Every parent sometimes needs guidance and insight into raising their children.  Provided here are puslished articles written by Maryanne Law to help parents dealing with crisis, everyday issues, and those just needing a little extra support.   


Parenting Articles

 Creative Children 

QUESTION:     How can I help my children be creative?

ANSWER:     Put a potted plant in good soil and in the right kind of sunlight, and it will really thrive. Put the same plant in rocks and hide it in the closet and watch what happens. In "How To Raise A More Creative Child," authors Larry and Marge Belliston share that, while developing their book, they got together with several friends to talk about creativity. After they'd discussed ideas for a while, they decided to list all the creative things they'd done while growing up. Collectively, they came up with 100 ideas, all different. The surprise was that 92 of those ideas came from just two people. What made the difference? Environment! Both of those people had had a stimulating environment while they were growing up.

The setting or situation in which a child lives and plays can promote creativity or kill it. Here are some things that we adults can do to keep the atmosphere open and comfortable for our children:

·Keep tools available for a child to work with creatively. At your work bench keep a separate set of tools for your daughter or son. Show your children a variety of kitchen utensils and how to use them.

·Keep materials for creativity available: fasteners, glue, scissors, paper, wheels, popsicle sticks, rubber bands, crayons, paints, chalk. Give children play dough (homemade is great) to model different objects of their imagination. Give your kids toothpicks or twigs and white glue and encourage them to create. The results will be towers, teepees, houses, bridges, trucks, and people.

·Let your children make tents over furniture with blankets. These become playhouses, school rooms, dog houses and camp tents. Teach kids how to play charades. For small children act out words that describe familiar objects around the house.

·Teenagers can take on the challenge of book, movie, and song titles. (I'll never forget trying to act out Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 3.)

·As much as possible, refrain from using TV. TV is a passive, not a creative tool. Listen to stories and dramatic programs on tape or the radio. Read out loud to your children. Listening causes your child to participate mentally: it creates images in the mind.

Enjoy the less than perfect; in fact, appreciate the attempts and experiences that are much less than perfect. Was it fun? Was it interesting? Was it challenging? If it was, it was worth doing.

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Spare The Rod 

QUESTION:     Would you comment, please, on the phrase "spare the rod and spoil the child" in terms of needed discipline in a child's life?

ANSWER:     The phrase is based on Proverbs 13:24 in the Old Testament. I am grateful for material I read several years ago which included a word study on the Hebrew word "shabat" (rod) used in both Proverbs and the Twenty-Third Psalm, "thy rod and thy staff they comfort me". A shabat is specifically the rod used by a shepherd in caring for sheep.

The shabat has five common practical uses: 1) It is the symbol of the shepherd's guardianship of the sheep. 2) It can be thrown with great accuracy just beyond the wandering sheep to send the animal scurrying back to the flock. 3) The shabat can be used to ward off an intruder and protect the sheep from any animals which may attack. 4) The sheep are counted as they "pass under the rod". 5) It is used to part the wool in order to examine the sheep for disease, wounds or defects which may be treated. There is no evidence that the rod is ever used to physically strike the sheep.

Consider relating the five uses of the shepherd's shabat into parental guidelines. First, there is security: a child knows he/she is loved, cared for and accepted. Second, there is guidance: the attentive parent will commit himself to thinking ahead as his child develops, continually preparing his son or daughter for the future and intervening when necessary if he/she is at risk. Third, there is protection: the parent will not let outsiders hurt her child. Fourth, there is evaluation: the child will be "counted" and progress will be monitored. Fifth, there is diagnosis: the parent will look for signs of anxiety or pain in his/her child and seek out treatment and healing.

The rod is a comfort to the sheep. Loving, firm discipline is a comfort to children. Also interesting is that the Hebrew word for chasten is "yasar", which is accurately translated "disciplines". Yasar has two interpretations, each equally balanced. It means to correct or punish and it also means to instruct and build up. The message is clear. Correction must always be balanced with encouragement. That is a good principle of child psychology. It is also a basic principle of Judeo-Christian teaching.

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  Be An Encourager 

QUESTION:     How do we know if we are making a positive impact in our families?


ANSWER:     In the ages and stages of life, being liked is as important as being loved.  I’m not sure that there is anything more encouraging than to have somebody really like you.  What a pleasure it is to have people who are pleased when we walk into the room, who are glad when we call or who happily anticipate our coming home.  Sometimes being liked is the encouragement a parent or grandparent gives a child; sometimes it’s the encouragement a child gives a parent or grandparent. A true treasure is a relationship with a teenage son or daughter that includes shared humor, the honest give-and-take of opinions and the easy introduction to new friends. Take some time to remember the times of “liking” in your own family, whether it was when you were the child or when you were the parent.  If those times are easy to recall, you are rich in relationship.  If they’re not, there’s still time, with your children or your grandchildren or, maybe, somebody else’s children.

There is a special story of the young man who was a stand-in performer at the Paris Opera House.  He was filling in for a singer of great fame and the theater was packed with people who had come and paid to hear the star tenor.  Just before the curtain went up, the announcement was made that the performer was sick and he’d been replaced by a stand-in.  Everybody booed.  They were disappointed in having to hear the second-string singer and they made their disappointment heard.  As hard as it must have been for the stand-in to walk onto that stage and sing, this unknown name had to do it.  He came on stage and faced the restless audience.  The singer took a long pause, preparing to sing, when from the balcony, a little boy popped up and declared, “I think you’re doing great, Daddy!”  The house broke up and from then on the audience listened attentively to this unknown singer, and when he was finished they applauded him long and loud.

