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Problems with Homework

lead_960From time to time you may have concerns about homework. Meet with teachers early in the school year and ask them to let you know if difficulties arise.

Some problems which may arise are:

  • the homework can regularly be too hard or too easy
  • your child refuses to do assignments despite encouragement
  • your child has problems completing assignments on time
  • you would like your child to do homework missed through illness
  • neither your child nor you understand the homework
  • Read more …

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The Four Styles of Parenting

iStock mom holding son_NewDevelopmental psychologists have long been interested in how parents impact child development. However, finding actual cause-and-effect links between specific actions of parents and later behavior of children is very difficult. Some children raised in dramatically different environments can later grow up to have remarkably similar personalities. Conversely, children who share a home and are raised in the same environment can grow up to have astonishingly different personalities.

Despite these challenges, researchers have uncovered convincing links between parenting styles and the effects these styles have on children. During the early 1960s, psychologist Diana Baumrind conducted a study on more than 100 preschool-age children (Baumrind, 1967). Using naturalistic observation, parental interviews and other research methods, she identified four important dimensions of parenting:

  • Disciplinary strategies
  • Warmth and nurturance
  • Communication styles
  • Expectations of maturity and control

Based on these dimensions, Baumrind suggested that the majority of parents display one of three different parenting styles.

The Four Parenting Styles

(1) Authoritarian Parenting
In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, “Because I said so.” These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children. According to Baumrind, these parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation” (1991).

(2) Authoritative Parenting
Like authoritarian parents, those with an authoritative parenting style establish rules and guidelines that their children are expected to follow. However, this parenting style is much more democratic. Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions. When children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. Baumrind suggests that these parents “monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative” (1991).

(3) Permissive Parenting
Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, have very few demands to make of their children. These parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. According to Baumrind, permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation” (1991). Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.

(4) Uninvolved Parenting
An uninvolved parenting style is characterized by few demands, low responsiveness and little communication. While these parents fulfill the child’s basic needs, they are generally detached from their child’s life. In extreme cases, these parents may even reject or neglect the needs of their children.

The Impact of Parenting Styles

What effect do these parenting styles have on child development outcomes? In addition to Baumrind’s initial study of 100 preschool children, researchers have conducted numerous other studies that have led to a number of conclusions about the impact of parenting styles on children.

  • Authoritarian parenting styles generally lead to children who are obedient and proficient, but they rank lower in happiness, social competence and self-esteem.
  • Authoritative parenting styles tend to result in children who are happy, capable and successful (Maccoby, 1992).
  • Permissive parenting often results in children who rank low in happiness and self-regulation. These children are more likely to experience problems with authority and tend to perform poorly in school.
  • Uninvolved parenting styles rank lowest across all life domains. These children tend to lack self-control, have low self-esteem and are less competent than their peers.

Why is it that authoritative parenting provides such advantages over other styles? “First, when children perceive their parents’ requests as fair and reasonable, they are more likely to comply with the requests,” explain authors Hockenbury and Hockenbury in their text Psychology. “Second, the children are more likely to internalize (or accept as their own) the reasons for behaving in a certain way and thus to achieve greater self-control.”

Why Do Parenting Styles Differ?

After learning about the impact of parenting styles on child development, you may wonder why all parents simply don’t utilize an authoritative parenting style. After all, this parenting style is the most likely to produce happy, confident, and capable children. What are some reasons why parenting styles might vary? Some potential causes of these differences include culture, personality, family size, parental background, socioeconomic status, educational level, and religion.

Of course, the parenting styles of individual parents also combine to create a unique blend in each and every family. For example, the mother may display an authoritative style while the father favors a more permissive approach. In order to create a cohesive approach to parenting, it is essential that parents learn to cooperate as they combine various elements of their unique parenting styles.

Limitations and Criticisms

There are, however, some important limitations of parenting style research that should be noted. Links between parenting styles and behavior are based upon correlational research, which is helpful for finding relationships between variables but cannot establish definitive cause-and-effect relationships. While there is evidence that a particular parenting style is linked to a certain pattern of behavior, other important variables such as a child’s temperament can also play a major role.

