Parenting: The Basics, Revisited in 2012 – Be

Be who you are.

I can almost see you wrinkle your forehead in perplexity. “Be who you are?” What could I possibly mean by that? I mean, who else could you be but yourself?

But there are so many times when you don’t let yourself be who you are. Here’s what I mean:

1. You hide your real emotions – Maybe you are feeling upset because of something your child did or did not do (forget to wish you for an important date, ignore your request that she keep quiet because you are unwell, say hurtful things to get back at you for not being ‘nice’…). Do you hide that you are upset? When your child asks you if you’re okay, do you manufacture and flash a false smile at her to signify you’re alright?

Or do you tell her you’re not feeling so good and need a little time and space to recover? (This is very different from telling her: “I’m upset because you misbehaved with me.” When you say this, you are telling her that she is responsible for how you are feeling. She will learn not to be responsible for her own feelings. You are also trying to influence her behavior, which will encourage her to manipulate others and be manipulated by them.  But letting her know that you are feeling not-so-good is neither manipulative nor false.)

2. You are afraid that you will not live up to the image of the ideal parent – If you have an image in your head of how an ideal parent should behave, you try to be as close to that image in real life as possible. But you are not that image – and so, you end up being who you are not.

You may believe you are not attractive, not attentive, not loving, not educated, not rich, not talented, not smart – in short, you may believe that in some way or other you are not a ‘good’ parent. To reduce the pain of not being ‘good enough’, you deny your natural instincts, ruthlessly suppress your nature and personality, and set out to be the image of what you believe is the ‘perfect’ parent.

A friend of mine had an obsessive-compulsive mother. If a single t-shirt in her closet was out of place in the pile, the mom would pull out everything from the closet. No, I’m not exaggerating. At the end of a few minutes, the closet would be empty, and everything in it would be strewn all over the floor. My friend would then be asked to rearrange every single article of clothing back into the closet, making sure to get it right with no folds or creases, no clothes folded ‘out of line’, and all folded clothes arranged in perfectly ordered piles.

When she told me this, I smiled and remarked that she must have spent a lot of her childhood (re)arranging closets. She said she’d sworn then that her kids could be as messy as they liked and she wouldn’t utter one word of reproach. I stayed with her a few years ago. Her son was then a boisterous 7, and I was impressed to see how clean his room was. As he showed me his new toy and replaced it before going out to play, my friend called out to him: “Come and put your car back properly in the pile of toys. The way you’ve done it now, the box is tilting off the pile.” 🙂

I reminded her of her childhood decision (it had almost been in the nature of a vow) to let her kids be messy. “Oh! I’m nothing like my mom. When my son sits on the bed and the sheets get creased, I don’t throw down the bedclothes and ask him to make the bed again. He keeps sitting or reading or playing. All I ask is that when he gets up, he should straighten the bedclothes. But I have to ask him to keep the closet neat, or how will he find his toys?” There wasn’t any point telling her that the difference she was trying to point out was so negligible as to hardly exist.

Over the weekend that I stayed with her, I watched her seesaw between letting her child ‘be messy’ (!) and straighten up obsessively after him. As for the boy, he was afraid to move a muscle in his own house lest he disarrange something. What a terrible way to live!

So – whenever you next catch yourself living up to some ‘good’ or ‘approved of’ or ‘ideal’ notion, do yourself and your child a favor. Drop it. Flawed as you are (and we are all flawed 🙂 ), you are of infinitely greater value just as you are, than pretending to be someone you are not. Your pretence will increase your anxiety and confusion, bewilder your child, and encourage her to be who she is not. Why perpetuate the misery?

Set yourself – and your child – free. Free to be who you are. This is the only way you will ever have a real and meaningful relationship with your child.

You may be convinced that you are not ‘good’, but the truth is that you are ‘good enough’. And that’s enough. Now all you need to do is believe it and carry on from there.

***

As Ingrid Bergman said, “Be yourself. The world worships the original.”

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


Why Your Child is Afraid: Nightmares, Darkness and Ghosts

Your child has just begun to sleep the night through (without any bed-wetting incidents) and you’re looking forward to doing the same after years of disturbed-sleep nights. A ear-piercing scream shatters your illusions. Your child has had a nightmare, and you are back in the nightmarish world of waking up again and again in the middle of the night to soothe your child.

Apparently, of all human beings, children in the age group 5 – 9 are the ones most prone to nightmares. Also, the incidence of nightmares amongst children in this age group is very high – often more than once a week.