Much of the time the world’s audience fails to encourage.  Whether you’re 5, 15, 35, 55, or 85, yours can be the spirit that appreciates and the voice that encourages somebody in your family.

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QUESTION:     What does research actually say about the impact of men in children’s lives?

ANSWER:     Fathers often do not have the same parenting styles as mothers. There is a difference in the way men get their kids ready for the outside world. For instance, fathers tend to give their children more freedom in the park, letting kids befriend a new dog or climb the jungle gym alone. Mothers tend to ask the children to stay close. Dr. Kyle Pruett, a child psychiatrist, researcher and author of “The Nurturing Father: Journey Toward the Complete Man,” found that a dad’s style of letting kids figure things out for themselves can teach them not to get so upset when they make mistakes and to try again.

Fathers may be the greatest untapped resource in the lives of their children. That goes for grandfathers and uncles as well. When men are involved, children have a tendency to have better problem-solving skills. They also tend to do better both socially and in school.

So, men, think about how you spend time with the kids in your life. Get involved, get more involved, or stay involved. Carve out a special time in your day to be with your kids. Decide how you’re going to spend that time together: shooting baskets, playing a duet, building a model, or sitting quietly and talking about how the day went for both of you. If you’re too tired to get down on the floor to play with your younger kids, cuddle on the couch together for a story. Make a connection with your children’s school. Drop them off or pick them up when you can. Get to know the teachers, go to school conferences, participate in school activities, chaperone a school event or field trip. Introduce your kids to your daily routine. Make a trip to your workplace together. Make sure your kids, or grandkids, know that you have a current picture of them at your job or in your wallet.

Sadly, the average amount of time a father spends with his child per day, other than giving directions or reprimands, is less than ten minutes. For the sake of your child, and ultimately the community, be determined to find the time to talk and laugh and eat with your child every day.

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  Brain Chemistry 

QUESTION:    What is really important for parents to know about how human behavior is influenced by the chemicals in the brain?

Having a clearer understanding of brain development and brain chemistry can really help us parent more effectively. For instance, the amygdala is the portion of the brain that stores emotional memories like a file. It stores memories based on the type of memory, perhaps happy or sad. When one is sad, often sad memories are brought forth from the “memory file.” These are emotional memories. An intervention, diversion or distraction can break the mental process and change the emotional memories.

Here is a brain chemistry fact that, when understood, can help all relationships. Rage is an emotional memory that is reflected in the amygdala. If a person becomes enraged, the amygdala stays enraged for 20 minutes. If a person becomes enraged a second time, then it takes an hour to calm down. If a further rage occurs, it takes 24 hours to calm down. The practical application is recognizing the value of having a “cooling off” period from a heated argument – and to make that “cooling off” time at least 20 minutes. If we allow another person to walk away and let him, or her, have that needed space, we can re-group and re-connect within 30 minutes. If a person who is distressed is emotionally “pushed,” it’ll take an hour longer to restore an emotional balance. If an emotional battle has re-triggered three times, it is going to take an entire day before a person will be willing or able to “normalize” the relationship again. So, time outs can be extremely valuable for all of us, especially when they are recognized not as punishments, but as needed time for our brain chemistry to re-balance.

Another valuable understanding is that self-control/ impulse control is located in a different part of the brain than motor control. Doing something and stopping from doing something are two different things. Impulse control can be developed, however, by practicing waiting. Adults can encourage impulse control in their children by practicing taking turns in activities. Experiencing waiting before receiving or doing – called delayed gratification – is one of life’s important challenges. So, we might take a more positive look at all the ways we practice “waiting” in life – raising our hand before we ask a question, taking our turns at the stoplight, standing in line at the grocery store, counting the days until Christmas, and not driving a car until we’re 16.

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QUESTION:    I need to have a clearer understanding of how to use different kinds of consequences to change negative behaviors.

   The goal of discipline is to teach acceptable behavior and responsibility. Discipline does not equal punishment: discipline is a combination of controlled environment, instruction and accountability. Consistent consequences develop self-discipline and internal motivation in children.

·Natural consequences teach children the natural order of events. A parent’s role is not to interfere with the results of a choice. A child who does not eat gets hungry. A youngster who cheats at games loses playmates. A teen-ager who chooses no boots ends up cold and uncomfortable when his car gets stuck in a snow bank. Natural consequences are appropriate if the results of poor decisions are not dangerous.

·Logical consequences are requirements determined by an adult and are related to the misbehavior. To be most effective, logical consequences need to be immediate and consistent. They do not have to be painful. In fact, if they are severe, a parent will probably threaten them, but not follow through. Logical consequences may be actions done over, done better, or done more. Logical consequences also include the limitation or loss of privileges. A slammed door is closed six times quietly. If a neighbor’s property is damaged, a contract is made to do his yard work or wash his car for several weeks. Toys not picked up are put away for a week. The bicycler who rides beyond the designated boundaries walks for three days. The teen that breaks curfew is in by 7:00 p.m. for two week-ends.

