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How to be a rational parent

Sally Sacks, MEd is a licensed psychotherapist, with 20 years of experience, counseling individuals, children, families and couples.

Sally is also the author of How to Raise the Next President, a groundbreaking parents' guide to teaching ...

rational parenting

If you want to have kids who use their brains effectively, you have to communicate with them rationally. In other words, you must make sense.

rational parenting

Examples of rational parenting

For example, my sixth grader recently wanted a cell phone. She told me that she was the last kid in her class not to have one. I realize that now this is true, although I don't understand who these kids are calling... maybe Ghostbusters! 

It seems ridiculous to me to pay money for a phone, to look cool -- Razors, Chocolates, Parfaits, Angel phones -- when there is no one to call other than a friend to ask "What's up! Did Angie talk to you today?" Now, if a child needs to reach a parent because of family needs, that's a different story, but these cases are rare. I say to my child, "I know you would like that phone. Who wouldn't when everyone has one?" But I don't think it is necessary to have a phone in sixth grade, and I really can't spend the money for things we don't really need.''

My answer is met with squeaks, anger, endless questions -- but I hold fast and assertively to my idea with understanding of her desires living in a culture where this is the norm in upper middle class towns. If the squeaking gets too out of hand or annoying, I announce my need to leave, she slams the door, I remain calm, and 10 minutes later she comes in to hug me. I accept the hug and nothing is mentioned, It is over and I am happy. For now!

Rational thinking and assertiveness always gets the point across

When you have teens, you really need to use this. Always use it with understanding and kindness, not critical judgment. You might say to a teen who gets in trouble for ringing doorbells as a prank, late at night, "I can understand the fun that would bring to a 14 year old, but think of the consequences," and list them. "You might get a really angry person who calls the police." "You could wake up a child, who the parents spent hours trying to get down." "You may scare someone." You are understanding developmentally where the child is, but offering rational thought to influence behavior. Rational parenting stretches children's minds to see more choices and consequences in behavior. The most flexible mind, with the most choices is always the most effective one in dealing with life, people, and life's challenges.

How you can become a more rational parent:

  • Listen to your kids and evaluate what they are saying.
  • Think of all the choices that you have in offering advice or direction.
  • Ask them questions, and challenge in a teaching way, why that may or may not be a good idea.
  • Offer stories about rational thinking. Give them an example of a bad choice that you made and how you made a better one and life was better for it.
  • Remember all mistakes are opportunities to learn for you and your child.
  • Be the thinking you want to see in your child, provided you have insight into yourself to know your thinking is rational.
  • Work on yourself and your own personal growth daily.
  • When you fall as a parent pick yourself up. Allow for mistakes. That is the key to rational thinking.
  • Enjoy the parenting journey. It ends all too fast.

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