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Recognize that kids will act out when they’re stressed or you’re stressed. Take time to calm down and strategize about what you really want from your kids (such as helping them grow up well) rather than what you immediately want from them (such as becoming quiet).
Balance the amount of times you say yes and the times you say no to your child. You don’t want to refuse everything your child asks for, but you also don’t want to give in every time. Work on making your yeses more about creative ways to assert your values and boundaries in a positive way.
Make your home a fun place. Some families put up a basketball hoop. Others create an area for teens to hang or play video games. Some have scrapbooking supplies or other crafts for kids. Others stock the fridge.
Be sensitive to what embarrasses your child. Young teens in particular can be extremely self-conscious. Connect with them in playful ways but notice when your child’s mood starts to change.
Don’t ask children if they’ve told the truth; this can corner them into telling another lie. Instead, say something like, “It can be hard to tell the truth sometimes. It’s okay for you to make a mistake, but it isn’t okay for you to lie about what happened.”
When you know your young child has lied (and they all do at times), point it out. Explain why it’s wrong to lie. Talk about how important it is to be honest.
When you fudge the truth, admit it and apologize. This sounds simple, but it is not always easy.
Call your children’s attention to times when their words and actions don’t match and times when they do. Encourage them to do the same for you.
You are both teacher and role model of positive values. The ways in which you talk about values and live by them will strongly influence your children’s development of them, especially when your children become teenagers.
Think about your children’s passions and interests. Look for ways they can make a difference in those areas. Do they love dogs? How about helping them collect pet food or soft rags for an animal shelter? Are they passionate about music? Let them share their talent in a family talent show.
It’s important to be involved as a family in events or activities, even if you are separated or divorced. If possible, this could mean setting aside differences and attending your child’s performance or school conference together.
Teach children about integrity in simple ways. For example, explain, “When someone thanks you for doing something you didn’t do, it’s important to say so. You can say, ‘Thanks for thanking me, but my brother did it.’”
Be willing to apologize to your parenting partner when it’s appropriate. If your child was within earshot of an argument between your partner and you or witnessed negative behavior, let them hear the apology as well.
Regularly make a point of saying something positive to your co-parent about his or her parenting techniques. Supporting each other is “key” to good parenting.
When you need time to concentrate, or for private or serious conversation with someone else, tell your children how long it will take and what you expect from them during that time. When you are finished, let them know they can once again have your attention.
Start a “thought sharing” tradition. At a meal, bedtime, or another time when there are few distractions, get in the habit of sharing one thing about your day, something interesting you each thought of, a hope or a dream, or another open-ended topic.
Use “active listening” with your children: Ask good questions, paraphrase what they say to make sure you understand, and show that you empathize with what they are saying.
If your children aren’t involved in any out-of-school activities, encourage them to try something new. It’s important for young people to stay involved in these types of opportunities, even if they aren’t the “stars of the show.”
Praise your child when he or she acts in ways that are caring or responsible. Kids need to hear that you’re proud of them and that they are making good choices (even when you’re not happy with all their choices).