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Information for Your Teen about Abuse in Relationships

If you’re in a relationship and you feel unhappy about or frightened by the way your partner treats you, you don’t have to put up with it.

It can be hard to know what’s “normal” in a relationship. It can take time to get to know each other and discover what works for you both. But there is one thing that’s for sure: abusive or violent behaviour is not acceptable, and if it’s happening to you it’s OK to ask for help and advice.

Partner abuse can happen to anyone of any age, culture or religion. It can happen to boys or girls, but it’s much more likely to happen to girls. Young people in same-sex relationships are also more likely to be affected.

Tink Palmer, a social worker who works with people who have been abused, says: “No one should have to put up with violence in any form. If it’s happening to you, talk to a person you trust, such as a parent, a trusted adult or a friend. Don’t hold it in, talk to someone.”

What is Abuse in a Relationship?

Abuse can involve physical violence, such as hitting, kicking, pushing, slapping or pressuring you into sex. But there are other forms of abuse, too. Emotional and verbal abuse can involve your boyfriend or girlfriend:

  • Saying things that make you feel small, whether you’re alone or in front of other people
  • Pressuring you to do things you don’t want to do, including sexual things
  • Checking up on you all the time to find out where you are and who you’re with – for example, texting or calling you a lot if you’re out with your friends
  • Threatening to hurt you or someone close to you, including pets

As well as happening when you’re together, emotional and verbal abuse can happen on the phone or on the internet.

Behaviour like this is not about love. It’s about someone controlling you and making you behave how they want. People who abuse a partner verbally or emotionally may turn to violence later on in the relationship. This kind of controlling behaviour is a big warning sign.

Behaviour like this is not OK, even if some people tell you it is. Violence and abuse in relationships is not normal, it is not “just the way things are” or “messing around”. It’s a serious issue.

Being hurt emotionally and physically can harm your self-esteem and make you feel anxious, depressed or ill. Girls who are abused can also develop eating disordersproblems with alcohol and drugs, and be at risk of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy from sexual abuse.

Getting Help for Abuse

If you are in a controlling or abusive relationship and you want help, don’t be scared to talk to someone about it. Remember it’s not your fault, no matter what anyone says, and it is far better to talk about it with someone. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been drinking or what you’ve been wearing. There is no excuse.

It can be difficult to find the right words to ask for help. Try asking someone whether you can talk to them about something. Tell them you need some help or that something is happening and you don’t know what to do.

There are several people you might talk to, such as:

  • An adult mentor or a favourite teacher at school
  • Your mum, dad or another trusted adult, perhaps a friend’s mum
  • An adviser on a helpline such as ChildLine (0800 11 11) (*in the UK)
  • A GP (*family physician) or nurse
  • A friend

And remember, try again if you don’t get the response you think you need. If you are in immediate danger, call 999 (*in the UK – 911 in the US).

If You Think a Friend is Being Abused

If you think a friend might be experiencing abuse, talk to her (your friend might be male, but it is most often girls who experience abuse). “Keep calm, and don’t be judgmental or condemning,” says Palmer. “It can be difficult to talk to a friend, but try. If you’re concerned, don’t worry that you might be wrong, worry that you might be right.”

Try asking your friend if you can talk about something. Tell her you’re worried about her and ask her whether everything is OK. Listen to her and let her know that nobody has to put up with abuse.

If she has been hurt, offer to go to the doctor with her. Have the number of a useful helpline, such as ChildLine on 0800 11 11 (*in the UK), ready to give to her.

Your friend might be angry or upset with you for a while, but she will know that you care and you might have helped her realise she can get help.

If You are Abusing Someone

If you are abusing your partner or you’re worried that you might, you can call ChildLine on 0800 11 11 (*in the UK) or talk to a trusted adult.

“Recognising that your behaviour is wrong is the first step to stopping it. But you may need help to stop,” says Palmer.

Sometimes the things that cause abusive behaviour, such as feelings about things that happened in the past, can be very powerful. “We can’t always stop things on our own, or straight away,” says Palmer. “We do need help, which is why it’s important to talk to someone.”

