What Worry Does

A recent report showed that ill people who know that many  people were worried about their illness actually did worse than  those who knew that few were worried about them.

All parents worry. But the extent that we worry may impact  our children negatively. When we worry we focus on the negative  and our children feel the focus. Subconsciously they gravitate  to actions that keep them as their parents’ preoccupation. We  can actually perpetuate problems in school or illness at home by  setting up that expectation. Worry is often based on irrational  unrealistic fears. But those fears may control our feelings  toward our children’s problem. If children don’t feel the  confidence from their parents that they will get better, they  tend not to heal as fast. Likewise, in school if kids don’t  feel their parent’s support and confidence they don’t succeed in  school as easily.

Our children respond to us from the attention we give and  the control we grant them. If their behavior (I stink at  spelling, or I have a headache) gets the parent’s attention and  controls the parent’s response it may become a behavior that is  fostered to continue. These behaviors may not be positive for  the child in any other way except for the subconscious attention  it draws to him. Headaches, stomachaches, emotional outbursts,  and even less than optimal school performance may pull us into  the same trap that temper tantrums do. (Certainly, many  illnesses, school problems, and emotional outbursts need serious  attention. Usually, in these cases, there are more objective  signs that teachers, doctors, or even parents can see that  support the need for addressing the child’s problem.)

So how can we avoid this negative spiral? Parents need to  always temper how much attention they are paying to a problem.  Too much attention may perpetuate any problem. We also have to  measure how much a problem is controlling the household – the  discussions, the actions, and, yes, even the worry a problem is  causing. Get an objective opinion whether the problem is worth  all the concern. Set a positive course to fix the problem and  then have faith and confidence in the resolution. The more we  can move away from preoccupation and worry to action and  confidence, the more we can get away from any traps that  attention and control can draw us into. If problems are real  and worth more concern, you will get another chance to reassess  your action.

Many of today’s parents tell me that their parents always  blew off their illnesses when they were kids. “Oh you’ll be  fine – just take some Tylenol. Your headache will go away.”  Some people criticize their parents for being too insensitive.  Maybe they had it partially correct – they didn’t get too  worried and we didn’t get too much attention for mild illnesses.

Why Yelling Doesn’t Work

I use to be a yeller. Yes, even pediatricians yell at their kids. But I have reformed and yell much less now  then in the beginning of my parenting career. Over time, I  saw what my yelling really was doing. It created fear. It  intimidated my children, even my kids who were not the  target of my yelling. It created tension between me and my  wife and my kids. I always felt bad after yelling. And,  most important, it didn’t work to convince my kids to my  point of view. In fact, it often backfired and made my  children back into the trenches of verbal warfare and work  hard to hold their positions. As I contemplated the issue  of yelling in context of my overall parenting philosophy, I  realized that there were good reasons why yelling wasn’t  working.

In my philosophy of parenting, children often behave  in ways that work toward two goals – getting attention from  their parents and controlling their parent’s response.  These two factors become more of a motivation for children  in moments of conflict with parents. Children know we have  more power in decision making especially regarding  purchases, transportation and finances. But that doesn’t  mean they cannot exert some power by controlling our  response by pushing us in arguments to the point of  yelling. How powerful is it for children to “push our  buttons” enough to see a parent have a temper tantrum? And  since they are the focus of the attention (even though it  is negative attention) they are receiving a second victory  especially over their siblings who are not the focus of  attention. So, when I was in a yelling fit with my child,  I was actually falling into a subtle trap set for me by my  child and feeding some subconscious need. So I needed to  change my tactics.

I set goals for myself to see how many days, weeks and  months I can go without yelling. It takes a lot of  practice. It is natural for our kids to want to argue with  us. And they do not want to end an argument. As a result,  if we become committed to the ending of arguments, then we  may avoid getting to the point of yelling. We can end  arguments sooner if we stick with our initial answer and  refuse to engage any further in discussion no matter what  else is said!!

The other time parents yell is when children won’t do  things we ask them to do. The same motivational factors  for children to push us to yelling exist in this situation.

So it is possible to create a life free of yelling.  You may come up with your own tricks. But now that you  know that yelling doesn’t work, you may want to try  something new. Hopefully, my tips will motivate you to try  a new approach before you let your kids see more of your  temper tantrums.

Why Ask Why?

Why do you always have temper fits when you don’t get your way? Why do you whine to me after school? Why do you  always complain about dinners? Why do you always fight with  your sister? Why do all parents ask these questions?

