Saturday, March 24, 2012

Critical Skills Needed to Raise Good Kids

Raising the Kid of the Decade
Dr. Susan Bartell
It’s a new decade and if you’re like me, milestone years get you thinking…how do I want my child to grow up over the next decade and beyond? What key tools should I give my child to ensure that he becomes a caring, self-sufficient, courteous and industrious member of the community? 
In my twenty plus years working with children and parents, and also raising three kids, I have discovered that there are four critical life skills each child should develop. I hope you, too, will be impressed with their importance in your child’s character development. If you model these behaviors and help your child achieve them, the result will be a confident, well-behaved, happy child, and then a young adult who respects you, whom others respect, and who is able to achieve great success.

Frustration Tolerance is a crucial life skill to impart. You must say ‘no’ and follow through; set limits and stick to them; not give in to whining and tantrums. Young children must learn to sleep in their own beds, without extensive intervention. Teaching your child to soothe herself is a key to learning frustration tolerance. Older children must learn that they won’t get everything they want: some things will be deferred, others they may never receive. This is not deprivation; rather, it is your duty to teach your child to cope with not having his every demand met. You should role-model frustration tolerance by being patient in long lines, not yelling frequently at your child or others, and by striving until you achieve a goal.

Teach your child compassion for others, which can be done in many different ways. Ensure that your child says ‘I’m sorry’ when he injures someone or hurts their feelings—even by accident. Help him take responsibility for his own behavior by making sure you role model this. Make giving to charity an important part of your family life—by donating time or money. Look for other opportunities to make compassionate behavior a priority for your family.

Regardless of socioeconomic level, every child needs to learn the value of hard work and money. In elementary school, begin teaching your child to take pride in his work product by selectively praising your child’s artwork, and schoolwork, only when it truly reflects effort. It’s fine to tell your child that next time he should work harder. Your child will learn the value of money if you give her an allowance and then enforce the use of it to purchase items she desires, rather than buying them for her. As she gets older, increase the allowance and its spending power, while reducing your contribution to her spending. This is how she will learn to budget and save.

Finally, your child must learn to respect others. As early as possible, teach your child to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,' to write thank you notes and to show all other forms of appreciation—enforce these niceties in every single situation, even with family members. Insist on polite behavior in public places. Role model this by removing your child when he doesn’t behave politely (even if it inconveniences you). Before entering a situation, advise your child of a consequence for inappropriate behavior and then follow through. Have zero tolerance for bullying, rudeness, hitting, punching or kicking—whether your child does this to you or anyone else. Enforce immediate consequences.

If you use the next decade to teach your child these four life skills, there is little doubt that he or she will become a young adult who will enter the world with confidence and in whom you will take great pride.
Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 Family Psychologist. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her on her website at

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