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

U.S. Resources for Teen Relationship / Domestic Abuse:

 





Teen Narcissism is Worse: Is Social Networking The Cause?

Teen Narcissism Is Increasing – But Just What is Narcissism?

facebook focusedA growing number of researchers are finding a link between social media web-sites and anti-social narcissistic behavior among certain users. So we can be on the same page as the researchers,  narcissism is defined as “self-centered, arrogant, and entitled.”

It’s not just attention-getting or wanting to be liked, but a “pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration—an exaggerated sense of self-importance where the person believes they are special and require excessive admiration from others.”

The phrase, “so-and so is such a narcissist,” is often used in our culture and generally means just a self-centered person. But there is a clear difference when narcissism rises to the level of being a true psychological problem.

The worry is that too hefty a dose of narcissism and an unhealthy overriding belief and exaggerated view that “I’m better than all” can turn into a personality disorder robbing a person’s psychological and emotional well being. So there are two big dangers for our children:

  • First, the narcissist generally has an inability to form healthy, long-term relationships because narcissists  are so focused on themselves.
  • Second is that narcissism diminishes and even shuts down a person’s capacity to empathize or feel for others.

That last danger is the crux of why many child development expert and parents alike are on edge and it’s why I’m very concerned. A landmark report released by Common Sense Media in November of 2015 found that “teenagers (ages 13-18) use an average of nine hours of entertainment media per day and that tweens (ages 8-12) use an average of six hours a day, not including time spent using media for school or homework”. And let’s be real, it’s a rare parent who wants a kid who feels entitled (I’ve yet to find one anyway). It’s why we all –parents, mental health professions, educators, and medical professions–need to dig deeper and review these results carefully and then take an honest look at our children’s needs. Here are facts you need to know:

Study Ties Social Networking to Narcissism…Or Does It?

One study, published by Mary Ann Liebert suggested a link between narcissism and (in this case the social network) Facebook. The researcher concluded that Facebook users with narcissistic behaviors could be clearly identified by contents on their Facebook pages.  The research received quite a buzz in the news.  Here was my take:

While it was an interesting study and worth discussing, more data was needed before drawing conclusions. The research used in the analysis was only a small sample size  (only 100 students were involved), all students were from the same university, and the researcher herself compiled the ratings so results could be biased.

But the results came on the tail of two previous studies that also found a connection between narcissistic behavior and social media and those results should clearly raise our parenting radar.

Study#1: College Students Agree their Generation Is More Self-Centered

Jean Twenge, an associate professor of psychology from San Diego State University and author of Generation Me, conducted fascinating research about kids’ narcissistic behaviors both on and off line. Tracking over 37,000 college students’ personality profiles, Twenge found a most troubling trend.

REALITY CHECK: Young people’s narcissistic personality traits are steadily rising from the 1980s to the present. By 2006, one out of four college students agreed with the majority of the items on a standard measure of narcissistic traits; in 1985 that number was only one in seven.

Twenge’s national survey of 1068 college students also had interesting results. Results found:

REALITY CHECK: 57 percent of college students admitting that social networking makes them more narcissistic and that their peers used social networking sites for self-promotion, narcissism and attention-seeking.

What’s more, over two-thirds of those adolescents surveyed said their generation was “more self-promoting, narcissistic, overconfident and attention-seeking” than others in the past.

Study #2: College Students Are Less Empathic Than Previous Generations

Twenge’s results come on the tails of yet another troubling report. A University of Michigan study of 14000 college students found these results:

REALITY CHECK: College students today show 40 percent less empathy toward others than college students in 1980s and 1990s The researcher hypothesized that because there are fewer face-to face interactions (largely due to the rise of net connection) empathy is also declining.

Put all of those studies together. Results from three large scale, longitudinal studies lead by major researchers at major universities found a decrease in kids’ empathy and an increase in narcissistic, self-centered-like behavior. Now it is time to be concerned…very concerned.