These questions are an expression of frustration by  parents over behavior exhibited by our children. We as  parents all fall into the trap of asking these questions  whether they serve a purpose or not. Do these questions  ever get answered? No they do not. These questions can be  demeaning and labeling for children. That is how children  feel when they hear these questions. They are labeled as a  fighter, whiner, or complainer. Just in the asking of  these questions the child is criticized and treated as one  who is acting as a child should not act. Perhaps they  should not act that way but changing that behavior takes  time. When parents accept their children’s behavior as  natural, and accept their behavior as action that all  children try with their parents, then parents can forget  the “why” questions and move towards more appropriate  responses to the behavior. The “why” questions only expose  a parent who is not accepting their children acting as all  our children act.

How can we better deal with frustrating moments with  our children? How can we reach a place where we can be  more accepting of how our children act towards us?

First we need to be accepting of the fact that in our  role as parent we will face children acting in childish  ways. All parents face similar behaviors. All children  try the same behaviors on for size. As a parent we will  encounter whining, complaining, tantrums, accidents and  other childish acts that we cannot control. Many parents  spend valuable time asking “why do I have to face this  behavior in my child?” Why waste time asking “why”? If  we can function at a higher level by accepting our kids as  kids, their developmental level and their childish acts  then we are ready to respond better. Yes, all parents must  accept that their children will act in very embarrassing  and childish ways.

Don’t take me wrong. Acceptance of your child’s  behavior does not mean giving in to every whim. Part of  acceptance is educating yourself about your role and how  you can better respond to your kids. Acceptance gives you  a place from which you can act without fighting the reality  of your situation. Acceptance gets you over the why  questions and moves you towards “how do I respond”  questions. This is where you have control. This is where  you can decide how to act, ignore, or give fair consequence  to your children’s behaviors. Acceptance gets you over the  anger brought on with “why” questions and lets you treat  your children with greater kindness. You no longer act in  condemning ways but with a more fair response to your  child’s manner.

Why questions make a child question themselves. Your  acceptance of them gives them more leeway to accept  themselves. Children that grow up with less questioning  and less condemnation grow up liking themselves and turn  into confident people. It is purely for that reason that  acceptance of your children’s behaviors is important to you  in your life as a parent and to your children in their life  as a child. After acceptance, remember that it is your  responses to your child’s behavior that can make the  behavior better. From a place of acceptance a parent is in  a more peaceful position to choose a response that teaches  their child how they should or should not behave.

Where Are Our Heroes?

Children look up to heroes. Young children look at fairy tale or fictitious heroes. Harry Potter, Superman, and Batman –  we can name hundreds of heroes in fiction. But as children  grow, they graduate to real heroes. These could be sports stars  or people in the news. This is a sad time for children since we  have so many fallen stars. Barry Bonds, the biggest home run  hero of our time, cheated by using steroids. An American  cyclist, Floyd Landis, came back to victory in the Tour de  France only to have his victory clouded under doping  allegations. Our President is usually an obvious choice of a  hero yet our last two Presidents failed our children. Clinton  is famous for his cheating on his wife and Bush made up reasons  for war and has made America famous for torture. Hollywood  props up movie stars as heroes but then we hear about their  drunk driving or their prejudicial remarks or both.  Unfortunately, there are only a few Tom Brady’s around. We hope  that our newly elected officials live up to there promises and  reputations, though we are losing faith.

Kids need heroes. But more importantly, they need adults  that they can look up to and respect. I once heard in a  parenting conference that what children need is an “influential  adult” outside their family who becomes their local hero. These  “influential adults” can be teachers, coaches, or community  leaders. They aren’t famous heroes because over time kids turn  away from their infatuation with distant heroes and turn their  attention to real tangible, respectable adults who are involved  in their lives. To that end, adults in every community need to  respond to this era of poor examples of heroes at the top. We  have to become the heroes on the bottom. Every adult in every  community needs to evaluate how he or she is demonstrating him  or herself as an example to young adults. What child will look  up to you as an “influential adult” in their lives? At home,  are you there for them or do you disappear too often to ensure  you have your fun? Do you provide examples of good community  work? Do you volunteer or donate time or money? Do you expect  returns for your good works or is it truly given like real  heroes do? Do you simply act in kindness so children see and  live kindness around you?

