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Whenever you are setting rules with your children you can use this rule of thumb.

Every rule you make should fall into one of these 3 general rules:

If your rules do not fall into one of these categories, they are likely to be arbitrary and may seem unfair or illogical to your children, hence will not be followed without a power struggle.

For example: No hitting falls under both rules of Respecting Self and Others. Doing chores or jobs around the house comes under Respecting Others (and Property) as does no throwing in the house or no kicking the dog.

However, homework must be done before any gaming time is tricky. It isn’t about respect as much as it is about obedience, which children don’t do well with. Homework time is more of scheduling issue. Be sure not to send the message that you have to do homework when I say so because I don’t trust you. It always backfires when a child feels he has to prove himself to his parent.

To make a homework rule effective you want to insure that it follows the “respect yourself” rule, which means that homework time should be considered mostly by your child with your help and involvement. He must have the right to decide what his needs are after school hours. In other words, if you insist on homework being done first thing after school (so it’s out of your hair and you don’t have to worry about it), that is being disrespectful of your child’s needs. He may need to chill out for a while after a long day at school and have an hour of video gaming or playing outside or whatever before homework, which he might rather do after dinner.

Respecting Yourself means that you can say, “I am available for help and questions at these times only”. And then let him consider that when he is choosing when to do it.

Bedtime, teeth care, physical hygiene might be easier managed if you are clear about them coming under the Respect Yourself rule. Then be sure that you don’t expect your child to understand the importance of self-care until she is much older. Some rules must be parent-set when the child is too young to know what is needed to care for and respect her body.

This is when I suggest calling on the Parent Card. This is a good example of you being respectful of your child. “I don’t expect that you will know and understand how much sleep you need to be healthy and strong (the importance of brushing your teeth…maintaining a clean body). That’s what I’m for. It’s a parent’s job to make sure that things you don’t or care about yet get done.” Then respect for your child shows up by giving some choices about how these things get done. “What song shall we sing for marching up the stairs tonight?” “Do you want to brush your teeth or get in pajamas first?” “Shall we read 2 long books, or 3 short ones tonight?” “Which 3 days of the week do you want to take your shower? Morning or evening?”

We must never forget the importance of modeling respect for our children, for their desires and ways of looking at things. In order to respect our children, it is imperative that parents have an understanding of the developmental needs and wants of their children at different ages as well as their specific temperamental needs.

Getting angry at a 2 ½ year old for grabbing a toy away from another child and expecting him to apologize is being disrespectful to him. Expecting a 13 year old to understand and care more about you and your needs than her own will lead you right into disrespect. We quickly label a child as disrespectful of us when we don’t even enter their minds.

Rather than disrespect, it is far more likely that the child is focused so intently on what she thinks she looks like or what someone at school said to her yesterday than what you asked her to do for you. That doesn’t mean let it go because of the general rule of Respecting Others. But it does mean that as a parent, you can show her respect by understanding that she is NOT showing disrespect. She is merely being normally egocentric and needs reminders of what is being asked of her—without tones of disapproval and disappointment.

Respecting our children goes miles toward gaining their consideration and appreciation, not to mention their respect of others needs and rights as they grow. We just need to know how to set our expectations in a way that is respectful of their stage of development and individual temperament.

You wouldn’t ask a child in a wheelchair to run upstairs and get your sweater. Likewise, you should not expect the same of a child who is experiencing fear of being alone without a good deal of help, even when your other younger child can do it without missing a beat.

We can set limits, problem solve in order to hold our children accountable for their unacceptable behavior, and express our anger all with full respect and consideration of our children. Take the rest of today and watch yourself communicating with your child. Ask, Am I being respectful? with everything you say. Ask, How would I like hearing what I’m saying right now?

For information on development, anything from the Gesell Institute is a good resource. Ilg and Ames write books for each age, Your One Year Old, Your Two Year Old on up through the teen years.

For temperament, the best is Mary Sheedy Kurcinka’s Raising Your Spirited Child, whether your child is spirited or not. She helps you understand your own temperament as well.

Imagine a huge hole in the ground with Man A stuck at the bottom unable to escape. Man B walks nearby and hears Man A calling for help. Man B sees Man A at the bottom of the hole. He is so upset that he jumps in the hole with Man A. Now both are upset and both are stuck at the bottom of the hole. Man C walks by and hears both A and B calling for help. Man C tells them he will be back soon. Later, Man C arrives with a ladder.

There is a fine line between sympathy and empathy but learning the difference can make huge changes in your relationship with your child.

My favorite definition: Empathy is understanding the shoes someone else is walking in; sympathy is putting them on as if they belong to you.

