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Parenting Excellence: It's the Little Things that Count

In virtually any field of endeavor, there are those who play at a higher level than most. And even among those, some stand out as stellar examples of excellence. All parents should aspire to that level when it comes to their child-rearing abilities, but doing so demands an understanding of a simple truth: sometimes it's the little things that count. Covering the basics - a good home, good nutrition, a sense of respect and the fostering of a moral compass, a good work ethic - all of these are wonderful standards of parenting. But they are more requisite objectives than they are benchmarks of excellence. To really take your parenting to the next level, consider the following approaches and techniques to turn your little ones into solid citizens with healthy self-images and social skills.

  • Teach your children how to converse. Impart the wisdom of Dale Carnegie - people are drawn to those who show interest in others in a genuine way. Teach them about the power of positive energy, the disarming smile, sincere eye contact, the non-judgmental acceptance of others, the conversational grease of asking questions, and most of all, of listening. Practice it, reinforce it, discuss it.
  • Be there when your kid gets home from school. Have them tell you about their day, what they learned, what challenged them, and ask what they learned. Then have the child do the same in return. Show your child that an adult is not something to be feared, that adults are people, too, with sensitivities and weaknesses. Make them feel equal in terms of their right to express their feelings, that their opinions count and their words have weight.
  • Structure your meals together. Don't just chit-chat, ask a provocative question and have all the kids take a turn at expressing their answer or response. Encourage debate, but always referee the exchange to ensure mutual respect and empathy. After a while have your children pick the topic and lead the discussion.
  • Foster a sense of empowerment. Position failure as a good thing, something to be learned from, something that can't happen unless you make an effort in the first place. Look for failures all around you - in the media, in sports, in politics, in human interactions - and discuss the dynamics, always with empathy, and with a view toward learning.
  • Foster a sense of responsibility. Trust your children, and give them the rope to reward you with even greater acceptance of responsibility. Show them what leadership really means, that it is action more than words, helping more than directing, and acknowledging the contributions of others. The greatest of teachers will not hesitate to leave their pupils alone with the consequences of their actions. Mentor those actions, then let the consequences to the hard work of teaching lessons.
  • And finally, let there be no doubt that, no matter what the situation, no matter whose fault a misstep might be, your home is a safe place that is full of love and unconditional support. Trade in the currency of hugs on a daily basis. Leave no doubt that you love them, and teach them that saying "I love you" is a privilege not to be taken lightly.

The earlier you begin this culture of success in your home, the more natural it will feel and the more effective it will become. Success begets success, so start the ball rolling early, with courage, with conviction, and most of all, with love. There is no greater gift a parent can give.

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