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mother (and father)
Despite our best intentions, most of us find its pretty hard to measure up to the standards that we set for ourselves on the discipline front. The result? Truckloads and truckloads of mother (or father) guilt. Heres how to cope with parenthoods most abundant yet useless emotion:

Problem: Your child screams in order to get your attention or to blackmail you into giving in to her demands.

How To Handle It
Avoid situations that lead to screaming. If your child has a screaming fit each and every time you spend a day at the amusement park, shes telling you in no uncertain terms that she cant cope with the demands of that kind of an outing just yet.

Refuse to respond to your child’s demands until she stops screaming. Let them know that its impossible to understand what someone is trying to say when they’re screaming at the top of their lungs.

Don’t give in. If you give in to your child on the ninth scream, you’ll simply be teaching her that it pays to be persistent.

Pay attention to your child when she stops screaming so that shell see the benefits of expressing her feelings in other ways.

Praise your child whenever she manages to find ways to express her frustration without resorting to screaming.

Accept the fact that you’re a less-than-perfect parent. Where is it written in the parenting job description that perfection is required? Nowhere, I tell you! So cut yourself a little slack and don’t demand anything more of yourself than you ask of your own kids; in other words, progress, not perfection. I have no guilt, says Catherine, a 33-year-old mother of four. I am not perfect. I will never be perfect. I am only human. I don’t expect perfection from my kids and I sure as heck don’t expect perfection from myself. I am a work in progress, and every mistake I make is a learning experience. I continue to grow as a human being right alongside my children.

Don’t be afraid to apologize to your child if an apology is warranted. It wont undercut your authority as a parent if you own up to the fact that you were wrong; in fact, it is likely to enhance your credibility. Your child will have a lot more respect for you if you admit that you blew it than if you try to make excuses for your own bad behaviour. You’ll also feel a lot better yourself. The apology is the key for me, says Mary, a 36-year-old-mother of three. If I didn’t apologize, I think the guilt would kill me!

Resist the temptation to compensate if you come down too hard on your child. You aren’t doing your child any favours if you swing too far in the opposite direction. You’ll come across as wishy-washy or, worse, totally incompetent, and nothing is scarier to a child than feeling like mom and dad don’t have a clue what they’re doing. You also risk teaching your child a very dangerous lesson that he has an excellent chance of getting his own way if he can push your buttons enough to make you lose your cool so that you’ll give in out of guilt.

Don’t feel guilty for doing your job. The one thing you shouldn’t feel guilty about is doing your job as a parent coming up with a series of clearly defined family rules that are designed to give your child the skills he will need to thrive as an adult. Some parents fall into the trap of believing that its their job to make their child happy 24 hours a day, when in fact, its their job to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted kids. That means saying no sometimes, whether or not your child wants to hear it. (And chances are he wont.) PC

Excerpted from The Mother of All Parenting Books with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Copyright (c) 2003 by Ann Douglas.

a man carrying two children

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