·Need-meeting consequences change behavior by providing a missing essential. A consequence for misbehavior caused by excess energy might be running laps or raking leaves. Poor grades may require less T.V. and more monitored homework time, perhaps even a specific amount of time in study drills or special instruction. Anti-social behavior signals a need for more family time; if teen-agers are grounded effectively, the time at home will be spent interacting with family members in tasks or activities, not isolated in their rooms. Excessive sibling squabbling may mean the need for adult involvement in game playing or craft projects.

·Tragic consequences include the removal from the experience or the group which is long term. A child may no longer be allowed to play with another child. A student may be suspended from school. A teen that refuses to accept parental authority may have to deal with the police and the Court system.

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  Responding to Rebelious Behavior 

QUESTION:     How do I respond to my child’s headstrong, rebellious, frustrating behaviors?


ANSWER:     The goal is to empower, not overpower.  From about the age of two, and at intervals in the development process, children are learning the normal process of making decisions, exerting power and declaring ownership.  When parents react by overpowering children, they actually cause them to feel powerless.  All human beings need to feel a sense of power in their lives, so the overpowered child may react by seeking power through rebellion and/or destructive or passive (not trying) behavior in an effort to make decisions and maintain control. When a parent can deal with power struggles in ways that reduce fighting and create respectful relationships, both children and parents benefit.                

  • SIDE STEP THE POWER STRUGGLE.  Don’t fight or give in.  Stay firm and friendly by offering at least two choices with each non-negotiable expectation.  For a child who is refusing to nap, offering the choice of one pillow or three or Mom’s comforter or a sleeping bag on the bed can be successful.  Not giving a 13 year old permission to attend a risky party can be made more acceptable by offering the choice of driving a few friends to a movie or having someone overnight.
  • FIND USEFUL WAYS FOR YOUR CHILD TO BE POWERFUL.  One possible way to end a power struggle over using seat belts is to give your child the responsibility of being sure that everyone is safely buckled in their seat belts and the car doors are all locked before turning the key in the ignition.
  • DO THE UNEXPECTED.  When you feel the climate is ripe for a power struggle, redirect your child’s energy by suggesting an alternative activity.  You might suggest that you need some help in the kitchen or decide to go for a walk with your child.  Have a variety of 15 minute activity ideas on hand that you can do with your child: make play dough, put a puzzle together, play a card game, polish silver, or make rice crispy bars.
  • TRY TO HEAR ‘NO` AS A DISAGREEMENT RATHER THEN A DISRESPECTFUL RESPONSE.  It is a parent’s role to teach a child to disagree in a respectful, appropriate manner. You can listen to your child without changing your mind.  Try saying, “You feel strongly about this.  So do I.  I will listen to you first.”  If you do not change your mind, remember how to side step the power struggle.

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  Definitions of Love 

QUESTION:    What does love mean to 4 to 8 year olds?

ANSWER:     Love seems to mean some very special things to kids that age. Here are some wonderful definitions that have been shared before, but are fun to share again:

  • When my grandma got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandpa does it for her now, even when his hands got arthritis, too. That’s love. (Rebecca – age 8)
  • When someone loves you, you know that your name is safe is their mouths. (Billy – age 4)
  • Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other. (Kari – age 5)
  • Love is when you go to eat and you give somebody most of your French Fries without making them give you any of theirs. (Chrissy – age 6)
  • Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired. (Terri – age 4)
  • Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip giving it to him to make sure the taste is OK. (Danny – age 7)
  • Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas, if you stop opening presents and listen. (Bobby – age 7)
  • If you want to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate. (Nikka – age 6)
  • Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day. (Noelle – age 7)
  • Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well. (Tommy – age 6)
  • My mommy loves me more than anybody. You don’t see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night. (Clare – age 6)
  • Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken. (Elaine – age 5)
  • Love is when mommy sees daddy is smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford. (Chris – age 7)
  • Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you let him alone all day. (Mary Ann-age 4)
  • You really shouldn’t say “I LOVE YOU” unless you mean it. But if you mean it, say it a lot. People forget. (Jessica – age 8)

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  Helping My Child be a Good Student 

QUESTION:    What are things I can do to help my kids be the best students they can be?


Less than 10% of children’s time from birth to age eighteen is spent in school. Actually, all parents are teachers and we are definitely our children’s first teachers. Here are six common-sense principles and some specific ideas that help us be successful teachers at home, so our children are successful at school:

·Children become better learners when expectations are clearly stated, when expectations are realistic, but high, when consequences are understood and when parents emphasize effort, not just results.  Have your child teach you one thing he learned in school.  Review homework and tests together; let your child correct mistakes and affirm improvement. Reward your child for completing tasks, not just for high scores.

·Children become better learners when they have a regular routine and parents supervise their activities. Eat a meal together daily and talk about the day. Post a weekly family calendar. Assign a child a weekly chore; allow for choices. Designate a quiet place and a regular time for homework.

·Children become better learners when they are presented with opportunities to learn outside of school. Have your child write the grocery list. Visit the library and read together. Take nature walks together. Join Scouts.

·Children become better learners when they know their parents appreciate and talk with their school teachers.  Attend parent/teacher conferences. Connect with teachers regularly in person or by telephone or email. Go to school activities and athletic events with your child.

·Children become better learners when they are encouraged. Send your child to school with a smile and positive words.  Put a friendly note in your child’s lunch.  Find a way to treat your child when you see her invest a lot of effort on a school task. Tell someone else, like a grandparent, about a positive accomplishment, and encourage that person to affirm your child with a note in the mail or a telephone call.

