Jan

13

Mark GoulstonIf you raise your children to be happy, they won't be happy; but if you raise your children well, they will be happy… and so will you.

I believe your most important responsibility as a parent is teaching your children self-reliance and preparing them to be effective in all aspects of their life. To do this keep in mind the principle that it is less important what you tell your children, than what they are able to tell you and then to instill in them the Three P's of preparation: perspective, perseverance, and patience do the following:

Perspective: The real bedtime story. If you still read a story to your children at night, add this exercise: Ask them: "What was the best and worst thing that happened to you today?" Listen to what they say, and respond with "Wow, that's great" to the good stuff, and "Gee, really, I'm so sorry you felt upset by that" to the bad stuff. Don't give advice unless they ask for it. Then ask them: "What are you most looking forward to tomorrow and what are you most nervous about? Hear them out the same way as with the first question. Follow up this exercise by telling your story. This exercise helps your child develop perspective to see that both good and bad things happen every day.

Perseverance: When your children tell you about a situation that has clearly upset, scared, angered, or hurt them, resist the temptation to quickly reassure them. Instead, give them a word for what they seem to be feeling by saying: "That must have scared/angered/hurt you, didn't it?" If they agree, then calmly ask them: "How scared/angry/upset, etc. did you feel?" They may only say, "Really bad" or "Very" but in that moment of saying it to you, they will feel safe, less alone, and relieved, and they may even cry. This is a great way of establishing a sense of comfort and calmness in your children after which they will be more open to suggestions and advice. The formula is: Comfort first, Coach second. This exercise will help your children develop the ability to comfort and calm themselves when they are older and enable them to persevere through rough times.

Patience: Do this exercise once a week with your entire family when you're having dinner together. Ask everyone to talk about something they did in spite of not wanting to do it. You should start the ball rolling. For example, you might say: "I went to this meeting I didn't want to go to, tried to make the best of it and actually met someone that might help me in my job, and I never would have met that person had I not gone to the meeting." Then have your husband and kids share something. This exercise helps your children develop tolerance, cooperation skills, and flexibility. It also will make them accept that people have to do things that they don't always want to do, and because everyone has to do this it's fair and part of life–and having pateince when things don't go your way works better than having a tantrum.

These steps do not excuse you from spending a certain amount of "face time" with your children (perhaps equal to the "face time" you need to spend with investors when a telephone call won't suffice) and even experts are not immune from your dilemma.

I remember years ago when my kids were small. They had a nickname for me: "Hi kids, bye kids, love you kids." I used to laugh when they would teasingly taunt me, but like you, I also realized it wasn't funny.


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  1. jen d. on March 18, 2009 1:50 am

    this article is very helpful as it gives guidance to those parents who don't quite know how to delve into their child's world without force.
    I have a son who is 12 yrs. old and is going through the pangs of adolescence — emotional uncertainty, wandering if it's wrong to be curious about women, etc… When these type of issues arise I don't know what to do except reassure him that what he's feeling is normal for teenage/preteens. But after reading this piece of advice I am confident now that I will know how to help him help to himself.

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