positive parenting

Positive Parenting: Megaskills 10


Do your children say “I can’t” instead of “I can”? Children are not born problem solvers. They learn how.

Help them put what they know & can do into action.

Thinking is not a subject all by itself–it’s what you think about that is the subject. We need children who can begin to think about serious subjects.

Give them practice in asking & answering questions & practice in making decisions.

Ask questions that you really want answers to.

Listen to children’s answers.

Let children know how really smart they are.

Let your children ask you questions that they want answers to & take the time to respond thoughtfully.

Spur children’s inventive thinking with questions that limber up the brain. Ask how many things can be made from a paper plate. From a rubber band? From a paper clip?

Encourage children to imagine. What would happen if the automobile had not been invented?

Put a blob of ink on paper, fold it, rub & blot. Ask children to tell you all the things the blob reminds them of. Trade places & try it yourself.

Place circles or squares or triangles of various sizes on a sheet of paper. Then ask children to name & draw as many different objects as they can think of using these figures.

Help children think ahead about what they would change.

What do you want more time for?

How would you use more money?

What is a waste of time?

What makes you feel really happy?

What would you like to keep always the same?

What would you like to do tomorrow? Next week? Next month?

Involve children actively & early in decision making, especially in family decision making. They can be active participants or can just listen in. In this way they come to know, & to identify with, the process we adults go through in making up our minds.


Thinking & Choosing–ages 4-7

Ask your child to pretend the following things are happening:

You can’t find your key & no one is home.

You get lost on your way to a friend’s house.

You are teased on your way home from school.

Ask children to think of as many ways to solve these problems as they can. Don’t reject any ideas, even if they sound far-fetched.

After they have mulled over three or four different solutions, let them pick one way that seems best.

Ask for children’s ideas to remedy a problem they cause (not necessarily at the time when you’re upset). Examples: Mud on the floor, coats not hung up, milk left out etc.


Decisions Aren’t Easy–ages 9-12

Talk with your youngster about some important decisions you have made in the past. Examples: Buying a car, changing jobs, getting married. Tell about the things you considered before making these decisions. Were there good & bad consequences? Were you happy with your decisions? Would you make the same ones again?

Encourage children to become planners: What would they do if they were teachers? Fathers? Mothers?

Don’t give children decisions to make that you believe are yours alone. There is danger when children are given decisions to make that are really not theirs to make or when children are told they can make the decision & then find that their parent really didn’t mean it. Choose the real decisions that children can make & be prepared to live with their decisions.


Safety–Everyday Problem Solving

Children need to know that parents care about what they are doing.       Just being home doesn’t always do the job. It’s possible to be at home all the time & not have children feel that their parents care.

Children have to know the steps to take on their own to be safe.

Thinking through a problem:

  1. Children accidentally eat or drink poisons & dangerous medicines lying around the house. Many youngsters become ill & die.
  2. What can we do here at home to prevent this from happening? Let’s name a lot of ideas.

Help children recognise the warning labels on medicines & household cleaners at home.    Discuss what can be done if these products or medicines are swallowed accidentally. The labels tell us what remedies or antidotes counteract the poison.

Remind your children to take medicine only with your approval.


Household Danger Spots–ages 4-6

Take a walk around your home with your child. Check in each room to see that electric cords are not frayed, that throw rugs don’t slide, that old papers, rags & paints are stored properly, that sharp edges of knives & tools are covered.

Make a list of items in the house that need to be repaired.

Show children how the stove is turned off. If the stove is not to be used at all, explain why. Talk about why children should never play with matches.

Take a walk around your house. Show children how to lock & unlock all doors & at least a few windows. Point to exits to use in case of fire or other need to escape.

Let children try using all house keys. Have keys made for each family member & put these in special places for safekeeping.

Try to make your home as burglarproof as possible. Make sure there is a strong chain on the front door so that it can be opened only partially. Many parents tell children never to open the door for people they do not know.

Tell children never to enter the house after school if the door is ajar, a window is broken, or anything looks unusual. Give instructions to go to a neighbor’s or to a store, then to call Mom or Dad & wait for an adult to arrive before returning to the house.


Community Safety Tour–ages 4-6

Walk with your child or drive through your community. Point out the many signs you see. Which are the signs for safety? What do the other signs tell you? Examples: BUS, YIELD, WALK & CAUTION are some signs that children need to know.

Talk about safe places to go in case of danger. Examples: A neighbor’s house, a business office.

Prepare a safety kit for your child to take everywhere. It can include an identification card, a list of important telephone numbers, change for several phone calls, & perhaps enough money for bus or cab fare. Tape the kit inside your child’s lunchbox or knapsack.


Dealing with Strangers–any age

Give instructions to your children on how to talk to strangers on the phone, at the door & on the street.

Make up a set response to use on the phone: Example: “My mom can’t come to the phone now. May I take a message?”

Teach children how to take careful telephone messages that include the caller’s name & phone number. Buy a phone pad or make one out of scrap paper. Practice handling phone calls. Use a play phone or the real phone. Take turns being the caller & being the child at home.

Warn about accepting rides & gifts from strangers Do not assume that children know the dangers. Role play some typical situations such as, “Do you want candy?” “Can I give you a ride?”

Advise children not to carry thick wallets & to keep them out of sight. Girls who carry shoulder bags should hold on to them firmly. If youngsters are carrying large amounts of money, tell them to divide the money & to carry it in at least two places.

Talk together about at least three things to increase safety outdoors. Examples: Lock cars, keep personal items out of sight in parked cars, avoid deserted areas.


In Case of Fire–any age

Help your family know how to leave the house quickly & safely in case of fire.

Show children the emergency numbers for Fire, Police & Poison Control listed in the front of the telephone book. Tell children to dial “0” for the operator in case of an emergency. For children who can’t read, make a picture chart with the numbers. Buy a small fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen & a smoke alarm for your home.

Practice leaving the house quickly, using different exits. Make these sessions family affairs so that everyone will know exactly what to do in case of fire or an accident. Practice until you are sure children understand what to do. Children are much more likely to stay calm in a crisis if they feel they know what to do.

You really can’t teach safety in stages. A six-year-old needs to know as much or almost as much as a twelve-year-old.


Helping Children Succeed–any age

Try with your children to set up daily situations in which they succeed. Have they learned to swim? Are they able to locate a needed number in the telephone book?

Convey to children your expectations that they will start & complete the task or project. Be optimistic, & check that your children have what they need to complete what they are doing.

Provide jobs & activities they can do & will feel proud of having accomplished. These include building something needed around the house, taking care of a special corner in the garden or cooking a meal for the family.

Let your children know that you–an adult–also have needs. You need praise, encouragement, love–& criticism & put-downs hurt you, just as they hurt them.

Ideally, parents should talk to each other first before they tell children what to do.



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Positive Parenting: Megaskill 9


Common sense is not so common. A reason children may not be using common sense is that it is not a sense we are born with. It is built through experience & practice.

Unlike a subject such as reading or math, common sense has no curriculum. The best we can do is to find areas in which common sense is needed & then figure out ways to give children practice acquiring it.

When you have common sense, you try to see more than one point of view. When you have common sense, you have perspective.


The Careful Eye–ages 4-9

Look around the room & ask children to name everything they see. This activity builds observation skills.

Put several objects on a table. Ask youngsters to look hard & then close their eyes. Remove one or two of the objects. Let children name the things you took away. Turn this game around & ask your children to play it on you.


Memory Stretching–ages 4-9

To encourage information gathering, try questions like these:

Does your back door swing in or out?

Do you put your right or left sock on first?

Who’s the slowest eater in your house?

What did you have for breakfast? For dinner last night? Go back meal after meal to see how far you can remember.

Ask your children to make up questions for you to try to answer.


Guessing–ages 4-9

Ask “guessing” questions & let children ask them of you. How wide is this room? How long is the driveway? Get out the yardstick & check these guesses.

Guess how much different things weigh. A typewriter? A book? Mother? Brother? Put them on the scale & check.

These activities help children make judgements based on what they know to be facts or guesses.


Checking–ages 7-12

Checking is common sense practice, & it can be taught in a straightforward way with a series of questions.

Have we checked to see, for example, that:

There’s gas in the car before starting out on a trip?

There are no cracks in the eggs that we buy at the supermarket?

The seams are tightly sewn in clothes we’re planning to buy?

There are no cars coming before we start across the street–even if the light is green?

We can get children in the habit of doing these checks. With all the checking in the World, there will still be plenty of surprises, but some of the everyday, unpleasant ones can be avoided this way.

Show youngsters the good side of a wormy apple. Ask, “Is this a good apple? Can you eat all of it?” Then turn the apple around. It shows children they have to know both sides of the question. It’s a trick with a valuable lesson.


Using Clues–ages 4-8

Begin by saying, “I’m thinking of something–an object–that is in this very room.” Then give hints, one at a time. Tell about the object’s size, colour, or use. Example: If you are thinking of a saucer, you could say, “It’s the size of a big pancake,” “It’s blue & white,” & “It is used under a cup.” After each clue, let your child try to guess the object.


Asking Questions–ages 9-12

Common Sense also means seeing things from other points of view, putting ourselves as best we can in other people’s shoes.

Read the following scene with your children. Before reading the bank of possible answers, think of what you might answer. Ask for your children’s answers & the reasons why they picked them.

The boy next door. Leah was only nine, but she really liked Michael, the boy across the street. The boy’s family had been away for a year in South America. In the month before their return Leah had crossed off each day on the calendar. She told that to her friend Margo. Finally the big day arrived. There they were. Leah & Michael said hello shyly. Margo was there, too, & what do you think she said?

  1. Nothing.
  2. “Boy, did Leah miss you!”
  3. “Leah’s been counting the days.”


How Time Flies–any age

Give children some common sense about time. Draw a large circle. Mark off this circle into twenty-four equal parts, one for each hour of the day. Pick any day. Start by shading in the hours spent in sleep, then the hours spent at school or on the job. What’s left? Time alone or with friends? Time spent in travel? Time spent on homework or chores? Time watching the TV? Time for meals? Time for hobbies?

Take your time circles & see what you would change if you could. What’s your ideal day?

See what little changes you can make to bring your current days more in line with your ideal ones.


Money Common Sense–ages 4-6

Giving children practice with money is important. I have this attitude about wasting money: I don’t like it.

To teach children how to make change, put pennies, nickels, dimes & quarters (or the equivalents in your own currency) in different sections of an ice cube tray or an empty egg carton. Hand children a quarter & let them give you that amount back in different coins. Use this with other combinations. (Be sure to wash hands after touching the money.)

Gather together some household bills. List each service & the amount owed. Put the name of the bill on the left side of the paper. Put the cost on the right side.

Fold the paper so that the cost side is hidden. Ask your children to predict the amount owed for each bill. Write down the guesses next to the items. Then unfold the paper to show the actual costs.


Eat Well for Less–ages 4-9

Help children practice math by planning nutritious family meals that cost less. Use newspaper grocery ads.

Make up a menu of meals for two days, with your child taking charge of the choices for one meal.                Judge with your child the amount of food needed. Total the prices for the planned meal. Divide by the number of people who will be eating. This gives the cost of the meal per person. Together check your cupboards & refrigerator before going to the store.


Clothes for Less–ages 10-12

Pretend you each have $250 to spend on clothes. Pretend you have absolutely nothing to wear. Make up a complete winter wardrobe from top to bottom. Use newspapers & catalogues. Compare “purchases”. How well did you do?

Talk about the advantage of buying clothes & other items out of season.

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Positive Parenting: Megaskills 8


We know team players when we work with them:

They don’t always have to get the credit.

They have spirit, & they share it with others.

They laugh with others, not at them.

They pitch in & make sacrifices.

They are helpful, not helpless.

Build a child’s ability to work with others, as part of a team, cooperating to achieve a common purpose.

An uneasy balance exists between individualism & group work in America, especially in the schools. Students are expected to perform & to be graded as individuals, competing rather than cooperating with each other.              The school as an institution is basically just not a hospitable place for teamwork.

All children need ways to show that they can accomplish. Activities at home, even chores, can help. They provide a sense of getting things done, & they help children feel more needed, more important in the life of the family.

There is something special about being in the same place, doing a job together. Start by having them do jobs right with you, next to you. This isn’t just to keep an eye on them; it’s to build the spirit & the sense of teaming, to see ourselves accomplishing a task together.

My friend Ruth remembers bringing her children up on the roof with her & her husband, & together they tackled the job of repairing roof shingles. The children passed the nails; they held the ladder; they felt part of the team.

This same spirit prevails when families bake cookies together or read aloud to each other or change a tire together or shovel snow together or rake leaves together. Children may dislike housework chores but find them more agreeable when we are all in the same room together, one doing the dusting, another doing the polishing or sweeping. They love to rake leaves, but not alone.

It does take more time & patience to teach children how to work, to show them a job step by step, to encourage them, & then to step back & let them take over. It’s easier to do the work for them.         But as with much of parenting, efforts when children are young are an investment in the future.


Real Work, Not Make-Work–ages 4-6

Set attainable goals with your child. Start with easy tasks & work up to harder ones. Example: A four-year-old can bring in the paper every day & wipe the kitchen table.

Turn jobs into games. Set the same task for you & your child. Race each other to see who wipes the table or retrieves the newspaper faster. Chances are, your child will win, on the up & up.

Show children how to do the work–but do not redo their work. Example: The first time a child uses a vacuum, show how to do it & what to pick up.


Divide & Conquer–ages 7-9

Pick a job that has several parts. A good example is preparing a meal. What do you do first? What do you do second? Your list might look like this:

Plan the meal.

Shop for groceries.

Prepare the food.

Set the table

Clean up afterward.

Ask everyone to choose from the list one job to do.


Organising Household Chores–ages 10-12

Together make a list of all the jobs that need to be done around the house. You might separate them into weekly jobs & daily jobs.