Sympathy has its place but is more about the feelings of the sympathizer than the one being sympathized with. Empathy allows a certain detachment from the feelings so the empathizer is better able to help. Man B’s emotions got him stuck in the hole. Man C’s compassion left him able to see what was needed.

My mother was a professional sympathizer. Whenever I expressed having a problem, she responded, “Oh my poor dear. That’s so awful. You don’t really have to do that, do you?” Her sympathy was not helpful. As a matter of fact, I stopped sharing my problems with her, because I never got that she understood and then I had her feelings to deal with as well as my own problem.

When we sympathize with our children, we often cross a boundary and become enmeshed with our child’s problem. We may become overly protective and involved and try hard to fix or take away our child’s problem.

Let’s say my child is having a problem with a classmate calling him names. When I sympathize, I get upset, resentful, or angry toward the name-caller and can lose sight of what my child needs. I then might make it my problem and call the teacher or offending child’s parent, getting angry and demanding restitution.

If I empathize with my child’s problem, I understand why he is upset, yet I am somewhat disengaged from the problem. I may be upset about the situation but more important is letting my child know that I understand his upset, so his feelings are normalized (empathy). “It’s got to be so hard when you hear that name. It must feel as if he’s putting you down.” Then it’s about my child-he can agree with my assumption or correct it. Conversation typically follows empathy, not so much with sympathy.

When I get equally upset about the problem (sympathy), I take responsibility and am more likely to tell him what to do about it-it’s more about me and my “rightness”, my idea of what he should do. “You need to tell him that you don’t like to be talked to like that. Ask him how he would feel if he got called that. Tell him you won’t invite him to your party if he’s going to treat you like that.” It’s me projecting myself into the situation and telling my child to fix it like I would.

When I empathize, I understand it is my child’s problem, and when I don’t try to fix it, I am much better able to help him figure out what he wants to do about it. Once he trusts that I know how he feels (empathy), I can then ask questions and offer suggestions that help him take charge of his problem the way he thinks best.

“What would you like to do about it?”

“Is there something you wish you could say to him?”

“What is it you want him to know?”

“How might you do that?”

Having good boundaries with your children means helping them take responsibility for their problems and find good solutions that work for them, not you. When I jump in the hole with my child because I feel his pain, I am not in the best position to help. I now expect my child to appreciate the sacrifice I have made to jump in the hole with him. When I leave my child with his pain to get the ladder, I bring him a tool to help him solve his own problem–with my support.

Ever fear your child turning violent? Consistent sibling slugs, pushing on the playground, provoking a pet, throwing things, threatening to “kill” someone, easily provokes us to catastrophize and project our child into juvenile delinquency.

We do it in a nano-second. We try to stop the hitting, yelling, and angry outbursts and it sometimes comes out with threats, punishment, and our own angry outbursts in an attempt to raise kind, peaceful children. We set the stage for just the opposite.

Anger is a natural human feeling. Instead of fearing it and trying to repress it in our children, we need to give anger and aggression an outlet. Many of us learned as children that we shouldn’t feel a certain way, we believed we were bad when those natural feelings arose. Few of us learned how to express our anger appropriately, so we fear it in our children.

Strict censorship of negative emotions may suppress feelings in some children yet cause problems in the long term. Many become depressed, can’t stand up for themselves, freeze at challenges, cannot make decisions, etc. Medications and addictions often result.

Other children are less able to suppress angry energy due to more emotional, aggressive inborn temperaments. Continual negative feedback with punishment and disapproval, can turn children into bullies outside the home. Some children may even progress to violent behavior. When natural energies are thwarted by threats, punishment, withdrawal of love, or isolation, those energies fester and retaliation becomes the logical option.

To raise peaceful, non-violent children, we need to empower them, parenting in a way that may feel counterintuitive. Aggressive energy does not turn violent when given proper outlets and support. Parents usually fear that indulging negative feelings gives permission for negative behavior. Just the opposite is true.

Tips To Diffuse Anger:

If your child is mad at you:

You are the facilitator of the energy outlet. You are in control. Your child can safely release her feelings and gain empowerment in the release so the feelings needn’t do harm.

Only after feelings are purged, discuss what the child would like to do or say for real. Don’t direct; give her the authority to decide for herself. In this safe space after feelings have been expressed and accepted, she knows what is right and wrong. Trust the process. In some cases, this process needs to be repeated several times. When you stay calm, she can yell what she wants. Then she will calm, be better able to say what she meant, or spontaneously apologize and make amends.

Bear witness to your child’s feelings, be a sounding board, and your child will feel accepted and okay about himself. From this place there is no need for negative or violent behavior. Only when feelings are not allowed does the child feel wrong and unacceptable. Uncooperative, resistant behavior is an attempt to gain power. Allow the feelings and you empower your child.