Nightmares leave a child feeling insecure, scared, and sometimes paralyzed with fear. As your child begins to understand fear, he begins to fear the feeling of fear.

Franklin D. Roosevelt put it well when he said in his first inaugural address in 1933: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes…”

Where does this fear come from? I believe it comes from two sources.

The first is that your child begins to realize in a practical manner that you (the parent) are a separate person from him.  Not only are you a separate body, but you have a separate heart and a separate mind. He realizes that you think, feel and respond differently to people and situations than he does. He wonders if he has sufficient ‘hold’ on you; he wonders whether some day the differences may not become so great that you separate from each other.

Till today, your presence meant food, security, shelter, love; his whole life is wrapped up in you. Since he has associated so closely and deeply with you, he finds it hard to believe that he can live separately from you. So he begins to fear separation from you. This is one kind (and source) of fear.

The other is the fear that you put into your child. Oh yes, you do! As you try to civilize your child, prepare him for socialization, teach him the ‘rules’ of polite society, you use fear as a tool. In some cases, it may be as obvious as: “If you don’t eat your food and get into bed quickly, the Scary Monster will come and get you!” You may think this is a bit of a joke. Your child doesn’t. He is too young to understand the difference between reality and fantasy. Every experience is new and fantastic to him (fantastic in the sense of fantasy-like). You are jaded and blasé about bath showers and dogs on the street and blowing bubbles and clouds and raindrops and shiny toys and sticky mud; he is not. It is all new, all exciting, and all fantasy to him.

So your joke of a Scary Monster is a real-life Scary Monster to him. The Monster may be so scary that you don’t even want to describe him! This creates yet another problem. If you say the Scary Monster has green teeth, then any person or animal or creature that does not have green teeth is automatically not the Scary Monster. But if there is no clarity on what makes the Scary Monster scary, then anyone and anything could be the Scary Monster!

You can also induce fear in your child using subtle means. As he grows, you want to control and channel his excitement into the ‘right’ paths. You don’t really want him looking at cloud shapes for hours every day – unless it helps his artistic skills. You don’t want her poking around in messy mud – unless she’s showing signs of becoming a sculptor.

So you manipulate your child’s behavior. You say, “If you keep looking at the clouds, you will ‘waste’ so much time! Instead, you could be doing ‘fun’ things, like playing in the park, solving a jigsaw, reading a book.” If he listens, well and good. If not, you begin to withdraw from him. You frown. You clearly express your displeasure, you withdraw or withhold your approval of him. More separation – more fear.

You may disagree with me. You may say, “At times, you have to teach a child to feel some fear.” I understand what you’re saying.

 At first, your child is not afraid of anything. She will happily climb onto the balcony railing and jump off the fourth storey – down to the ground. She would do this because she simply doesn’t know enough to be afraid of how many bones she will break when she falls. In order to keep her safe, you feel you have to teach her the feeling of fear.

How will you stop her running across a busy road? You need to tell her that if she does that, some vehicle may hit her. She will hurt herself and it will cause her physical pain. You can’t explain to her that running across the road might kill her because she won’t understand the concept of death.

So you start teaching her fear.

As your child gets on with the business of living and growing, as he meets other people (children and parents), watches, listens, reads, plays, thinks, imagines and understands, he begins to knit together different thoughts and sensations. The worst ones come together as fears, and they are expressed in nightmares.

So your child is screaming with fear, and you’ve rushed to attend to him. You hold him, pat him or caress him, and say, “It’s nothing. Don’t worry. Everything is fine. You’re safe. There are no monsters, there’s nothing to be afraid of – it’s only darkness.”

This is a meaningless string of words, but you will always say this – without fail. 🙂 (I know, because this was my first reaction for so many years!)

I ask you: if you are unwell and you feel you have all the symptoms of some dreaded disease and you’re sharing your fears with me and I say to you, “Don’t worry. Everything’s fine. You’ll be okay.”

Would you believe me? I doubt it. I don’t think you’d even listen till I reach the end of the words. You’d have switched off, because the very fact that I was responding this way meant I wasn’t listening when you were sharing your fears.

Your child’s fears are real. As far as she is concerned, the darkness is a real entity that she is actively scared of. She’s telling you she’s frightened of it, and you react by saying there is nothing to be scared of! This is a ridiculous reaction on your part. Natural, but no less ridiculous for being natural.

