TLC With Backbone: 8 Tips for Better Parenting From <em>Permission to Parent</em>

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Permission to Parent: How to Raise Your Child with Love and Limits, has created quite a splash since its recent publication. The message: Parents need to combine TLC with backbone. Restoring the family hierarchy and injecting balance into parenting will best shepherd children's souls, psychiatrist and UCLA associate professor Robin Berman, MD, says.

1. Parents Need to Be Comfortable Being In Charge

But that's hard because parents have flip-flopped from their generational predecessors, when bringing the best of old-school and new thinking together would make for a healthier combination for children. "Somehow," Dr. Berman warns, "children went from being seen and not heard to being the center of the universe."

This switcheroo means today's parents have a hard time saying "no," gets children involved in too many activities and leads to parents holding irrationally high expectations while not teaching coping skills. This "perfect storm for combustion," Dr. Berman says, serves neither children nor their parents.

2. Limits With Love Is The Key To Good Parenting

Without limits, children become insecure, anxious, whiny and not a lot of fun to be around. They also grow up without enough respect for social structure, which can make it harder to function in school, the workplace or in relationships.

Hovering and over-indulgence can come from parents' own histories. They never leave their kids on their own because they felt, as kids, that they were neglected or ignored. Yesterday's latch-key kids are raising today's children, sometimes from a still-wounded place.

3. Find Your Goldilocks Zone of Involvement

But intervening too often to protect or advocate for your children can lead to fragility and dependency, Dr. Berman warns, not to mention parent burn-out. Dr. Berman points out that learning how to recover from mistakes and handle disappointment helps build resiliency.

4. Unplug and Tune In

Another issue for parents today is that when they're not hovering, they're outsourcing their responsibilities to entertainment devices -- which don't foster connection, nor does it teach children how to relate to other human beings. As an example, Dr. Berman laments how often she sees children and their parents absorbed with devices while sharing meals at restaurants.

Meal time should become an electronic-free zone so children get the opportunity to learn to engage, to be patient, to listen, and to connect. Dr. Berman advises disconnecting electronic entertainment devices for certain hours or certain days.

5. Make Time For Downtime

It's important for children to learn to be self-directed and to entertain themselves without always relying on their parents as over-sized play dates or relying on electronics. Downtime, hanging out and being bored are great opportunities for children to stretch their imaginations and creativity, Permission to Parent suggests.

6. Tame The Critic

Another downside of helicopter parenting, Dr. Berman warns, is that being overly-instructive can be heard as criticism, and sometimes even parents' most well-intended guidance can be delivered in bruising words or tone. Parents need to beware of becoming the harsh inner critic, Dr. Berman cautions repeatedly. What you say to children will be played and replayed -- as if a looped soundtrack and riffed upon -- inside your children's heads even as they travel through adulthood. Also, children who have been over-corrected tend to avoid taking risks.

7. Children Need You More Than Stuff

In addition to using mindful language, parents should try not to compensate for time with stuff. In giving your children "everything" you may not be giving them anything of value, including the trio of things Dr. Berman says kids need most: love, limits and time.

8. Grow Thyself

The hardest part -- and maybe the greatest gift -- of parenting well is it forces you to grow up yourself.

Dr. Berman urges parents to figure out what bad habits they might be hanging onto from their parents, or what scars of their own they are trying to bandage on their children, who may not need the same protection.

Berman advises that if you take a look back at your own childhood, "your history doesn't have to become your child's destiny." Remember, you are guardians of a lineage passed from generation to generation.