You can’t ask “what is happening with kids today?” without  asking what is happening to heroes for kids today? We, the  adults, can make a difference inside and outside of our homes.  We need to start in our small communities. Do good work in your  community. Donate time to worthwhile projects. Work with food  pantries, or help the elderly. Don’t expect praise but let your  children and other kids witness your good acts. Be kind. Live  a well-valued life – especially those of us that work with  children. If we start at home and in our communities we can be  heroes for our children. They need them. We can build a  community of “heroes” pitching in and helping each other. Maybe  over time local heroism will filter up to where we need them for  our children the most in the high visible places of our country.

Whatever Happened To Sportsmanship

I am a sports fan and enjoy watching games like many  Americans. In October, I was thrilled when the Red Sox won  the World Series. I am enjoying the Patriots season, and am  interested in how the Celtics can rebuild. As I revel in  Boston’s great sports world, I have become very concerned  about the environment and what we are teaching kids about  sportsmanship.

Just think about the images of sportsmanship that were  on display in the last six months. During the playoffs and  World Series we saw objects thrown onto the field, police  in riot gear lining the stands, overzealous celebrations  leading to burning cars and a couple of deaths. No sooner  do we turn the page on that season when we witness NBA  players fighting with fans during a game. These are the  images that come to mind when you get away from the idea of  who won and focus just on sportsmanship.

We may want to rationalize our thoughts about  sportsmanship. I have heard phrases like, “well, a series  with the Yankees is always like that” or “what do you  expect, we haven’t won in 86 years” or “there always have  been bad examples of sportsmanship”.

But think about sportsmanship even at the high school  level. I have been embarrassed by some of the behavior of  parents in the stands at some high school games. We have  had murders caused by our “friendly” competitions between  rival towns. And on the field, some players have not  learned how to be good sports. Where can our children get  good examples of sportsmanship? How can we teach our kids  sportsmanship so the next generation of fans won’t be worse  than this one? Here are some suggestions.

1. Increase access to “pick up” games. These are games  where kids decide on the teams and referee themselves.  It is in these settings that kids have to set the  rules, be fair, and respect each player for their  worth. Perhaps some “leagues” should serve this role.  Get the coaches and parents out of the way and let the  kids learn through this valuable learning tool – pick  up games.

2. Parents and coaches need to recognize the diversity  of skills. Our culture of focusing on star players  demonstrates an overemphasis of personal athletic  prowess versus team play. All players should have a  role on the team. After all, that is how the Red Sox  and Patriots have won their championships!

3. Point out, criticize and punish displays of poor  sportsmanship – even by star players. Have the player  sit out a game. There should be clear rules for  sportsmanship on every team at every level. And those  rules need to be enforced. Many high schools have  players read and sign a sportsmanship pledge. Parents  should read it and agree to it as well.

4. Recognize, praise, and encourage displays of good  sportsmanship. Everyone likes it when you see an  opposing player help their opponent off the ground.  Good sportsman should receive high praise and rewards  at the end of every season.

5. Parents – Be Cool. Cheer your child on. But get  over the idea that your child’s accomplishments are a  reflection on you. Their accomplishments are theirs  – not yours. They don’t need to have extra pressure  from you to keep their level of accomplishment high.  They don’t need a second “coach” in the stands. It is  your child’s game to succeed or fail in. Be there to  share the joys or the sorrows. But please keep it in  perspective. It is their game not yours. Overzealous  parents are an embarrassment to the player and the  team.

6. Parents and coaches need to remember that it is only  a game. How we act towards the sport is the greatest  way for our children to learn sportsmanship.

7. Emphasize sportsmanship especially with rivalries.  I love the fact that we can have “United We Stand”  bumper stickers on our cars but don’t take this to  heart when our children are playing a rival town. We  all need to keep a perspective that we are united  despite having a rivalry. If both sides work on it we  could keep all rivalries “friendly”.

8. Competition is valuable. It teaches our kids to work  hard and earn what they receive. But sportsmanship is  more important than competition. Because if we don’t  learn sportsmanship, we as a society will never learn  to embrace peace.

What TV Teaches Our Kids

Have you ever wondered why your child can’t have their attention held for more than two minutes on anything but TV?

The answers to these questions may be “yes” and here  is the reason. In April 2004 the Journal of Pediatrics  published a report that said in short that children who  watch TV before age 2 (even “educational” TV) are more  prone to difficulties in paying attention then those kids  who do not watch TV. That’s not all.