Weekly Jobs: Doing laundry, vacuuming, grocery shopping, mowing the lawn.

Daily Jobs: Cooking dinner, making beds, taking out garbage, feeding pets.

Decide together when jobs will be done & who will do them. Write down names next to the jobs. Family members can switch with each other later. Try to avoid labeling work as “girl’s” or “boy’s”.


Let Me Help You!: For older children, tell the story or show the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. In this classic Jimmy Stewart sacrifices for his family, stays home from college, & manages to keep open a small bank to help poor people get homes. With the help of an angel named Clarence, he learns that he has indeed lived a wonderful life.


What Do We Think?–ages 7-9

Help children practice finding out what others think. Take a poll at home about household products. Should we buy more of this? If yes, why? If no, why not? What could the family buy instead of this product?


What’s Your Opinion?–ages 10-12

Choose one rule that causes family arguments. Ask your child’s opinion of the rule. If it’s about bedtime, that opinion might be, “Having a bedtime is a bad rule. Kids should go to bed whenever they want.” Ask your child to give at least two reasons for this opinion.

Now ask your child to give two arguments for the other side. One might be, “Kids need sleep to keep awake in school.”


Down the Drain & Out the Window–any age

Children may be wasting electricity & water without even knowing that they cost money. For this activity you need some utility bills.

Take a house electricity tour. Check whether lights, radios, or televisions have been left on. Talk with your children about ways to save on utility bills, such as turning off the air conditioner when nobody is home or lowering the heat at night when people are sleeping.

Take a house water tour. Think of all the ways you use water–for dishes, for bathing, for cooking. Then talk about ways you can conserve water.

Look at the bills in the next few months to see the results. Use a set of bills you & your youngster can follow.


Shopping Around–ages 7-12

This activity helps children learn how to compare prices in order to shop carefully for an item they want. You need newspaper ads for new products, classified ads for used items.

Ask children to select an item to “buy” from a newspaper ad & from a classified ad. This might be a bicycle or a television set. Together mark the ads that sound like the best buys. Talk about the items & urge the “consumers” to discuss the ads with other members of the family. Which do they consider the best buys?



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Positive Parenting: Megaskills 7


Are you worried about your child’s ability to care about others, to show affection, to be thoughtful?

“Don’t be so selfish.”

“You’ve got to care  about other people.”

Help your child practice caring & having consideration, being interested in others, listening to & learning from them.

I, I, I. Me, Me, Me. These aren’t musical notes. They’re the sounds children make–before they get tuned into You, You, You, & Us, Us, Us. Care is especially needed today.


Family Notes–ages 4-6

Tell your child that each day for three days, you will send each other notes.

Each note will be a special message that will say something nice. The “Something nice” will be something true that one of you has noticed about the other. It might be, “You have a nice smile” or “Your dinner last night was very good” or “I like the way you cooked the chicken.” Let children who do not yet write dictate their messages to you. Children enjoy figuring out nice things to say. Decide on a place to exchange daily notes.


How Does It Feel?–ages 4-8

Start by helping young children describe someone else’s appearance. Ask your child to describe how a certain person–a friend or a teacher–looks. Use drawings.

Ask “how do they feel” questions. Examples: “Jane has just won a race. How does she feel?” “Bill has just fallen down. How does he feel?” “What might each of these friends do, based on how they feel?”

Children will believe you really do understand when you share some “emotional” memories of your own.

Make greeting cards. Decide who needs a greeting card. Does someone need cheering up? Is a friend having a birthday? Do you know a senior citizen who is living alone? Do you have new neighbors who have just moved in?


Let family members “rate” each other. The object is to think positively & to avoid put-downs. What you hope to build is more of an “I care about how you feel” atmosphere at home. Ask:

“How well do I listen?”

“How well do I help around the house?”

“Do I ever make you feel sad? How?”

“Do I make you feel happy? How?”

Think of at least one thing you can do easily that would make your family happy. A kiss, a cookie, a flower, an encouraging word, can give a big, quick lift. Children need to know this so that they can form the habit of making other people feel good.


About Ourselves–any age

Finish these sentences separately & compare answers.

I am happy when__________.

I am afraid of__________.

I am sad when__________.

It’s funny when__________.

My favourite things include__________.

When I am alone, I__________.

I really care about__________.


Our Block–ages 4-6

Draw a neighborhood map together. In the middle of the paper, draw your own home. Draw with a free hand. Don’t worry about exact distances between places. Fill in street names & telephone numbers for places & neighbors.


People Scavenger Hunt–any age

Together go on a people scavenger hunt in your memory. Do you know anyone who speaks another language? Has been in a play? Has a relative who is more than ninety years old?

Think about someone you saw recently who is different. Examples: A street person carrying old bundles, a person in a wheelchair, a blind person.


Who Can Help Me?–any age

Make two columns on a paper. At the top of the left column write: HELP NEEDED FOR. At the top of the right column, write: WHO CAN HELP? Post the paper. Those who can help will put down their names & time they will help.       The idea is to get children in the habit of using skills to help one another.


Heroes Among Us–any age

Cut out newspaper articles about heroic acts by ordinary individuals. Examples: Someone rescues a person from a fire; a neighbor stops a robbery; a youngster saves a child from being hit by a car.

Think together about one or two caring, unselfish people, famous or not, whom you admire. What do you like about them? Are there ways to become more like them?


The Gift of Time–any age

Talk about gifts that people love to receive but that don’t cost much money, if any. Think about making gifts at home. What materials are needed to bake cookies, to sew a potholder etc.

Try to think of gifts that aren’t “things”. You might share a special skill in order to help someone.    For children, it might be: “I will play ball with my younger brother for one hour.” “I will make my sister’s bed for three days.”

Some of the best things between parent & child are still free! And one of the best & most surprising things between brothers & sisters is the caring they can show toward each other.

When Brian was nine, illness forced him to be bed-ridden for six months. Every day, his sister, Eve, age seven, would come bouncing in from school, ready for some outdoor play. But first she would go in to see Brian & ask, “Want to have my day?” Then she would launch into funny vignettes about classmates & teachers & special events. They would laugh a lot. It was a good time for both of them–the giver & the receiver.

Where had this little girl learned this secret for sharing her day? It was what she saw at home. Both of her parents worked. When they got home, they each told a story from their day, usually a funny one. She listened & she learned.



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Positive Parenting: Megaskills 6


“It’s not enough to start–you have to finish.”

“Even when you feel like quitting, don’t.”

“Keep at it; you’ll get it.”

There will always be others who are more talented than we are, who are better looking, who have more education. Even with these benefits, they still need perseverance in order to accomplish & to create. Help children get into the habit of following through & finishing.

Perseverance is the difference between those who try & those who succeed.

We seem to accept the fact that our children have short attention spans. But we should emphasize building our children’s level & length of attention & their ability to concentrate over a period of time.

“I know you’ll make it.”

“You’re doing a great job.”

There are experiences that by their very nature teach perseverance. They can’t be done in a rush because they demand a level of detail & a passage of time.

Organise family photos in chronological order. What happened first? Second?     Attach the pictures in an album with captions (explanations) that children can write.

Find all the important telephone numbers that would be useful to have in one place.           Help your child alphabetise this list. Double-check this sheet. Then enter the names & numbers in the family telephone book.

Talk with children about changes in their weight & height as they grow older.        Keep a family weekly weight check chart.

Learning to Work & Wait:

Time is a big element in perseverance. Children can practice getting beyond the need for immediate gratification, showing that they are willing to work & wait for results.

Activities that call upon children to wait are growing plants, watching their weight, learning a new skill, & preserving their health.

Everyone enjoys watching seeds sprout & come up through the earth. When they don’t, we can start again. The important point is that this activity helps children get practice in finishing a project they start. You need two or three packets of seeds, small pots or milk cartons cut down, a ruler, &, depending on the season & your household space, a sunny windowsill or outdoor garden.

Buy seeds or use seeds you have saved. Empty a few on the table beside each packet. Ask your children to look at the seeds & examine their size & color. Feel how hard they are.–Don’t let them eat the seeds. Talk about the differences. Ask children to fill each pot with about two inches of soil. Plant a few seeds in each. Place the pots on a sunny windowsill. Together read the directions on the seed packet. Talk about what you have to do to be sure the seeds grow.          Water the seeds as the directions say. Then, day by day, watch for the seeds to begin to sprout. Seeds grow slowly. It will take about ten days to see them.


Good & Good for You–ages 4-9

This activity helps young children get into the habit of eating healthy foods. Nutritious snack foods include carrot sticks & raisins, bananas rolled in chopped peanuts, celery stuffed with peanut butter, tomato or cucumber slices topped with cheese, raw vegetables with cheese dip, raisins & nut mixes etc.

Set aside part of a refrigerator shelf for children to use for these special snack foods. In this way children can make their own healthy snacks.

Check family weights. Who’s the heaviest? The lightest? Try recording weight changes in a week’s time. This is good math practice, too.


Exercise Plan–any age

Plan & carry out a family exercise program. List one or two exercises each person can do regularly. Make up a plan for a week-long, practical exercise routine.

What we ask our children to do is what we must be willing to do.

When children hang up their clothes or put away the dishes that’s school-work. School achievement depends on a child’s ability to see a job through to completion.

Children can get into the habit of not finishing what they start.                I am not convinced that we always have to finish what we start, but we have to learn to finish many things. There should be some jobs that children know they have to complete.

Children need to learn that things don’t happen all at once, & sometimes not even very quickly. Reaching a goal may take time & long days of effort & continuing work, but it’s worth it!


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Positive Parenting: Megaskills 5


“What a good idea!” “You’re always thinking of something new.” Praise your child’s initiative.

Initiative starts with a good idea, but the idea is not enough. You have to do something to make things happen. Even after you hit a home run, you still have to run around the bases.

You don’t have to go outside your home to give your child a world of experiences that build interests. I tried science in the kitchen with my young children. Let me tell you, they were not the only ones learning. We watched water come to a boil. We timed how long it took to make macaroni soft. We defrosted ice cubes in the sun & in shade. We put wooden & metal spoons into hot water & then touched them, sometimes with a burning surprise. And we talked about what we were learning.

Busy fathers may think that to make up for lost time with the kids, they need to sacrifice, to do activities like going to museums or the zoo or a show. Not so. There really is great educational value in activities such as going with children to the bank & to the grocery store…or even down to the basement.


Machines: Look & Listen–ages 4-9

Use the house itself. How does it work? What are all those pipes for? Don’t forget those plumbing pipes. Kitchens make noises. Listen & name them–the refrigerator’s hum, the stove’s purr, the fan’s whoosh.

Look at a bicycle. Peek beneath the hood of the family car. Can you name the parts?

Take a good look at all the appliances at home. You might want to tackle the bigger question of where all this electricity comes from in the first place. When travelling past a power plant or a dam, you might mention that little old toaster at home.


Machines: Please touch–ages 4-9

Oh, the joy of taking things apart & maybe even putting them together again. How do flashlights work? Find out what happens when one battery is taken away or put in upside down. The beauty of flashlights is they can be made to work so easily.

If you have a small, broken machine, such as a clock or pencil sharpener, & you don’t care whether it works again, try this wonderful activity: Put the machine & some useful tools, such as a screwdriver, on a table. Allow your child to take the object apart. Stand by in case you’re needed, but do let your child try to put it back together without your help.


Water, Water Everywhere–ages 4-9

Put water into an ice tray & set it in the freezer. How long does it take to freeze? Try this with different levels of water in different sections of the tray.

Put a few ice cubes on the table. How long do they take to melt? Why are they melting? Put them in different places around the room. Do they melt faster in some places than in others?

Float an egg in both salt & fresh water. Which water holds the egg higher? Salt water is more buoyant.

Evaporation: Put some water in an open dish in a sunny place. Let your child make a mark to show the water level. Use another dish with an equal amount of water, & put this one in the shade. Which one dries first?


Hot & Cold–ages 4-9

To check on the temperature around you, use a house-&-garden thermometer. What happens when the thermometer is in the refrigerator? In the freezer? Atop the radiator? In the sun?


Light & Shadow–ages 4-9

Use a strong light bulb indoors. Try some shadow play on a dark background.

Use a mirror to catch light from the sun. Then move the mirror, throwing the light in different places around the room.

Put a teaspoon in a glass of water that is two-thirds full. Looking at it sideways, children see the “disconnected” parts of the spoon.


Plants & How they grow–ages 4-9

Using aluminum foil, cover the leaves on one side of a sun-loving plant. Keep this covering on for a week. What do the leaves look like when you take off the foil?


Let’s Get Organised: There are mornings when you wake up & you just know it’s a day to get organised. Eliminate that mess you’ve been avoiding:


Nuts & Bolts, Pins & Needles–ages 4-6

Organise the toolbox, the jewelry box, the dressers, sewing boxes, bookcase, the kitchen cupboard or refrigerator, the family linen closet or a closet in your child’s room. First talk about a good way to organise the area.


Gather & Go–ages 7-9

Teach children how to collect & organise materials. Start a project, big or little: A puppet stage, a dog house, a party, baking cookies. Talk with children about what they will need. (Young children will need your advice.)

List what you have to purchase & what is already at home. Then, with your child, collect the essentials before you start the project.


The Family Calendar–any age

Get a plain calendar with large squares for each day. Talk about the days, weeks, & months spread out before you. Start filling in the squares with special days, such as birthdays, upcoming events & appointments.

Let your child decorate the calendar. Use the calendar for generating children’s suggestions; for example, list special foods children want or ideas for places to go on family outings.


Organising for Children

Ask your children which of these ideas they’d like to try first.

Provide some kind of work space, no matter how small, for each child. This can vary from a lapboard that children use while they sit on the bed to a piece of furniture to a dropleaf shelf that is attached to the wall, if apartment regulations allow.