Don’t Put the Blame All On Social Networking….Just Yet

If there is a growing narcissistic streak among teens and young adults, let’s not put ALL the blame on social networking sites. (Note: As of 4th quarter 2015, there were over 1.5 billion monthly active Facebook users and not all are narcissists – or at least I hope not.  This number does not include Periscope users, Instagram users, Snapchat users, etc.).  What a social network DOES provide is a great place for a teen who feels a bit more entitled to draw attention to himself, self-promote, and show the world just how great he is.

So let’s not put all the blame on social networks for how our kids are turning out. In that regard, I fear we have only ourselves to blame.

Trendy girl make a selfieThe more probable causes to the dawn of the “Self-Annointed Kid” is a parental style that pushes too much entitlement, too many trophies too soon, too much “ME-ME-ME”, too much “center stage” and not enough good ‘ol “NOs” and focusing on “THEM.”

Researchers also point out that a celebrity saturated culture that emphasizes the rich and famous, is another culprit along with the breakdown of face-to-face connection, and a society that seems too often to be under-stressing those good old home-spun virtues like kindness, cooperation and helpfulness.

So what’s a parent to do? What do you do if you think you are the proud owner of a budding little narcissistic–or at least a kid who feels entitled-on your hands?

Your first step is to recognize the problem.

Your second step is to use research-based parenting solutions to curb your child’s self-centeredness, and do so pronto.

Tell-Tale Signs of a Budding Kid Narcissist

Researchers say there are a few indicators that could indicate narcissism in youth who are social networking.

Keep in mind, it’s not one sign but a combination of behaviors your should watch for in your teen. You should see these same narcissistic behaviors both off screen as well as on. Here are ways to start observing:

  • Be Where Your Teen Is. Your first step is to make sure you have an account on the same social networks as your teen and that you have befriended him or her so you can follow your teen’s presence. You do NOT have to post on your teen’s account (usually a HUGE turn off, but you do have to be where your teen is online so you can monitor your teen’s presence.
    This isn’t spying (get over it!), this is parental monitoring. You announce ahead to your teen that you will be monitoring. It’s part of being a parent. See the Internet as virtual extension of your child’s playground. You monitored there, right? So monitor your teen online!
  • View Online Presence Together. A great exercise to do with your teen is to view his or her online presence together. Ask: “What does this say about you to someone else who may not know you?” “Why did you choose that photo?” etc. Don’t be judgmental (you’ll get nowhere) but just inquisitive. It might be a great eye-opener.

4 Possible Signs of Teen Narcissism 

  1. All About Me: Tune into your teen’s primary motive for using a social network. Is it primarily for connection to be with others or a place to self-promote? Young narcissists are all self-promoting and not to use their social networks as an opportunity to commiserate with peers.
  2. Read and listen to those pronouns: Is the teen using those “Me, I and My” pronouns so every entry is about how “I’m doing” and rarely about “What are you up to?” Does she always refer to herself and her needs and delete the other population? (Teens are egocentric so expect some Me-Me-Me verbiage. Be concerned when it’s exclusively Me-Me-Me and little Her-Him-Them.”
  3. Self Promotion: Narcissists are more likely to choose glamorous, self-promoting pictures for their main profile photos, while those who are not so inclined are more likely to use simple snapshots. But also check your teen’s offline presence. Look at those screen-savers and ask yourself what they tell about your teen.
  4. Competition: Researchers say a key sign is the teen who constantly (multiple times daily) checks into the network to count his FB friends and then announces that number. The studies found that the more teens checked in and the more they announced their FB friends the higher the narcissism. But off-line is your kid doing the same (checking or comparing her abilities verses others).

