Read an Excerpt
"Top Ten" List for Dr. Sylvia Rimm's Smart Parenting: How to Raise a Happy, Achieving Child
The complexity of today's parenting makes it important to develop some basic principles to guide parents. In Dr. Sylvia Rimm's book Smart Parenting, four chapters emphasize the foundational concepts that can help parents raise happy, achieving children. She has now developed a top ten list to summarize essential principles to assist parents:
- Praise moderately to avoid pressure; postpone "super-praise". Praise conveys your values to your children and sets expectations for them. No praise conveys the message that you don't believe in them. Reasonable praise, like "good thinker," "hard worker," "smart," "creative," "strong," "kind," and "sensitive" sets high expectations that are within your children's reach. Words like "perfect," "the best," "most beautiful," and "brilliant" set impossible expectations. Children internalize those expectations, and the expectations become pressures when children find they can't achieve those high goals.
- Do not discuss children's problem behaviors within their hearing. Discussion about children also sets expectations for them. If they hear you talking to grandparents and friends about how jealous or mean they are or how shy or fearful they are, or if you refer to them as "little devils" or "ADHD kids," they assume you're telling the truth and believe they can't control these problem behaviors.
- Take charge; don't overpower your children. Your children require leadership and limits to feel secure. Envision the letter V. When children are small, they're at the base of the V withfew choices, little freedom, and small responsibilities that go with that size. As they grow, give them more choices, more freedom, and more responsibilities. Their limits remain. Children will feel trusted. If you reverse that V and children are given too many early choices and freedoms, they feel empowered too early. They resent rules and responsibilities and feel as if you're taking away their freedom. They expect to be treated as adults before they're ready. They became angry, depressed, and rebellious.
- Build resiliency; don't rescue your child from reality. Although children need to develop sensitivity, overprotection encourages dependency and oversensitivity. You can be kind without being oversympathetic. Your children will need to learn to recover from losses and failures, and resiliency will permit them to triumph over obstacles.
- Stay united, be willing to compromise, and say good things about your child's other parent. Leaders in a family that lead in two opposite directions confuse children. Children will not respect parents who show no respect for each other. Turning your children's other parent into an "ogre" or "dummy" may make you feel like a good parent temporarily, but your sabotage will backfire and your children will no longer respect either of you. This is especially hard after divorce, but it is even more important in divided families.
- Hold teachers, education, and learning in high regard. Set your children's educations as first priority. This ideal will become more clear if they hear how much you value learning. Tell them about the best teachers you had and elevate their teachers as well. Set expectations for higher education early so they will assume education does not stop after high school.
- Be positive about your own work and that of your child's other parent. If you walk in the door and complain about your work daily, your children will become anti-work kids. They'll complain about their schoolwork and household chores. If you don't like your work, attempt to find better work and remind them that education provides more job choices.
- Be a role model of ethics, activity, and hard work. Locate other good role models for your children. Your children are watching you. When you "get away with" speeding, keep too much change, or are disrespectful to your mother (their grandmother), they'll notice. When you're interesting and energetic, they'll be equally impressed. You can be a good role model without being perfect, but your imperfections are showing. You don't have to do it all. Introduce your children to friends and mentors who also will be positive influences.
- Enjoy learning experiences with your child. Too many parents of twenty-year-olds have sobbed in my offices because they couldn't find time for their kids when they were growing up. Make time for learning with your kids, and they'll be learners forever. You'll not have regrets, only memories.
- Keep a separate fun time and adult status without giving adult status too soon. Enjoy adult life without your children. Weekly dates and a few adult vacations a year will keep you excited about life. Give your children something to look forward to. They can watch and wait and do child activities with the family. Kids who get adult privileges have responsibilities beyond their maturity.