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DR. KYLE PRUETT : Lifetime's New Parental Guide

July 11, 1993|BETH KLEID | Beth Kleid is a regular contributor to TV Times and Calendar

How do I build my son's self-esteem? How do I help my daughter learn right from wrong?

Parents with kids in the in-between ages, 6 to 12, are full of questions. Dr. Kyle Pruett is full of answers. The Yale Child Study Center psychiatrist and expert in child development will give parents a road map with his new half-hour show, "Your Child 6 to 12 With Dr. Kyle Pruett," premiering Tuesday on Lifetime. An offshoot of Pruett's monthly Q&A column in Good Housekeeping magazine, the program is the latest addition to the cable network's morning programming about parenting.

On the show, the professorial but down-to-earth Pruett passes along his expertise to a studio audience of parents who ask pointed questions about their kids. Pruett's answers are based on years of psychiatric practice, research and experience with his own two daughters, who are now successfully grown-up. And he's not a TV newcomer; Pruett has been a guest expert on "Good Morning America" and "Donahue."

Each of the 26 shows, which have already been taped in Boston, dives head first into a different topic: from sibling rivalry to peer pressure to what happens when Mom and Dad disagree. Pruett talked about his new show with writer Beth Kleid.

How did the series come about?

I heard about it from Peggy Allen, who is the executive producer of several of the family shows on Lifetime. At first, I was asked if I would be interested in joining a team of experts to produce a program that looked at children ages 6 to 12 because Lifetime saw this as a rather large gap in their programming. Then they came to me and said, 'Would you be interested in doing the whole thing yourself?' My first impression was, 'No.' I have a practice that is very important to me, and I also have an academic career which takes up a lot of my time. But as we talked, I become more and more intrigued by the topics we discussed.

So even though you have such a busy schedule, you saw the value in doing the show?

You know, this is the age at which our children really turn into the people we hope, or fear, that they will be. And we often tend to give up on the parents at this point. We say, 'Well, once the children are in school, what else can you do?' I think that's a huge misconception. This seemed like a wonderful opportunity for me to express some of the things that I've learned over the course of my practice and some of the things that I know as a clinician--and help families take more seriously what's going on with their kids.

Were you involved in determining the show's format?

Yes, it was clear that it would be a question-and-answer format where an audience of 40-plus or minus parents would be, and we would cover a different topic every audience segment. Another thing we decided was that we would integrate videotape of families who were living with children of that age group into the format. That I thought was really wonderful. And in the final closing piece of each show we give children a chance to speak for themselves on the topic that we just heard their parents talk about. I think that adds a lot of legitimacy and credibility to why we're talking about this stuff.

Do you find that there's a lot of confusion among parents about kids this age, that there is a real need for information?

You bet--because children have now left your home and they're in school and the big world out there is feeding them information beyond your wildest dreams. Parents get really bewildered. The outer world sort of hits you like a tidal wave; your parenting is suddenly not completely in control. It is a time when many parents begin to doubt their authority.

So did you find that the parents in the audience were brimming with questions?

We never had time to get to all of the questions. We could have done a three-hour show. Now that was more true for certain topics than for others. The shows on discipline and self-esteem could have gone on and on. On the other hand, the shows that had to do with what your children are capable of learning at these ages were less full of questions but equally important. The topics weren't market driven. It was largely driven by the integrity of the clinical work: What do we know, what do parents need to know.

Which shows stood out for you?

We did a show on sibling rivalry that was wonderful. The single parenthood show was a powerful one--people were not jumping out of their seats to ask the next question because the issues raised were painful. But we didn't duck them; so the audience felt very involved.

Do you think that so much information can be overwhelming for a parent, who might think, 'How am I going to remember all of this?' How do you want parents at home to react?

I would hope that parents leave each show feeling even a little bit more confident about the topic we've covered--and with a willingness to think about why they had kids in the first place, why they care about them the way they do. And then do it a little better. I would love for parents to feel less lonely and less isolated after watching.

"Your Child 6 to 12 With Dr. Kyle Pruett" airs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 9 a.m. on Lifetime.

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