So stifle your natural reaction for a while. Your child is scared. Indulge her.

Here’s a possible scenario between a child and a parent:

Child: I’m scared!

Parent: What scared you?

Child: The dark! I woke up and couldn’t see anything!

Parent (instead of saying “There’s nothing to be afraid of in the darkness”): You were scared because you couldn’t see?

Child: Because it was dark.

Parent: But at night, before you went to bed, it was dark outside! You weren’t scared then.

Child: I wasn’t scared because I could see things – even if it was dark outside.

Parent: When we play peek-a-boo, or hide-and-seek, or blind-man’s-buff, you need to close your eyes for a while. Do you feel scared then? After all, you can’t see anything if your eyes are closed.

Your child will respond. Carry the conversation forward – step by step. Don’t force your point of view. Listen and respond to what your child is saying. As you engage your child in conversation, you will show him a logical way of looking at things. This will not remove the fear, but it will move the focus of the conversation away from the fear. Your child will begin to calm down.

As you keep talking calmly to your child, the sound of your voice will further soothe him. If you have switched the light on, the removal of darkness will dispel the ghosts or monsters or other things he fears. Keep holding him. If he doesn’t want to leave you, either get into his bed or take him into bed with you.

Don’t worry that you’re encouraging indiscipline. Unless he’s at peace, he won’t go back to sleep, and you won’t be able to go back to sleep either. In which case, it hardly matters whether he’s awake in his bed or in yours. 

Let him drift back to sleep. Now it’s your call whether you want to put him back in his bed or stay with him.

In the next post, I’ll share tips on what you can do over the long haul to help your child get over these fears.

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


What Kind of Parent Are You?

If someone were to ask parents this question, they’d get a range of answers:

“I’m a strict parent.”

“I’m easy-going.”

“I’m more of a friend than a parent to my children.”

“I just leave them alone unless they are wildly out of line.”

“I like to know exactly what’s going on in their lives.”

There is no ‘best’ kind of parent. It is merely your idea of what kind of parent you are. And yet, this very idea becomes your burden – and your child’s burden.

Let’s take the idea of “I’m a strict parent.” You say this with some pride. You are a no-nonsense parent who is bringing up ‘good’ children who will grow up to become ‘good’ and ‘worthy’ human-beings. You have your rules which you explain, clarify, and  enforce consistently. You believe this is a ‘good’ kind of parent to be, so you have worked towards being this kind of parent: a ‘strict’ parent. 

But by labeling yourself a ‘strict’ parent, you create a prison for yourself – you want to work always inside the boundaries of ‘strictness’ which you believe is ‘good’ in a parent.

Never mind that there are many occasions when your heart is melting. Just as you begin to respond with how you truly feel, you are reminded of how important you believe it is to be ‘strict’ and instead of giving your natural response, you give your ‘strict’ response, keeping up your image of yourself as a ‘good’ parent (all this image-building and maintenance is happening only inside your head! 🙂 )

Your child has just had a nightmare. You want to hold him close till you calm his fears and his trembling body. But you are very aware that you are a ‘strict’ parent, and no ‘strict’ parent would be so indulgent of what is, after all, only a bad dream. So you hold back, tell him “it is only a bad dream, there is nothing to worry about. Now go to sleep”, and force yourself to turn around and leave his room. Neither you nor your child is at peace. His fears are not assuaged, and your peace of mind is gone – because your response was based upon your idea of the kind of parent you are, instead of the parent you actually were at that moment – the one who wanted to gather her child close in her arms to make him feel safe and secure.

You’ve kept up your image, but at what cost to yourself? And to your child?

The ‘easy-going’ parent has the opposite kind of issues. There will be many situations which shock or appall you, which make you want to put your foot down and say “NO”. But you are mindful of your image as an ‘easy-going’ parent. And ‘No’ is not a word found too often in an easy-going parent’s vocabulary, so you watch your child go haywire in all kinds of ways, but you say nothing, do nothing. You bite your tongue, steel your nerves, and remain an ‘easy-going’ parent.

No matter what your self-image as a parent, no matter what kind of parent you think you are, the real you cannot take the strain beyond a point. When you reach that point, you become irritable, worried, anxious, adding further stress to an already strained situation.

Not content with creating your own prison in the form of labeling yourself as a particular kind of parent, you have been working actively to reduce the size of your prison, till you are stifled.

