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How To Be A Better Parent: 3 Counterintuitive Lessons From Science

Stashed in: Truth, Conflict, Calvin and Hobbes!, @bakadesuyo, Awesome, Parents, Parenting, parenting

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Today I learned that it’s okay — even good — to fight in front of your kids:

Myth: It’s bad for kids to see their parents fighting.

Fact: It’s good for kids to see parents fight — as long as they also see them resolve the problem. This is how children learn to stand up for themselves while also preserving a relationship.

Po Bronson:

The kids who see conflicts resolved in their homes are ones that are able to do that with their peers, with their teachers. It empowers them terrifically for their life.

Most kids never see their parents making up. Even if that never happens, it’s really important for parents to say, “I know you saw us arguing and that’s fine.” On the ride to school. “I want you to know how we resolved it. Mom said this. Dad said this. We resolved to do it this way. We worked it out.”

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Po Bronson says to tell the truth:

Like a lot of parents, I was trying to manipulate my child’s perception of the world so that it would be for his or her own advantage. It was still manipulative. I could get caught at one point. I just realized the most important thing was that my children see me as a parent as credible, as telling the truth and being honestly able to help them. Not being full of gas or inflated statements or using scare tactics but to have integrity and honesty to be the rule of that relationship.

Maybe a kid would be asking about something that was much more adult. You don’t have to tell them everything. You give them an appropriate amount. Tell the truth. If you tell the kids the truth they will love you for it. You build the foundation of that relationship. That’s what is guiding me. I have tried mostly not to lie to my kids. Use honesty first. In the long term that is what has guided me.

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Blah blah blah.   

Hard work vs smart as praise in relation to "acting out" or test scores, yada yada yada

If you want to be a better parent, be more attentive, more available, and have better emotional regulation.  

Parenting is not a competitive sport (pride and jealousy), or the creation of a being you must control and create (pride and anger) 

Just leave them as they are and love them physically and mentally and verbally. 

Children have a hard life.  They have to relearn everything.   They have little to no control of body speech and mind.  Teach them and keep them safe. 

Move with awareness

Speak with clarity and kindness 

Think calmly and compassionately with respect to people and things

Rules and tests are NEVER a factor in my young children's lives and they are amazing because of it (a little pride is ok)

I am guessing your kids aren't teenagers yet.

A person's psychoneuroimmunology is nearly completely formed in utero, their motor and language functional ability by 3, and their cognitive processing by 6.  

From 6-12 they develop their self conditioned by 0-6.  

If you are having "teenage" problems they are caused by actions a while back. 

One approach I'm trying to learn more about is what I call "imitative parenting."  The basic premise is that kids copy what they see me do far more than what I say.  So, if I want to encourage or discourage certain behaviors in them, I need to change *my* behavior first.  Much like that point about fighting publicly (something I explicitly asked MY parents to do when I was a teenager :-).

I'm not sure how far I can extrapolate this approach, though, as I haven't been able to find anyone else talking about this in depth.  Any pointers?

i have toddlers, but i definitely agree that telling the truth, even if they can only handle a bit of it, is better than skewing the info to make a rosier image.  i had a tough time explaining santa this xmas, though!

My standard answer when my 5-year old asks "Is Santa real?" is to say, "Well, he is based on a real person" and go on about St. Nicholas until he loses interest...

My kids never have seen me throw anything in anger, have a fit because a movie is over, or hit my head on the floor because I don't want to go to bed.  

Little kids are disregulated crazy people. (As are many adults) They create their own reality. They push the limits of that reality and parents need to be there when they crash and hopefully prevent anything that cannot be undone. 

A child never sees you chase a ball in front of a car.  A teenager "hopefully" never sees you smoking crack or sexting your neighbor. 

Body speech and mind

They have to see you watch for cars, they have to hear you tell them over and over and over to watch for cars and they have to deeply understand that you love them and do not want them to get hurt. 

As for "truth" my policy is don't answer complex questions they don't ask.  If they ask, ask them why they are asking and if they still want to know tell them what you believe and that others believe something different. 

For example, our little girl at 5 asked if we could pray to Jesus.  Why we ask. Cause xxxx prays to Jesus.  So I said that is fine but we do not and you don't have to worry about it.  I told her I pray for our family and others pray for me.  She never asked again. 

Kids don't want to think about adult things they just want to understand what adults are talking about and doing.  You don't have to tell them the truth ask them what they think and tell them or don't tell them what you believe. 

There is no agreeable truth to tell. 

Ernie, your imitative approach to parenting sounds like good sense. I could not find any more about it on the Internet.

Emily, I like Ernie's approach to explaining Santa.

Mark, I like asking the kid why s/he is asking. Clever!

ernie, that's hilarious!  my dad did the exact same thing!  ask about anything, and he'd take 30 minutes explaining it.  i remember asking about inertia when i was 12.  he got so excited he pulled out old physics textbooks and even prepared a demonstration for me!!

his enthusiasm was great.  but i soon learned not to ask dad anything unless i wanted the extended answer!

Which is kind of unfortunate because I'm sure there were some questions he would have loved to answer.

true.  he loved explaining things.  he would have loved to do all my science fair projects, too!

but he's still around, and now that i have kids i can have them call grandpa any time they want a good long answer to a big question. (or any time i need a good long break!!)

That brings a smile to my face, Emily. This is one thing grandparents are great for!

indeed. :)

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