Countering the Teen Narcissism Epidemic

If you suspect your child is a budding little narcissist, the cure isn’t pulling their social media accounts. Chances are high that your teen earned that “entitlement” image before logging onto a social network. Center your parenting efforts on these strategies instead:

  • Refocus Your Praise Temper those oohs and ahhs that focus only on your kid. Watch out for lavish sugar-coated, undeserved praise and giving out a trophy for every little thing.
    Instead stress your child’s inside qualities like kindness, cooperation and reinforce “selfless” acts so your child starts to become aware of the rights, feelings, and needs of others. Sigh!
  • Lower the Curtain Ask yourself if you always single out your teen’s performance in a group activity over the other participants. If so, watch your focus and start emphasizing your teen’s teammates.
  • Teen Girl Helps the HomelessNurture Empathy Narcissistic, entitled kids shut down their capacity to understand where other people are coming. Because they only focus on “ME,” it’s hard to put themselves into someone else’s shoes and feel how they feel. So nurture your teen’s empathy. Point out other people’s feelings. Ask, “How does the other person feel?” The best antidote for selfishness and entitlement is to boost empathy.
  • Boost Face-to-Face Interaction Boost face to face interaction opportunities to help him see beyond himself. Help him focus on the views of others. You don’t learn empathy by facing a screen. Keep in mind that this is the generation who prefers to text than talk and all that screen time doesn”t develop those key skills for emotional intelligence, social competence, empathy and moral development. Set up sacred “unplugged” family times. Hold family dinners! And grab those cell phones and put them on hold during key times your family is together.

The best way to learn benevolence and selflessness is not lecturing about it but providing kids with real opportunities to do for others. So find ways your family – and particularly your teen – can do community service and emphasize others not themselves: Work at a shelter. Deliver gently-used possessions to charity. Pitch in to help the elderly neighbor rake her leaves. Find real and meaningful opportunities tailored to your child’s passions!

The real parenting goal is for our children to learn one wonderful life lesson: Doing good for others is one of the greatest ways to feel good about who you are as a person. And doing good for others is also has a hidden benefit: it’s one of the simplest and best ways to boost happiness.

Resources for this report:

  • Ypulse survey of 1068 college students was done with Jean Twenge, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State when asked about narcissism in a poll on social networking sites in June by Ypulse, August 2009.
  • University of Michigan study culled 72 studies that gauged empathy among 14,000 students over 30 years. They found college students today have 40% less empathy than students in the 1980s and 1990s. The researcher suggested its because there are fewer face-to face interactions. “Empathy is best activated when you can see another person signal for help.”

***************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com

Thawing Your Teen’s Cold Shoulder

girl ignoring momWhen it comes to teens, parents sometimes feel like they’re dealing with a different species all together.  Things like raging hormones, stress, sleep deprivation, growth spurts, self-consciousness and neurological wiring make teens super sensitive, moody and irritable. They’re stuck in the middle of childhood and adulthood with the an urge to be independent. More physical changes are happening to their bodies that at any other developmental period in their life. Research confirms that their brains are wired differently so expect them to be a uniquely difficult species. Those are just a few reasons why parents also feel this is one of the most difficult periods of parenting.

On the Today show I shared tips with Al Roker to help parents thaw out a teen’s cold shoulder so they can stay connected. Here are a few of the highlights of that segment.

The key parenting secret (nothing new on this one) is to “know thy teen.” After all, no two kids are alike. Once you know what’s “normal” for your teen, you can then look for any behavior that deviates too much from his or her standard. That’s why it’s so important to tune into your teen’s mood. Doing so will help you understand a little more about what might be going on with your kid at this critical stage of development. Most of us were “experts” in about those baby years as we devoured all those baby books but not nearly as knowledgeable about those crucial teen years.

There are a number of reasons that your teen might be giving you the cold shoulder. Here are among the most common causes:

  1. Stress: School, schedules, tests, worrying about the future, college acceptances, sleep deprivation
  2. Peer pressure and the social scene: Girlfriends/boyfriends, fitting in, peer pressure
  3. Substance abuse: Drugs, alcohol, steroids, prescription drugs (Don’t be too quick to say, “Not my kid.” Beware that it might be a possibility).
  4. Hormonal changes: A sudden growth spurt, puberty.
  5. A bad habit: Your teen has a bad attitude that you’ve allowed.
  6. Your own attitude: Might the trigger be how you treat your child? To figure this one out, use the “friend test”: Would you talk to a friend the way you relate to your teen? If your friend won’t tolerate it, it’s time to be honest and change your attitude.

