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Caroline Rules

How to Be Close With Your Kids

Caroline Manzo puts the real in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her fans relate to the reality star's no-nonsense attitude, focus on family and, above all, abundant common sense. Check back at Glo every Monday as Caroline helps solve your most pressing dilemmas.

The Dilemma: I just had my first child in March. My parents were never close to me, and I would really like to make things different for my relationship with my own children. Do you have any advice for me? I would really like to be like you. You are an amazing mother—definitely someone I wish I had in my life growing up—and now I hope to give that gift to my own children. —K.S

Caroline's Ruling: Thank you for the compliment! I'm very lucky, and I say a silent thank you every single day for my blessings. Congratulations on yours!

I wish I had the secret to raising great kids. I only know that Al and I were very committed to giving our children the best of who we were. We put time into each of them as individuals as well as the three of them as a group.

One thing we learned is that children need boundaries: We were strict, and when rules were broken, there were consequences. Along with a punishment came an explanation of why we were angry—trust me, half the time kids don't get what they did wrong, especially when they're younger. Each explanation was followed with I love you but you're still in trouble. You have to communicate with them, and speak firmly without yelling. I'm not saying that we never yelled at our kids, but when we did, they knew it was a big deal because it wasn't a constant thing.

Be sure to praise them for their strengths and build on their weaknesses. If your child comes home from school with a C+ on a test that you know she studied for and tried her best on, then celebrate it. Don't ask why she didn't do better. All we've ever asked of our kids is to give their best. Anything beyond that puts unnecessary pressure on them. Give your children encouragement, work with them to improve, and praise them for their efforts. ...Read More

Never put one child against the other. Love them as individuals with their own little personalities, strengths and weaknesses. The worst thing you could ever say is "Why can't you be like your brother or sister?" That only causes hurt feelings and resentment toward each other. Big no-no!

Talk to your kids, listen when they speak, give them your undivided attention and make them know that their thoughts and feelings are important to you. When you spend time with them, show them that that's exactly where you want to be. Don't promise what you can't give. If they want to play house or baseball with you, then don't do it halfway by talking on the phone or rushing it along. Kids can feel when they're getting the brush-off.

I could go on and on but the short version is this: Trust your instincts, expect to make mistakes, and don't beat yourself up for them when you do. Fill your house with love and laughter. Set boundaries, rules and responsibilities. When your children do wrong, acknowledge it and handle with authority, followed by love. You are the parent, not the friend!

Make the time you spend together full of quality; quantity means nothing if there's no quality. Fifteen minutes of undivided attention is worth more than two hours of halfhearted interaction.

Hug them, love them, and kiss them to pieces! You have embarked on the greatest adventure of your life, so treasure it!

  • From marriage dilemmas to family issues, Caroline's got the answers!

    Photo by Michael T. Greco
Caroline Rules
How to Be Close With Your Kids
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