As your niggling dissatisfaction turns to active discontent, you look for reasons all around you, outside you – the kids are pushing your buttons, you haven’t been getting enough rest exercise sleep food, there are too many demands on you… You are so busy looking for a situation/person you can hold responsible (blame!) that it doesn’t even occur to you that you are the source of your problem. Heck, you are the problem!

You might think your consistent responses as a particular kind of parent are creating a firm set of rules for your child to follow, but in all probability, they confuse the hell out of her. Your child always knows when ‘you mean it’ and when ‘you don’t really mean it’. So when your authentic response matches your self-image, the message she’s getting is ‘Dad means it’. But when the two are not in line with each other, she doesn’t know whether you mean it or not, she doesn’t know what to make of your reaction. How can she? You yourself don’t know what to make of your response! You are acting from a mind and heart torn by conflicting responses.

All you end up doing is confusing your child and yourself, and laying the foundation for ‘not telling the truth’. After all, if you feel one way and you act another, and you do this regularly, you’re being dishonest. You are breaking (or at least loosening) the bond of trust between yourself and your child.

Your child will learn to make inauthentic responses – she will learn from you. You will be unhappy about it, you will urge her to tell you how he ‘really’ feels, but she won’t be able to; not unless you have broken out of your self-imposed ‘image’ as a parent, and are telling her how you ‘really’ feel.

Don’t worry about what kind of parent you are. Don’t worry about what kind of parent you want to be. Just make the response that comes naturally to you in a given situation. It will be the best response you can make. Simply be the parent that you ARE in that moment, and enjoy the freedom it brings you! 🙂

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


Getting a Perspective on Your Child’s Misbehavior

A man got on a bus with three children. They must have been about 11, 7, and 5. All of them found seats. The children were noisy and boisterous. They insisted on shouting and jumping around the bus whenever it stopped, heedless of whom they elbowed or whose body they banged against or whose toes they stepped on. After about 5 minutes, everyone on board the bus was disgusted. Two old ladies who were sitting in the seat immediately ahead of the children were bearing the brunt of their misbehavior.

The man accompanying the children seemed lost in some faraway world – unaware of both the children’s unacceptable behavior, and the disapproving looks and muttering of the passengers.

Initially, the old ladies grumbled to each other about the father’s (they assumed he was the father of the children) lack of awareness at how badly his children were conducting themselves. When they found no response from him, they increased their volume, till, during a sudden lull, their penetrating tones were clearly heard by everyone on the bus, “Just look at that man! Can’t he do anything to control those monstrous children of his?”

When the man didn’t twitch a muscle even at this, one of the old ladies tapped him smartly on the arm. He jumped. “Excuse me, Sir. Your children are making a nuisance of themselves. Can’t you do anything to subdue them?” she demanded.

He looked at her a moment. “Ma’am, I’m so sorry. Their mother just died and we’re getting back home from the funeral. They don’t quite know what to make of it all, and I’m wondering how I’m going to raise them all by myself and hold down a job as well.”

“Oh, you poor things!” the lady exclaimed. She immediately turned to the youngest child, inviting him into her lap so he could see better out of the bus, while her friend began looking in her handbag for some candy for the children.

In those few sentences, the mood of sullen resentment and dislike that had hung heavy in the back of the bus dissipated, leaving a feeling of fellowship and caring. The other passengers wanted to pitch in too. In a few minutes, order was restored, with the younger child pointing happily at colored things he could see through the window, and the elder two children engaged in conversations with other passengers.

The father looked at the lady who had tapped him with tears in his eyes. “Thank you, Ma’am.”

The lady found her own eyes wet with tears. “No. Thank you. At my age, I should have known better than to presume I know what is going on. Thank you for reminding me that I don’t. And don’t worry about your children. They are fine kids. They will do you proud.”

 Every now and then, your child will go off the rails. Out of the blue, he will behave so ‘badly’ that you wouldn’t believe it unless you’d seen it yourself.

Initially, you grit your teeth and try and ignore it, or bear with it, but after a while, you blow your top too, and then there’s a slanging match between you two or there’s nagging or sullen silences.

The next time, you might want to keep the above anecdote in mind. Something must have happened to make your child behave so uncharacteristically. Why not try and find out what it might be?

See, she’s expecting you to blow up at her, so when you don’t (not when you’re pretending that you’ve got your temper in hand, but when you genuinely can set aside your emotional reaction to her misbehavior and be concerned about what is causing it), she will be astonished.

