Advice for Surviving Tricky Parenting Dilemmas

Are you a parent who is modeling behavior that is harming your children? Do you say things to your kid you wish you could take back? Or are you clueless about how to raise a teen? If you need some help when it comes to raising your children, Dr. Phil has advice for making it through tricky parenting dilemmas.

Be Cautious of Your Behavior
Kids hear what their parents say, and they're always watching their actions. Words are powerful for young children, and they don't have a great ability to separate reality and fantasy. "It just kind of all blurs together for them," Dr. Phil tells his guests. One father calls himself stupid and fat, and now his child writes that he is stupid. "If they see you getting exasperated, then because you're their role model, they start to internalize the things that they see you do," Dr. Phil continues. "Don't think that just because you don't really think you're stupid, just because you don't really think you have a 45 I.Q., that saying it doesn't impair your ability to function and model it for him."

Help Your Child Develop a Positive Attitude
Tom and Kathy's 8-year-old son is extremely competitive when it comes to sports, and he is a sore loser. He often hangs his head, makes angry faces and doesn't congratulate the other team when his team loses. Dr. Phil suggests the parents sit down and have a conversation with their son to help change his perspective. The best time to chat is during a calm period, not after your child had has lost a game or is in a negative mood. "You've got to do more than tell your child what not to do," Dr. Phil explains. "You've got to tell him what to do." If your kid did not perform as well as he or she liked in school or other activities, you should discuss with him or her three things he or she did well and two things to work on to do better.

Dr. Phil shares his experience of coaching his two sons in basketball. "When they came off the court, I would always say, 'You should be really proud of yourself, and Dad's proud of you, but you should proud of yourself. You worked hard; you played hard. You should be proud of that.' Teach them not to validate themselves by your approval," he explains. Children should learn to validate themselves from the inside out, not the outside in. He also suggests role playing with your child. "Get him to behave his way to success," he says.

Do Not Deny Your Child's Fears
Tracy and Roger have a 5-year-old son who is afraid to sleep in his room by himself. They suspected that his fear developed after seeing certain movies, so they stopped letting him watch. This resolved the issue for a short amount of time, but his fear has returned. Dr. Dan Siegel, a member of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board who does extensive work in psychotherapy with children suggests, "Staying with a child and not denying their feelings is very important." He suggests they try a new technique with their son. "You say, 'I see you're scared. Tell me more about it,' and if he can learn over time — this may take a few weeks — that whatever he's feeling, he sees in your eyes it's going to be OK, soon in his own internal world he's going to learn that he can feel anything and learn how to soothe himself, so if he does wake up in the middle of the night, he'll be able to soothe himself and go back to sleep." They should encourage their son to verbalize as best he can what he is feeling.

Go with Your Gut
Kenneth received custody of his daughter when she was 10 years old. At first, he wanted to be her friend because he didn't want her to hate him. As time went on, he says his daughter started to take advantage of his generosity. Realizing that kids don't come with an owner's manual, he wonders when to let his daughter wear makeup, own a cell phone and start dating.

"There are no absolute answers," Dr. Siegel says. "You've got to look inside yourself and see what feels right, not just what you're pushed into doing." He says that his daughter told him that girls start wearing makeup at 13. "I think it's all a matter of what it means," he says. "If she's just doing it to allow herself to present herself to her friends in a nice way and that feels good to you, the consensus is — I think among lots of people — that's fine. But if she's making herself up to look like she's going out for Halloween, that's a whole different thing."

Look at the motive behind why your daughter may want to decorate her face. "If it's a fashion statement, that's one thing. If it is to attract boys, to look older, to look more mature, to become a magnet, then, all of a sudden, you've got to say, 'She's obviously not ready to do that,' because you're going to create that problem," Dr. Phil warns.

Realize You Must Be the Eyes and Ears for Your Child
During adolescence — from ages 11 to 20 — a child's brain continues to change and develop, causing a child to behave without reasoning. "Sometimes, at this age especially, they're not really ready to engage with boys in a way that they can think clearly," Dr. Siegel says. Parents must see around the corners for their children to keep them safe, because kids cannot predict the consequences of their actions. 


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