From the NYU Child Study Center: Ask the Expert
How Can I Raise Successful Children?
As I sat with my family over the holidays holding my newest grandchild, I began to reflect on the things my wife and I did right, and wrong, in bringing up our children. In doing so we began discussing, or more accurately, I began to give advice to the new parents on what makes for an effective parent. In the spirit of resolutions for the New Year I thought that I would offer some themes for raising successful children.
First, develop an authoritative style of parenting. This style emphasizes warmth, caring and respect for your children along with clear rules, guidelines, and limits. Authoritative parents allow and expect discussions of beliefs, opinions, and ideas between parents and children but also acknowledge that families are not democracies. It is always important to hear and listen to your child’s point of view, but that should not stop you from having unambiguous expectations and rules. Ultimately parents make the final decisions. Explain your decisions. Don’t rely on the ‘because I said so’ reason.
Children learn best by example and actions. They’re great observers of what you do and how you do it. How you interact with others, behave in daily situations, and participate in communal activities are what your children will ultimately learn and model. Follow-up your actions by discussing the situations they have witnessed.
Talk with your children. Have conversations with them about their day and your day. Give them time to talk about themselves—what they are doing, their feelings and concerns. Children often get ambiguous and contradictory messages from their larger environment. The only way to help them sort things out is by an ongoing dialogue. As they get older don’t forget to discuss the more difficult issues—sex, drugs, etc. Avoiding these topics may suggest to your child that you are giving tacit approval. Avoidance also means that you are allowing them to get their information and their decisions on how to handle things from their peers.
Spend time with your child. Children never outgrow the need to have quality time with their parents. There is growing evidence that having regular family meals enhances interactions between parents and their children. During meals make sure that television, phones, and blackberries are off and use the time for discussion. At other times play with them and read with them and even watch television with them. You can use what you watch and read to help your children learn valuable lessons by discussing situations that are presented and talking about people’s motivations, character, and ethics.
Remain involved. When the teen years approach parents tend to want to give their kids increasing privacy and space. It is important to balance that with ongoing supervision of your teen’s activities, friends, and school performance. Teens can be very impulsive and reckless and believe that they have the unique ability to avoid any serious difficulty. At the same time they want independence and increased responsibility. Help them earn those privileges by monitoring and helping them think through the right course of action.
Have a Happy New Year.
This monthly column provides educators, parents and families with important information about child and adolescent mental health issues. Please submit questions for ASK THE EXPERT to Glenn S. Hirsch, M.D., Medical Director at the NYU Child Study Center at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the ASK THE EXPERT Newsletter or for more information about the NYU Child Study Center, visit www.AboutOurKids.org or call 212-263-6622.