·Children become better learners when the adults in their lives are positive role-models by reading, studying, asking questions, talking about education, setting long-term goals. Read books or magazines for your own enjoyment. Share a personal goal with your child. Ask for your child’s opinion about a decision you’re making.


“Homework” is really the learning that goes on under the guidance of parents, which is 80% of the learning all children do.

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Motivating With Encouragement 

QUESTION:     We’re into a new school year and my children are at different skill levels academically:  one works really hard and gets A’s and B’s, one rarely does any homework and gets A’s and B’s and one gets C’s and B’s with steady effort.  I want to praise and motivate all three of them, but when I do, it begins to feel really competitive.


I think what you really want to do is encourage all three of your children.  Praise is a reward given for being at the top:  we use words like good, great and excellent.  Most of us grew up being motivated by those words, or being discouraged by not receiving them. 


Encouragement, though, is given for trying and for improvement.  The parent who encourages is not focusing on comparisons or competition, but on contributions and the courage to face difficult tasks.


Take some time to identify the people is your childhood who encouraged you and remember how they did it.  Last week I asked some people to identify the authority figures in their childhood that they knew where “on their side” – the ones that they felt a sense of comfort and pleasure about when they walked into a room.  The people named included a mother, a father, a grandmother, a grandfather, an older sister, an older brother, a teacher and an “adopted” aunt. 


Here are some encouraging phrases that convey affirmation and support without creating competition:

  • I appreciate your taking the time to study.
  • I’m glad you enjoy learning.
  • You really worked hard on that.        
  • You spent a lot of time thinking that through.
  • You have creative ideas.
  • I admire your doing every step of the process you were asked to do. 
  • I’ll be glad to help if you ask; I learn things from working with you.   
  • I’ll be glad to listen.  You’ve figured it out before when you’ve talked it though out loud.
  • I’m impressed with the way you handled that situation.

We thrive when people notice what we’re doing, recognize the amount of effort it is taking, value our accomplishments and appreciate the skill we are developing.

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  Remembering to Be Thankful 'width' is a duplicate attribute name. Line 1, position 37.

QUESTION:  Is there a way to remember to be thankful every day, not just on a holiday?

Perhaps this is the attitude you are looking for:

I Am Thankful -

  • For the wife who says it’s hot dogs tonight, because she is home with me, and not out with someone else.
  • For the husband who is on the sofa being a couch potato, because he is home with me and not out at the bars.
  • For the teenager who is complaining about doing dishes, because it means she is at home and not on the streets.
  • For the taxes I pay, because it means I am employed.
  • For the mess to clean up after a party, because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
  • For the clothes that fit a little too snug, because it means I have enough to eat.
  • For my shadow that watches me work, because it means I am out in the sunshine.
  • For rooms that need cleaning, gutters that need fixing, and sidewalks that need shoveling, because it means I have a home.
  • For all the complaining I hear about the government, because it means we have freedom of speech.
  • For the parking spot I find at the far end of the parking lot, because it means I am capable of walking, and have been blessed with transportation.
  • For my huge heating bill, because it means I am warm.
  • For my teenager’s music that seems way too loud, because it means I can hear.
  • For the pile of laundry and ironing, because it means I have clothes to wear.
  • For the weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day, because it means I have been capable of working hard.
  • For the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours, because it means that there are things to do and I’ve got skills to help them get accomplished.

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  Teaching Morals 

QUESTION:     We are being challenged as parents and grandparents to do a better job in teaching morals to our children. Do you have ideas about how to do that effectively?

   In “Raising Good Children,” Dr. Thomas Lickona observes that kids get plenty of values today, but most of them are being taught by television, the movies, advertising and friends, rather than parents. The question needs to be asked: “Do we, as parents, have different values than those the media culture is teaching?” If we do, we need to be clear about our own values and decide to give direct moral instruction to our children.

Here are some moral concepts: Are these important to you? Are you able to give illustrations from your own family history or your life that explains why? Do your kids know how you feel and why?

  • Moral courage- Doing the right thing in the face of personal risk or social pressure. Robert Kennedy said it was rarer than bravery in battle.
  • Excellence- Any job worth doing is worth doing well.
  • Fairness- Fair and square, learn to share.
  • Freedom- Other people’s freedom is as important as my own. Freedom has limits.
  • Faith- Poet Walt Whitman wrote that when a child believes in a good God, life becomes much clearer. It’s like finding a path through a dark wood.
  • Humility- Chinese philosopher Confucius said that a man who commits a mistake and doesn’t admit it is committing another mistake.
  • Happiness- Psychologist Nevitt Sanford wrote that happiness is the habit of taking pleasure in life. If you don’t know how to enjoy life, you’re going to be a burden to other people.
  • Honesty- Being trusted is one of the most valuable assets anyone can have.
  • Patriotism- The ideals that all people are moral equals, that they have the same inalienable human rights, and that the government’s purpose is safeguarding those rights have served as the conscience of the nation.
  • Sportsmanship- Tennis champion Chris Evert shared that from the time she was six, her father drilled into her the importance of being controlled in competition; she was told to learn to be gracious whether she lost or won.
  • Understanding- Never judge people until you have walked a mile in their shoes.

Part of moral teaching is asking kids questions that make them think. The other important part of moral instruction is telling kids what we think.

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  Teaching Children Not to Use Mean Words 

QUESTION:     I’m trying to help one of my children control his temper and the ugly words that come out of his mouth when he gets upset.  Any suggestions?


