8 Ways to Be a Better Parent

2. Walk the Talk

Kids watch your every move, and, especially for babies and very young children, parental behavior proves to be far more powerful than words. "You are actually teaching your baby something every minute of the day -- whether you intend to pass along a lesson or not," says Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums & Tears (McGraw-Hill). "From how you handle stress to how you celebrate success to how you greet a neighbor on the street, your baby is observing you and finding out how to respond in various situations."

Julie Hughes, of Wilton, Connecticut, was touched when she observed her daughter Amelia, who was 23 months at the time, lovingly mothering her doll, after the birth of Amelia's sister, Jane. "I found Amelia with a pillow on her lap and her baby doll laid across it, pretending to nurse her," recalls Hughes, who was relieved that Amelia was learning about caring for others even without Hughes -- who was busy with three under the age of 4 -- consciously teaching that lesson. "Just having your baby with you as you go through your days provides great opportunities to teach him about life," Pantley says.

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