Laurence Steinberg is one of the country's most distinguished psychologists, a professor of psychology at Temple University, and author of The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting. He says, "The strongest and most consistent predictor of children's mental health, adjustment, happiness, and well-being is the level of involvement of their parents in their life. Children with involved parents do better in school, feel better about themselves, are less likely to develop emotional problems, and are less likely to take risks or get into trouble. There is nothing more important to your child's psychological development than your deep and sustained involvement. This is true whether your child is an infant, a teenager, or at any point in between."
versation with one of my sons before school was just certain to create friction. I swear the kid didn't physically wake up until noon. I also realized that the best time was at 4:30 P.M. in front of the refrigerator. And that's exactly where I placed myself one day, appearing as though I was putting dishes away while really finding time to connect. Identify the best (and worst) times to connect with your child.
Step Two: Temper Your Critical Side. What turns kids off very quickly is your being critical and judgmental. No shaming, blaming, or yelling. Watch your body language: no rolling eyes or shrugging shoulders. Make a contest for yourself: What's the longest you can go without judging or being critical? Time yourself and then keep gradually lengthening that time and changing your behavior.
Step Three: Find One Positive Thing. Just one! One of my girlfriends who was going through hell with her son told me she began by telling him he blew great bubbles from his bubble gum. It was the only thing positive she could find in her kid. You're looking for something—anything—that deserves recognition. No sappy, marshmallowy, sugarcoated praise. It doesn't work, and kids see right through it. Be brief and specific: "Thanks for feeding the dog. I appreciate it." (Say it like you mean it, Mom!) "Hey, nice haircut. Looks good." (Then walk on, and don't expect anything in return. Ignore any sarcasm or denials.) She's probably not used to hearing positive comments.
Step Four: Connect with Your Kid's World. Don't be a bron-tosaurus. I'm not suggesting you get a makeover and start dressing like a fifteen-year-old, but do take an interest in your child's culture. Read the movie reviews (so you can casually mention a new movie in town); look up game scores for his favorite team and drop them into the conversation ("Wow, the Giants sure walloped the Dodgers, didn't they?"); check the TV schedule for shows she likes ("Gilmore Girls is on tonight, right? I'll try to make sure dinner is served on time so you can see it."). At first, just gently drop little nuggets of information. Later it may generate a conversation when he sees you're interested in his world. Take an interest in her friends. At least take an interest in finding out who they are. Offer to store favorite kid food in the fridge, save pizza discount coupons, and make your house kid friendly.
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