ANSWER:      Learning to express anger without being violent or insulting is a powerful skill that keeps friendships and families strong and healthy.  Anger is a feeling.  Everyone is angry sometimes.  Verbal and physical violence are actions that we can choose not to use when we are angry because we value ourselves and the people we live with. 

We, of course, teach children how to express anger by explanation and by modeling.  Here is a story that might be helpful to share with your child.  You might try using a hammer, nails and board for the next month, perhaps for the whole family, to help your child. 

There was a little boy with a bad temper.  His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, to hammer a nail in the back fence. 

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails in to the fence.  Then the boy’s temper outbursts gradually dwindled down.  He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.  Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all.  He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. 

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.  The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. 

He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence.  Remember that you can put a knife in a man and draw it out and the wound may heal, but there will always be a scar.  Words can be a weapon too.  We can say we’re sorry later, and even be forgiven, but the memory of the anger is like an emotional scar.  The painful impact of a verbal wound can be as distressing as a physical wound.” 

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  Positive Parenting- Encouragement 

QUESTION:     How do we encourage discouraged kids?

 Think of a typical week you spend with one of your children. Imagine making a bank deposit for every positive reaction you made to your child's behavior. A hug, kiss, a pat on the back, a kind word, a smile, a deposit made for each one. Every negative reaction, a frown, a correction, taking a toy or privilege away, angry words, is a withdrawal. Withdrawals have to be made; that's a parent's job at times. Some deposits and some withdrawals are larger than others. Hitting or emotional blackmail, for example, are significant withdrawals. So what does your relationship bank account look like? Are you in debt? Is the account slipping into bankruptcy? If you don't like the balance, there are two things you can do: increase the deposits and/or increase the withdrawals. Parents who are bankrupt with their children relationally lose their leverage to be effective teachers.

Re-establishing a healthy relational account increases the positive energy and well-being in everyone's home. The Director of Children's Defense Fund-Minnesota often talks about a school in California that had a terrible attendance and drop-out rate for years. The new principal had a staff meeting and introduced a new effort. Each teacher or staff person had a child to watch. This meant that each day the student would receive a greeting, perhaps a question about their day and if a conversation resulted, all the better. If students were absent, they would receive a call of concern and if they weren't reached successfully by phone, then they would be approached upon returning to school. "Where were you? We missed you and I wanted to find out how you were doing?" Efforts were made to help assure that the students got to school and parents were contacted and involved whenever possible. At the end of the year the drop-out rate and absenteeism had decreased 100 percent.

All adults can invest in the kids in our lives through miracle minutes. Miracle minutes are minutes focused of focused attention and friendly conversation that includes the words, "I'm glad you're here." Being relationally involved in a positive way in the lives of children and adolescents has tremendous impact. Consider checking in with three kids at least once a month. Your consistent interest reinforces and motivates positive things in kids' lives and then we all benefit.

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  Positive Parenting- Music to Train the Brain 

QUESTION:    Is it true that music trains the brain for higher forms of thinking?

ANSWER:      While the motor dexterity necessary for fingering a musical instrument doesn't really develop much before six years of age, listening to music and later music lessons improve "spatial reasoning" which is important for higher brain functions such as music, mathematics and chess. Spatial intelligence is the ability to see the visual world accurately, to form mental images of physical objects and to recognize variations in objects. Learning to play a musical instrument helps students to develop faster physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. The Music Educator's National Conference has found that there are definite links between music, education and other areas of learning: Young children who take music lessons have a greater ability to grasp essential math and science concepts. Playing an instrument improves coordination and concentration. For example, children who take piano lessons must learn to play a different line of music with each hand while using foot pedals all at the same time. Mastering a song or technique allows children to feel a sense of accomplishment and a desire to move on to the next challenge. These feelings of pride can improve their confidence in the classroom. Children can improve abstract reasoning skills more through individual piano lessons than with computer instruction, according to a 1997 study of preschoolers in California. You can easily and inexpensively encourage music education for young children at home: Give your kids access to a tape recorder or radio and a variety of tapes. Let them pick and choose their favorites to play for you. Encourage your children to dance (alone and with you) to all kinds of music, and to express how the music sounds (happy, angry, sad). Give children access to a variety of pots, pans and wooden spoons for music making. Sing songs to your children and let them experiment with simple musical instruments like tambourines, whistles and bells. While your children may never become professional musicians, the time they spend practicing an instrument or singing in a choir will increase their problem-solving ability, build their confidence, inspire creativity and improve their coordination.

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 Positive Parenting- Gift of Ourselves 

QUESTION:     How can I help my children focus on giving rather than getting during the holiday season?

    Here are eight gifts that the whole family can practice giving that will make the holiday season happier for everyone:

·  The gift of listening. One of the greatest things we can do for another person is to listen without interrupting, daydreaming or thinking about our next great idea or opinion.

· The gift of a compliment. Help others reach their full potential - notice what they are doing right. Affirm children for listening, for their smile, for giving a hug.

· The gift of showing affection. Demonstrate the love you feel deep inside with hugs, kisses, a gentle squeeze of the hand, a touch on the shoulder or a pat on the back.

· The gift of laughter. Everyone likes to laugh. Try to see the humor in day to day living. Develop the ability to laugh at yourself. Look for the opportunities to turn a smile into a giggle.