You know that mom: the one with the perfect figure, hair and makeup. She’s the one who always bakes the cupcakes from scratch, and always has a smile on her face. She volunteers for just about every committee, and her kids get good grades.

Yes, you know whom I’m talking about. She is super mom. She believes that she must be the perfect wife and the best mother in order to be successful. If her kids are not perfect, than she thinks she has failed. But maybe she’s failed already.

Let’s face it: parenting is hard work. Raising children to be happy, well adjusted, and productive members of society isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Look around. Now, more than ever, we see young adults unable to handle rejection or failure. We have created a generation with a sense of entitlement like we’ve never seen before.

But why? It’s quite simple really. We’ve lost sight of what parenting really means. Does it mean sheltering your child from disappointments? Never letting him fail? Praising him for being mediocre? Pushing him to perfection? Being his friend? No, No, No, No!

But what is a good parent? What must we know about how to raise children? Read on for my 7 Tips for Raising Kids Today:

  1. Be a parent, not a friend. This means you cannot be afraid to be the bad guy. Your child might be angry with you sometimes. Deal with it. The alternative is having an obnoxious kid.
  2. Set limits and boundaries, have rules. And enforce them. Kids need rules and boundaries in order to feel safe. This means you can’t be afraid to say “no”.
  3. Accept your child for whom he is, flaws and all. Nobody is perfect, not even your child. Push him to be his best, not the
  4. Let him fail sometimes. If you don’t, how to you expect him to ever learn how to cope with life’s ups and downs? Nobody is successful at everything. Sometimes, you have to fail in order to succeed.
  5. Hold your child accountable when he makes mistakes. Don’t rescue him or rush in to fix every problem. Give him a chance to make it right on his own. It’s okay for him to struggle a bit. Today’s world demands the ability to admit when you’re wrong and to problem-solve.
  6. Stop telling your kid how he great he is at everything. Point out his strengths and his weaknesses. Yes, every child has some things they are good at, and some things they’re not as good at. It’s important that they know this.
  7. Tell your child you love him, every single day, just the way he is.

So, go ahead, buy the cupcakes at the supermarket. Stop worrying about your make-up or your outfit. Say “no” to being on that committee. You’ve got more important things to do: raising a child.

Helicopter parents not only take too much responsibility for their children and fix their problems to protect them from upset or disappointment; they also tend to be overly punitive by not taking enough responsibility for themselves and blaming their children for their own problems.

When boundaries are poor, a parent tends to bleed the line between her problems and her children’s unable to tell the difference. If she has a problem—exhaustion, impatience, upset—she may make it her child’s problem by reacting punitively and lashing out with blame or criticism for her child’s annoying behavior. If it’s her child’s problem—anger over being told what to do, forgetting homework, getting a bad grade—she may make it her problem by taking responsibility for it, fixing it or trying to making it go away.

When boundaries are not strong and a parent hovers to closely, the child learns to depend on the parent to step in, even in ways he doesn’t like, and so can relinquish responsibility. As he grows, he may lash out hostilely at his parent for creating the dependency he has grown accustomed to.

The most important counter action to helicopter parenting is consciousness-raising on the part of the parent to see the patterns that get established. Becoming aware of tendencies from her own background that prompt her to hover, protect, and control can release the ties and initiate the letting go process.

If you’re not sure whether or not you helicopter parent, ask yourself:

Do I care more about what other people think of me than what my child needs?

Do I stay on his back because I’m afraid he is incapable and will fail if I let up?

Do I worry that she will fall apart if I am not with her?

If he gets a D in math, do I give myself a D in parenting?

(A “yes” answer to any of these indicates hovering.)


• Understand that you are not responsible for your child’s feelings and behavior, but  you are 100% responsible for everything you say and do.

• Don’t take your child’s behavior and words personally. It’s about your child, not about you.

• Own your emotions and behavior, don’t ask your children to take responsibility. Start with I, not you. “I feel so angry when I see laundry on the floor,” rather than “You never listen. How many times have I told you to pick up your dirty clothes?”

• When your child is having a problem, ask questions instead of fix:

What is it you want?

How can you get that?

What can you do about it to change it?

How might that happen?

• Facilitate your child’s thought process rather think for her.

• Allow your children to make small decisions for themselves starting young—what they want to wear, whether they are cold or hot, full or hungry. Teach them to listen to themselves and their own bodies.

• Give them 2 or 3 choices. Sometimes they don’t have a choice about what they have to do, but they do have a choice about how they will feel about it.

• Take risks. It feels like a risk to step back and let your child figure something out himself. The fear is he might fail. Tell yourself, “He will learn from it.”

The more we allow and support our children to be their own person, the easier it becomes to establish healthy boundaries. In the words of Kahlil Gibran:

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

            For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

            You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

            For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.