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'90s FAMILY : Balanced Behavior for Parents

August 31, 1994|KRISTINA SAUERWEIN

Don't know if you're too friendly or unfriendly with your child? Parenting experts offer some guidelines:

TOO STRICT

* A mother who yells at her 8-year-old daughter for putting on lipstick and blush.

* A father who swears and then severely punishes his 12-year-old son for swearing.

* Parents who prohibit their 17-year-old daughter from dating.

TOO FRIENDLY

* A mother who routinely permits her 8-year-old daughter to wear makeup, figuring she's going through a harmless phase.

* A father who swears and allows--even encourages--his 12-year-old son to swear too.

* Parents who set no dating rules--not even a curfew.

JUST RIGHT

* A mother who gently explains to her 8-year-old daughter that she's not allowed to wear lipstick and blush because she is too young.

It's natural for a child to want to do inappropriate things, said Ellen Galinsky, co-president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group in New York City.

"Most of the time, parents shouldn't be angry. They also shouldn't worry about aggravating a situation with discipline. If parents act like true friends, their children will push and push and push for whatever it is they want. (The child) will never be satisfied. Kids need parents to set limits like they need safety rails."

* A father who refrains from uttering bad words and holds his son to a no-swearing rule. The first time he hears an obscenity from the child, he explains why it's not allowed, firmly tells him not to do it again and warns him that he'll have to face a consequence if he does.

"I learned the hard way that you have to stop (the misbehavior) right away," said Robert Hendricks, a social worker at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and a father of two. "One of my sons would talk back to me. I'd warn him not to do it again. He'd do it again, and nothing would happen. Slowly, I learned that discipline earns their respect."

* Parents who allow their teen-age daughter to date, provided she obeys all household rules. Rules might pertain to curfew, completing homework, introducing her date to parents or washing the dishes.

"This type of discipline teaches them structure," said Richard M. Eyre, author of several parenting books. "Children are grateful for it even if they don't know it. It's the classic case of the conscious versus the subconscious. For example, (teen-agers) may brag about having no curfew, but inside they're crying out. It gives them an unstable feeling. They feel like their parents don't care about them enough to protect them and teach them right from wrong. Be friendly, but don't forget the discipline."

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