Try the idea of a small piece of colorful rug for a young child’s work area on the floor. This helps cut down on the tendency for children to covet the same work space, even in big rooms.

To make communal work space for young children doing artwork, put a heavy plastic tablecloth over the dining room table & an old shower curtain or newspaper beneath.

Give children a place to put their possessions. This should be an “untouchable” place. No one is to disturb these things. The children’s end of this bargain is that they have to put the things away neatly. This place could be a box or drawer that fits under a bed, or a shelf above it.

Provide pegs so that children can hang up their own clothes. Also, make sure that shelves are reachable so that children are able to put away toys when they’re finished with them.

Use what’s in the apartment. Put a piece of wood on top of a radiator (except in winter), & you have a shelf. Place a large sheet of wood or Masonite over a bathtub, & you have a good size work area. And use wall space. Hang pegboards to hold carpentry tools & toys.


Junk Day–any age

Give your child paper bags & these instructions: “Today is junk day. Go through your closet/drawers/bedroom & take out all the junk or give-aways that you want to get rid of. I pay for junk!”


Offering Without Being Asked–ages 7-12

Ask children to choose one job that they’re often asked to do: Taking out the garbage, cleaning their room, washing clothes etc. Suggest that for two days they do this task before someone asks them to do it. Talk about it. Did they get the task done before someone reminded them? Did it make them feel good? Did they offer to help others? How did they feel?


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Positive Parenting: Megaskills 4



Check yourself. When you hear yourself saying or thinking about your children, “Why are you always late?” “Where have you been?” “Why can’t you start acting more grown up?”, you are hearing the need to help your child become more responsible.

When you hear yourself saying about your children, “I can count on you,” “You are reliable & dependable,” “When you tell me something, I can believe you,” you are hearing yourself praise your responsible child.

The broad definition I have chosen for responsibility is “doing what’s right”.

Teaching children to be responsible involves finding ways to help children feel competent, to know what’s right & to do what’s right. If children need to wake up on time, you show them how to use an alarm clock & expect them to use it. If a child lies to you, you let your child know that lying is wrong & that it works to destroy the precious trust you share.

Helping Children Do For Themselves: Children need to learn to take care of themselves–even if parents have nothing to do all day but take care of them. When children hang up their clothes or wash their feet, it does not seem like schoolwork. But this practice in self-reliance carries over.


Body Beautiful–ages 4-9

For this activity, you need a marker, a pencil, & paper. Talk with your child about personal cleanliness & why it’s important. Talk about washing face & hands, combing hair, & brushing teeth. Include any other parts of the body that children tend to get dirty. Make a list of what needs to be done to be clean. Post a simple chart like the one below.




Sun.   Mon.   Tue.   Wed.  Thu.  Fri.  Sat.



I brushed

my teeth.


I washed

my face.


I washed

my hands.


I combed

my hair.



To provide incentive, especially at first, you may want to think of a small reward. It might be a new brand of toothpaste that your child picks out or a new toothbrush or a special brand of soap.

Check the chart daily at first, then weekly. Pretty soon you won’t need a chart. The idea is to make good grooming your child’s habit.


Clothes–ages 4-9

Picking Clothes: With your youngster, put clothes together in places where they can be found. One way is to label the outside of dresser drawers. Talk about appropriate clothes to wear in different weather. Turn this into a game. Pick a thick sweater & ask, “Do you wear this on hot or cold days?” Do the same for shorts, mittens, & so forth.

Before children go to bed at night, ask them to think about clothes to wear the next day. Let them lay out these clothes in advance. Ask your child to check to see that the clothes are clean & ready. This can save time & stress in the morning.

Washing Clothes: Pick up any detergent box. Reading it together with your child will immediately broaden your child’s vocabulary with words like “formulated” & “cycle”.

Whether you are washing an item by hand or in the machine, with your child, move through the process step by step, preferably with one or just a few items, treating spots first, if necessary. Talk about separating colors, then talk about the temperature of the water, then the soap suds, then the machine instructions, then the rinsing, then the hanging up or the machine drying. Go through all the steps with your child watching & helping. It may take time to graduate to the washing machine.

Fixing Clothes: Sewing activities not only teach responsibility but also build children’s hand-eye coordination, an essential for learning to read & write. You need needle, thread, scissors, buttons, & children’s clothes that need repairing.

With your child, pick an item that needs a button sewn on. Together select the necessary tools. Look for a needle with a large eye. Show your child how to thread it. Take time to illustrate how to do all this safely. Then show step by step how to sew on the button.

Now watch as your child replaces a button on some old clothes. Don’t expect the job to be perfect, & resist doing it over. With some colourful fabric scraps, you can help children move to making gifts & other items around the home. Placemats, book covers, & banners are easy-to-do items.


A Special Place–ages 4-9

Here’s a responsibility builder for the early school years. It calls for setting up a special home-school box to help children keep track of their belongings.

You need a cardboard box big enough to hold supplies & some clothing. Add some magazine pictures, markers, glue, & scissors, & you’re ready to make a Special Place.

Children decorate these boxes with pictures, words, artwork, & their own names in big, bold letters.


Helping Children Do For The Family: Overall, responsibility means that we can “count on” our children & they can count on us. Here are some “count on each other” activities:


Promises! Promises!–ages 4-9

When asked to do a task, children often make promises. They will not fully realise what keeping these promises involves. Their intentions are sincere. They want to please. Here’s a way to get children talking about promises & consequences.

Talk about what happens when people don’t do the things they are responsible for. Examples: Plants that don’t get watered wilt. Animals (& children) that don’t get fed whine. Garbage that isn’t taken out smells.

Discuss the effects on others when tasks are not done. Is it fair? Is it responsible? Is that why carrying out promises is so important?


Taking Care of Things–any age

Children have been known to be careless about property–their own & others. Help children be responsible for caring for what they are supposed to care for.

A pet is a good example, it needs daily care. How much is your child willing & able to do? Write down what you have both decided on, & post this list in a prominent place.

Or you may be considering a home computer. These are fragile machines that need careful operators. Make sure that children know what is expected. Read the operating manual together. Go over the steps one by one. Children need to know not only how to run the machine but how to care for it.


Don’t Worry: You Won’t Be Late–any age

This activity helps teach children the importance of showing people that they can be depended on, rain or shine.

This activity helps kids learn to wake up on time on their own. You’ll need an alarm clock, paper bag & a piece of paper for each family member.

Write “wake up” on one piece of paper & “wake me up” on the others. Put the papers into the bag. Everybody picks one piece. The person who picks the slip marked “wake up” will do the job of waking up the others the next morning.

The “wake-up” person sets the alarm clock for five minutes before the wake-up time. You’ll find out the next day if the “wake-up” person was dependable. What happens if the “wake-up” person is late? Will someone be late to work or school?

Do your children wake themselves up regularly? If not, invest in an inexpensive alarm clock. Talk about how people worry when those they are expecting are late.


What do I do? Helping children think responsibly about choices & values: Children need to know what parents think, but moreover, they need to know how to figure out where they themselves stand. Children need to see a sample. All the lectures in the World will do no good if children see that it’s just “talk”. It’s hard also when parents seem too good to be true. Have we never been tempted to do anything wrong? It can help when we tell about a temptation & how we handled it.




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Positive Parenting: Megaskills 3


The value of believing in effort over native ability is that you can help children do something about their level of effort. It’s harder to help them do something about their level of ability. Ability seems set in stone; effort can be influenced; it’s open to change.

In Texas, elementary school children having difficulties with subtraction were divided into four groups–A,B,C,D. Each group worked on its own with a packet of materials. An aide checked the work in groups A,B, & C every eight minutes. As the children came to a new section, the aide gave them the new instructions. To group A the aide said, “You’ve been working hard.” To group B she said, “You need to work hard.” Group C received no comment. Group D had no involvement with the aide other than to hear her read the instructions to everyone.

Group A, that was told, “You’ve been working hard,” actually did work harder than the others. They completed 63 percent more problems & got three times as many right on the test that followed this training. They also said that they felt more confident about the test & their ability to deal with the problems they would face.

We can talk children into making more effort. They do not have to be afraid. We can help them see that more effort can mean better results.

Learning About Effort: Here are some suggestions on how to give kids the opportunity to know effort when they see it & to practice effort on their own.


My Day–any age

Spend time talking with your children about the pleasures of your work & of effort. Try to be as specific as possible. Don’t stint on letting children in on the everyday efforts & goings-on at work & at home that illustrate effort & the sense of satisfaction that comes with it. Not all problems are solved quickly or easily. Let children in on your frustrations. But when you do talk about the day’s problems, try to discuss what you are doing & what your children think can be done to solve these problems. Ask children about their day too. Urge them to follow your lead in talking about the little successes.


The Extra Mile–any age

Help your children know what we really mean when we say “make an effort.” Take time to point out to children those people who are making that effort. Point to others who are making an effort & showing how much you respect this.


Homework & Effort: Asian children go to school 240 days a year, while American children go only 180 days a year. Asians believe that hard work makes a difference, & they let their children know it. The Japanese count on persistence & patience to win the day. They just plain outwork everyone else. They have long-term perspective, & they’re persistent. They work long hours; they live in accommodations Americans would not accept. Our young people need to learn about endurance & to be taught the importance of effort.

Parental Infrastructure: At least three kinds of parental discipline patterns have been identified.

Permissive: Adult makes few demands on child & sees child as own self-regulator. Authoritarian: Adult has set standard of conduct in mind & sets out to shape child to fit it, using force & punishment to curb child. Authoritative: Adult sets standards & asserts control but sees child’s need for reason & understanding.

The trick, & it’s a tough one, is for parents & for teachers to be authoritative without being authoritarian. It’s not easy.


A Study Place–ages 4-9

Children need their own place at home to do schoolwork. Fancy equipment is not needed. Use old furniture. Cut it down to size as needed. You need a table or desk, a chair, a light.

Walk through your house with your child to find that special study corner. It need not be big, but it needs to be personal. Paint cardboard boxes or orange crates for bookcases. Latex paint is easy to clean. Encourage your child to decorate the study corner; a plant & a bright desk blotter do wonders.

A study place can be a desk, or it can be a modest lapboard for a child to use atop a bed.


A Homework System–ages 10-12

There is a better way than nagging children every day about schoolwork. This activity enables children to keep track–on their own–of what has to be done. You need paper & a marker.

Use a sturdy, large piece of paper to make a homework chart that can be posted on the wall. Here’s what one looks like:



Days     English   Math  S.Studies  Science

















Make checks to represent school assignments. To show completed work, the check gets circled. Attach to the chart a marker or pen so that it is always handy.

Talk About Homework: Talk about assignments with your child after they’re completed. This is more of a conversation than a checkup. Was the assignment difficult? Easy? Would your child like to know more? Consider follow-up trips to a museum or library.


Our Home: A Learning Place–any age

Help your home (even if it’s a small apartment) convey the message that people learn here.

You want children to be reading as often as possible. Let there be books & magazines everywhere, including the bathroom. Let your children see you reading, & talk with them about what you’ve read.

You want children to be writing as often as possible. Put notepads & pencils in a number of places around the house, including next to the telephone, for messages. In the kitchen use them for grocery lists, & keep them next to the bed for putting down that brilliant middle-of-the-night thought.

Use a bulletin board or magnets on the refrigerator to display children’s schoolwork & artwork. Or use an indoor clothesline with clothespins. Youngsters enjoy changing these displays themselves.

Time For Studying: Some children are faster to finish classroom work than others. When you talk with your children about schoolwork, ask if they think they are putting in enough time to do it really well.

Effort is Pleasure: Talk about the pleasure a writer gets, an artist, etc. Children need to know that effort is the path we take to achieve mastery.


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Positive Parenting: Megaskills 2


When they have it, it shows: You see your children wanting to do things, eager to learn. They do schoolwork & household jobs without a lot of nagging. They make plans for the next day, for the next week.

Parents can help with activities that generate a child’s excitement in learning. But children have to catch this fire & start fueling up on their own. In this chapter are activities that help children gain a sense of discipline it takes to stay motivated, to work against discouragement, & to face competition & challenge. It helps to learn:

–How to break down jobs into manageable “bites.”

–How to set & keep to time limits.

There was a picture in the paper the other day of a ninety-one-year-old woman who had just climbed Mount Fuji. Now that’s what I call motivation. She was quoted as saying, “You always feel good when you’ve made a goal. You need goals.”

A special ingredient found in motivation is the ability to work against discouragement & to keep on going. Attitude counts for so much. How do people become motivated? We can’t catch “fire” for our kids, but they can catch some of our fire. The fire does not have to be a bonfire. A low, low simmer will do. One way is to share our own excitement. Remember, children are born motivated, not bored.


Just Outside–any age

While your children are young, start to share & discover the joy & mystery of the World: a walk as it’s turning dark, a stroll through light rain. Talk together about what you’re sensing & feeling. Stay up together to see the moon rise & get up early one day to watch the sun rise. Use a magnifying glass to look closely at those small objects that fascinate small children. Listen to the wind & the birds. Smell the rain & the burning wood in the fireplace. Observation & use of the senses are crucial to a scientist & to a poet.


Shopping Center Stroll–ages 4-7

Most of the time we shop at breakneck speed with kids being dragged along. Try a walk with no other purpose than to show your children some of what goes on backstage at the local stores. Go into the florist’s & watch the making of corsages. And go “backstairs” in the supermarket, if permitted. That’s where the supplies are kept & where the meat is cut…where the action that makes the market look good takes place.


Sitting & Watching–ages 4-7

There’s a lot to be seen & learned while watching the workers at a construction site, at an airport or rail station, or at your own corner.


Getting Around–ages 8-12

Learning to get around without a car can be a valuable lesson. Gather bus route maps & schedules to a place around town. Let children use the schedules to figure out what transportation is available, how much time it will take, & how much it will cost.


