Kids, Screens and Play: Solutions to a Common Problem

Recent research on kids and screens is alarming. Almost everyone now agrees that parents should establish rules and limits with regard to the amount of time kids spend in front of screens. It matters, however, how we do this.

How to Have a Well-Behaved Child, Part 3

Self-regulation, especially in childhood, is not learned well from consequences or punishment. The threat of punishment has its place, but it is a small part of learning discipline and self-control.

How to Have a Well-Behaved Child, Part 2

In my last post, I presented general principles of good behavior in young children. Today, I would like to follow up with specific recommendations – 15 rules that parents can use to help children learn to behave well (most of the time).

How to Have a Well-Behaved Child, Part 1

By all accounts, modern American children are very poorly behaved. Why is this so? And what can we do about it?

A Father's Day Remembrance

My father was a warm and generous man. When I became a father, he was my role model. I wanted to become the kind of father who would earn my children’s love and respect, as he had earned mine.

How to Have Better Conversations With Your Children, Part II

In today’s post, I would like to share a lesson I learned about talking with children when I was still a young parent. There is no better way, as a parent (or as a child therapist) to engage a young child’s attention and provide emotional support than through sharing personal stories.

The Most Important Ten Minutes of Your Child’s Day

The daily lives of children are not all about positive feelings. All children have moments of disappointment, discouragement and self-doubt. In every family, there will be moments of anger and misunderstanding. Our task, as parents, is to recognize these moments and begin a process of repair.

How to Have Better Conversations With Your Children

Why don’t children want to talk with us about their bad feelings? Why are they so often defensive and uncommunicative, unwilling even to report mundane events of the day? Here are some recommendations for developing more open communication with children.

How Can We Help Our Children Become “Grittier”?

Last month, I was privileged to join a discussion of Angela Lee Duckworth’s TED Talk on grit. Duckworth has found, in many different settings, that doing well - in school and in life - depends far less on intelligence and talent, and much more on passion and perseverance, a quality she calls “grit.” She asks, "What can parents do to help their children develop grit?"

Should Parents Bribe Their Children?

Offering bribes or rewards to children for compliance with basic chores can help us get through the day with less argument and less stress, and this is no small thing. But when we are frequently thinking about rewards as the solution to family problems, we risk losing sight of what is most important in how children learn cooperative behavior.

Understanding Children's Emotions: Curiosity and Interest

As parents, our enthusiastic responsiveness to our children’s interests is the surest way to engage them in some form of meaningful dialogue or interaction, and a first principle of strengthening family relationships.

Should Parents Praise Their Children?

A child’s need for praise and approval from admired adults is not an "extrinsic" reward. It is a deeply intrinsic human need. If we think of praise in this way—as a basic need, not a “technique” for raising obedient children - our understanding fundamentally changes.

How to Help Children Bounce Back

Our goal is not to eliminate our children’s frustrations and disappointments, but to help them bounce back. When we are successful, we will observe this healthy development in all aspects of a child’s life.

Has Science Discovered the Secrets of Happy Families?

Bruce Feiler has discovered, in contemporary scientific research, a gold mine of helpful parenting advice. The research is sound and the advice is wise, invaluable to many over-stressed modern parents. But has science really discovered the secrets of happy families?

Defeating the Culture of Bullying

What can we do, as parents, to nurture qualities of empathy and kindness in our children? How can we reduce the risk that they will get caught up in hurtful teen-age drama? How can we help them become "upstanders," not bystanders, to meanness and cruelty?

In Defense of Parents

Perhaps it has always been this way, but recently it seems that parents are under attack. The criticisms come from all sides. We are over-involved or overly permissive. We fail to teach traditions and values. We over-diagnose, over-medicate, and over-accommodate our kids, often to excuse our own poor parenting. Especially, the critics believe, our children are indulged.

Positiveness Part II: Encouragement, Appreciation, and Pride

Last month, I discussed ways that parents can strengthen positive feelings in their relationships with their children. In today’s post, I will offer additional recommendations for how we can maintain an attitude of “positiveness,” even when we are frustrated by children’s challenging behaviors.

Nurturing a Spirit of Caring and Generosity in Children

Most parents want more for their children than individual achievement. We also want them to be “good kids” - children who act with kindness and generosity toward their families, their friends, and their communities. These are universal values, shared by parents who are secular and religious, liberal and conservative.

Positiveness, Part I: Strengthening Family Relationships

Sadly, in the daily life of many families, positive feelings have been eroded. Moments of joyfulness and pride in our children, although no less cherished, too often give way to argument and withdrawal. In today's post, I will suggest ways that we can strengthen positiveness in our family relationships and support our children's emotional health.

Helping Children Succeed

Paul Tough has written an excellent book on the importance of character to children's academic success, and he offers wise recommendations to parents. But there is more that we can do.

Winning and Losing

In this week’s post, I would like to share some thoughts on an important aspect of children’s emotional development and a source of distress in many parent-child relationships - winning and losing at games.

Battles Over Homework: Advice For Parents

For this back-to-school season, I would like to offer some advice about one of the most frequent problems presented to me in over 30 years of clinical practice: battles over homework.

Empathy Is Not Indulgence

Have we created a culture of indulgence that is harmful to our society and to our children? Has our concern with children's feelings gone too far?

Understanding Children’s Emotions: Pride and Shame

Discussions of children’s motivations and behavior too often overlook the importance of feelings of pride and shame. A child’s need to feel proud, and to avoid feelings of shame, is a fundamental motivation, and remains fundamental, throughout her life.

He's Not Motivated Part II

Motivation begins with interest. Where there is interest, there is curiosity and a desire to learn, to know more.

Are Our Children Overpraised?

It has become common in recent years for parents to be warned about the dangers of praise. We are told that frequent praise, although intended to bolster a child’s self-confidence and self-esteem, may instead create increased anxiety and ultimately undermine her initiative and confidence.

Criticism Part II: Alternatives and Antidotes

When parents are often angry and critical of their children, children, in turn, become angry and argumentative, stubborn and defiant. Argument begets argument. When we argue frequently with our children, children become good at arguing.

Criticism Part I: The Harmfulness of Criticism

If I were asked to identify the most common problem presented to me in three decades of therapeutic work with children and families, my answer would be unequivocal: "As parents, we are, unwittingly, too critical of our children."