Raising children is one of the toughest and most fulfilling jobs in the world and the one for which you may be the least prepared. Learning “on the job” how to be a parent can be fraught with pitfalls. As advocates for children , we at the Dupont Hospital for Children want to help you raise healthy and happy children. Here are some ways to tackle your child-rearing responsibilities that will help you feel more fulfilled as a parent, and enjoy your children more, too. 1. Nurture your child’s self esteem Children start developing their sense of self as babies when they see themselves through your eyes. Your tone of voice, your body language, and your every expression is absorbed by your child. Your words and actions as parents affect your child’s developing self-image more than anything else in his world. Consequently, praising your child for his accomplishment, however small, will make him feel proud; letting him to do things for himself will make him feel capable and independent. By contrast, belittling your child or comparing him unfavorably to another will make him feel worthless. Avoid making loaded statement or using words as a weapons: “What a stupid thing to do!” or “You act more like a baby than your little brother!” Comments like these bruise the inside of a child as much as blows the outside. Choose your words carefully and be compassionate. Let your child know that everyone makes and that while you may not like his behavior. You still love him. 2. Catch your child being good Have you ever stopped to think about how many times you react negatively to your child in a given day? You may find that you are criticizing far more than you are complimenting. How would you feel about a boss who treated you with that much negative guidance? The more effective approach is to catch your child doing something right, and praise her to the skies. “You made your bed without being asked-that’s terrific!” or “I was watching you play with your sister and you were very patient!” These statements will do more to encourage good behavior over the long run than repeated scolding. Make a point of finding something to praise every day. Be generous with rewards-your love, hugs and compliments can work wonders and are often rewards enough. Soon you will find you are “growing” more of the behavior you would like to see. 3. Set limits and be consistent with your discipline Discipline is necessary in every household. The goal of discipline is to help children choose acceptable behaviors. Children may test the limits you establish for them but they need limits to grow into responsible adults. Establishing house rules might include: homework is to be done before any television privileges are granted, or hitting, name-calling and hurtful teasing are unacceptable. You may want to have a system in place: one warning, followed by consequences such as “time out” or loss of privileges. A common mistake parents makes is failure to follow through with consequence when rules are broken. A rule without consequences is not a rule at all-it’s a threat. You can’t discipline a child for talking back one day, and ignore it the next. Being consistent sets an example of what expect from our children. 4. Make time for your children With so many demands on your time, it’s often difficult for parents and children to get together for a family meal, let alone spend some quality time together. However, there is probably nothing your child would like more. Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning so you can eat breakfast with your child or leave the dishes in the sink and take a walk after dinner. Children who are not getting the attention they want from their parents often act out or misbehave because they are assured of being noticed. Many parents find it mutually rewarding to have prescheduled time with their child on a regular basis. For instance, tell your child Tuesday is her special night with Mommy and let her help decide how you will spend your time together. Look for ways to connect with your child without actually being there-put a note or something special in her lunchbox. Adolescents seem to need the undivided attention of their parents less than younger children. Since there are fewer windows of opportunity for parents and teen to get together, parents should do their best to be available when their teen does express a desire to talk or participate in family activities. Don’t feel too guilty if you’re a working parent. Quantity is not nearly as important as what you do with the bits and pieces of time you have with your child. It is the many little things you do together-making popcorn playing cards and window-shopping that your child will remember.