue. Based loosely on the seven deadly sins, Bromfield describes the seven deadly syndromes and then gives tools for how to deal with them. Examples are dealing with the syndrome of self-centeredness, what to do with a “slothful” unmotivated child, or how to address the “greedy” child who doesn’t want to share.
Tip #3: Being a good parent often means stepping back and allowing children to work hard, experience pain, and reap the rewards of those experiences.
It may be hard to believe but recent research has found that teens who learn how to argue effectively by practicing on their parents are far more likely to be able to resist peer pressure down the line. So now we know that at least all the arguing is good for something since it drives most of us parents crazy.
What the research team found was that, even at 13, the kids who could talk to their moms or dads about disagreements on things like grades, chores, and friends, were 40% more likely to stand up to peer pressure down the line. In contrast, the kids who backed down right away when in conflict with parents were later found to be more passive with peers as well.
What do loving and effective families do that helps prevent teens from collapsing under peer pressure?
Tip #4: When parents listen to their teens, the teens listen more to their parents.
That doesn’t mean that you have to agree with your kids– in fact, you can agree to disagree if need be. But the message is that if kids feel confident enough to express themselves to their parents, they also feel more empowered to be honest with their friends. In fact, for kids (and adults) of any age, one of the most important skills to build happy, loving relationships is good communication. For a first step, try listening to one another with an open heart, suspending judgment, if only for a moment. And then another.