There are many studies that demonstrate the negative  effects of TV and technology. Some studies show a tendency  towards more violent behavior and desensitization to  violence. Other studies show a decrease in helpful and  positive behaviors in kids. There is a link with obesity  and TV use. And still other studies show that heavy doses  of TV and technology decreases children’s ability to read  and decreases their grades in school.

Of course we have to ask “is there anything good about  TV?” Most parents tell me that, for a time, it gives  parents a rest. It occupies their children while parents  cook, shower, and do other chores. It is well known how TV  serves as short term babysitters for children across the  U.S. This “positive” aspect of TV should not be totally  discredited. Many parents need to use TV in this manner.  But, when weighing the positives and negatives of TV and  technology use, it is becoming very clear TV and technology  is bad for kids.

Knowing this, why is it that most American families  remain hooked to their screens? Well, there is speculation  that it is “habit forming” or “addictive”. Add that to the  list of negatives!

For the sake of our children we need a mass effort to  wake families up to the negative effects of TV and  technology. Schools need to initiate “Pull the Plug”  campaigns. Families need to have standards for screen use  at home. Here are some rules for families.

Minimize use of TV as a babysitter.

No TV for all children under 2 years old.

One hour of “screen time” per day or 7 hours total per  week. That “screen time” should include computer, IM,  game boy or play station time.

Reading time should exist at home.

Homework time should exist separate from reading time.

Videos and movies also should count as screen time.

Don’t fear changes away from screen time. The  positive changes in your home will far outweigh the  negative.

Come to my workshop on TV and technology at Cape Ann  Families 6 PM on April 4th to discuss more about what we  can do about TV and our kids.

What The Tsunami Should Teach Us

The devastating tsunami in Asia has an impact on all  of us. We cannot look at these images without recognizing  that these hurt people need help. That help comes to those  Asian communities by having those in need increase their  circles of helpful communities. The whole world recognizes  this – some countries faster than others. We are hearing  phrases in the press such as the “world community” or  “community of nations” in discussions about the response to  disaster, and so it should be. None of the local  communities in Asia will fix themselves without the aid  from the world community.

I am personally hit with the images of this disaster.  I have worked in different areas of the world and know how  poor communities receive the brunt of natural disaster. In  1998 a hurricane devastated Honduras. I visited the  country months after Hurricane Mitch flooded communities,  caused mudslides, and washed sections of plantations away.  As part of a medical team assessing the status of medical  relief, I could see with my own eyes that poor communities  got hit the worst and that Honduras would not recover  without years of aid from the world community. Today,  Honduras is better, (though still impoverished) largely due  to the aid it received from many countries. It will take  years for the Asian countries to recover with aid from  around the Globe as well.

Each disaster I witness reminds me of lessons learned  from previous disasters. Many of these lessons are basic  and logical. It is a wonder why we don’t listen and take  these lessons to heart between disasters. These lessons  should serve to guide us in decisions both personal and  communal. Here are the lessons I have learned.

1. It is easy to break things down.

2. It is harder and more costly to build things up.

3. It takes cooperation to make things better.

4. To make things better, we must rely on a community of  people to be sources of aid.

5. We hold human life in high regard. Human life is the  greatest value we have and we feel this most with  tragedies and unreasonable unexpected deaths.

6. We respect those who help others the most. Unselfish  people are great blessings.

7. Tragedies lead us to times of unselfishness.

Think about these lessons for a moment. These lessons  are applicable to many situations. Whether we are talking  about the war in Iraq, the tsunami in Asia, or the deaths  of family members in an auto accident, these lessons hold  true. These are really rules of life that everyone should  heed, not only in times of tragedy but all days of our  lives.

If we thought of these as a basic of how we live our  lives, we would work to build better communities. Better  communities would be in better position to withstand  difficult times. Better communities would help support  stronger families. Today, as we live in a society which  emphasizes “ownership” and the individual, we need to step  back and listen to the lessons of the tsunami. Rather than  emphasizing the achievement of individuals, our society  needs to emphasize unselfishness, cooperation, and  community.

What’s With Those Boots?

Almost every week I see a child in my office with a  pair of funky boots on. The boots are usually rubber with  easy to pull handles. The toes are decorated with a face  of an animal – perhaps a duck, frog or ladybug. The day  might be bright and sunny, but the child comes clomping  into the room with their rubber boots proudly on their  feet. I often ask them “What’s with those boots?” To  which the mother sheepishly responds, “She wants to wear  them everyday and I just don’t want to battle her.” The  fact of the matter is that all parents have to choose their  battles and there are some battles just not worth fighting.