I was driving some of my daughter’s friends to a party, and after a bit, they forgot about me and began chatting in earnest. One voice rose above the others. “Isn’t he awful? Everybody hates him. We’ve complained to the teachers and they’ve given him a talking-to, but this guy just doesn’t understand!”

Another voice pitched in, “You know, he was even sent to the Principal? He still refuses to get it – he just can’t behave this way!”

 “He’s troubling people all the time, disrupts classes and gets us grounded for no fault of ours. We haven’t had PE or Games in a month! Why should we suffer because he can’t control himself?”

“I think they should just send him out of the school – expel him!” said yet somebody else.

I was startled at the universality, vehemence and virulence of feeling against this child.

When we got back home, I asked my daughter who they’d been talking about. “Oh! …, you know. I’ve told you about him – he’s simply incorrigible!”

I knew from this child’s mother that things had not been going well between his parents for the past year or so. I had been expecting some out-of-control behavior from the boy, but I didn’t know that everyone at school had turned against him. I had promised the mother I wouldn’t tell anyone about the situation at their house, yet this child was being vilified beyond belief, made more lonely, with nobody to share in his pain.

Without telling my daughter the details, I said, “He’s going through some problems at home. He’s not getting enough attention, and things are difficult for him right now. Maybe that’s why he’s acting this way. When all of you gang up against him, it probably brings out the worst in him. He might feel, ‘All my ‘friends’ don’t like me anyway, so what do I have to lose by being mean? At least they are all focused on me – I have their attention, even if it is negative.’”

My daughter was adamant, “But this has to stop. I mean, nobody is going to give him a chance unless he changes his ways.”

“Quite the reverse, my dear. He won’t change unless somebody gives him a chance. See what you can do – if you want to do something about it. And you can’t tell anyone anything about his situation at home. I wasn’t supposed to tell you even this, but I did because I know you can keep it to yourself, and so that you can understand that sometimes, when we’re going through difficult times, we all behave a little crazily. And at such times, it’s nice if our friends cut us a little slack.”

“I do want to do something about it – not for his sake, but for our own – we don’t get to do any fun stuff at school now. We’re perpetually grounded!”

The next day, my daughter co-opted a couple of others saying, “We’ve tried scolding him, explaining to him, shouting at him, not talking to him and it hasn’t worked; let’s try being friendly.”

A small group ate lunch with the boy. Not a word was said about missing the 3 ‘fun’ periods of the day because of his shenanigans. They shared their food and made conversation about the latest movies they’d watched, the funny way one teacher spoke, the awesome way another one taught…

As the group continued their friendly ways over the next few days, the group grew larger and the boy calmer. He was always a hell-raiser, but the nastiness had seeped out of him.

An unexpected bonus: I was in the middle of a blistering tirade about someone. I turned to my daughter, looking for understanding. She coolly said, “Well, maybe they were having a bad day.”

Like the old lady on the bus, I said to her: “Thanks for reminding me!” 🙂

Sure, you know your child. But you’d be surprised at how much you don’t know. The child you meet in the evening is not the same child you sent to school in the morning. There has been incredible (truly frightening) amount of growth and learning during the day. It is this evening child who’s misbehaving. And there is a reason for it.

All you need is enough love to look beyond the misbehavior. And if you have enough love, you will know more about him. You will be able to teach him (be honest, aren’t you skipping with joy? You can ‘teach’ him something! 😉 ) that we unwittingly misread people and situations, causing so much grief to others, but most of all to ourselves. You will strengthen your relationship with your child. You will be happier together.

A lesson in happiness! Encore, I say! 🙂

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂


Teaching Your Child the Meaning of NO

I was in high school, having a conversation with my English teacher on parents hitting their children. She had two kids, the younger of whom was 2 years old.

“I would never, ever hit my kids,” I said, sure of my stand. (I was a teenager, so it’s obvious I knew it all! 🙂 )

“Vinita, when your child is putting her finger in a live electrical socket, and doesn’t heed your warnings to be cautious, the only way to get through to her is to smack her hard. Do it a few times, and she’ll learn.”

I still disagreed.

“Well, how would you go about ensuring she doesn’t get an electric shock?” my teacher asked.

“I don’t know exactly how, but I will never, ever raise my hand to my child,” I reiterated.

She wasn’t convinced that I’d be able to get through to my child, and I was adamant that I’d find a way that didn’t involve hitting.