Beyond Nagging: I’d like to think that nagging works because it is such a handy thing to do. But like millions of parents, I have found that nagging can do just the opposite of what it is intended to do. It can motivate kids not to do things. Cutting down on nagging, in contrast, can be a motivating factor, one that works for both parent & child.


The No-Nag Writing System–any age

For practice, announce that for five minutes no one will talk. Instead you will send notes. Try this out at the breakfast table. Choose at least one nagging problem that is important to you & your child. Promise each other that instead of nagging, for one whole week you will send each other reminder notes.

Set up a message center for these reminders. A bulletin board in the kitchen or family room is a good place. Or post reminders around the house. Leave the notes in the bathroom, on the stairs, or on other places where they will be seen. A note left on the pillow always seems to work!


The First Step–any age

The old Chinese saying is true: “The longest journey starts with a single step.” The first step in doing something can be the hardest.

Ask children to tell you about any first times they remember. It might be the first day at school, the first grade they received on a paper, the first time they tried to ride a bike or swim the pool.

First steps are hard. We tend to say, “Aw, come on, that’s easy,” but it’s not. Our goal in helping to motivate children is to help them gain the optimism & the courage to take more first steps. That is the lesson we have to teach, & one way to teach it is by sharing our experiences.


Time Me–ages 4-6

This activity will help your child better understand the difference between “a few seconds” & “a few minutes.” You need a clock or watch with a second hand.

Ask your child to watch the second hand for five seconds. Together count off the seconds. Put this into action. Time it again & see how many times your child can clap in five seconds. Now have your child watch the clock for one minute. Then time it again & see how far you can both count in one minute. Together read a book for five minutes. Time yourselves. How many pages did you read? Hold your breath for five seconds. Let your child time you. Then trade places. Time yourselves as you both say the alphabet aloud. Together time a traffic light as you stand at a street corner.


Tell Me–ages 4-9

Teachers in the early grades tell us that children have trouble listening. Think of a real job at home that your child can do. It might be setting the table, taking out the garbage, bringing in the newspaper, hanging up clothes. Think of three or four instructions for this job. Ask your child to listen carefully as you say them. Example: “Take out four forks, four knives, & four spoons. Put them on the table in four place settings. Put the fork on the left, the knife & spoon on the right.”

Let your child give you instructions to follow. They can be as easy or as complicated as you & your child want. In this way, you individualise this activity to suit your child.


Excuses Don’t Count–ages 7-12

Make a chore chart for the hours between five p.m. & bedtime. Ask children to choose a time to do each chore. Write those times on the chart. The chart might look like this:

   Chore            Time       Done

Setting the Table    5:30

Doing homework       7:30


Talk about when they did the tasks. Did they do them all? If not, did they have real reasons or excuses?

Families need their own reward system. It’s important that the rules be clear, the system fair & consistently followed. Whether it’s a present, a grade, a raise, or a word of praise & a kiss, a reward is very sweet, indeed.

Rewards: This scene captures for me the power of rewards. It was a hot summer Saturday in a restaurant in a small town. A little girl had just opened the door. Her parents were busy behind the counter. And this child, age eight, was busy, too. Carrying her parents’ laundry, she came through the door with a smile on her face that said to all of us, “I’m not bored. I’m happy. I am doing something important.” That was her inner reward. Her parents’ praise was the external one.

Competition: There are some basic principles of competition that every child should learn, or at least listen to. To compete, you have to be able to lose. You have to be willing to fail but not feel like a failure. You have to get up off the floor & try again.



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Positive parenting : Megaskills 1

Dear parents

Sunbird is back with a new series of MEGASKILLS. We hope you were able to make good use of PRIME PARENTING.

We wanted to give you a little break before we launch the new series, so here is the new topic which will be self explainable. It also includes older children’s support, as we know many readers have now children that are anywhere from 6 to 12 years old.


MEGA SKILLS–By Dorothy Rich


What can parents do?: For years parents were told, “Hands off, you don’t know what you are doing, leave teaching to the schools.” Over twenty years ago, I decided I had to find a way to help parents know what they could do & what they should do to help children learn. The answer: Figure out what your family can do. Come up with a system that works. Don’t make it too hard or too big. Make it simple, easy & everyone can do it. Make it practical. Make it enjoyable.

Remember, it doesn’t take a lot of time to do a lot of good. Get people doing things together. You don’t need to be perfect to be good, & that goes for your children too. Convey to your children that learning matters, & that they matter. Encourage kids & feel encouraged yourselves.

Start now. Don’t worry about what you did or did not do before. The education in this book is serious, but it’s not grim. It’s play & pleasure & the delight in learning & in time spent together.

MegaSkills are the very basic values, attitudes & behaviours that determine a child’s achievement. MegaSkills are our children’s inner engines of learning. Though reinforced in the classroom, they get their power from the home:


  1. Confidence: Feeling able to do it
  2. Motivation: Wanting to do it
  3. Effort: Being willing to work hard
  4. Responsibility: Doing what’s right
  5. Initiative: Moving into action
  6. Perseverance: Completing what you start
  7. Caring: Showing concern for others
  8. Teamwork: Working with others
  9. Common Sense: Using good judgment
  10. Problem Solving: Putting what you know & what you can do into action.




A MegaSkill, like confidence, is a long-lasting, achievement-enhancing skill. It’s what makes possible the use of the other skills that we learn. A MegaSkill is a catalyst. It’s like yeast making bread rise.

These aren’t only MegaSkills, but they play a strong role in determining success in school & beyond. They don’t drop from the sky & land on a lucky few. They can be taught at home by parents, even today. They are the values that undergird our work ethic, our character, & our personal behaviour.

I Care About You: Many children today feel they are not getting the time they need. I’ve heard the excuses, & there aren’t any good ones. “I’m just too busy” & “My kid doesn’t want to do anything with me, anyway,” are not acceptable, not now when our children need parents as much as they do.

What does this time together do? It says to a child, “I care about you. I want to spend special time with you. I want to hear what is on your mind & what you are feeling. You are important. You are needed.”

Children need time to relax & to think & to be on their own, & so do parents. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do a lot of good.

Our Children’s World: A Scary Place: The World is increasingly a frightening place. When I went to school, no one offered me drugs. AIDS was unheard of. The music I listened to had sweet lyrics & melodies compared to today’s torrid words & music. There seemed to be a communally shared sense of right & wrong & a greater sense of safety.

Looking around you now, it seems that children are being told & shown more than they want to know or need to know. It’s as if anything goes, & it is making real growing up harder. Parental guidance is more than suggested. It’s essential.

Today many children are full of stress. Time spent with children is the best possible vaccine that families can use.

Hope: A Vital Ingredient: There’s a well-known story of two children put in a room that contains a big pile of manure. One child looks at the pile & falls into despair. The other starts searching the room, saying, “With all this manure, there must be a pony somewhere.”

We can help children feel more hopeful & optimistic. Children need to be able to expect & to predict. They need a sense of schedule & of routine. Children need to be able to believe in themselves & in the people around them. Children need to feel that they matter.




I said to myself, “There has got to be a better way,”  when for the tenth time that day my darling child said: “I forgot,” or “I can’t find them anywhere,” or “I want to watch more TV,” or “I need some money.”

We all want our children to remember, to be responsible, to be concerned. As a teacher I thought, “If I can figure out how to teach the parts of speech, I ought to be able to come up with some ways to help teach these important basics.”

Using what I knew from the classroom, I decided that my method would focus on what is to be taught & then break it into teachable bits–like the directions of a recipe.

That was the beginning of the home learning recipe. It is the heart of the program.

It Starts At Home: This program uses everyday things, like doing laundry or paying bills, & going places, like supermarkets or gas stations, for teaching. It is easy. It is fun. It takes little time. Everyone can do it. It costs no money. The idea is to enable children to apply what they learn.

Common Sense is Still in Fashion: In recent years education became the job for the school. Today there is research showing that families are important educators of their children, teaching even when they don’t know they are teaching. No matter how good they are, teachers cannot do the job alone. This book provides a way to think about & use everyday moments for teaching & learning. Children need physical activity & opportunity to ask questions, to explore, & to experiment without competitive pressures.

What’s in a Home Learning Recipe?–A home learning recipe has to:

  1. Tie to schoolwork but not be schoolwork: Children need ways to succeed at home that are different from school but at the same time help them succeed in school. Parents need ways to help their children learn other than by nagging, “Did you do your homework?”
  2. Be serious & be fun at the same time.
  3. Have a teachable focus: You don’t send a very young child upstairs to “clean a room.” You send a young child to do one thing: To make a bed or to vacuum the rug or to open the shades. It’s even helpful to resist sending an older youngster to “clean up that whole mess at once.” Good teaching is a step-by-step operation.
  4. Be easy to do, take little time, & cost little or no money: Parents can teach & learn with their children joyously, without worry, without hassle. I needed activities that could be done alongside my household routines, using whatever I had at home. Today’s busy parents need these easy-to-do “recipes” more than ever. Use these ideas to take off on your own, using your & your child’s creativity to come up with additional “recipes”.

A good home learning recipe gives everyone a chance to succeed. There is no one right way to do it. A recipe is a road map, not a set of rigid rules. The activity itself is designed to provide a feeling of accomplishment. It gives parents a chance to step back & children a chance to step forward. The idea is to help both parent & child feel good & get to know each other better in the bargain.

Different “Recipes” for Different Ages: What works for preschoolers won’t work for fifth graders. Parents have to be ready to change gears. Around ages four through six, many of the “recipes” have to do with getting ready for school & using primary school subjects like counting, sorting & early reading at home.

Around ages seven through nine, many of the “recipes” focus on helping children get organised, build study skills, & develop solid work habits.

Around ages 10 through 12, “recipes” work toward helping children understand themselves, their friends, & their family. Activities aim at developing greater self-reliance, building career awareness, & establishing healthy habits & self-esteem that can help prevent destructive habits, such as drug abuse.

These are not hard & fast age & grade distinctions. Use all & any of the activities that appeal to you & your child.

For children who do not yet read, I recommend that parents read all directions aloud, that children dictate their ideas for parents to write, & that symbols be used alongside words as needed. In labelling a dresser drawer, draw a sock next to the word “socks.”

We use a series of eight “recipes” over a period of eight weeks, one a week. This is designed to get parents & youngsters tuned in to the idea of using “recipes”. Read through the entire collection of “recipes” first, starring or checking the ones that appeal to you. Then ask your child to help you select the ones you both like. Work at your own schedule–but guard against overkill. Once a week is really fine. You can build a whole year of activities as you go along.

Staying with the Program: Use them on a regular basis. If you’ve used one part of an activity, go back to it to find the extra idea you haven’t tried. Think of ways you can build on what you have done. Improvise, be creative.




We know what we’re hearing when children say: “I just can’t do that.” “The other kids are better than I am.” “I’m scared.” “I won’t try it.” We’re hearing a child’s cry for more confidence. “I remember the potholder I made in third grade, made out of loops that were yellow, red, gold & orange. It was a present I made to give to my mother, & oh, was she proud. And did it make me feel good!”

Those are the words of a man in his late fifties. He has a doctorate & many scientific achievements on his resum. But when asked about his sense of confidence, he talks about the potholder.

I still remember the day I carried Rocky, the rooster, home in a crate bigger than I was. It was the last day of first grade. About fifteen of us lined up to draw slips for our chickens. I was a winner. I struggled with that big box over the six blocks to my home. My brother came by a couple of times to try to help me with it, but I refused. This was my chicken, my achievement, & I would bring him home alone.

I have never forgotten Rocky & the day I carried him home alone. It is a memory of struggle & success that gives me confidence & motivation to this very day. When I have to do something hard & when I get scared, I think back to Rocky & that crate, & even though it has nothing to do with the current situation, I breathe deeper & think to myself, “I can do it.”

Confidence Practice: Confidence ebbs & flows like a river. It does not run at high tide all the time. Coming up with confidence-building experiences for children can be a challenge. These experiences need to be small enough for children to deal with, large enough to encourage growth, & easy enough for parents to work with. You can start at home with household objects, such as a telephone.

Here are a few activities, all using the phone:


Telephone Time–ages 4-6

For this early reading activity, you need a telephone, seven small squares of paper, crayon or pencil. Tell or show your child your home telephone number. Say each separate number aloud as you point to it.

On separate pieces of paper, write down each number. Now show your child how to put the pieces in the same order (left to right) as your phone number. Let your child read this telephone number aloud from the assembled pieces of paper. Provide help as needed.

As a game, mix up the pieces of paper & let your child put your telephone number together. At first let your child match the papers to the number listed on the phone. Then try this without looking at the phone. Now ask your child to write down the phone number, left to right, on a larger piece of paper. You might want to post this for all to see & admire.

When you are both out together, let your child dial home. Do this when someone is at home to give your child the satisfaction of making contact.


Calling For Help–ages 7-9

This activity helps your child learn to use the telephone to report emergencies. Ask your child to find in the telephone book the numbers for Fire/Rescue & Police, usually listed at the front of the telephone book.

If you don’t already have one, make a list of important telephone numbers to call in an emergency, similar to the one that follows. With your child, fill this in & put it near the phone.



Fire ____________________

Dad’s Work_______________


Mom’s Work_______________

Friend or Neighbour______


Take turns explaining what to say on the phone when you report emergencies. Examples: Someone at home is hurt; you smell smoke or see fire. When you use the phone in this practice, be sure to keep the contact button pushed down.


From Things to People: In the journey of growing up, children must learn to manage objects & work with people. Confidence comes from both. In the activities that follow, children find out more about their families & themselves, & they get a chance to learn to like each other more. I believe that if children knew more about their parents, especially about their early lives, it would help.

I’m Okay, & So is My Family: Children love knowing more about themselves. Parents like this activity because it not only helps children think seriously about themselves but provides lots of laughs, too. It helps families remember the funny times that sometimes seem funny only in retrospect–the time the big fish got away, along with the fishing rod, or the time friends were invited for a birthday party on the wrong day.


