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THE BIG FIX

How to leave no child behind. What do L.A. kids need to thrive?

Turn off, tune in

December 29, 2007|BY KAREN STABINER | Karen Stabiner edited and contributed to the anthology "The Empty Nest."

Imagine raising a child in a world with no television, radio, MP3 players or video games; no cellphones, smart phones, text messages or IMs. What would we have left? Conversation.

Listening is hard work. Parents too often do it badly. We're heavy on advice, judgment and solutions, but not so good at empathy, and very bad at keeping our mouths shut while our kids figure things out for themselves. Who has time?

We're supposed to speak up when there's real danger. We're not supposed to orchestrate their every move. The first 18 years of a child's life are not about building the family brand by slapping an Ivy League sticker on the back of the car. Better to listen to what the kids think, what they wonder or worry about or dream -- because that's who they are no matter where, or if, they go to college.

At the opposite extreme, take with a grain of salt the experts who say your child will turn into a monster tomorrow. They know some kids -- sadly, the ones with real complaints, because the happier ones are too busy living -- but they do not know your kid.

If you listen expecting too much or too little, you run the risk that your kid will find someone else to talk to. Listen without distraction, listen without an agenda, and you just might learn something.

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