10 parenting rules you can break
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Good To Be Bad1 of 11
By Kelly Mickle
You need basic rules for safety—and others for sanity—but some rules really are meant to be broken. Here, experts share 10 laws of parenting that you can pretty much ignore. Go ahead, be the cool parent.
A Happy Medium2 of 11
Rule to Break: Don't let TV (iPhone, iPad, iAnything) be the babysitter.
Relax, the occasional game of Angry Birds or episode of Dora the Explorer isn't going to rot your child's brain. "While studies do show watching too much TV can be harmful for children, so can having a mother who is constantly overwhelmed," says Susan Newman, Ph.D., author of Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day. "Letting them watch a half hour of TV here and there is OK, especially if it makes you feel less stressed."
Mine All Mine3 of 11
Rule to Break: You must share.
"Forcing your kid to share when they aren't ready can make them associate sharing with bad feelings," says Heather Shumaker, author of It's OK NOT to Share…and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids. Instead, encourage them to let the other child have a turn when they are finished. Teaching your child to "take turns" can be more successful than sharing. "Kids experience that inner joy of giving someone else the object and seeing their delight in receiving it—that is what generosity feels like," says Shumaker.
WTF?4 of 11
Rule to Break: No swearing
Children are excited by their expanding vocabulary—especially if they discover a new word that's powerful or funny. Unfortunately, the more you forbid the word, the more they'll want to say it. "Rather than banning the word, explain what the word means and why it may be inappropriate, then give them one safe place where they can use it," says Shumaker. That's right, your kid can go into the bathroom or bedroom and shout "Poop!" or the S-word all they want.
How Sweet It Is5 of 11
Rule to Break: No dessert before you eat your veggies.
Go ahead, eat pancakes for dinner or let your kids indulge in ice cream before finishing their broccoli. "It's good to surprise your children with exciting treats every now and then," says Newman. "You'll be the best mom in the world and it makes you a more fun, interesting character as their mother because they don't know when to expect these sweet surprises—perhaps giving them incentive to be good and eat their veggies on other nights."
Into the Fray6 of 11
Rule to Break: No fighting.
You may feel like it's your job to referee, but it's best to butt out when children bicker over a game or tussle over a toy. "It's important for your kids to learn to work out their own difficulties," says Newman. Unless someone is going to get hurt, step back and let your child figure out how to negotiate with his or her peers. "These are crucial social skills kids need to develop to learn how to work well with others, when to stand up for themselves and when to back down," explains Newman.
Relax & Play Awhile7 of 11
Rule to break: Stick to a schedule.
Sometimes the best plan is none at all. "We put pressure on ourselves to raise star children, so we pack their days with play dates, rehearsals, tutoring and sports practice in hopes they'll reach these unrealistic expectations," says Newman. The reality: Kids are overscheduled and the intense pressure can make them feel anxious. "When every little thing is programmed and scheduled, it stifles their creativity," says Newman. "Kids need downtime to just play—even by themselves—to develop their imagination and learn to think for themselves."
Crying Game8 of 11
Rule to Break: Let them cry it out.
There is nothing more upsetting than the sound of your baby crying—especially when you don't know what's wrong. "If the cry-it-out method is causing severe stress or anxiety, that will not be healthy for anyone," says Newman. "Don't worry about what your best friend or neighbor is doing; what matters is what you and your partner feel is best for your baby."
No Regrets9 of 11
Rule to Break: You have to say, "I'm sorry"
Young children often don't understand what they're apologizing for, so the gesture has no meaning. Instead, point out what your child did wrong (i.e., you knocked Sophie down) and show them ways they can help (like getting her a Band-Aid or a tissue). Then have them promise they won't do it again. "The injured kid feels safe and the culprit has learned important social behavior for the future, so each child gets something meaningful out of the exchange," says Shumaker.
Wake-Up Call10 of 11
Rule to Break: No staying up late.
"Being too rigid is boring, and you'll miss out on unique bonding experiences with your children if you never allow for any flexibility in their routine," says Newman. "Sure, they may be a little cranky the next day, but you can be prepared for that because you know it's coming." Besides, what will your family remember most down the road: the time everyone got a good night's sleep or the fun night you all stayed up together to watch the Americans win gold at the Olympics?
Rah-Rah11 of 11
Rule to Break: Be your child's biggest cheerleader.
Constantly showering your kids with compliments can backfire. Rather than singing their praises, focus on their actions. "If your kid climbs to the top of the jungle gym, forget 'You're great!' and try something like 'Wow, you climbed up there all by yourself,'" says Shumaker. Your kid will think, 'hey, I'm good at climbing—maybe I can be even better!'
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