The Importance of Me–ages 4-9

The task is to make a “me” poster. You need markers, poster cardboard or large paper, scissors, paste, old magazines for pictures, & snapshots, if possible.

Together look through magazines. Find pictures of what your child likes–pets, foods, clothes. Cut them out & with paste arrange them on a large sheet of paper. Magazine pictures are fine. If you have extra snapshots, use them.

An activity like this one says to your child, “You are special, & your family knows it.”


Now & Then–ages 10-12

This activity helps to get generations talking together, especially about those early years. Everyone was a child once. Here’s a way to share some of those memories.

In this activity, the child & a parent or grandparent make a Time Line. It’s a way to recapture memories of people at certain times in their lives.

You need a roll of shelf paper or large brown wrapping paper, pencils & crayons, & a ruler.

Decide together with your child when to begin the Time Line. This may be at birth or when school started or some other special time. Decide how much space will be allowed for each year. One inch per year or one foot per year? Draw a line for each one of you.

Talk about the memories. Compare similar experiences. Talk about differences. For example, at no time in my life have I experienced such a momentous decision as my parents did when they decided to immigrate to a new, unknown country.

Another way to harvest memories without using a Time Line is to have children interview grandparents & relatives who lived through different periods of American (or family) history.

Young people may want to start their own family archives by putting all these family memories in a book to share with their own children.


What Do I Do Right?–ages 10-12

Many of us spend a lot of time telling each other what we do wrong. Here’s an activity to help us focus on what we’re doing right. You need paper & pencil.

Together think of & write down at least two things you like about yourselves. Example: “I have a good sense of humour. I like to share with others.” Talk about what others say they like about you.

Figure out together jobs & activities at home that both you & your child will feel proud of accomplishing. Examples: Fixing something around the house, cooking a special dish for the family, teaching the family a new game.

Try to set a time every day, if only for a few minutes, to talk about the events of the day. If you’re available to listen to your children when they are young, chances are they’ll continue to communicate with you as they grow older.


It Takes Courage: “It takes courage to make courage.” We want children to be careful but not fearful. Work towards a gradual building of the abilities it takes to be courageous & careful at the same time.

I have a problem with heights. When my young children went to the top of the big slide in the playground, my immediate reaction was to shout, “Stop! Come down! You’ll hurt yourself!” They were perfectly happy up there high in the sky. I was the one who was petrified. It took some time for me to pull my own courage together, to let them be courageous & free from the seeds of my fear.

Confidence & Expectations: In California a few years ago, a study showed that “ordinary” students could exceed themselves when expectations for them were high.

Researchers went into a school & tested the students for academic potential. Ignoring the score, they told teachers that one group was made up of “late bloomers” whose academic “promise” would be realised that year. At the end of the year the “promise” was realised. This group was comparable with their classmates as far as could be established, but their teachers had expected them to succeed & they had.

Children learn–by trying. When they try, they build confidence. When children see themselves as doers, they develop the ability to do more.


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Prime – Time Parenting Part 8


A successful family team works together to achieve goals. Every member has a unique role to play. Each contributes his share. Each is essential to the final outcome. But the whole–the concerted team effort–is stronger than the sum of its parts. And as a result, each family member shares in the gratifying joy of meaningful relationships, a growing sense of self-worth, & the satisfaction of fulfilled ambitions.

A good coach is the key to building a winning team. It is your spirit, your drive, your enthusiasm, & your expertise that will ultimately make the difference between success or failure.

A Team Purpose

Every team needs a purpose to keep it going. Every family needs a goal that is worth striving for. One of the Kuzma family goals is excellence; we all strive to reach the highest level that each of us is capable of attaining.

Kim wants to be the best flute player she can become. Knowing this, it is much easier for the rest of us to remain quiet & stay out of her way while she is practicing. At times, Kari has even offered to make Kim’s bed or fix her sack lunch when time is running short & Kim is preparing for a lesson.

In order to have a successful team, children must feel that they are ultimately contributing to family goals. One of our short-term family goals has been to help Mommy finish her book. The children have curtailed boisterous play outside the study door & have taken on a number of Mom’s home responsibilities. Each finished chapter is cause for a family celebration. And now the watchword is “only one chapter to go!” Just this morning as I was taking the children to school, I asked if one of them had a good thought to guide us through the day. Kim quoted something that she was learning at school, “Remember that you will never reach a higher standard than you yourself set. Then set your mark high, & step by step, even though it be by painful effort, by self-denial & sacrifice, ascend the whole length of the ladder of progress.”

The passage continues, “Let nothing hinder you. Fate has not woven its meshes about any human being so firmly that he need remain helpless & in uncertainty. Opposing circumstances should create a firm determination to overcome them. The breaking down of one barrier will give greater ability & courage to go forward. Press with determination in the right direction, & circumstances will be your helpers, not your hindrances.”–A terrific motto for us all!

A common purpose binds the family together in a cooperative working relationship that encourages them to overcome obstacles & progress toward the standard–their team goal.

A Code of Behaviour

Every successful coach establishes behavior standards for team members. A successful family must do the same. Your challenge is to help each member of the team see the relationship between his behavior & the success of the team.

It is important that you, the coach, set an example by meeting your own standards. If you want others to be self-disciplined, loyal, & cooperative, you must be this way first. You must inspire your family with the fact that winning or losing is really dependent upon each one’s willingness to reach for the goals together. Finally, it is your responsibility to discipline those who do not uphold the ideals.

The Game Plan

Planning is an essential part of a winning formula. In addition to a general plan that includes the family purpose & a code of behaviour, the family must have a game plan for each new day. A successful game plan should provide a step-by-step scheme that will help you achieve your goals without being sidetracked. Game plans should consist of bite-sized objectives–what you want to accomplish on a weekly or daily basis–& have a balance in a variety of activities, as well as an appropriate sense of timing. To be a winning team, the family must also consider what problems they are likely to encounter & provide an adequate plan of defense. For example, if Mom is late getting home from work, someone should start dinner. Or if Dad gets out early, he should phone Mom & see if there is anything she needs to have him pick up on his way home.

Communicating the Game Plan

Effective communication is an essential quality for a successful coach. You must know what to say & when to say it. Your goals for the team, your winning strategies, your standards, even your expertise & enthusiasm, won’t make a winning team if you fail to communicate these things.

Coaches plan a variety of team meetings to get their message across to their players & listen to the players’ feedback. They hold weekly rallies to encourage the team, they give pep talks, they ask the players to evaluate the team’s progress & make suggestions, & they develop long-range plans. Then, before the team hits the field, they hold chalk talks to plan strategies for specific games or solve specific problems. Once the play begins, the communication does not cease; rather, it increases in the form of a huddle. Huddles are called whenever necessary in order to make immediate plans or give the necessary encouragement that may ultimately make the difference between winning or losing.

Winning family teams need this same form of communication. You will be a more successful family leader if you plan (or encourage your family to help plan) a weekly family rally, a daily chalk talk, & family huddles whenever needed.

Here are some ideas for making team meetings more attractive to your family.

  1. Make the meetings so interesting, informative, warm, & enjoyable that everyone will want to join the fun.
  2. Ask each person to put suggestions for a rally or chalk talk in a suggestion box, and use them.
  3. Make sure each person feels that his contributions are important to the family.
  4. Plan something special that everyone enjoys.
  5. Serve a special treat at a family rally.
  6. Vote on decisions.
  7. Make sure that everyone has a chance to express himself.
  8. When the children are old enough, have them take turns leading a session.

Establish and Maintain Team Spirit

Everyone is important, but the team comes first. Superstars seldom make it to the top by themselves. In team sports, the outstanding player owes much of his success to the support of his teammates, just as every individual owes much of his success to his family.

The superstar of a family might be a parent who is a famous scientist, or an outstanding musician, or president of a company. It may be a child who is a born athlete or intellectually gifted. If these individuals overshadow other family members or receive attention & recognition at the others’ expense, there will be a breakdown in family morale. Each superstar must learn to accept recognition & praise graciously, & honestly credit the family when credit is due.

Children who are not superstars sometimes feel neglected, worthless, & unloved because they do not receive the attention that another is receiving. The family cannot always prevent this if the attention comes from outsiders. But within the family they can make sure that all of their children receive recognition for their skills & abilities, even if the outside World has not crowned that child with superstar status. Each team member should be challenged to do his best.

Everyone is needed. It is not much fun to play on a team when you don’t feel needed. Parents sometimes err when they try to be so self-sufficient that their children come to believe that their contributions to the family are really not worth very much. So make sure each of your children feels really needed & useful to the family & to you!

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Prime – Time Parenting Part 7


The goal of effective prime-time discipline is self-discipline. That’s the preventive approach. Working parents can’t oversee & police all their children’s activities. Therefore, they must teach their children how to make good decisions about their own behaviour. When children are self-controlled rather than parent-controlled, it frees time for more creative, enjoyable, & happy family interactions–more quality time together.

Children’s inappropriate behaviour ranges from childish irresponsibility (such as forgetting to feed the dog & accidentally spilling the milk) to wilful defiance of parental authority. In between these two extremes there is a wide range of “normal” misbehavior by children who persistently challenge the limitations imposed by adults.

In order to avoid unnecessary conflict, a parent must understand the difference between discipline & punishment. Punishment is a penalty imposed upon a child for a wrong-doing. Discipline, on the other hand, is a teaching process. It helps him learn lessons that will make him a better person.

Punishment is arbitrarily imposed; discipline relates directly to a child’s inappropriate behaviour. For example, Tim was late getting home from school & had not notified his mother. If she chose to punish him, she might take his bicycle away for two weeks & spank him for his irresponsibility. If, on the other hand, she chose a disciplinary action, she might not allow Tim to watch his favourite TV show that evening so that he could have the time to finish the homework & chores he’d neglected by arriving home late. She might also set up some careful limitations for future behaviour. “Unless you call home & receive permission for a variance, you must be home thirty minutes after school each day or no TV that night.” When discipline is effective it avoids needless conflict & enhances the possibilities for more quality family time.

Remember to keep the request simple. When you make a request, you must always be aware of your child’s ability to understand & remember that request.

Most parents make far too many requests of their children. “Kevin, brush your teeth & wash your face. Be sure to go to the bathroom before we leave. You forgot to clear your plate from the table. And have Kim run a comb through your hair.” My 7-year-old can’t even follow this string of requests. I know because we have tried it & it has never worked! Very few children will speak up & say, “Hold it. I can’t remember everything you’re telling me to do.” Instead, they signal us silently by failing to follow all our instructions. And we respond by accusing them of disobedience! So, when you are trying to teach your child that you are an authority, remember this little jingle:

Just ask the child one thing to do

And then make sure you follow through.

The Qualities of an Effective Disciplinarian

Keep Open.

Being open means that parents are approachable; that they will listen. It means that they will seriously consider another person’s (even a little person’s) suggestions, criticism, needs, concerns, demands, & wishes before making a decision, rather than jealously guarding this function as their own parental right.

Be consistent.

Let’s pretend that you think it’s very important for your child to make his bed each morning. Your child knows exactly how you feel–it is a rule that he should obey. But you are very busy during those morning hours & often forget to check his room. When you do check & find an unmade bed, you sometimes feel that it’s easier to ignore the infraction than to exert the extra effort needed to get him to make his bed before the school bus arrives. So you decide to wait until after school. Then, by the time you both get home, the bed is forgotten.

Now, you still feel very strongly about the bed, & you have communicated this to your child in no uncertain terms. Shouldn’t this be enough to get the job done? He clearly knows what he should do. Why doesn’t he do it? The reason is that this requirement has not been consistently enforced.

Children will abide by reasonable requirements & limitations, but their tendency is to do as little as possible. Even a two-year-old will try to get away with as much as he can. He’ll quickly learn that even though his parents say “no” frequently, the limits will come tumbling down if he kicks hard enough. When his persistent challenging meets with parental inconsistency, he’ll be encouraged to kick at every limit he would just as soon do without.

Balance tenderness & firmness.

A good disciplinarian constantly walks the tightrope between firmness & tenderness. Sometimes he may tip in one direction but he corrects the error with a little tip in the opposite direction. He is not afraid to be firm, but he is equally unafraid to be tender.

Provide encouragement.

Inspire your child with a sense of hope; assure him of your support & your trust in his capabilities.

Between the plunking of the typewriter keys, I thought I heard a whimper. I left the study to investigate. Kari was sitting on the piano bench, her eyes brimming with tears. “What’s wrong, Kari?” I asked.

“I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I’ll never get a gold star at my next lesson,” she cried.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” I said. “What is the first note of your piece?” Step by step I began encouraging her to pick her way through the difficult music. I sat beside her as she played it over & over again until it was mastered.

That night Kari hugged & kissed me with extra feeling & bounced off to her bed joyfully. The next day the joy of encouragement buoyed her again when her teacher rewarded her with a gold star.

Encouragement. What a tranquilizer! What a stimulant! What an antidepressant! What a tonic for whatever ails a child! I don’t think there is ever a time when encouragement & hope are inappropriate. A disobedient child is often a discouraged child. He reasons, “When I don’t feel good about myself & nothing I do seems to work out, it really doesn’t matter how I act. Why even try to be good?” Discouragement can lead to despair, moodiness, even apathy. All these emotions severely restrict a child’s ability to cope & to make wise decisions.

Don’t risk discouragement; give your child an injection of “hypodermic affection” every three hours, or as often as needed. This quick injection of love can be a hug, a wink, a smile, or a playful nibble on a baby’s tummy. These little attentions can give a child a new outlook on life.

Common Mistakes of Parents

The following list of common parental mistakes offers some guidelines to help you err less frequently.

  1. Living too close to the problem to view it objectively. One day a frustrated mother lamented to her child’s teacher, “I have no idea what I am going to do with my boy. I can’t cope with his behavior. He is constantly on my nerves & in my hair & under foot. He is always doing things that annoy me.”

