Sunday, February 5, 2012

The 7 Secrets of Successful Parents: Part 4

The 7 Secrets of Successful Parents:
Tips 6 and 7 

By Marianne Neifert, M.d.

According to an article from, Marianne Neifert's life has been devoted to children and families -- her own, and those she's encountered in her career as a pediatrician. Her first baby was born only a few months before she started medical school, and her fifth child arrived seven years later, on the final day of her pediatric residency. These two paths -- medicine and motherhood -- have been inextricably intertwined; they've often enhanced -- and sometimes competed with -- one another.

But over the years, as she has helped her own children journey into young adulthood and worked with countless families in her career, she has gained some hard-earned perspective and insights into raising kids. No parent will have all the answers all of the time, but these simple parenting guidelines can help make your time together as a family that much richer.

Family rituals and familiar patterns provide kids with a sense of security. Little children are reassured by knowing that their morning outing -- whether to the park or the library -- is followed by lunch, or that naptime will come after storytime. School-age kids also look forward to predictable shared events, such as eating dinner together or spending time with Dad on weekends. These routines increase your child's perception of control, which in turn increases her confidence.

Traditions also provide the social glue that bonds one generation to another, creating many of the special "anchor" memories within a family. In my own case, I hosted a multigenerational Thanksgiving reunion for years that gave our children both a strong family identity and sense of connection to their past.

You know the adage: "If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." Chronic sleep deprivation, isolation, and self-neglect can leave a parent physically depleted, emotionally discouraged, and, ultimately, ineffective. So give yourself permission to take a break -- to renew your perspective, enthusiasm, sense of humor, and energy. That may mean an afternoon off to visit a friend or go to a movie. Or it may be as simple as learning to ask for what you need, and accepting help from others.

I once met a woman who had lost her mother, but whose mother-in-law had become like a second mom to her. She explained that the older woman had helped her raise her children and preserve her marriage. "I never could have done it without her support," the woman insisted. Her mother-in-law just smiled and modestly acknowledged, "Everybody needs somebody to steady things up."

"That's it!" I thought, as a virtual parade of helpers flashed through my mind -- individuals who had steadied things up for my husband, Larry, and me when we were overwhelmed with responsibility for five children. In fact, we were aided every step of the way by the experience and generosity of grandparents, aunts and uncles, babysitters, teachers, coaches, pastors, neighbors, and friends. On many occasions, Larry and I enjoyed a night out, and even a weekend getaway, because we had asked someone, and someone had agreed to stay with our kids. And we were then better able to take care of our children because we had taken care of ourselves.

Contributing editor Marianne Neifert, M.D. is the author of three books, most recently Dr. Mom's Guide to Breastfeeding.


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