Posts Tagged ‘ Parenting ’

Parenting Principle #1: Be Positive

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What are the key parenting principles for raising happy, well-adjusted, children? Here the focus is on the power of being positive.

Parenting is hard. It is demanding. It can be exhausting and frustrating. But …

The reality is that parents make a choice on how they think about themselves as parents, and how they act as parents. And focusing on the positive is a fundamental key to making parenting easier and more effective.

How do you do this? First, remind yourself of the importance of being a parent. Yes, you have all kinds of competing things that weigh on your mind and drain your time. But what matters to you most? Simply reminding yourself everyday – however you want to do this (listen to a song, look at a picture, recall a memory, think back to when you didn’t have a child and how you knew you wanted one, say a prayer) – of the simple fact that having a child is an extraordinary gift is an effective way to recalibrate emotionally.

Next, put this into practice. When a baby is crying, remind yourself that you are doing something magical by trying to soothe them (even if it’s not working). Replace anger with compassion (your child is dependent on you). Look for the little wonders (simply a smile) even in the stream of the craziness. And, most importantly, discover for yourself that the more positive you are, the more positive your child acts.

Try to eliminate the criticism. Babies and kids are, by definition, always learning. Criticism assumes they should know what to do and how to do it all the time. Teach them. Nurture them. Share their joy when they hear what you are saying and find that it works.

Finally, soak up the joy that babies and kids find in the world. They aren’t concerned with all the things that concern adults. They don’t care if you are late – they just want to look at the dog across the street. They don’t care what they are wearing – they just want to jump in the puddle because it’s fun. They find the world, and you, fascinating. Try to live in their world. It’s a good world to live in.

This isn’t about indulgence. Pick your spots. Set real rules and find ways of enforcing them consistently, without yelling and screaming. If it’s not the right time to jump in the puddle, explain that, and find something else interesting to redirect their attention. They can be persuaded easily.

A positive parent is an inviting guide to the world. Positivity makes for happier parents and kids and makes life easier. The more you try it, the more you will reap the rewards.

More in This Series

Find out which parenting style you have.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

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How Would You Define “Success” For Your Child?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

In recent years, the word “success” has been batted around in parenting culture. This series of blog posts considers a number of views of what “success” might mean – and how that influences how we parent.

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Affect the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America” – “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua’s new book co-authored with her husband Jeb Rubenfeld – has promoted discussion because their thesis is that certain racial groups achieve more success than others because of three fundamental factors: high self-esteem, insecurity, and self-discipline. One could debate the assumptions drawn about race and success, or the choice of factors which purportedly promote success. But less attention has been given to the indicators of success.

While “The Triple Package” isn’t about parenting per se, it certainly embeds ideas about development and the factors that influence “successful” trajectories. Thus, through the lens of parenting, the question raised here is  if these are really the most important things we would want for our children.

Consider these benchmarks highlighted in the book:

  • Income
  • Occupational Status
  • Test Scores

These are certainly outcomes that matter to a degree for our kids. We certainly make parenting choices to positively influence how our kids perform on tests, what occupational status they eventually achieve, and the income level that they reach. But the fact that they are highlighted as the starting point of the thesis under study provides an assumption that these indicators are benchmarks of success.

They may be what defines success for some people, or in fact many people. But I think it’s important, when we think about parenting, to recalibrate our thinking. While these outcomes may be goals – and important ones – for some, they aren’t necessarily the measure of success for many others. And I suspect that carries through in terms of parenting style.

Grading Paper via

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Only Child Versus Sibling: Which Is Better?

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

The debate circulates periodically in the parenting world – is it better to be an only child, or to grow up with siblings? Research findings will be cherry picked to support whatever position is endorsed. Personal experience will be cited. But as someone who has observed families – lots of families, all across the country – in many settings (research and clinical), I have a very simple answer to the question of which is better:


Now, of course there are plenty of unique features to being an only child, or being a sibling. But there is so much variation out there it seems absurd to me to claim that, structurally, being an only child versus having siblings is inherently preferable. And I’m not inclined to be swayed by trends in certain studies that point to small statistical effects. Only children are not “spoiled” unless a parent spoils them. There are plenty of “spoiled” children who have siblings. Growing up with a sibling can set a platform for the most intimate and long-lasting relationship a person may have. Then again, there are siblings who can’t stand each other. Some kids who don’t have siblings wish they did – and others grow up fine without one. Come up with any scenario and you can find someone who fits the profile – and someone who doesn’t.