There are a number of ways to improve a relationship with a teen. The key is to find what works with your teen, use an attitude of “patient persistence,” and hang in there! Here are a few ways to thaw out a cold shoulder:

  • Learn 2 txt! Many teens say they would respond more to their parents if they were to use text. Teens actually prefer texting – so to get in your teen’s world, learn to text!
  • Be 80 percent positive, 20 percent negative. Use the “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it” policy. The ideal formula is to strive to be at least 80 percent positive and 20 percent negative when dealing with your teen. Slowly stretch your time together without a cold shoulder or blow up. Better to have your interactions be short and positive to thaw out a relationship
  • Learn the words “I’m sorry.” Apologize when you are wrong and sincerely convey that you hope you never have “another last night.”
  • Give kudos. Find anything your teen is doing that deserves recognition.
  • Hope for the truth. Find some truth in what your teen is saying. Even if it seems
    unreasonable. You don’t have to agree with what he says. But strive to find one part where he’s right. “Can’t say I agree, but you sure are learning some great debating principles.”
  • His time + Your time = The right time. Identify the time your teen is most receptive, and then use that as the optimal time to approach your teen. Hint: Most teens are sleep-deprived and actually on a different time zone than adults.
  • Get into his zone. Go to a basketball game, a concert, the movies, Starbucks, the mall, the batting cage, yoga class or any other place that your kid loves. Just go together and let him know you care about his world.
  • Halt communication blockers. There are a few communication almost guaranteed to tune teens out and off.  Here are a few communication blockers to avoid: Talking too much or lecturing. Using sarcasm, put downs and judgments. Multi-tasking instead of giving your kid your presence. Too intense of eye contact. An irritable tone of voice. Being too rushed to pay attention

Target one change you want to try at a time, and keep working at the new behavior until it becomes a new habit. Thawing a teen’s cold shoulder may take awhile. (Think of an iceberg as your image). If you don’t see a gradual warming up, then use the old pen and paper technique. One mom told me that she used a journal to write comments back and forth with her son which really helped reduce conflict and rebuild the relationship. If you still continue to get that cold shoulder, then consider counseling. Just don’t give up!

***************************************************************************************************************Borba - book cover -parentingsolutions140x180

Dr Borba’s book The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, is one of the most comprehensive parenting book for kids 3 to 13. This down-to-earth guide offers advice for dealing with children’s difficult behavior and hot button issues including biting, tantrums, cheating, bad friends, inappropriate clothing, sex, drugs, peer pressure and much more. Each of the 101 challenging parenting issues includes specific step-by-step solutions and practical advice that is age appropriate based on the latest research . The Big Book of Parenting Solutions is available at amazon.com

Games for Building Better Family Bonds

Family laughing and playing cardsYour typical afternoon probably goes like this: Pick up kids from school; shuttle to soccer game, music class and dance lessons; head to the grocery store; then get back home in time to make dinner. And even though the time you spend with your kids is precious, you probably wouldn’t classify this minivan marathon as quality time.

But who’s to say that everyday experiences can’t turn into special moments that strengthen family bonds? And what better way to infuse laughter and fun than with games that draw out every family member?

“Using this time for fun activities reinforces the idea that you can take pleasure in the mundane parts of life,” says Cynthia Copeland, author of Fun on the Run: 324 Instant Family Activities. “It also teaches kids to make the most of what’s available to them.”

Check out Copeland’s kid-friendly game ideas and create memorable moments in the car, at the market and the family dinner table.

In the Car   Instead of popping in a DVD, use car time to get kids to observe their surroundings.

  • For short trips  Crank up the radio. Pick a common word you’re likely to hear in songs, such as “love” or “time”. As your kids listen, they can announce when they hear the key words, keeping track of how many they hear. The one who racks up the most callouts by the time you reach your destination wins.
  • On a long ride Choose a highway-related category — such as “semi-trucks,” “red cars,” “fast-food restaurant signs” or “billboards” — but don’t reveal it to anyone. Next, count out loud each time you spot the object, letting your kids guess the category. The correct guesser takes over by coming up with a new category and starting the game again.