“Well,” replied the teacher, “have you ever thought of getting him a bicycle?”

“A bicycle!” the parent exclaimed. “Now, how is that going to change his behaviour?”

“Well, it may not change his behaviour,” replied the teacher, “but it would spread it over a wider area.”

Sometimes problems are magnified because we view them at such close range. Gain a new perspective by stepping away from the situation occasionally. Learn to view your child from the perspective of others. Remember, a child’s behaviour is not nearly so irritating if it is spread over a wider area & viewed from a healthy perspective!

  1. Being too restrictive or too permissive. Parents who feel insecure about their children’s behaviour tend to restrict that behaviour to such an extent that the child has little room to think creatively & misbehave. When a child’s behaviour is severely restricted, he cannot learn to make decisions & experience the consequences of those decisions. Overly restricted children are followers; they are overly compliant, shy, & hesitant to reach out to others. These children can surprise parents by suddenly going to the opposite extreme during the teenage years & rebelling against parental values & standards.

The opposite extreme, being too permissive, is equally detrimental to a child’s development. If you allow your child to do whatever he pleases, you are heading for conflict throughout the child-rearing years. Overpermissiveness may seem like a good way to avoid conflict, but without parental guidance, children tend to pack together & run wild until their aggressive, noncompliant behaviour gets them into trouble.

  1. Expecting misbehavior. When asked the question, “How is your child’s behaviour?” one father quipped, “I don’t know. He has never behaved!” Children tend to fulfil the expectations of others. If you expect them to be bad, they will usually reward you with this very behaviour. In fact, they may even outdo your expectations. On the other hand, if they know that you trust them to make good decisions (unless they are rebelling against you in some way), they will usually do everything in their power to fulfil those expectations.
  2. Being too busy to discipline. The first time a child misbehaves, he must be corrected & taught a more acceptable mode of behavior. If he does it again, he must be corrected again. Surprisingly, however, parents are often too busy to follow through on their instructions to a child. Your arms may be elbow deep in the dishwater; you may be talking on the phone to a business associate; you may be entertaining the boss & his wife. Too often, parents allow the dishes, a caller, or a guest to absorb their full attention, so they ignore misbehavior & neglect to discipline. Disciplining a child after the company has departed is not as effective as immediate disciplinary action. Imagine the impact on your child if you excuse yourself from your company for a few minutes to talk privately with your child about the inappropriateness of his behaviour. Your child will never forget that Mom and Dad will leave whatever they are doing in order to teach their children appropriate behaviour, even though they may be very busy at that time.
  3. Not trusting the child’s capability for self-discipline. If you have established a good rapport with your child during the early years, & have taught him that you are a wise decision-maker, then you can trust him to make more & more of his own decisions as he grows older & more independent.

Individuals who know they are trusted are able to exert a great deal of self-control & willpower. In college, I had a dormitory dean who trusted each one of her girls implicitly. Even though I had many opportunities to break dormitory rules, or sneak in late, I never did because I did not want to lose that trust.

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Prime -Time Parenting Part 6


When you think of filling your child’s life with love, it seems like an enormous task. You hardly know where to begin. But you can start by viewing time in little pockets–five minutes here, ten minutes there–that can be filled to the brim right now–not tomorrow or next month or next year. Your constant thought should not be, “When will I ever find the time?” Rather it should be, “I have a five-minute pocket of time; what can I do right now that will get the `I love you’ message across to my child?”

How Do You Say, “I Love You”?

Most parents are willing to give everything they have to their children. They will sacrifice their own needs & work long hours to provide their children with the necessities, as well as the luxuries of life. But if a parent neglects to give a child love, nothing else can substitute for that gap. The child will suffer. Parental love is of primary importance.

You can’t say “I love you” with things. Love can be expressed by words & actions, but in order for either of these methods to be effective, a parent must spend time with a child. Love is communicated by the time spent individually with your child, & by the time spent in pleasant family activities. It is your “presence,” not your “presents,” that really expresses your love.

This does not mean that you must spend every minute with your child. However, when your absence is necessary, you must continue to communicate love messages, & convince your child that your absence does not mean other people are more important to you than he is.

What if a child does not want to spend time with you? Parents of teenagers told me that they would gladly spend time with their children if the children wanted them to. Now they have the time. Their children are old enough to converse & enjoy some of the same activities their parents enjoy. But their teenagers often want nothing to do with them. “Dad never had time for me when I wanted him to take me hiking & fishing; why should I include him in my activities now?”

Make yourself & your love readily accessible. Be fun to be with. Create an atmosphere of warm acceptance & most children, including rebellious teens, will be drawn to you.

Making Presence Qualitatively Meaningful

Let’s go through the day & see how you can get the most out of your time with your children.

  1. Morning: Instead of yelling, “Time to get up,” walk to the children’s bedroom, whisper in their ear that it’s time to get up, & then stroke their foreheads as they open their sleepy eyes.
  2. Goodbye time: Instead of running out the door, say “Goodbye.” Wink at the children as you turn to leave & then blow them a kiss from the car.
  3. Midday: Instead of working straight through the day, take a break & think of a way you can communicate your love to your child. Call him at school, bring him something from the office, remember to tell him the joke you just heard.
  4. Evening: Instead of letting everyone go about their different tasks, do a few things together. Talk, smile, laugh, & give your child a pat on the back when a task is finished.

The Importance of an Unconditional Loving Relationship

The important key to helping our children develop desirable characteristics is love–unconditional love. No matter what mistakes a parent may make, if a child knows that he is loved, he can overlook many of these mistakes. And, with the sense of worth that love brings, he can grow into an emotionally healthy adult.

When parents begin tucking love into every pocket of a child’s life, they must not base this shower of affection & acceptance on the child’s behaviour. The kind of love that must be tucked into pockets of time is the kind of love that is unconditionally given, no matter what the child does.

Enjoy Your Child

It’s always sad to hear parents say, “I can hardly wait for my child to get through the diaper stage.” If you are really interested in filling every pocket of time with as much love as you can pack into it, you must enjoy being with your children. You have to enjoy them just the way they are, at whatever stage they may be. Here are some suggestions to help you create that sense of enjoyment.

Be prepared. Husbands, how do you feel when your wife & children have truly prepared for your homecoming in the evening; when dinner is ready & the mail is lying in a place where you can find it? When someone has made an extra effort on your behalf, you know that person has been thinking about you. You feel loved. Children feel the same way. If you prepare for their birth & their various developmental stages, the time you spend with them will more likely be quality time.

Keep a diary, scrapbook, or picture album. Collecting the children’s cute sayings, anecdotes, photographs, drawings, & other interesting miscellany helps build memories for future enjoyment. Collecting & recording can add to your enjoyment right now, if you keep the task easy.

Play games with your child. Playing games with children means getting involved with them at their level; being responsive to their behaviour. Start at birth. Play the “I’ll touch-your-nose, & tickle-your-tummy, & pedal-your-feet & stretch-your-arms-up-so-high” games. Toddlers love the chase-me-but-don’t-catch-me game & peek-a-boo. Preschoolers enjoy pretend games like let’s-play-house. School-age children enjoy organised games like basketball, baseball & Ping-Pong–if you are skillful enough to allow them to win without letting them know what you are doing.

Dovetail your interests. Young children are interested in collecting earthworms & catching ladybugs, digging in the dirt pile or jumping in the pile of leaves. Forget yourself & enjoy your child’s interests. Pull weeds while you’re collecting earthworms, or finish your crossword puzzle by the pile of leaves. The important thing is that you are enjoying the activity that your child is interested in.

Do what you enjoy (or what you have to do) & take the children along. Why not take the children along on a business trip if you think you might have a few pockets of time when you could enjoy each other? A colleague who works long hours & takes frequent business trips to Washington, D.C. takes each of his teenagers with him once a year. While Dad attends meetings, the teenager fills his mind with thousands of interesting facts & sights at the Smithsonian Institute. Each evening they do something special together.

If photography is your thing, introduce your child to the darkroom. Choose an activity that you really enjoy & include your child, but remember his developmental capabilities. He may not be able to sit through a long meeting, hike ten miles a day, or fish on a quiet lake without rocking the boat, but with a little modification you may be able to take your child along & create a memorable occasion for both of you.

Take time to enjoy each child individually. Ideally each parent should try to spend some daily individual time with each child. Finding this time is more difficult when families are large. With each new birth parents have less time to give the other children alone.

One very busy travelling evangelist, who was also the father of six, solved this problem by making bedtime his time with the children. Every night when he was home, he scheduled their bedtime at half hour intervals. This gave him time to talk over the events of the day, read to the children, & listen to each child’s prayers individually.

Do the Unexpected

I once read an unforgettable account about a father & his 7-year-old son. On an August night, the father bundled up the sleeping child & carried him into the darkness. As the boy’s sleep-filled eyes began to focus on his surroundings, the father shouted, “Look!” And there in the sky the little boy saw a star leap from its place & fall toward the ground. Then incredibly, another star fell, & another & another. That was all. But the boy never forgot that night when his father did the unexpected.

How often do we miss the beauty & richness of life because we are locked into routines & schedules, & we are afraid to take advantage of the unknown, the unplanned, & the unexpected? Keep a “Why-not” list. This is a list of way-out, interesting, crazy things to do with or for your children. When the opportunity is right & the children are least expecting it, surprise them with the announcement, “Why not…?”

At the top of a Why-not list I suggest a love note. Why not write a love note when it is least expected? For years mothers have been tucking little notes into children’s lunch pails, but have you thought about taping a note to his toothbrush, or on the ceiling of his bedroom so he will see it as soon as he wakes up, or putting it under his napkin at the dinner table?

Here are some other “Why-not” ideas. Why not take the child to some unexpected place or do something out of the ordinary? Why not milk a cow? Why not visit the local radio station? Why not paddle down the river or float on inner tubes (if you’ve got a river close by)? Why not sit on the roof & watch the full moon come up? Why not catch butterflies, or fly a kite, or have a three-legged race? Why not camp out in your backyard with sleeping bags & a campfire? Why not just stop in the middle of your ironing or dusting to read your child a story?

Open Doors for Your Child

One of a parent’s greatest privileges is to open new & wonderful doors of possibility to a child. One day, after winning a tennis tournament, the young teenage winner was asked when she first became interested in tennis. She thought for a moment & replied, “it was the day my father gave it to me.” The reporters, not understanding her reply, try to clarify, “You mean, when your father bought you a racket & ball?” “No,” she replied, “it was the day Dad took off from work & played with me. That was the day he gave me tennis.”

Open the door to good cooking by sharing kitchen responsibilities with your child. Let her read your cookbook or take her out to eat at a gourmet restaurant & then encourage her to experiment on her own. Open the door to the artistic world by frequenting art museums & galleries. Plan to open a door for your child today.

Be an Effective Communicator

Studies on teenage runaways suggest that the most important way a parent can help a troubled adolescent is to listen. Running away is a desperate attempt to communicate what parents were not willing to listen to before. Being a good listener is a simple way to show you understand & care. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Show interest in your child’s conversation. Look up. Make appropriate comments. Stop what you are doing.
  2. Don’t correct his speech while he is talking to you.
  3. Focus on the hidden message–if you think there might be one.
  4. Don’t contradict his story or the points he is making until he has finished & wants your opinions.
  5. Don’t squelch a child when he voices offbeat values or comes to an impossible conclusion. Don’t laugh, make fun of, belittle, tear down, or in any other way make it more difficult for a child to open up his heart & ideas to you in the future.
  6. Be an active listener. Active listening means active involvement with the person who is communicating. To show that you are actively listening, make little expressions of understanding, such as, “Yes, ah ha, I see,” etc.
  7. Encourage your child to talk, to express himself, & to share his values & goals. One way to encourage the child to share his world with you is to have a talk-about-it bowl or basket that sits on the kitchen table. During the day, the children can put objects, notes, newspaper clippings, or articles into the bowl that they would like to talk about during dinner.

Write a variety of questions on paper placemats. Cover them with clear contact paper so they will last. Choose questions that will stimulate a good conversation. When the dinner conversation seems to drag, read off a question, like, “What would you do if you just inherited a million Dollars?” Or, “If you knew you were going to die in one month, how would you spend your time?”

  1. Children should be encouraged to communicate on the feeling level.

If children are going to learn to communicate their feelings, then you must encourage them to do so. Does your child know that it is safe to say, “Mommy, I feel sad. Hold me a little bit.” “Mom, I feel discouraged. Do you have a minute to talk?” “Dad, I got angry when you spoke to me like that. Can we discuss it?”

What kind of communicator are you? For one hour while your whole family is together, tape-record your conversation. Then analyse your interactions.

Prepare for Separation

It is often easier for children to accept their parents’ vacations or business trips if they know that they will be invited along some other time. Children suffer most when they don’t know when or why their parents are leaving, and when they feel that they will never be able to join their parents.

When young children are separated from their parents, the most difficult part of the day is often bedtime. One parent solved this problem by reading stories to her child over a cassette tape recorder. Her daughter was reminded of Mom’s love at the end of every day when she heard her mother’s words, “I love you & miss you. So snuggle up in your warm, cozy bed. I’m going to blow you a kiss. Did you catch it? Now there’s a special story for my special little girl.”

Take Advantage of the Prime-Prime-Times

There are extra-special times when your presence or absence will have a tremendous impact on the child. I consider 1) arrival & departure times, 2) performance time, and 3) bedtime as prime-prime-times.

  1. Arrival & departure times. Arrivals & departures should be family celebration times. No matter how insignificant these times may seem, make some preparations & take some time off from your busy schedule to affirm your love for the arriving or departing member of the family.