Let’s face it, what really mattes is how a child is brought up – whether there is only one, or more than one, child in a household.

Raising an only child has unique demands. Raising more than one child does as well. But in either case, there’s either good parenting, or not so good parenting – or put another way, a healthy family climate or one that is problematic. That’s the big effect you will see in the data that will tell you plenty about a child – and what kind of person they become.

Plus: Are you ready for another child? Take our quiz and find out!

What You Need to Know About Your Only Child
What You Need to Know About Your Only Child
What You Need to Know About Your Only Child

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Enrichment + Protection = Healthy Development

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Such is a key take-home message from the Early Childhood Summit 2013: Innovation and Opportunity - held in Boston on Friday, April 5th as part of the ongoing celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Boston Children’s Museum.

This meeting brought together leaders from pediatrics, developmental science, public health, the non-profit sector, and top business leaders in the Boston region. The focus was on sharing new ideas about the challenges that some kids and families face, along with possible creative solutions to ensure that kids have early experiences that serve as a platform for healthy and adaptive development. And the idea of thinking about “enrichment” and “protection” as critical components of a child’s rearing environment particularly resonated with me.

This idea was offered by Jack P. Shonkoff, MD, who is the Director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. As discussed by Dr. Shonkoff, “enrichment” refers to all the good things parents should be doing in the early years to promote social, emotional, and cognitive development. These are the fundamental building blocks of parenting, including spending lots of time talking to babies and toddlers, being emotionally responsive and engaged, and promoting and supporting curiosity and play. But Dr. Shonkoff emphasized – using the platform of neuroscience research – how critical it is that babies and toddlers also be protected from the toxic effects of excessive stress. Overexposure to harsh rearing environments – including those characterized by overt discord, anger, hostility, and criticism – can take a psychological toll in the early years which can have lasting effects due to the neurodevelopmental sensitivity to extreme stress. Even babies and toddlers can show stress responses that get turned on too much – and don’t shut down quick enough – which predicts a host of problems down the road, both in terms of cognitive and social functioning as well as physical health.

Jack P. Shonkoff, MD, Harvard University

By integrating the concepts of enrichment and protection, we have a framework that simultaneously emphasizes both the good things that parents should be doing lots of, and the bad things that parents shouldn’t do much at all. For those of us who study kids – and in particular track kids from infancy through adulthood – we keep seeing more and more evidence that those early years matter greatly in terms of influencing brain development at a critical period of life. Putting effort into enrichment and providing protection against toxic stress is indeed an equation that predicts healthy development (physical and psychological) from the early years all the way into adulthood.

Photo of Jack P. Shonkoff, MD, addressing the Early Childhood Summit 2013: Innovation and Opportunity meeting (April 5, 2013, Boston, MA) courtesy of Gus Freedman


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Red-Hot Parenting Recap February 2013: Child-Haters, Genes, Parenting, and Barriers To Services

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

February 2013 was a busy month in the world of parenting – lots of things going on. Here’s a snapshot: 


The news that an adult male slapped a stranger’s toddler on a plane led to a conversation about how our culture may be breeding, at a minimum, a lack of respect for our youngsters – and at worst, provide a context in which child-hating is tolerated.


Speaking of conversations, we had many about if we should use what we are learning about genetics to support genetic engineering, including targeting childhood psychiatric disorders. Then came news that new research suggests some genes might predispose to a number of forms of mental illness – but it’s not at all clear that this will move us closer to genetic solutions.


We always include applications of current research to help guide us decide on good parenting strategies. One study suggest how important it is to let your toddler – and not you – be the “boss” when you are playing. And compelling research showed how the simple act of turning off violent shows and replacing them with educational content – without limiting the amount of TV watched – is beneficial for kids.


We took on some key barriers to getting kids mental health services and broke them down in understandable turns. Now we all wait to see if sequestration is going to provide the biggest barrier of all.

Time For Review via

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