- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Despite how many times you hear about adoptive parents who are “saints” because they “took in” the poor little darlings and, incidentally, this imagery makes most adoptive parents nearly retch, adoption is in many ways a selfish action. If a parent believes that adoption is totally selfless, it can be very problematic for the child.

Many people who have adopted children did seek to have a biological child first, which is okay. But it´s important that people who do adopt accept their children as the first-class beings that they are. If you think you “should” adopt so you can help a poor little orphan somewhere, even though you know in your heart you could never love her the same as “your own, ” my advice is this: Don´t adopt.

The best reason to adopt a child is because you want to become a good parent to a child who needs a family. You want to adopt because you want to give your love to a child and provide as happy a life as you can. But you are also selfish in that you want to receive love from the child as well and to enjoy watching your child grow up. The trick is finding the balance.

“The Complete Idiot´s Guide to Adoption, ” by Chris Adamec, Alpha Books, 1998

Some kids just can´t seem to stay in bed after you tuck them in. You put them down and they get up. You try to go about your business. They are always coming up with some new reason for getting out of bed.

What you should do about this problem is based on a basic principle: if a child gets out of bed, the longer he is out of bed and/or the longer he stays up, the more reinforcement he gets. The only conclusion, therefore, is that you have to cut him off at the pass. It is no fun, but this is no time for wishful thinking or ridiculous conversations about why he should stay in bed. What you do is park yourself in a chair in the doorway to his bedroom. Get a good book if you want. Sit with your back to him and don´t talk no matter what he says. If he gets out of bed and comes to you, take him gently by the arm or pick him up and put him back.

“1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, ” by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D., Child Management Inc., 1995

Couples who begin marriage counseling often discover that, whatever the therapy´s effect on their marriage, it almost always makes them better parents. That´s because certain principles such as respect, empathy and effective communication apply to all close relationships. If you were to distill the best marital advice into a single rule that would apply equally to parenting it would be: Accentuate the positive.

I know this thanks to Dr. John Gottman of the University of Washington. For more than twenty years he has been painstakingly researching why some marriages tick away happily while others go off like time bombs. Based on this data he is able to predict whether each couple will eventually divorce or stay happily married. His accuracy rate is 91 percent.

Many factors figure into his predictions. But among the most salient is how often the couple is positive with each other as opposed to negative. Specifically, he finds that when couples are five times more likely to smile, talk pleasantly, and respond with interest to the other´s comments than they are to be negative, their marriage is likely to flourish. On the other hand, if the negatives outweigh the positives, the relationship is pretty much toast. Gottman doesn´t recommend eliminating the negative altogether (it has a place in a healthy marriage as well) but to overwhelm it with far more positive moments.

What works in marriage works with kids. If you raise your children with a 5:1 imbalance in favor of the positive your children are more likely to thrive. It´s just common sense that the more positive you are with a child, the better everyone will get along. If your child feels you´re fundamentally on her side, rather than on her case, she´s going to feel good about herself and about you. There´s a huge payoff for her in the long run. And, for you well, let´s face it: A happy child is a lot easier to get along with and discipline than one who feels under siege.

“Rules for Parents: Simple Strategies That Help Little Kids Thrive and You Survive, ” by Nan Silver, Berkley Books, 2000

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