Departure times can be more meaningful if they are not rushed. In most homes, including ours, the average after-breakfast departure time is a disaster. “Grab your lunch pail.” “Kevin, get your shoes.” “You forgot to wash your face.” “No, I don’t know where your note that I was supposed to sign is.” Finally, when they are gone you collapse in the midst of dirty dishes, thankful that you have once again lived through the departure hurricane that has just swept through your house.

Again, preparation is the key. Our most pleasant mornings begin the night before: The children have prepared their box lunches, set the table, organised their clothes, & put everything they have to take to school by the back door. It also helps when they get up early enough to get themselves ready & still have time to help Jan & me with breakfast. Then we have time to enjoy each other.

  1. Performance time. A child’s performance time is a prime time for parents to show love & support. It doesn’t matter how small a part your child has in a performance, your presence is meaningful. At such times, parents should support their children because they are trying, & pat them on the back even if they strike out or fumble the ball.
  2. Bedtime. Bedtime is by far the nicest, coziest, & most enjoyable part of the day. If I could choose only 15 minutes a day to spend with my children, it would be the 15 minutes before bedtime.

Bedtime can be a hassle if it’s not well planned–if the kids are dead tired, haven’t done their homework, and are bickering about who should pick up the dirty clothes left in the bathroom. To set the stage properly, there has to be adequate preparation & planning. Bedtime is most enjoyable when the children are not exhausted or rushed.

This is the time when I listen to my children’s prayers, tuck them in with a hug & a kiss, & then linger around after the lights are off to chat, rub backs, & snuggle–if they feel like a snuggle.

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Prime-Time Parenting Part 5


Children develop best when parents act on knowledge & educated common sense & not instinct or guesswork alone. Most new parents know very little about child development. Prime-time parents must be willing to learn & to continue learning through a child’s growing years.

If parents have never studied or had much experience with babies & young children, their expectations may be unrealistic. Young teenage parents with little knowledge or experience can expect their children to do certain things before the child is developmentally ready.

In many instances, whether it was a social smile or a first word, these teenage parents expected this behaviour weeks & sometimes months before the average child is actually capable. Imagine how much frustration & anguish these young parents would have been spared had they known what to expect! (Editor: If they’ve had a lot of experience in childcare, of course, this would rarely apply.)

At this point you may want to test yourself to see how well your expectations compare to expert opinion. At what age would you expect the following behaviors to occur? Your score may motivate you to learn more about children!

  1. Sitting up.
  2. Purposefully reaching for & grasping objects.
  3. Understanding when someone is talking about him.
  4. Creeping (on stomach).
  5. Crawling (on hands & knees).
  6. Seeking for a hidden object.
  7. Walking alone.
  8. Understanding the command “no.”
  9. Speaking in simple sentences.
  10. Sleeping through the night.
  11. Peddling a tricycle.
  12. Girls begin menstruation.
  13. Able to draw a diamond.

[Answers: 1) 6mo; 2) 3 mo; 3) 9mo; 4) 7-8 mo; 5) 8-9 mo; 6) 5 mo; 7) 12 mo; 8) 9 mo; 9) 2yr; 10) 6 mo; 11) 3 yr; 12) 11-14 yr; 13) 7yr.]

A Child Development Guide for the Working Parent

There are certain developmental concepts that are extremely important for prime-time parents to know. These concepts relate to the developing child’s needs & behaviour, & can cause family conflicts if working parents are not aware of them.

Infancy–the first year–A Child Development Guide for the Working Parent

The first month of life is an adjustment period for the entire family. Baby is adjusting to life outside of his mother’s warm “incubator.” Mom is adjusting to breastfeeding and/or getting her body back in shape. Dad is adjusting to a new mouth to feed. Dad & Mom are both adjusting to sleepless nights. Everybody is more tired, more irritable, & probably needs more attention than ever before. Mom needs Dad. Dad needs Mom. The older children need to be convinced that their place & importance in the family has not been usurped by the newcomer. And the baby seems to need everything!

Do yourself & your family a favor by taking time to strengthen the relationship between you & your newborn. Spend as much time together as possible. Psychologists consider this period prime time to establish the bonding process.

The absent father (or mother) syndrome begins when Dad or Mom spend very little time with the infant. Time together is the one essential element necessary for bonding to occur. It is impossible to form attachments unless time is invested in a relationship. When the father fails to spend time with the infant during the first four or five months, the child doesn’t recognise him as a familiar person; between five & eight months of age, he may even cry when the father picks him up. If the child doesn’t know his father, he doesn’t develop trust in him, so when the father tries to help the child, the child won’t respond. He cries harder, pushes his father away, & if he has mastered his first word, he now uses it & yells, “Mamamamamama!” This situation is obviously frustrating to the father.

Because of the father’s lack of satisfaction in the relationship, he usually will not respond as readily to the infant’s future cries for help. Instead, he will call for his wife to take care of the infant’s needs. The result, of course, is that the father spends less & less time with the infant. The child never really gets to know & establish a relationship with his father. Thus, it becomes almost impossible for the father to be effective in the care & training of his child.

In too many cases, the father continues to absent himself from the care & nurturing of his growing child. Instead of spending time with his child, he tries to buy the child’s love & attention by offering him little gifts–until he willingly hands his 16-year-old son keys to a new Porsche because he feels guilty that he didn’t have time to watch his son pitch a high school baseball game.

During the first year, a child develops so rapidly that one must always be aware of new skills & capabilities in order to prevent accidents. I often hear parents lament:

“Yesterday he couldn’t roll over. Today I left the baby on the bed for a moment & he rolled off.”

“Yesterday she couldn’t stand up in the crib. I left the guardrail down & today she tumbled out.”

“Yesterday he couldn’t crawl. Today he crawled to the stairs & fell down the whole flight.”

This is a normal pattern during the first year, so it’s vital to know what developmental changes to expect next. Then you can safety-proof your home & avoid needless worry about possible accidents. Put breakables or harmful substances away. Medicines & poisons should be kept in locked containers far out of reach. Caustic cleaning solutions should be stored in childproof locked closets. Discard broken equipment & frayed electrical cords. Place safety plugs in electrical sockets. Turn the temperature on the water heater down so a child can’t get scalded with hot tap water. Remove poisonous plants from the house & yard. Fence dangerous equipment or swimming pools. Remove sharp-cornered furniture. Keep the doors of the older children’s rooms shut, as it is usually impossible to keep every potentially dangerous object there out of reach.

Toddlers–from 1 to 2-1/2 years of age–A Child Development Guide for the Working Parent

This is the time when the child takes his first steps toward independence. He starts talking, so he can ask for what he wants. He perfects his walking, so he can go wherever he wants. He starts feeding himself, so he can eat what he wants. This all culminates in what people call the “terrible twos.” But this child who is growing so independent continues to need people who will give him attention, affection, & affirmation of his worth. The toddler also needs firm, gentle, consistent discipline as he begins testing out parent-imposed limitations in his life.

Preschoolers–from 2-1/2 to 5 years of age–A Child Development Guide for the Working Parent

This is the age when children become more interested in other children. They need a variety of toys & play equipment, & a place to play. They need stories, songs, finger plays, & language development experiences. They need someone to answer their questions about how cows make milk & why birds have beaks. They need to be introduced to their community–to have a chance to go shopping at a local market, take a trip to the barbershop, visit the fire station & the zoo.

Children of this age continue to thrive in groups with a small adult-child ratio. Make sure that the teacher is not overworked, loves her job, & shows an individual interest in each one of her little charges.

The School-Age Child–A Child Development Guide for the Working Parent

Between six & twelve years of age, a child usually experiences steady, developmental progress. The first years in school are an especially important time for a child to learn to step out on his own & make new friends.

School-age children are sensitive to slights. They want to be accepted. They need to discuss their conflicts with an understanding parent who will not belittle them. Relational problems aren’t just blurted out at the dinner table. Children need time to find the right words to ask for help. A typical problem might be, “Mary was calling Julie names & made her cry. I still want Mary to be my friend, but I felt sorry for Julie. What should I do?” This is the time to establish the fact that you are interested in listening to your child’s problems & will offer good practical advice. School-age children are much more interested in asking for & taking parental advice than teenagers. If you take the time to establish good communication with your school-age children, they will be more willing to accept parental counsel when they are teenagers.

This is the age when children need training in taking responsibility. They enjoy completing & checking off a list of chores that have been left for them. They also enjoy learning new skills & playing games.

Teenagers–A Child Development Guide for the Working Parent

Working parents often think they’re in the home stretch when their child reaches his teens. He is not as dependent upon his parents, & he is fully capable of taking care of himself. Therefore, when parents are away from the home they tend to leave teenagers with little or no supervision.

Some working parents, however, feel that it is even more important to spend time with their children during the critical teenage years. This is the age when children can reap bitter consequences if parents don’t provide proper guidance & supervision. One parent stated, “To encourage & influence my teenagers, instead of threatening & forcing them, requires every ounce of my intelligence, judgement & wit.”

Teenagers need attention. They need someone to talk to. They need someone who thinks they are special. If they don’t receive this attention from their parents, & sometimes even if they do, they will establish this type of relationship with someone else. Members of their own peer group often fill this need, & without parental guidance they may be led into drug experimentation or questionable habits that make them feel important.

Teenagers need to be needed. They want to do worthwhile work. If your child is too young for an outside job, create one at home. Hire him to do various chores & pay him whatever you would pay someone else.

Your teenager should be in your thoughts & your plans as much as younger children. Your home must be as responsive to the teenager’s needs as it was to your preschooler’s needs. If it’s not, teenagers will choose to spend their time elsewhere.

+ + +

Now focus on your child & ask yourself these questions:

  1. What do you think your child’s basic needs are at this time?
  2. How are you as a working parent meeting those needs? Is there anything else you feel you should be doing?
  3. As you look ahead to your child’s next stage of development, what changes do you feel you may have to make in order to better meet his developmental needs?

Recognising Problem Behaviour

It is important for prime-time parents to spot problem behavior in its first stages. In this way, necessary changes can be made before deep-seated emotional problems envelop a child’s life. Be aware of the possible signs that may occur when a child does not feel good about himself and when he is experiencing an emotional problem.

Signs of lack of self-worth

Low self-worth does not develop suddenly. It’s a slow process that occurs when a child perceives that the significant people in his life don’t think very much of him. In reality, they may love & care for him very much, but his perception is the important factor. If a child feels that his own parents don’t love him or think that he isn’t as good as other children, his belief in himself will be seriously damaged. Even if parents shower their children with love & support, there may be periods when he feels that other people don’t like him, or that his friends are rejecting him. When this occurs, his self-esteem may suffer.

The behaviors listed below might be considered signs of low self-worth for the pre-school & school-age child. If your child exhibits some of these signs, don’t assume that he has an emotional problem. Consider such behavior an indication that your child could use a little more quality time with you.

Signs of Low Self-Worth

  1. Child is unrealistically fearful.
  2. Does not ask questions or is afraid to answer questions. Encourage questions when you are alone with the child or in a safe family setting. Reward the child for asking questions by saying, “That’s a good question,” or “I can tell you were really thinking.” In turn, ask the child questions. At first, make sure your questions have simple or obvious answers. Accept all answers by saying something like, “That’s an interesting idea.”
  3. When asked to do something, immediately says, “I don’t know how.” Reassure the child that it is okay not to know how. Say, “When I was your age I didn’t know how either.” Offer to do it & “hire” him as your special assistant. Let him do every small part of the task that he is obviously capable of.
  4. Afraid to try things for the first time, even when a teacher or parent offers help. Reassure him that it is acceptable to watch. Let him decide when he will try something new. One way to do this is to ask him, “How long do you think you’ll want to watch before trying?” After he indicates the amount of time he needs, tell him to let you know when he’s ready so you can help him.
  5. Is afraid to be left in a new situation or with a new person. Stay with the child until he feels comfortable. Ask him to tell you when it is okay for you to leave. Don’t appear anxious to go. If you have allowed a reasonable time, you might warn the child, “I will have to leave in one hour.” When the hour is up, go to the child & say, “Goodbye,” tell him when you will return, & leave. Keep your promise by returning on time.
  6. Does not ask for things he needs. Make it easy for a child to ask. Never belittle a child. Reward requests by saying, “I’m glad you asked,” & fulfil the request immediately.
  1. Child exhibits unusual or negative behaviour.
  2. Exhibits excessive, undesirable behavior, such as biting, kicking, hitting or spitting. Realize that these behaviors are indications of a discouraged, unhappy child. Encourage him. Find the little things he does well & capitalise on those. Stop the negative behaviour by saying, “I can’t let you hurt someone else,” but don’t belittle the child with criticism. Teach them positively & definitely.
  3. Seeks attention by doing something prohibited, by acting silly, or by disturbing others. * Ignore the bad behaviour, but say, “I bet you’d like me to play with you. Let’s go…” Later, tell the child that he can use a magic word to get your attention. Invent a word so you’ll both know what it means & the child won’t have to resort to inappropriate behaviour to get your attention. *(Editor: The idea of the magic word is cute & could be effective. However, it’s certainly best not to just ignore bad behaviour.–It needs to be dealt with. If you ignore it, though it may seem to go away temporarily, the problem will probably recur at a later date, as it’s still there in their hearts. You’ve got to come to terms with real problems. Otherwise, you’ll end up, as many modern psychologists & psychiatrists have, blaming bad or anti-social behaviour on circumstances, & never taking the blame yourself.

(It’s true to some extent that our parents, mate or school chums may have affected us adversely, but we have some responsibility too, & we need to teach our children that they have responsibility. For example, perhaps your parents did make some mistakes in not giving you the attention you needed, but you don’t have to live with the adverse effects of that for the rest of your life. You can change your behaviour, & Jesus can help you get out of that channel. So we need to teach our children that no matter what happens, even if we can’t always give them what they need in every respect, Jesus can compensate & be more than enough. He can even help them overcome the adverse results that some of our lacks may have brought about in their lives.)