· The gift of cheerfulness. Try to be cheerful around those you love. That means no complaining, no feeling sorry for yourself, no nasty comments, no screaming. When things are going well, enjoy! When things aren't going so well, figure out how to make it better and be pleased when things improve.

· The gift of doing a favor. Help with the dishes, fold the laundry, run an errand.

· The gift of a game. Most people have at least one game they like to play. Offer to play someone's favorite game. Even if you lose, you'll be a winner because you've shared an experience together.

· The gift of a note. Take the time to make a connection with someone in writing. Be specific. Tell someone why they are special to you. Describe a special memory. Say thank you for help given or a job well done.

The gifts on this list don't cost a dime, but they are much more valuable than the ones with price tags. Families that teach their children the value of gifting others with kind words and actions are, in fact, gifting our communities now and our nation in the future.

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 Positive Parenting- Homework 

QUESTION:     Now that fall parent-teacher conferences are over, we are being more intentional about a homework schedule at our house. I am concerned that homework gets done. How much should I help?

ANSWER:      The answer depends a lot on the age of your child. Kindergarteners through third graders need a parent to be "around" and to step in if necessary. For older children, we have to remember that homework belongs to the child -it's his "job." However, it's good to want out kids to do well in school and to be involved. Our role is to balance between providing support and taking over. Schools and teachers have different policies about homework, and parents need to find out what they are. Usually a teacher gives homework to reinforce class lessons. This purpose is defeated when kids turn in homework done mostly by parents. A teacher is better able to evaluate a child's skills when she can see the mistakes that have been made. In many families homework becomes a control issue. Young children especially seem to want help with homework, but at the same time they want to do it themselves. When parents do respond to requests for help, kids may lash out because they feel they're not in control of their own work. Parents get upset when kids resist their suggestions or criticisms. While you probably don't want to ignore sloppy or incorrect work, it is wise to focus more on content than on how the homework looks. Kids stay more motivated when we take a positive approach, making comments such as: "I like the way you described that..." or "That's a good point you made about..." or "You're only nine and you're already able to do equations. I'm impressed." When children ask for help, remind yourself that the purpose of homework is to help kids develop good study habits, gather resources and feel competent that they can work on their own. We can help children interpret instructions, get started on the right track and then let them work. Our help should promote our children's confidence; we don't want to take over, which makes kids feel less good about themselves. One insightful mother made this comment about her children and homework: "My role is similar to that of a flight attendant. I am not flying the plane, but I am a friendly, unflappable, ever-helpful presence - a kind of "Homework Hostess," available for consultation on questions, like "What's the capital of South America?"

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 Positive Parenting- Behavior Improvement 

QUESTION:     In our attempt to teach our children skills and shape their attitudes, I think we are sounding more and more critical. How do we give directions and verbalize the need for behavior improvement without being over-controlling or negative?

ANSWER:     With pre-schoolers our criticism most often involves what children do: don't pull the dog's tail, or eat the food dropped on the floor, or run with candy in your mouth and come put on your jacket. The direction is followed or not. As children reach school age we become more concerned about the quality of their actions: did they color within the lines, wipe up all the spilled kool-aid, make their beds neatly enough. A favorite book in the Parenting Resource Center Library, No-Fault Parenting by Helen Neville and Mona Halaby (Fact on File Publication, 1984) has insightful comments on careful criticism: how to correct and instruct in order to improve performance by increasing skills and confidence. First, there are times to ignore imperfections: we don't have to show Sally that she colored out of the lines or tell Jimmy that he didn't brush all his hair smooth. In part, skill develops with mere practice. Sometimes we can avoid direct criticism by giving specific directions the next time around: "When you carry the vase to the table put one hand under the bottom." At times we can ask if children want advise: "Do you want to know a way to saw that board more easily?" At other times we can invite children to look for and correct their own oversights: "Do you see any more milk that needs to be wiped up?" When we do criticize, it is important to be specific: rather than "You are selfish," we can explain, "It is selfish to play with your trike and not let your friend have any turns." Finally, with some forethought, much criticism can be stated positively rather than negatively: Instead of "You didn't put all the blocks away," we can say, "All the blocks need to be put away." Effective parenting and grand parenting is partnering with our kids to equip and empower them. We are our children's best teachers and strongest advocates. A last comment: when you watch your child struggle to accomplish a task think about saying, "When I was 7 or 10 or 15 I wish someone would have told me ---" and then share your useful information. Remember to smile and to be ready to lend some help. We're all in this together. There will be days in the future when our kids will have information and energy we will appreciate their sharing with us.

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 Positive Parenting- Children Are Not Little Adults 

QUESTION:    I'm repeating family rules over and over again. Aren't children capable of understanding simple reasoning?