Researchers have also noted that the correlations between parenting styles and behaviors are sometimes weak at best. In many cases, the expected child outcomes do not materialize; parents with authoritative styles will have children who are defiant or who engage in delinquent behavior, while parents with permissive styles will have children who are self-confident and academically successful.

“There is no universally “best” style of parenting,” writes author Douglas Bernstein in his book Essentials of Psychology. “So authoritative parenting, which is so consistently linked with positive outcomes in European American families, is not related to better school performance among African American or Asian American youngsters.”

The Bottom Line: Parenting styles are associated with different child outcomes and the authoritative style is generally linked to positive behaviors such as strong self-esteem and self-competence. However, other important factors including culture, children’s perceptions of parental treatment, and social influences also play an important role in children’s behavior.

By Kendra Cherry,
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Should You Give Kids Rewards?

rewards-for-kids-01As parents, we’ve all been there before: maybe it’s potty training or trying to get your child dressed in time for school. Perhaps you’ve offered a little treat—a sticker, a cookie or a trinket—for motivation. But what’s an appropriate reward? And are we raising little Connors and Maddies with a sense of entitlement?

While motivating children with incentives of money, toys or even a special activity can be very effective, some experts believe this prevents youngsters from developing their own sense of responsibility. Alfie Kohn, author of “Punished by Rewards,” believes that giving incentives—even nonmaterial ones—only serves to control youngsters. “While dangling extra TV, ice cream or story time in front of a child asks less of us,” Kohn says, “it can never get anything more than temporary obedience—and it buys even that at terrific cost.”

But not all experts agree. According to Dr. Virginia Shiller, a psychologist and instructor at the Yale Child Study Center and coauthor of the book Rewards for Kids, rewards can help parents teach their children new habits. Shiller says the key is in how the incentives are given; in setting appropriate, realistic goals; and in figuring out a strategy to achieve them. “I was inspired to write this book by my own parenting experience, and I’m happy to say my sons—now in their late 20s—are very responsible people,” says Shiller. “This is not purely behavioral modification. I’m much bigger on using it as a learning opportunity.”

Whether or not to offer rewards is a personal decision. Here are some tips to help your family:

>> How to Use Rewards Effectively

  • Kids can begin to understand the concept of a reward around age three. Developmental age is just as important as chronological age. The main thing is that toddlers are past the stage in which they are locked into oppositional battles (“No! I don’t want ice cream!”).
  • Make rewards fairly immediate. Younger kids may need more immediate goals, while older kids can understand working toward longer-term rewards. Incentives can be small, and they don’t need to be money or a toy. Even a trip to the library or park can be a treat.
  • Use charts. A sticker can visually remind young children of their achievements. Or have fun and draw a scene and add stickers of trucks or animals to it.
  • Set realistic, specific goals. Don’t try to change too many things at once. If you try to work on getting to school on time, being nice to siblings and cleaning up toys all at once, that’s too much. It’s better to target just one or two actions in a particular chart.
  • Help your children reach their goals. Work with them to figure out how they’re going to achieve their goals. “If it’s a chart about getting out of the house in the morning, and they think, ‘I could find my shoes in the evening instead of a last-minute search for shoes,’ then they’re actually learning a strategy,” says Shiller. And don’t forget to take the opportunity to praise your child!

>> The Dangers of Rewards

  • Leads to nagging. With a rewards system, the burden often falls on the parent to remind kids to do the necessary tasks. “After the first couple of weeks, it doesn’t work very well,” says Christine Carter, author of “Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents.” “If you are in this bribe, threat, nag cycle, then it’s not working. And the kids know it’s not working.”
  • Could prevent children from developing a sense of doing the right thing.” Psychologists refer to intrinsic motivation as the desire to do something based on enjoyment of the action itself, rather than on achieving an outcome or reward. “The type of reward doesn’t much matter,” says Kohn. “The problem is with the whole idea of carrot-and-stick control. More than 75 studies have shown that extrinsic and intrinsic motivation are not just different; they tend to be inversely related.”

