Tone down your language.
As a parent or caregiver you should consider the language you use within the four walls of your home. Curb the yelling and the angry tone. For instance, imagine yourself at dinner. Listen to yourself say, "Pass the bread." Then ask yourself, How am I saying it? Do I should like a parent who cares? Or do I sound like a prison guard? Your kids can tell the difference.

Listen to your children.
Think about sitting down with the children in your charge and asking them—with a smile and a relaxed expression—the very simple question, "What makes you happy?" They'll be glad to answer that. And ask, "What makes you sad?" Don't even get into anger. Just ask, "What makes you sad?" And then you can deal with it from there. Try that every day, just talking to the children.

Reward good behavior.
The best kind of reward is praise. If a child usually makes a mess at the table, praise her when she doesn't make a mess. And make sure she helps to clean up the mess she does make. In this way, you are helping to reinforce the behaviors in your child that you want to continue.

Make the punishment fit the crime.
Penalties help, but they should not be excessive and should be linked with the misbehavior that you are attempting to modify. For instance, if your kid is not getting enough sleep because she is staying up too late, the penalty could be an earlier bedtime. The reward could be a compliment when she wakes up refreshed in the morning and looking like a million bucks.

Set limits wisely.
Children need limits set by parents or caregivers, often to protect them. You can't let your kid run out into the street where he might get smacked by a car. You restrain him and say very firmly, "No, no—dangerous. You can get hit by a car!" There is no need to spank. You took the time to explain, and you were firm. With repetition, the child will get the message and learn not to run into the street.

Setting limits also involves setting rules that children are expected to follow. Tell them that dirty clothes go in the hamper, garbage goes in the trash, food goes nowhere near the bedroom, and adults are to be respected, not talked back to.
Excerpted from Come On People by Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint, MD, Copyright © 2007 by William H. Cosby Jr. and Alvin F. Poussaint, MD. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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