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Parenting 101: Practical practices

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Parenting 101: Practical practices

Dear Dr. Karyn,

I’ve heard you speak several times and one of the reasons I really like your style is that I find you so practical. I find as a single mother with three teens I just don’t have much time to even think about how I’m parenting – I just do it. But when I hear you speak you really make me think about how I’m doing. Could you share some really practical things that I can do better with my kids.

I’ve heard comments like yours from so many parents – ‘Karyn I don’t’ have much time – just tell me what I can do to improve my relationship with my kids’. So here are some simple tips any parent can use with any age at all times – enjoy!
Use Appropriate Affection: Remember back to when your teens were small children. Some wanted to be held and hugged and others couldn’t stand being held. There are some teens, believe it or not, who still want and need more affection from their parents – a hug when they get home, an arm around the shoulder when you’re talking with them, a back massage when they’re studying. Obviously, some teens will welcome this affection and others will not. So try to get to know your teen’s needs. And also realize that, for some teens, their number one love language is affection. So show your love for them through affection.
Ask for Clarification And More Information: This is probably one of the most important tips when it comes to effective communication. Let’s face it – there is a big difference between listening, and really hearing what a person is saying. The goal of listening should be to capture what the other person is saying. But for most of us, we tend to hear messages through the filter of our own perceptions and experiences. As a result, we may often misinterpret what the person has just said. So the solution is to ask for clarification. Get the person to be specific and ask for more information. If someone says they want more respect, ask them to define what that is based on. What would it look like to them? Once you have this information, you can respond appropriately. This will communicate that you have listened and heard what the other person has said.
Affirm Character, Not Just Behaviour: It’s so easy to notice and affirm positive behaviours: “Good work, Johnny, for getting an ‘A’ on that test,” or “Natalie, I’m so proud of you for scoring that goal in your soccer game.”  Affirming good behaviour is not necessarily a bad thing but I would highly recommend parents put more focus and effort towards affirming their child or teen’s character, not just behaviour. Children can control their motivation, discipline, time management skills or whether or not they are going in for extra help. They cannot control the ultimate result they receive. By affirming your child’s character and saying, “Johnny, I’m so proud of you for being disciplined and motivated towards studying for that test,” you affirm what they can control. When you focus on helping your children develop a solid character, they will respond to this and you will see the positive behaviours result.
Honour Secrets: If we want our kids to talk to us we have to 100 per cent keep what they tell us in confidence. There are only two exceptions when it’s necessary to break this rule: if they tell us they are going to hurt themselves or hurt someone else. Otherwise, it’s very important and critical to honour secrets. If we don’t honour secrets, children learn that we are unsafe and, as a result, they will be less likely to share with us what is really going on in their lives. Children should be able to trust their parents to keep their confidence. Children and teens need to feel safe enough to go to their parents when they experience difficult situations. 
Avoid Comparisons: One of the many complaints I hear from teens and children is that they can’t stand it when their parents compare them to either their sister, brother, cousin, next door neighbour or even their own friends. Many parents think they don’t compare but we often make subtle comparisons without even realizing it. Comparisons communicate to children that they are less important, less special and less valued. It can have a huge negative impact on their self-esteem and their willingness to communicate to their parents. If you’re not sure whether or not you compare, have the courage to ask your child directly. Kids are great at telling it like it is if they sense that we genuinely want to hear it.

• Read more tips in Dr. Karyn’s new book called Dr. Karyn’s Guide the Teen Years available everywhere where books are sold. Visit her website at