So how should parents choose their battles? We all  know, as parents, we have to confront our children over a  number of issues. Too many parents feel like they are  battling their children all day. How do we know when to  put our foot down and when to let them wear their boots?  The answer is somewhat personal. It depends to some degree  what is truly important to the parent. But as a young  pediatrician, I was taught that there were some guidelines  about battling with children. As I became a parent, I  found that these guidelines were helpful. Here are those  guidelines and some others I have added.

1. You cannot control whether your child eats or not.  You can control what food is put on the table. A  child can be given a choice before the meal such  as “Do you want PB & J or Tuna fish for lunch?”  Once a choice is made stick with it. The child  can eat or not eat!

2. You cannot control your child’s choice of friends.   You can control how much time those friends spend  at your house. Children often choose friends  that are unlike themselves. You may consider  them a “bad influence”. But you cannot impose  control over your child’s choice. You will be  very frustrated if you try to choose your child’s  friends. You should only control what you can –  perhaps the time available outside of school for  your child to be with that friend.

3. You cannot make your child go to sleep. But you can establish and control a bedtime. Many  children are made to be in bed but stay awake for  a time before drifting off to sleep. Your job as  a parent is to enforce the time for your child to  be in bed. Your child can choose between being  awake and going to sleep.

4. All parents need to win the battles over safety.  Kids cannot run out into the street, must wear  seatbelts and ride bikes with helmets on. Safety  is the area where parents have a right to battle  their kids.

5. Hygiene is another worthwhile battle. Baths need  to be taken, hands washed, teeth brushed and noses  left alone – at least in public.

6. Choice of clothing is a famous morning battle.  Clothes should be put out the night before. But  as with the choice of foods, once the clothes are  put out, don’t open the choices up for debate  again. The child can choose between the two sets  put out the night before and only those two sets.  To force a choice, move to the next phase of the  morning – breakfast or even leaving the house.  Many children need to finalize their choice for  clothes in the car!

7. Parents often feel pressured into battles because of time. We know that deadlines exist but kids  don’t care. So when we want to get our kids  ready, we often pressure them to dress, eat,  and get their things ready. Of course as they  resist our pressure, we get more upset. The key  is not to pressure the kids because of our time  consciousness. Just be clear on what they need to  do, give five minute warnings for each step they  need to make, and set a “drop dead time” when –  ready or not – half dressed or partially fed – you  are out the door! The next days you will see more  cooperation during your 5 minute warning periods.

The major issue with the battles we have with our children  is that parents may sense a loss of control. If you are  feeling controlled by your child over an issue, then you  need to decide what your child has control of and what you  need to control. You control the choice of foods; your  child controls how much they eat. You control the choice  of clothes; your child chooses between the two sets in the  morning. You set the bedtime; your child decides to sleep  or not. By allowing your child some sense of control then  you can be better choosing your battles. And then it might  be okay if your child chooses her boots everyday too!

What Our Reactions Teach Our Children

You are spending a beautiful day at a park with your kids. While fixing a zipper on your older child’s jacket,  your toddler falls on a walkway. Apparently unhurt by the  fall, you see your two year old on the ground peering  around for you. Another mother helps him to his feet and  he smiles up at the friendly woman. Then he catches your  eye and bursts into tears as if hurt. Is he hurt? Has he  learned to cry with falls? Is he expressing emotion to  test your reaction?

This is a small example of how our reactions can teach  our children behaviors. Parenting is an interactive  process. Both parent and child may develop behaviors in  response to the others reaction. When a child first falls,  we may react with worry and concern about injury. We may  run to the child’s aid most often to discover minor  scrapes. Nonetheless the child cries – perhaps not with  injury but responding to our reaction of fear for injury.  Thus a pattern of behavior for both parent and child begins  mostly due to our reaction.

This is not about falls. Certainly some falls can be  hurtful and need sympathy but a grand majority are not.  The point is that children can subconsciously manipulate  our behavior patterns just as we can subconsciously  manipulate their behavior patterns. This can happen in  many areas. Food battles often occur as children wait for  their choice of food to arrive while watching a parent  worry over their refusal to eat. Bed times can be delayed  as children use fears to make us come for multiple curtain  calls. Sometimes kids know how to put on a face or an  emotion that pulls on our heartstrings and gets them the  reaction they want from us. Some kids learn to get  attention from parents by behaving badly. They establish a  pattern early and learn to get parent’s reactions to bad  behavior.