>> If rewards are not working for your family, be flexible!

  • Make sure theres not an underlying issue. For example, if your child has a strong resistance to going to school, you may want to look into whether there is an underlying problem, such as bullying or an undiagnosed learning problem.
  • Rethink your requests. Are the tasks you’re asking of your child age-appropriate and beneficial? If they are, instead of trying to entice your child into doing things, spend time explaining the value of those actions. “First, we let kids know what’s important to us and why,” says Kohn. “Second, we engage children’s minds, helping them to reflect on—indeed, to wrestle with—moral questions.”
  • Have a family meeting. If you have been using a rewards system and decide it’s not right for your family, hold a family meeting and explain to your kids that things can work differently around the house. “Know that they’re going to resist and it’s going to be horrible for a couple of weeks,” says Carter. “But if you’re consistent, eventually they will feel much more in touch with their own personal power and how much they contribute.”
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Scream at Your Own Risk (and Your Children’s)

Mom-yell-boy-ears-300x204By BONNIE ROTHMAN MORRIS

Published: November 9, 2004

The thing about children is that sometimes they misbehave.

They disobey. They talk back. They ignore their chores and fight with their siblings.

Even the most patient parent can end up hollering. Indeed, yelling at children is so common in American households that most parents view it as an inevitable part of childrearing.

But in some cases, researchers say, yelling can become a form of emotional abuse. And children whose parents consistently raise their voices or combine yelling with insults, criticism, ridicule or humiliation may suffer from depression, dips in self-esteem or demonstrate more aggression themselves.

While physical abuse of children has been widely studied, child development specialists have in recent years begun to focus more attention on emotional abuse, which studies suggest can be equally harmful. In 2002, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged pediatricians to be aware of the risk factors of psychological maltreatment of children.

The academy’s report, based on numerous studies, said that “a chronic pattern of psychological maltreatment destroys a child’s sense of self and personal safety.”

Almost every parent yells at one time or another. A 2003 study by Dr. Murray A. Straus and Carolyn J. Field, published in The Journal of Marriage and Family, found that 88 percent of the 991 families interviewed reported shouting, yelling or screaming at their children in the previous year. Of the families with 7-year-old children, 98 percent reported having yelled.

In another study, not yet published, Dr. George Holden at the University of Texas and his colleagues followed 132 parents and their newborn infants over four years. Thirty-five percent of the parents reported yelling at their children before they were 1. By the time the children were 4, 93 percent said they had.

Not all children suffer as a result. Researchers say that content and context matter. The tone, what is said and the frequency can mitigate or exacerbate its effects.

“The difference comes in how the yelling is used,” said Bonnie Harris, a parent educator in Peterborough, N.H., and author of “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons: And What You Can Do About It.” “Is it blaming and shaming?” she asked. “If the child is being held responsible for the parent’s feelings and behavior, then the yelling can have a deleterious effect.

“But not if the parent is just venting without blame, saying, ‘I am really angry, I can’t stand this anymore,’ ” Mrs. Harris said. “You have just as much right to your emotions as your children do.”

Researchers are trying to codify the definition of emotional abuse while, at the same time, understanding more about its effects. A study in the July 2001 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry that compared 49 subjects with depersonalization disorder with 26 emotionally healthy subjects, found that emotional abuse was the most significant predictor of mental illness, more so than sexual and physical abuse.

Dr. Straus, director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, said yelling could set a bad example for children that affects the way they handle social interactions later on.

“Yelling sets the tone for family relationships that carry over for dating relationships where you get a lot of psychological aggression,” Dr. Straus said.

Still, in the context of a supportive family environment, raised voices do not necessarily signal trouble, a study published last summer in The Journal of Emotional Abuse says.

“Other familial factors (particularly, having an emotionally warm and close relationship with at least one parent) appear to ameliorate the potential negative effects and also, to play a greater role in long-term psychological outcomes than yelling or other forms of aggressive acts,” Dr. Anupama Sharma, assistant professor of psychology at Eastern Illinois University and a co-author of the study, said in an e-mail message.