In the Grocery Store   If your kids aren’t old enough to help you find items on your list, these games will keep them entertained, learning and bonding with you.

  • For children old enough to count Engage her in a guessing or number game. Ask her to figure out which items in your cart add up to $10. Have her guess how many people will be in line, how many minutes it will take to get through the checkout or how much is the total amount of the bill. If your child can also read, turn the tables and let her quiz you! Have her read the nutrition label on a box of, say, cereal, and ask you how many grams of protein, fiber and sugar it contains. She’ll get a kick out of being the quizzer and telling you whether you’re right or wrong. (This also opens the door for you to slip in mini-lessons on nutrition.)
  • For toddlers A simple hiding game is enough to keep a little one’s attention. Pick out an item from your list, take it off the shelf and then together, find a place to hide it — behind boxes or cans — in another aisle. Throughout your shopping trip, remind your little guy about the secret place that only the two of you know about. If he can talk, ask him questions about it: What color is the box? When do we eat this kind of food? Check back periodically to see if the item is still hidden. Finally, place the item in your cart before you check out.

At the Dinner Table Besides being fun, a game at mealtime gives you a little extra face time with your kids. “Entertainment is an incentive for them to stay at the table, and inevitably, it opens up the channels of conversation,” says Copeland. You needn’t spend the entire meal playing games; play one each night as a dinner icebreaker, and your kids are more likely to chat and share toward the end of the meal.

Here are a few games to try:

  • Word of mouth A version of the old favorite telephone, this game starts with someone mouthing a sentence to the person across the table about what they did today. That person must then say aloud what they think their table mate said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the person gets it wrong, but it doesn’t matter — each guess usually ends in a good laugh, and you get to hear about some part of a family member’s day you might not have talked about otherwise,” she adds.
  • Creative round robin Copeland likes creative storytelling games because they allow imaginations to run wild and help sharpen your memory — a bonus for kids and adults. To play, start a story with a general and true phrase, such as “I saw a dog today.” Then go around the table and have each family member contribute, repeating the previous sentences before they add on their own. Encourage everyone to be as silly as they like.
  • Would you rather Go around the table, and have each person ask another family member a question that starts with “Would you rather …?” The questions can be on any topic, serious or not. Even suggest different rounds, such as one that’s goofy (Would you rather have floppy clown feet or big Mickey Mouse ears?), one that’s more serious (Would you rather vacation by the beach or in the mountains?) or one that’s gross (Would you rather eat ants or monkey brains?). Encourage the responder to explain the logic behind the answer, and you’ll get rare insight.

After all, isn’t it better to at least discover why someone prefers monkey brains than only hearing that school was “fine”?


Restoring Parental Joy to Support Happy, Healthy Kids

Restoring parenting joyParenthood is supposed to be a joy-filled journey – or so the ads and Facebook memes tell us. So why does it seem as though our days are largely about nagging, supervising homework, changing diapers and shuttling kids to and from their activities? What’s wrong with this picture?

“Today’s mothers are stressed out, overworked and pulled in so many directions that it can be hard to find the pleasure in parenting,” says Barbara Siergiewicz, a certified parent coach and child development specialist based in Rockport, Mass. “But if you remember how happy you were when you got pregnant and what you appreciate about your children, instead of the challenges of parenting, you’re making a choice to be joyful.”  And happy parents create a happier, healthier environment for kids.

Follow this roadmap to restore the pleasure of parenting:

Make a Heart Connection

Set aside time every day to have a meaningful conversation with your child – one that’s focused on feelings, not homework or chores. “Ask open-ended questions to find out what’s going on in your child’s life,” advises Siergiewicz. “For example, ‘What was the best thing that happened today?’ or ‘What was the funniest thing that happened?’” No matter where the conversation takes place – whether over dinner or in the car – stay in the moment by listening intently. This will create a more relaxed, closer parent-child relationship and will foster what Siergiewicz calls the “heart connection.”

