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Finding Your Parenting Style

Womanly Wisdom

As your child becomes proficient in language, you'll find that it's easier to get her to follow your rules if you take the time to explain, in simple terms, why they're for her own good. Children want respect, too, and by explaining your rules you are showing her the kind of respect you want her to learn to give to you.

Although there is no standard set of rules for us to work with as parents, there are lots of wonderful books that provide concrete tips on everything from managing your home to raising your child. In the end, however, you can't raise a child by the book.

You're going to have to work out a style of your very own, building it up from everything you've experienced and observed throughout your own life. You need to have the confidence to listen to your own heart when it comes to raising your children. This can be hard to do—it means risking criticism when your choices differ from what others think you should do. But it's the approach that is most likely to be successful, because it involves being true to yourself and your values. Tap into your own experiences as a child—remembering not just how your mom handled situations but how you, as a child, felt at the time.

Discipline or Punishment?

One of the central issues in childrearing today is how to instill discipline. It used to be easy: Mom said, “Go get the stick” or Dad decided it was time to take a trip out behind the barn with a switch. There wasn't a behavioral problem around that parents couldn't solve with a few well-placed wallops.

Those days are gone. We now understand that when you strike a child you only create fear and humiliation. When you use pain and fear to break the spirit of a child, you give up any chance of earning the respect you think you deserve. What you gain in its place is a very angry child who has learned not to trust the people he loves the most.

When You Have to Say “No”

We need to find alternative ways to maintain appropriate boundaries for our children's behavior. Without these boundaries, children can be amazingly disrespectful and tyrannical. To set limits you must learn how to use the power of a well-timed “no.”

A “no” can be hard to enforce. If your child is a glib talker, he's probably got a million arguments why your every “no” should turn into a “yes.” And it can be exhausting to hold fast in the face of a child's concerted efforts to change your mind. But stick to your guns! Each time you reverse a “no” you chip away at your credibility.

Momma Said There'd Be Days Like This

When my daughter was little I found it hard to enforce rules. By her preteen years she'd become impossible to control. We could have gone on forever like that, but one day I had a real breakthrough. Just before a planned family trip to Disney World, she misbehaved badly. I told her she couldn't come on the trip if she didn't change her behavior. She didn't believe I'd go through with the punishment—and I must admit, it was hard. But I held firm. We went, and she stayed home. I thought she would hate me forever, but our relationship took a turn for the better from that day forward.

It's Intuitive, Not Permissive

Intuitive mothering doesn't mean that you set no rules for your child. After all, children need limits to feel that life is not hurtling out of control. Intuitive mothering just means that you must develop and apply the rules of your household according to your own internal sense of what is right and wrong. You still need to learn to set limits and stick with them.

More on: Mom's Life


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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