So what are parent’s to do? How do we measure our  reactions? How do we analyze what we are doing that is  resulting in behavior patterns we don’t like in our kids  and in ourselves? These questions are what make parenting  one of the most introspective experiences in our lifetimes.

Think for a moment about some areas of parenting where  you react strongly. Ask yourself a few questions. Do you  have some unrealistic fears that make you react to your  children? Are you afraid they will starve? Do you worry  about them getting hurt? Do you think our kids can’t  manage without you? What is so important in situations  that make you react strongly? What assumptions are you  making? Do these assumptions make sense? Or are they  false assumptions drawn from your history or heritage?

Do you take everything your child does as a reflection  of you as a parent? Do you respond to your children in an  effort to control them? What children do is a reflection  of them not you. And as much as you try to control them  they will have to assume control of themselves for  themselves.

Answer these questions for yourself. Recognize why  you have strong reactions to some of your children’s  behaviors. If we can understand our reactions and where  they come from, we can start to temper our emotions in  different situations. You will see your children  responding less in behavior and tempering themselves as a  result. As we control ourselves, many times our kids will  become better in behavior. It seems so basic but is very  difficult to see and understand when you are in the midst  of battles. It just seems to happen that the more self  aware parents are, the more self aware their children will  become.

What Is Praise, Anyway?

In our country we have developed a culture where rewards come too easily. I have seen children’s sport  leagues where everyone gets a trophy. I have heard of  birthday parties where siblings got “birthday” presents so  their feelings weren’t hurt even though it wasn’t their  birthday! So how can children get real praise and  recognition for their true skills in this culture of  ubiquitous rewards? If rewards come so easily, how can  children get a true sense of themselves and what they are  good at? We live in the “age of don’t disappoint”. As a  result we are raising children of excess. Whether they  earn it or not they receive it. Whether it is their turn  for recognition or not they get it. So in this world of  ubiquitous reward and recognition, what is true praise?  When is it deserved? What should we be trying to achieve  for our children with praise, recognition and rewards? In  other words, what is praise anyway?

Praise is something said to another in recognition for  a true skill, or achievement that comes from that  individual’s ability. It is important for children to hear  praise because it supports them in building an identity  around their true skills. When praise works well in young  childhood we see the development of confident individuals  who have a good sense of their skills. They feel good  about themselves and know what parts of their inner being  they should value. So how can parents work towards giving  their children truly deserved praise?

Parents need to be keen observers of their children.  All children are different and have different skills. It  is important for parents to have openness towards their  children to hear and see their individual skills. It is  amazing what kids show us when they know there is an open  acceptance of their ability.

Open observation needs to be combined with acute  perception of what they really enjoy doing. We tend to  pigeon hole boys (and now girls) into certain sports and  girls into cheering or dance. But, especially in younger  years we need to look for what brings a flicker to their  eyes or a joy to their hearts. Young kids need to be  exposed to different areas that include singing, music,  dance and arts. It is sad but true that school programs  won’t be enough to bring out these interests in children.

We need to recognize our children’s accomplishments –  even relatively small ones. Showing courage and overcoming  a fear, showing poise, or even controlling negative  reactions all need acknowledgement from parents.

We must allow for periods of disappointment. We  shouldn’t falsely bolster a talent or interest where there  isn’t any. This can set up a harmful dynamic where  children keep participating in an activity just to please  the parent. If a child has the drive for that area of  interest, they will naturally overcome disappointment. In  either case, children need to sort out their feelings over  effort, interest, achievement and failure.

Once we see their true interest, we need to help  provide opportunities to foster that interest. We can’t  necessarily assume that opportunities to use their skills  will present themselves. Some skills will be developed in  school and play. Others need to have specific activities  in order to develop their talent. Lessons, teams and even  hobbies serve the purpose of skill development outside of  school.

Through all of this, children need praise for both  general achievements and specific skills. Getting off to  school on time, helping around the house or even taking  care of a pet needs praise. Everyone is capable of these.  But acknowledgement of your child’s contribution is  important. Specific praise is needed in areas of  particular skill. “Boy you are great at building with  legos” or “You are great at organizing things with your  friends.” These kind of comments let children know that  you are noticing them for their skills and for who they are.

Parents need to think positive. We tend to emphasize  the negative and correct our kids too often. Kids need  praise from us. It is important to their growth in  character. With a little effort we can learn to be keen  observers and give our kids genuine praise. With that our  kids may still live in a world of excess but at least they  will learn what is of value to them as individuals.