  1. Exhibits such behaviour as lying, stealing, or otherwise being deceptive. This behaviour is often a cry for attention. Spend more quality time with the child. Let him know that you can’t be deceived. Say simply, “I know you took the tape. The consequence is that you must return it or pay for it.” Don’t get in an argument about the truth of a statement.
  2. Deliberately hurts others or himself. Simply say, “You may not hurt others or yourself.” Stop the child. Hold him. Comfort him. Talk about the situation. “You were really angry. What happened? What else could you do when that happens again?” Make sure he knows that he is special & you won’t allow him to hurt himself or others.
  1. Child is overly concerned about being liked & accepted.
  2. Constantly gives things to people to buy their attention & friendship. Discourage the constant giving of gifts. Concentrate on showing the child how much you like him because he exists, not because of his gifts. Compliment him on things he can’t change; for example, his blue eyes or black curly hair. Spend time with the child when it’s not related to the receiving of a gift. Explain to a child that the most important gift is friendship because that can’t be broken or lost.
  1. Child exaggerates or is unrealistic about certain situations.
  2. Brags or boasts by saying such things as, “I’m better than you are.” Shock the child by agreeing. “You are an important person & can do a lot of things better than _______. Let’s list the things you can do better.” (Think of the obvious. If a child is smaller, he can crawl through a smaller hole, etc.) Then talk about how everybody can do something better than somebody. But there is always somebody who can do something better than you.
  3. Is jealous when a child, parent or teacher shows attention to others. Spend time with the child. Reassure him that he is important & that your love for him will never change.
  1. Child has difficulty with social relationships.
  2. Is extremely competitive with other children. Deemphasize competition. Be sure that both your words & behaviour give the message that the child is valuable whether or not he wins.
  3. Does not initiate contact with others. Show the child how to initiate contacts. For example, show a toy to another child or select a child that looks lonely & walk up & say, “Hi, I’m Jim, do you want to play?”
  4. Does not participate in group activities. Don’t force him. Let him know it’s okay to be a bystander. Give him something special to do.

Emotional problems are often triggered by events & situations in a child’s life that are particularly stressful. The following list indicates some of these potentially difficult periods.

Potentially Difficult Times for a Child

  1. Parental divorce.
  2. Parental conflict in the home (family conflict as well).
  3. Parental tension over work or personal problems.
  4. Disruption of the home routine, such as too much company staying for too long a time.
  5. New situations, like starting school or a new babysitter.
  6. Dissatisfaction with one’s own behaviour, such as not being able to stay dry during the night.
  7. Too much criticism of the child.
  8. Unrealistic expectations of the child.
  9. Lack of sufficient quality time together with the family.
  10. Problems with making friends at school.
  11. Scholastic pressures or difficulties (such as learning to read, meeting a deadline for an essay etc.)
  12. Illness, fatigue, or the death of a family member.

Once in a while my work piles up & several deadlines come due at once. When pressures hit my husband Jan at the same time, we often notice emotional & behavioral changes in our children. During one such period Kevin’s behaviour became atrocious. He refused to get dressed in the morning, he wouldn’t brush his teeth, he wouldn’t get into the bathtub, & once he was, he wouldn’t get out. He couldn’t find anything to do at home, even though his room was filled with toys, so he would pounce upon me like a little lion cub. I shortened my working hours, said “no” to a couple of commitments, Jan caught up at work, & before long Kevin was back to being the spice of our lives instead of the fly that spoiled the ointment!

Once you have observed potential danger signals in your child’s behaviour, what should you do? First, look for the reason. Reconstruct the events of the last month or two. Did anything unusual or stressful happen during this time? Try to pinpoint the onset of this behaviour to give you a clue to the changes that need to be made to prevent further problems.

Second, establish a closer relationship with your child. If your child is very young, spend more time together. Give him more attention & touch him frequently–rub his back or hold him on your lap. If the child is older, do something special together. Show that you are supportive & interested in the child in unique ways. Talk together. Be as open as possible about your feelings.

Third, determine if the problem is a person-problem, a situation-problem, or both, & establish a plan of attack. A person-problem can only be solved by the person with the problem. A person-problem might be a child who bullies other children or a six-year-old who still sucks her thumb. When these behaviors become habitual, they are almost impossible to change unless the children themselves are willing to make a change.

Situation-problems can only be solved by changing the situation, such as a wet diaper etc. These can often be solved by parents, especially if a young child is involved.

Getting to Know Your Child’s Individual Characteristics

Parents must accept & work with what they have–a unique, special individual. Some children are simply more difficult to rear. For example, a child who is moody, & has irregular bodily functions, intense emotions, & slow adaptability is not going to be as easy to raise as a more pleasant, easygoing adaptable child.

Your responsibility is to show your child unconditional love & acceptance–regardless of his individual characteristics or traits. Parents must realistically help a child accept his own strengths & weaknesses & grow toward his own unique potential.

Being the Person You Want Your Child to Be

Although you may not be able to change your child’s innate characteristics, you can influence his development by being the person you want him to be. Children model adults–both the bad & the good.

What about all those bad habits you don’t want your children to pick up? What about smoking, lying, cheating, showing anger, mouthing off, shirking duties, staying up late, or watching too much TV? You may not be perfect in all those areas, but you can give your children these positive examples. Let them know that you want to & can change. Set short-term goals for your advancement, & meet those goals. Recognize your failures. Encourage the family to remind you when you start to fall, & accept your lapses with good humor. Don’t be defensive & spout off hollow excuses. Finally, be willing to apologize when necessary. Don’t blame someone else for your behaviour.

When they copy behaviour that you don’t like in yourself, it is easier for you to recognise it. Furthermore, negative examples are often highly charged emotionally; anger & aggression, for example. Such behaviour is not only easy to notice, it is also very easy for children to model. The next time you raise your voice at the children & threaten them, listen. Before long you’ll probably hear them threaten a younger sibling, curse the dog, or even yell at a toy.

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Prime – Time Parenting Part 4


Personal fulfilment comes in the process of helping others. The only way to develop a prime-time parenting personality is to immerse yourself optimistically in family relationships & work to make these relationships as meaningful & harmonious as possible. Book learning, theorising, & philosophising cannot substitute for practical experience. However, immersing yourself in family relationships that will lead to fulfilment in others does not mean that you must deny your own needs.

Your children may thrive when you put yourself first occasionally–if their basic needs are being met & they are assured of your unchanging love. Children benefit by living with parents who feel personally fulfilled.

Regardless of your personality, you can contribute to your own fulfilment by following these five steps.

Step 1: Concentrate on the Positive.–THE PRIME-TIME PARENTING PERSONALITY

Your attitude toward life, toward your job, & toward your family is vitally important. It can affect the entire atmosphere of your home. A positive attitude is conducive to a child’s growth. A negative attitude can have a deleterious effect.

Attitudes are contagious. One downcast family member can discourage everyone else. The opposite is also true.

Attitudes have a magnetic quality. Positive attitudes tend to attract others; negative attitudes repel. Prime-time parents must realise the devastating effect that negative attitudes can have on family morale. The following personality traits can lead to such a negative, devitalised attitude. I call them the deadly D’s. Don’t let them crowd out your chances for personal happiness, satisfaction, & fulfilment.

Dependency: A dependent parent tends to live his life through others–even through his children, forcing them to meet his needs for companionship, support, & decision-making. Single parents must be particularly careful to avoid the tendency to become overly dependent & expect their children to fulfil all their needs.

Denial: Parents who cannot admit their own mistakes or faults seriously jeopardize their relationship with their children. This kind of denial is equally deadly when parents refuse to face family problems or difficulties, & continue on a collision course without seeking help.

Defensiveness: A defensive parent takes everything personally & interprets casual remarks, & even compliments, as attacks or insults. This type of parent is a master at driving children away.

Defiance: The defiant parent boldly resists the authority or opposition of others. He is openly hostile & challenges those who do not share his views. He often appears to have a superiority complex & tramples those around him in order to get what he wants. As children grow older they naturally develop their own ideals. If their emerging values are ignored or ridiculed by a parent with a superior attitude, the children are not likely to spend much time with that parent.

Demeaning: This type of parent constantly puts other people down with comments that degrade them or cause them to think less of themselves. But when children hear words like, “Can’t you ever do anything right?” they are not likely to improve their behaviour or actions. In fact, such words usually have the opposite effect.

Depression: A depressed parent feels so woeful about his World & himself that he tends to withdraw from others & the responsibilities of the household. He is consumed by feelings of gloom, discouragement, & inadequacy. When parents lose hope in the possibility of a better life, they cease any efforts to make changes. This attitude affects every member of the family, & children grow up with one goal in mind–to escape the situation as soon as possible.

+ + +

Can you find something positive in problems, pressures, conflicts, illnesses, crises, failures, disappointments, & less than ideal situations? Consider some of the following possibilities:

  1. Children can learn how to deal with problems by watching their parents cope.
  2. Experiencing negative situations fosters a greater appreciation of the positive.
  3. Solving problems together can bring the family closer together.
  4. A special sense of satisfaction develops when problems are solved.
  5. Learning to develop coping procedures to deal with small problems will give you confidence to deal with bigger problems.

List the negative aspects of your life on one side of a page & then write at least one positive aspect of each on the opposite side. When you are tempted to feel discouraged or depressed about the negatives, think about each positive point & be thankful.


A low sense of self-worth usually develops through years of interaction. People learn that they can’t do things as well as others, that they are poor decision-makers, or that they make too many mistakes. To rise above these feelings is by far the hardest task of the prime-time parent. But it is vitally important if one is to grow.

Step 3: Get to Know Yourself and Accept What You Can’t Change.–THE PRIME-TIME PARENTING PERSONALITY

Although you can choose to change your attitudes, your behavior, & your habits, there are aspects of your life that are difficult to change–your physical looks, for example, a physical handicap, the family situation, your job, your previous mistakes. If a positive, dynamic attitude is to prevail, these aspects of life must be accepted. Don’t waste valuable energy by worrying, fretting & complaining about the things you can’t control. Accept them, and channel this energy toward improving those aspects of life that can be changed.

Step 4: Meet Your Own Needs without Sacrificing the Family.–THE PRIME-TIME PARENTING PERSONALITY

The logical consequence of realising your value as a person is to accept the fact that you have certain needs that must not be denied or repressed. Your responsibility then is to develop a plan to meet your needs without sacrificing family needs.

Almost all parents need:

1) Private time of their own;

2) Supportive adult friends;

3) Time to pursue their hobbies & interests; and

4) Someone to take over the household tasks occasionally.

Prime-time parents can meet these needs in various ways.

Need #1: Finding a private time of your own:

  1. Regularly schedule quality private time. The amount of time is less important than the quality of that time. Giving up private time is analogous to forgetting to eat a meal. Missing an occasional meal will not noticeably affect your weight, but allowing this to happen on a daily basis will soon have a significant impact. Missing a private time occasionally will probably have no noticeable effect on your own sense of satisfaction. But continual neglect of this need will reduce your sense of personal satisfaction & harm the quality of family relationships.
  2. Use travel time as your personal time.
  3. Get up an hour before the family & do something you really want to do.
  4. Combine your private time with an activity that is uplifting or beneficial. Many prime-time parents combine exercise time with their private think time.
  5. Reserve the first 15 minutes after you get home from work as your private uninterrupted time. If the family knows how important this time is for you, they will be happy to allow you these few minutes alone.
  6. Buy a headset or earphones & put on your favourite music.
  7. Reserve lunch hours for yourself. Find a comfortable, private place & kick off your shoes. Put your feet up.

Need #2: Supportive adult friends.

  1. Be friendly. Don’t hesitate to be the first one to speak. Show a genuine interest in others. Discuss the other person’s interests.
  2. Seek friends who have families with children of a similar age. When you plan activities together, the children can enjoy themselves & you can enjoy adult friendship.
  3. Invite friends home. Don’t isolate yourself by using the family as an excuse.
  4. Take a honeymoon at least once a year.
  5. Offer to help another working parent when help is needed. When you see the need, fill it without waiting to be asked.
  6. Volunteer your time to help in some worthwhile cause.

Need #3: Finding time to pursue your own hobbies & interests.

  1. Include the family. Encourage them to participate with you. Help them get started on a similar project that you can work on together. Share your interests with the family.
  2. Set up a regular time each week to pursue your hobby or interest.

Step 5: Establish Balanced Family Relationships.–THE PRIME-TIME PARENTING PERSONALITY

Prime-time parents must establish balanced family relationships if they hope to find personal fulfilment for themselves & for each person in the family. There are three essential relational qualities that must be kept in constant balance among family members to insure healthy interactions. These are love, freedom, & responsibility.


Love is the first & most crucial ingredient for a balanced, harmonious family life. If love is freely given & freely accepted with no strings attached, individual freedom & responsibility can develop.

Love is the strongest power that we all have at our disposal. Experiencing it, & helping others to experience it, will change the most hopeless & discouraging circumstances. Love can even bring major family upheaval & disorder into balance.


Freedom, especially the freedom to make choices, is a vital factor in everyone’s life. The freedom to make choices is enhanced in love relationships because each person is assured that if he makes a poor choice & fails, he will still be loved.


Responsibility is the third vital quality in relationships. Taking responsibility can mean two things: 1) Fulfilling the duties that are clearly yours; and 2) Taking responsibility for the decisions that you make.

If any family member leans to an extreme in any of these three areas, his life will be thrown out of balance. If a parent’s life is out of balance it affects the lives of those he is living with. It’s similar to the building of a tower. If the foundation stones are not properly balanced, anything placed on top of those stones will lean. As the tower grows, the lean becomes more accentuated, & the lack of balance threatens to destroy the whole structure. In the family, parents are the foundation stones. If their lives are not balanced, the rest of the family is pushed out of balance, & it becomes almost impossible for them to experience personal fulfilment. Other family members are forced to adjust to the tilt or compensate for the imbalance.

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