"As children grow older, parents must give them greater freedom, including greater freedom to make mistakes. "

Parenting 101

Welcome to Parenting 101. Upon passing this course, you will have acquired what it takes to raise children who are mannerly, self-disciplined and do their best in school. As you will see, the fundamentals in question do not include various clever means of manipulating reward and punishment:

1. If you are married with children, put your marriage first. Your relationship with your spouse should be considerably more active than your relationship with your children. You should pay more attention to your spouse, talk more to your spouse, do more for your spouse, and spend more time with your spouse than you pay, talk, do, and spend with your kids. Nothing more effectively secures a child's sense of well-being than knowing his parents are taking care of their relationship.

2. If you are single with children, have lots of interests outside of your interest in your children. Have hobbies, friends, activities, and a job that take your attention away from your kids. In so doing, you will become interesting to them. They will have greater respect for you, and they will pay you more attention. Married or single, be the center of your children's universe as opposed to letting them be the center of yours.

3. By the time your kids are 3, you should build a boundary between yourself and them, one that limits their access to you. Let them know that you are not at their beck and call and insist that they respect your privacy.

4. Say "No" more than you say "Yes." Actually, the proportion should be at least 5 to 1. The only children who can't take "No" for an answer have parents who do not say it often enough and cannot say it with conviction.

5. The secret to effective discipline is assuming a posture of loving leadership in their lives. Leadership is a simple matter of acting like you (a) know what you're doing, (b) know where you're going, (c) know what you want, and (d) know you are going to get it. That translates to a calm, confident, casual parenting style.

6. You need to put yourself at the center of your child's attention, not the other way around. It is a simple matter to discipline a child who is paying attention to you and almost impossible to discipline a child who is not. The more attention you pay a child, the less attention the child will pay to you.

7. Put your child into a meaningful role in your family, one that is defined in terms of responsibilities known as chores. By the time your child is 4, he should be contributing to the maintenance of the household everyday.

8. Your child's chores should not be assigned haphazardly, but should be established as a routine. In addition to picking up after himself and keeping his own living space clean and orderly, he should be working in "common areas" of the home, doing such things as dusting and vacuuming.

9. Without chores, a child is a mere consumer, on a perpetual entitlement program, and entitlements do not strengthen people or culture. Grow a strong child.

10. Keep television and other electronic media out of your child's life until your child has learned to read well and is self-entertaining. The research is clear that electronic media shortens attention span, interferes with the development of certain critical thinking skills, and develops a dependency that leads to frequent complaints of boredom.

11. Remember that an average of just two hours of "screen time" a day means your child is absorbing electronic stimulation to the tune of 730 hours a year. That's the equivalent of eighteen 40-hour work weeks. Think of the creativity that's being lost. Grow a child with a strong brain.

12. From day one, keep clutter out of your child's life by keeping toys and other "stuff" at a minimum. Paradoxically, children who entertain themselves well (low-maintenance children) tend to have few toys. These children are also more grateful for and take better care of what they have. Grow an imaginative, creative child.

Copyright 2008, John K. Rosemond

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