Stop the Gripe Sessions

Sure, it feels good to vent to your BFFs about your kids’ picky eating or to send a Twitter feed about your mom meltdown. But making it a habit is a big mistake – and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. “If you concentrate on the negative of parenting, it’s like pouring kerosene on the fire,” says Siergiewicz. “Negativity begets negativity — and that will keep you from rediscovering the joy of being a parent.” Try sharing the good things – photos of your child playing in the snow or news of a school concert – and you’ll be rewarded with a glow of pride.

Catch Them Being Good

“Many parents expect adult-level performance from their kids, and they’re not capable of delivering it,” says Siergiewicz. This sets up a lose-lose situation, with the child falling short and the parents feeling perpetually disappointed. Rather than focusing on what your 10-year-old does wrong and nagging him about it (which isn’t very joyful), accept that he’ll make mistakes and praise him for what he does right. Saying “Thanks for putting away your toys” or “Thanks for clearing your plate without being asked” reinforces good behavior. As Siergiewicz notes, “Positive feedback will boost your child’s self esteem and lead to more of the positive behavior you want to see.” And the better the behavior, the less nagging you’ll need to do.

Clear the Calendar

Jam-packed schedules are a recipe for cranky kids and exhausted parents. Limit your child to just two extracurricular activities each week – say, basketball and guitar lessons – so everyone will have a chance to relax, recharge and reconnect. The less time you spend racing from one activity to another, the more time you’ll have to be in the moment with your children and simply enjoy their company.

Create Family Rituals

Families need regular fun time, whether it’s watching a movie together on Friday night or going out for breakfast on Saturday morning. Having something that everyone can look forward to helps increase the joy. “Family rituals that are positive, loving and nurturing – where parents and children are focused on each other – create lasting memories that sustain us through hard times,” says Siergiewicz. (Like those days when you’re busy carpooling!)



How to Be a Better Dad

The bond between mother and child gets a lot of attention, but what about the ties between fathers and their children? Research out of Pennsylvania State University and the University of California has shown that father-child interactions are central to everything from a child’s ability to regulate emotionally to the capacity to maintain strong, fulfilling social relationships later in life. Here, simple ways for dads to get closer to their sons and daughters.

Show Your Love

Mothers and fathers provide different kinds of physical stimulation and comfort, and those differences help kids stretch their capacities both emotionally and physically. But physical connection isn’t just about wrestling on the floor or playing catch; it’s about showing your child how much you care. Hugs and kisses for younger kids, arm around the shoulder or pat on the back for older ones — physical contact make kids feel loved. “Saying I love you is not enough,” says child psychologist Steven Richfield, author of The Parent Coach: A New Approach to Parenting in Today’s Society. “Demonstrating that in heartfelt ways — with tangible physical displays of affection — is very important.”

Develop Rituals

Engaging in a ritualized activity with your child day after day, month after month, lets your child feel loved and special. Ethan Barker of Farmington, Mich., plays a pretend game he calls “Let’s Go” with his daughter most nights before he puts her to bed. “She became interested in the globe in her room, and so we made up a game where we spin it and pretend we are going to go wherever our finger points when the globe stops spinning,” he says. “We have a make-believe suitcase, and talk about what we’d like to bring and what we might do when we get there. She really gets excited about it each night, and so do I.”

Find Your Inner Child

“Fathers can have closer relationships with their kids if they’re willing to regress in the service of the relationship,” says Dr. Richfield. “They need to have a real capacity to enter the child’s world.” With younger kids that may mean playing make-believe or singing silly songs; with older ones it might be playing video games or watching music videos. It’s not enough to stand back and watch; you need to get involved in whatever’s capturing your child’s attention and imagination.

Hit the Books

While mothers purchase upwards of 90 percent of the parenting literature, fathers could benefit from some book learning as well. “You have to do a little reading. I think fathers are in the dark, especially during the first six or so years,” says Dr. Richfield. “You have to become educated to develop a bond with your child. Learning what boys and girls need at any given age — and these needs are pretty much the same for both sexes when they’re young — helps fathers become closer to their kids. To be able to give them what they desire, you really have to know about their world.”