ANSWER:     Wouldn't it be great if kids were little adults? Actually, explanations, persuasions and logical reasoning usually have very little effect on children. Adults think of the future and see the bigger picture. Kids think about the present and what they want now. While it's smart for us to have thought through the reasons behind our decisions, our kids are not likely to respond to reasons and explanations as if they, too, are adults. In addition, kids naturally have less power than adults. However, every human being, no matter how young, likes the feel of power. Children learn rather quickly that they can experience a feeling of temporary power by causing their parents to lecture, yell, cry or even hit. Once they catch on to their ability to make their parents "lose control," there is an urge to repeat the pattern, just because it works. That's why psychologist Thomas Phelan says, "If you have a child who is doing something you don't like, get real upset about it on a regular basis and, sure enough, he'll repeat it for you." Any discipline system can be undermined if parents talk too much or get too excited. Effective parents save the talking for general conversation. The family rules do need to be clearly explained, but before they are being tested. In other words, don't argue or explain when a rule is being enforced. In his discipline style of training a child to stop an unwanted behavior by counting to 3, Dr. Phelan counsels parents to give one clear direction. When a child cooperates, express your appreciation. If your child does not cooperate, do not give further reasons, start to argue, or show frustration or anger. Just start to count in a firm, calm voice. If the behavior has not stopped by the count of 3, your child gets the appropriate time out period; about one minute for each year of his life. Then he is allowed to return to the family and no one brings up what happened unless the behavior is repeated. Welcome your child back as if all is forgiven and it is time to get on with the day. If your child seems to need a hug or other reassurance, give that reassurance and quickly return to what you were doing. Our words, our focused attention and our energy are most useful when they are reinforcing positive behavior.

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 Positive Parenting- Communication With My Child 

QUESTION:  How can I improve communication with my child in a tough situation?

  Our real power as a parent or a grandparent is our emotional connection with our child. Tough situations are often valuable learning opportunities, if we are able to be honest and respectful as we work through them. It helps a lot to have a problem-solving pattern to rely on regardless of the current specific challenge. In order to stay firm and friendly, we have to be in charge of our thoughts and reactions. Before we make decisions, we need to listen to our children. Sit or stand on the same level with our child at a comfortable distance. (Take your cue from your child.) Use the 80/20 formula: 1) you do 20 percent of the talking; 2) nod your head to show that you are listening; 3) put yourself in the place of your child; 4) while you're listening, remember yourself when you were the age of your child. The goal is to honor your child's dignity by reflecting his or her feelings and thoughts, not your emotions. When we take time to listen, we will choose the better strategy in handling situations. An effective problem-solving pattern has six steps: Step one: Together describe what has happened as factually as possible. Step two: Identify the primary feelings the situation has caused. (It is helpful to understand that primary feelings are fear, confusion, embarrassment, anxiety, inadequacy. Anger is the feeling that follows these first emotions.) Step three: Talk about why the situation is a problem. Step four: Be clear about what you and your child want to have happen instead of the difficult situation that has just occurred. (Take time to actually describe your "best case" scenarios.) Step five: You, as the adult, have the responsibility to define the bottom line, non-negotiable. What is realistic and necessary, considering your child's age and experience? Step six: Finally, what is negotiable? Every situation has some room for creativity and choice. Within the required boundaries, set by you or society, help your child think about his or her options.

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 Positive Parenting- Decreasing Sibling Rivalry 

QUESTION:    What can we do about sibling rivalry?

ANSWER:     Ask any parent with two or more kids what they dislike dealing with the most, and the answer is almost always the same: the teasing, the tattling, the whining, and the bickering. As long as there are brothers and sisters there will be sibling rivalry. Thankfully, there are ways for parents to cope that decrease the hostilities. Children often complain that parents are not being fair. The fact is that all things are not equal. Let your children know that the decisions you make are based on need and their best interests, not necessarily on fairness. Don't play referee. If your kids try to get you to choose sides in a dispute, refuse. You can listen carefully, of course. A wise response may be: "That is a problem, all right. How are you going to solve it?" We all need our own space. Make sure your kids get some time away from each other. Group time is good, but it's important to make each child feel individually valuable. Make the effort to have 15 minutes of one-to-one time a day with each child: share an activity or a conversation without making decisions or giving directions. Meal times and snacks can go more smoothly by letting one child divide the food and letting the other serve herself first. Bickering children are often merely entertaining themselves. If the bickering really annoys you, own the problem. Calmly separate the kids into two different rooms for 3 minutes to interrupt the behavior for your own sense of well-being. Immediately put away anything the kids fight over for the rest of the day, or any period of time you choose. The child who says "me first" immediately goes last. All children who make fun of their siblings' punishment get the same punishment in return. When fights break out in the car, immediately suspend the trip. Pull the car over to the side of the road until calm is restored. It may be fine for one child to borrow another child's possession, but he needs to put up something of equal value to ensure it is returned. Let your children know you enjoy seeing them cooperate. Smile. It's likely they will try and do it more often.

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 Positive Parenting- Emotional Intelligence 

QUESTION: What is emotional intelligence, and is it as important as a person's IQ?

  Child development research is showing that emotional intelligence (E.Q.) may be more important than I.Q. in determining a child's success in later life. The underlying skills that make up emotional intelligence can be taught to children. Child psychologists are identifying games as the most effective way to teach cooperation, sharing and making friends, the positive skills needed throughout life. Games give children the tools they need to work things out in daily experience. Learning and play are a child's work. It is valuable to remind all adults that playing with children is a wonderful way to develop their E.Q. Children thrive on positive adult attention. We all learn best when we're relaxed and happy. What games do you remember playing with adults or older friends as you were growing up? My favorite childhood memories include jigsaw puzzles with my grandmother and her friends, endless games of Candyland with my mother, dancing with my father while standing on his shoes, singing action songs with my Sunday School teacher, playing Go Fish with my aunt and uncle, acting out the story-lines created and directed by my preteen neighbor and pick-up sticks with my teen-age sitter. Learning by watching and doing is as traditional as building snowmen and as innovative as computer games. The rules in game playing teach structure and cooperation and give us practice following directions and becoming problem-solvers. There is amazing power in positive, focused attention. Following your child's lead in choosing a game or activity and playing together for 15 minutes every day increases a child's sense of satisfaction and well-being. The result is a child with a higher E.Q. It's well worth the time. In fact, it probably increases our E.Q. too.

