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5 Ways to improve your parenting today

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.






New bag of tricks

We have 5 tips to improve your parenting you can put in use today. Feel like you used up your bag of tricks a year -- or two kids -- ago? Never fear, we've got some new tips for you. Put them to use today to improve your parenting -- and your relationship with your kids -- today.

Mom and Child GardeningThis parenting thing is not easy. Oh, sure, before you had kids you were probably full of advice and ideas. And you probably still have an unmarried sister or friend, or a very married mother or mother-in-law who is full of -- well, something, anyway. But when you're in the thick of it, it can be incredibly difficult to make the right call every time.Start by accepting that you will make mistakes. You are, despite all evidence to the contrary, human. That said, you can still improve your parenting, and you can learn from the mistakes you make. Here are 5 tips you can put to use immediately for real results.

1. Get down, get low.

When you talk to your kids, get down to eye level and lower your voice. Too often, we tower over our kids and talk down to them -- or shriek in a voice that no one really wants to hear. It is incredibly difficult to keep control when there is broken glass on the floor and chocolate milk spreading towards the sofa, but is screaming really going to help? And most of the time, kids don't drop glasses on purpose.Try this instead, the next time you have the urge to yell at your child for something they did accidentally: Crouch down so you're on eye level with your child, and work on a low voice. "Broken glass is very dangerous. I'm going to put you in a safe place while I clean up the dangerous part, and afterwards you can help me with the rest."And if the infraction was committed intentionally? Again, get down to eye level, and keep your voice low and firm. "That is not okay. We do not [hit/kick/punch/whatever]. No." Then withdraw your attention completely from the child for a moment or two.

2.Identify problems and head them off.

Often, a simple change in routine is enough to head off a problem that's plagued you forever. For example, if your son habitually forgets his math book at school, can you arrange to pick him up for a week or two, and give him the chance to go back and get it? Or, if your kids always fight over the TV during the after-dinner hour, can one go for a bath while the other gets a break? Then they can switch, and you gain an hour of relative peace.Think creatively. If your daughter has ants in her pants after school and cannot sit still to finish her homework, maybe a walk around the block or thirty minutes of outside play will help her make it through the time she needs to sit still. On the other hand, if your kids come home starving and stuff themselves on candy, try to have a healthier alternative ready and waiting.

3. Learn to let go.

Are you fighting with your kids over things that don't really matter? For example, you hate shoes at the foot of the stairs, and your kids hate making an extra trip to put them away. You can impose your rule, and prepare to spend the next 15 years shouting, "I said, put your shoes away!" Or, you and your kids can compromise: shoes go in a pretty box kept next to the staircase.You serve salad every night at dinner, and it infuriates you to throw it away uneaten. You want the kids to eat right, but they've made it abundantly clear that they're not going to touch the salad. Keep serving it and make yourself crazy, or ask your kids to choose a few veggies they will eat.

4. Stop the 24-7 entertainment.

Despite what your kids may think, you are not actually obligated to keep them entertained all the time. Break your kids of the habit super-fast by posting a list of chores that need to be completed on the fridge. Direct bored children to the list, and make them actually do the next one on the list. You may need to help, but at least you're crossing something off the list. And the child will think twice before announcing her boredom again.Let your kids learn to entertain themselves. Help them find hobbies, get them involved in activities, or simply break out an big empty box and let their imaginations run wild.

5. Get to know your kids.

Find a way to spend 20 to 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with your child each week. If you have more kids than parents in th family, then set up a rotating system where Mom and Dad spend hands on time with one kid each, every week. Whether it's hot chocolate at Starbucks, an ice cream cone in the kitchen, or weeding in the garden, commit to your kid. Turn off your cell phone, and listen.

You might find the one-on-one time to be uncomfortable at first, which is why an activity is a great ice-breaker. The car is another great place for conversations. Stick with it -- this is one of the easiest ways to make a real improvement in your relationship.You don't have to make all these changes at once. Pick one, and work on it until it's natural, just part of who you are. Then add another. And let us know how you're doing!

Want more parenting advice? Ask our parenting expert!

Dr. Lynne Kenney, PsyD, is a pediatric psychologist and The Family Coach with North Scottsdale Pediatrics North Scottsdale Pediatrics Associates, PC - Scottsdale Pediatrician, Pediatric Care, Baby, Infant, Children Doctor Scottsdale, AZ. After 20 years in psychology, Lynne has learned that it is best to go to where the problem lives in order to solve it. So you'll find her on the tennis court, in the nursery, at the breakfast table and in the local diner practicing skills for better living with families. Go to http://talk.sheknows.com/f1198/ to submit your questions! 

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