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21 Guiding Principles for Parents
Dr. Pamela Varady

  1. Emotional intelligence is the number one predictor of a successful life. It’s what we need to model and teach our children, and ideally what they will learn from us. Aristotle said, “ Anyone can get angry, but to the right person, at the right time, for the right purpose, to the right degree- that’s difficult.” And that’s emotional intelligence. Emotionally intelligent people have high self-esteem and good character.
  2. View discipline as an opportunity to teach emotional intelligence and coping skills, including: empathy; conflict resolution; delayed gratification; and responsibility for choices. With this view of discipline in mind, you get to say goodbye to the unappealing jobs parents often unwittingly assume- cop, judge, and jury, and hello to the pleasurable and rewarding job of our children’s emotional coach.
  3. All of us, including children have needs: to belong; to be loved; to have impact; and to have power. If you give children what they need, (which is not the same as what they want) they will want your guidance and you will need to discipline them less often.
  4. Catch them doing well. Encourage successive approximations of appropriate behavior. Also, catch them being kind to each other, and encourage them for moving in the direction of sibling harmony.
  5. Having empathy for our children, narrating, and reflecting their feelings, must coexist with rules, limits and consequences.
  6. The qualities we love the most in our children (and spouses) are the same ones that will drive us mad at times. Think about temperamental differences; reframe negative labels, and do not punish a child for his temperament!
  7. If our children misbehave, and they will, step out of the power struggle, follow through with consequences and calmly let them know that they will have a chance next time to make a better decision for themselves. By the way, they get to not like this!
  8. Gratitude, like coping skills and emotional intelligence, needs to be taught.
  9. Parents are the leaders of the household-our children don’t need two more friends!
  10. Breathe
  11. Take breaks-lots of breaks
  12. Take another break (I read somewhere that a favorite four letter word
    for mothers is EXIT.)
  13. Have a sense of humor, sing, dance, tell stories, and be goofier than the kids are.
  14. Parents need to agree on the family rules, and plan age appropriate consequences for breaking the rules.
  15. Have family meetings to work through ongoing conflicts and to increase the sense of belonging. You can begin this at the tender age of two!
  16. We owe it to our children to be reasonably happy. Children make meaning about themselves based on our behavior. So if you are miserable they will tell themselves that they are not lovable enough to make you happy.
  17. Have a rich, fun adult life- so our children will want to grow up to be adults!
  18. Enjoy one on one time with each child and all other possible combinations of family groupings.
  19. Let your child be unhappy, frustrated, jealous, and bored for more than one and a half seconds!
  20. Read Siblings Without Rivalry and keep it by your night table-you’ll need it.
  21. We won’t be perfect parents, our kids won’t be perfect either, but they’ll grow up to have perfectly fine lives.

Dr. Varady can be reached for classes, workshops, and phone consultations at: (310) 899-6048