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 Positive Parenting- Encouraging Those You Love 

QUESTION:  How do we know if we are making a positive impact on our families?

  In the ages and stages of life, being liked is an important as being loved. I'm not sure that there is anything more encouraging than to have somebody really like you. What a pleasure it is to have people who are pleased when we walk into the room, who are glad when we call or who happily anticipate our coming home. Sometimes being liked is the encouragement a parent or grandparent gives a child; sometimes it's the encouragement a child gives a parent or grandparent. A true treasure is a relationship with a teenage son or daughter that includes shared humor, the honest give-and-take of opinions and the easy introduction to new friends. Take some time to remember the times of "liking" in your own family, whether it was when you were the child or when you were the parent. If those times are easy to recall, you are rich in relationship. If they're not, there's still time, with your children, or your grandchildren, or maybe somebody else's children. There is a special story of the young man who was a stand-in performer at the Paris Opera House. He was filling in for a singer of great fame and the theater was packed with people who had come and paid to hear the star tenor. Just before the curtain went up, the announcement was made that the performer was sick and he'd been replaced by a stand-in. Everybody booed. They were disappointed in having to hear the second-string singer and they made their disappointment heard. As hard as it must have been for the stand-in to walk onto that stage and sing, this unknown name had to do it. He came on stage and faced the restless audience. The singer took a long pause, preparing to sing, when from the balcony, a little boy popped up and declared, "I think you're doing great, Daddy!" The house broke up and from then on the audience listened attentively to this unknown singer, and when he was finished they applauded him long and loud. Much of the time the world's audience fails to encourage. Whether you're 5, 15, 35, 55, or 85, yours can be the spirit that appreciates and the voice that encourages somebody in your family.

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 Positive Parenting- How Much Should I Do For My Kids?  

QUESTION:  How much should I do for my kids?

ANSWER:  I know a mother who often tells her children when they're faced with a chore they'd rather not do, "Do it anyway; it's good for your soul." She says that they usually groan at the first part, and laugh at the second. The "good-for-your-soul" routine has become a household joke. Our children become well-rounded human beings by a balance of nurture and structure. Children need adults who are advocates, encouragers and providers. It's a great thing to be in a family where parents, and other adults, want us to have the best that life can offer and help us succeed in whatever goals we set for ourselves. In the process of growing up, however, children will never reach the maturity that equips them to be effective parents, themselves, if we don't teach them about responsibility and self-discipline. No one gets out of this life without pain, sadness, disappointment or unfulfilled needs. Obviously, many people struggle with more of these challenges than others. Adults who work to help children who are forced to face hardship on a regular basis and who don't provide everything for children who are daily blessed with abundance are strengthening the character of our society. Strength is born of effort, will and determination, but despair in born of hopelessness. As adults we need to use good judgment in deciding when and how far to step in. As one parent commented, "If my child is drowning, there is no choice in the matter; I will rescue him. If he's keeping afloat, maybe I should let him tread water a little longer." Success means different things in different families. Perhaps the greatest success is learning to solve problems in real life situations with the support of other people who are willing to give us the time and space to try our own solutions and face our own consequences. The people identified as truly great in the history of the world continue to influence us because they had the fortitude to overcome some obstacle to reach their full potential and the generosity to care about other people.

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 Positive Parenting- Self-Care Guidelines  

QUESTION:  At what age is it acceptable to allow my child to stay home alone?

ANSWER:  The decision about children being in charge of their own care is not a matter of age, but of maturity. Self-care should be the last option, regardless of a child's maturity level. If you think that your child is ready to stay home for extended periods of time without adult supervision, make plenty of time to go over the following guidelines:

·Checking In - If alone for several hours, a child needs to be checking in periodically with a responsible adult, whether it's calling a parent at work or a trusted person who will always be home.

· Specific Responsibilities - Will your child be expected to handle some household chores, take care of a pet, practice a music lesson or do summer school homework?

· Free Time - Are friends allowed in the house (most parents say "no")? Can your child play outside or go to other friends' homes? Is it OK for your child to talk to friends on the phone? You must be aware that you will have no control over what is being watched on the TV or the Internet.

·Strangers - Teach proper procedures for answering the door and telephone. It's usually best not to let a caller or visitor know that a child is home alone. When answering the phone, your child can say, "My mom can't come to the phone right now; can I take a message or your number so she can call you back?"

·Emergencies - Talk and plan for all kinds of "what if" situations. Be sure your child knows how to lock and unlock doors and windows, what to do if approached by a stranger on the way home, what to do if they think someone is in the house when they get home, a list of emergency numbers, what to do if they smell smoke or gas, what to do in severe storms, basic first aid skills and appropriate and inappropriate reasons for calling parents or other adults for help. It shouldn't surprise us that while children seem to know what to do when quizzed about unforeseen events, they often don't do as well as expected when panic hits.

Curiosity - Talk to your child about the deadly consequences of medicines, power tools, alcohol, cleaning products, sharp knives, matches and guns. Make sure you keep these things in a secure place, out of sight and locked up.