About a dozen years later, I’d just put a mug of piping hot tea on the living room table for my husband, who hadn’t yet entered the room. My 8-month old was trying to pull herself off the floor into a standing position using the table as support. Yes, the same table that held the piping hot mug of tea. She stood up, and reached a hand out towards the mug from which the steam curled enticingly upwards.

I don’t think any parent I know would do what I did next. I held her hand, and dipped the tip of one of her fingers into the hot liquid – just for a split second. As I did it, I said, “Hot! NO!”

Her hand was out of the tea and she was in my arms as I rushed her towards a cold water faucet before she even realized the pain fully. She looked into my eyes, hers wide with unshed tears. “That was HOT tea,” I repeated. “We don’t touch hot things. NO!”

I think she was fine after I’d put enough cold water on her finger. At any rate, I don’t remember any ill-effects after the event.

But there were numerous ‘good’ effects. Madam (thus respectfully do I allude to my almost-teenager who checks out my posts and is overwhelmingly generous with her comments 😉 ; which are mostly some variation of “Mom, you’re crazy!” 🙂 I told you – she knows everything! 🙂 ) never tried to fling herself off staircases, windows and balconies, or insert various parts of herself into electrical sockets or gadgets (microwave, toaster, vacuum cleaner etc.).

I didn’t child-proof my house. I had delicate crystal all over the place, and it stayed there. She learnt that there were places to play and places not to play. Some people feel that this might be because she is a girl (“Girls listen, but boys are so naughty! They simply run wild, you know!…”), but I’ve discovered that’s not true.

I have friends, men, who were as athletic and devil-may-care in their childhood as any boy could be, whose parents even today proudly display delicate china and crystal they have collected over decades – just as they did when the kids were little. All because they managed to teach their children the meaning of NO. 🙂

I thought of my conversation with the English teacher years after the hot tea incident. I’m not so sure any longer whether I proved my point or not. I certainly did not hit my daughter, but dunking her finger in hot tea is also violence of a kind, so I don’t know what to think.

But I am sure about 2 things: I feel bad that she had to suffer that momentary pain, and I am convinced I did the right thing. You may wonder at my ability to reconcile these apparently conflicting ideas, but it makes perfect sense to me. I saved myself – and her – a lot of trouble, heartache and conflict by getting her to understand NO so simply and directly.

I have no guilt about it; quite the contrary – I’m rather pleased I solved a potential problem before it even arose! I am not rationalizing the incident saying, “I did it for her – so that she wouldn’t hurt or injure herself in the future…” That was a side-benefit.

I did it for me. I did it because there was no way I could parent one kid and one puppy, cook, clean, run a household for us, and stay married to a husband with health issues and insane hours at work. But even if I’d been having a cushy life with ‘nothing’ to do, I’d still have chosen to do what I did. It was short, simple, direct, and effective.

If you’re still reading this, you might be appalled, and trying to come up with your own way of teaching your child the meaning of NO. That’s great! 🙂 The only way that will work with your child is the way that comes naturally to you – the way that you feel is right for you.

The ‘hot tea’ kind of one-time teaching obviously works when your child is really young, too young even to remember such an incident.

But what if your child is past that age? How can you teach him the meaning of NO?

The best time to start is now.

The best way to start is to pick only one NO. Suppose you want to cure your child of 15 ‘bad’ habits he has. Add to these 6 ways to ‘improve’ him or the way he does things. (Look at yourself! And you expect your child to listen to you! Get real 🙂 ) Of these 21 possible projects, pick only 1. That is your NO.

Maybe you pick ‘NO TV at dinnertime’. It has to be iron-clad; it has to be repeated and reinforced endlessly; you have to live it; you have to be the role model – no exceptions. Oscar Awards live on TV? Move dinner time so you’re done before the telecast begins. Wimbledon finals? Move dinner time. Not possible? Switch off the TV when a commercial break starts, serve and eat dinner, and begin watching after dinner is done.

They’re showing a documentary you’ve been trying to get hold of for years? Record it; or do dinner at a different time. No exceptions. Not if someone is ill. Not if there are guests over. (What kind of host are you anyway to have people over for dinner and then plonk them in front of the TV while you all eat? 🙂 )

After all, you’re teaching your child the meaning of the word NO. You’d better demonstrate that you know the meaning yourself!

An open secret about the word NO: the more sparingly you use it, the more effective it is. More tomorrow…

Carefree Parenting has moved to a new home! Please visit http://carefreeparenting.com for all the articles, books and other material. See you soon. 🙂