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Real Good Parent

Slow down. Babies and children live in a different time frame from adults' - usually a much slower one. Keep this in mind as you talk to your child, care for her and go about your day together.

Observe your child. You'll be amazed at how well you'll get to know your child by sitting back and watching. This focused awareness will help you better understand moods, abilities and temperament. Listening is important, too.

Stay optimistic. Optimism is contagious; so is negativity. Show your child through your behavior how to overcome minor setbacks. Children emulate their parents' attitudes and habits, so it will help if you have a positive outlook.

Accept and acknowledge your child's feelings and desires. Let her know it's OK if she feels sad, scared or angry. You can say, 'It looks like you're sad because your friend went home' or 'It seems that you're mad because I put the ball away.'

Tell your child your expectations. Children won't always comply right away, but they need to understand clearly what a parent expects: 'I want you to put on your sweater. We're going outside,' or 'I want your feet to stay off the couch.'

Set appropriate limits. Even when you acknowledge a feeling or desire, you must make a child aware of appropriate behavior and rules: 'I can see you're mad at your friend because he took the toy from you, but I won't let you hit him. Hitting is not something we do in our family. What else can you do?'

Wait. Let your child do as much as she can on her own - learn to walk, put on her socks, resolve conflicts with her friends. Anxiety or the desire to help often tempts parents to rush in and solve the problem for the child. A better response would be to wait and see what your child can manage on her own. She might surprise you.

Behave genuinely. Just as you accept your child's moods, though not always his behavior, it's OK to have a sad or angry thought yourself and express it appropriately: 'I'm really tired right now but I'm listening to you.' A parent's genuineness prepares a child for life.

Nurture yourself and your marriage. Make arrangements to have some guilt-free time to take care of your own needs. Plan a date with your partner and forget the kids for a while. You'll be a happier person and a better parent.

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