- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2008

Welcome to Parenting 101, a two-part introduction to the fundamentals of effective child rearing. Upon passing this course, concluding with next week’s column (which will appear online at www.washingtontimes.com), you will have acquired what it takes to raise children who are mannerly, self-disciplined and do their best in school.

As you will see, the fundamentals in question do not include various clever means of manipulating reward and punishment. If to this point, parenting has not been a relatively simple, easy-going affair, your problem is your attitude and your point of view, in which case, you signed up for the right course.

• If you are married with children, put your marriage first. Your relationship with your spouse should be considerably more active than your relationship with your children. You should pay more attention to your spouse, talk more to your spouse, do more for your spouse, and spend more time with your spouse than you pay, talk, do and spend with your kids.

There is, after all, nothing that more effectively secures a child’s sense of well-being than knowing his parents are taking care of their relationship.

• If you are single with children, have lots of interests outside of your interest in your children. Have hobbies, friends, activities and a job that take your attention away from your kids. In so doing, you will become interesting to them. They will have greater respect for you, and they will pay you more attention. Whether married or single, be the center of your children’s universe as opposed to letting them be the center of yours.

• By the time your children are 3 years old, you should build a boundary between yourself and them, one that limits their access to you. Let them know you are not at their beck and call, that you have a life beyond being their mother or father, and insist they respect your privacy.

• Say “no” more than you say “yes.” Actually, the proportion should be at least five to one. The only children who can’t take “no” for an answer have parents who do not say it often enough and cannot say it with conviction.

• Put the horse of leadership in front of the cart of relationship. The secret to effective discipline is not manipulating consequences cleverly; rather, it is assuming a posture of loving leadership in their lives.

Leadership is a simple matter of acting like you know what you’re doing, know where you’re going, know what you want and know you are going to get it. That translates to a calm, confident, casual parenting style.

OK, class is dismissed, but remember to show up next week for the conclusion of this important course.

Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his Web site (www.rosemond.com).

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