Some experts even say that yelling can be useful, teaching children about failures in a safe environment.

“Children have to understand that we as parents are not perfect and every once in a while we lose it,” said Dr. Bennett Leventhal, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Chicago. “It’s far better to understand at home that sometimes people get beyond their limit.”

But as most parents can testify, screaming at children is often not effective.

“Yelling overpowers children, it makes them feel frustrated and angry, and what can happen is that after a while kids become immune to being yelled at. They tune it out,” said Dr. Myrna B. Shure, a professor of psychology at Drexel University, who conducted a five-year study, financed by the National Institute of Mental Health, of children from kindergarten to fourth grade.

The yelling can also make parents feel worse.

Jen Sayre, a mother of three from Rockingham County, N.H., said she hated yelling at her children.

“I feel so sad and out of control when I’m yelling and I’m mad at myself,” she said.

Mrs. Sayre does not yell often, she said, because she and her husband took workshops with Mrs. Harris to help them be more effective parents.

That was four years ago. Today, on the rare occasion that Mrs. Harris raises her voice, a child pipes up and puts her in her place.

“My kids will look at me now and say, ‘Mommy, this is your issue, you need to work on that,” Mrs. Sayre said. “I try everything I can do not to yell, but when I do yell, I apologize.”


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Parenting Plans – Cultivating Morals & Character in Your Child



… help you to create a vision that guides your decisions and behavior as you raise your child. This is essential to a healthy parent-child relationship. Have you taken the time to think about the values you want to cultivate and the family experiences you want to create? In this article, I’ll ask you to look deep into your heart and think about what it really means to be a parent, what your child needs from you and how you can provide it. I’ll also ask you to consider your own needs, as a parent and as an individual who seeks meaning and purpose in his or her life. By reading this and following my recommendations, you’ll be ready to create your own parenting plan and learn what it really takes to raise a child to maturity and what a delightful journey it is.

First, let’s explore the components of a healthy family

In a healthy family, parenting is a top priority. Discipline is fair, consistent and designed to teach, rather than blame, punish or humiliate. Parents establish firm limits, but allow children freedom of expression within boundaries that are in place not to keep children down, but to keep them safe. Expression of feelings is encouraged. Even negative emotions are okay. The family is a safe haven where the child can relax and be himself.

Parenting plans must respect each person’s individuality

Although each person is a member of this tribe which is your family, individual needs must be encouraged and respected. We’ll also explore what makes up a good parenting plan in this article.

Parents acknowledge that while togetherness is important, everyone has the need for solitude. Time for self-care is also essentially, especially for hard-working parents. Parents need to take time for themselves, so they can fill the cup that gives them the energy to take care of others.

Good parenting plans focus on togetherness and shared experiences, but also allow time for solitude and self-care.

Parents create rituals that make sense within the family and create deep and lasting bonds.

Focus on personal growth

Even as parents are raising their children to become mature adults, they realize that they need to work on their weaknesses and tendencies that are detrimental to a healthy, loving family (such as a tendency to overreact, to lash out when stressed, to drink to relieve tension, to avoid intimacy through workaholism, etc.)

Parenting Plans

Spend quality time with your children each day, but never be fooled into thinking that participating in an occasional fun activity is enough. You must also be there for the daily struggles and problems. This is what I refer to as quantity time.

Do activities together: preparing meals, cleaning the kitchen, riding bikes, walking the dog. Make your drive time to and from school, one-on-one time for sharing feelings, dreams and struggles.

Use what’s happening in the moment to teach self-discipline and cultivate awareness, compassion and a sense of diplomacy.

Create family rituals that have a sense of meaning and foster deep bonds. Don’t just blindly follow traditions. Use them to create your own.

Use the parenting plans on this page as a starting point for your own vision. If you have ideas to contribute, please use the box below. Be part of a caring community of parents around the world who weave their own thread into the tapestry of humanity by consciously raising their children.