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Kids: Hear the delivery, not just message

| April 13, 2010 9:00 PM

Teacher-therapist-author Dr. Haim Ginott said that kids are like wet cement; whatever falls on them makes an impression.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children would agree. As a Sunday letter to the editor reminded, the theme for this year's Week of the Young Child, April 11-17, is "The early years are learning years." The letter called on the local community to thank teachers and encourage public policies which support early learning and literacy.

Teachers in all forms can be pivotal in a young life, but no one makes a greater impression on children than parents. So often, one's lifetime's emotional tendencies begin in early childhood. These make living either easier or more difficult.

Ginott's book, "Between Parent and Child," remained on the bestseller list for more than a year. In it he combined simple principles into a communications approach to effective parenting:

• Never deny or ignore a child's feelings.

• Treat behavior, not the child, as unacceptable.

• Depersonalize negative interactions by referring only the problem. "I see a messy room," not "you're messy."

• Attach rules to admonishment, e.g., "Little sisters are not for hitting."

• Dependence breeds hostility; let children do for themselves what they reasonably can.

• Let them choose within the safety of limits. "Would you like to wear this blue shirt or the red one?"

• Limit criticism to the specific event and skip the absolutes; don't say "you never listen" or "you always spill."

When children reach the teen years, with that precarious combination of higher reasoning without corresponding judgment, communication gets trickier and the stakes higher. Contrary to ostensible impressions, teens need parents as much as, if not more, than ever.

In "Between Parent and Teenager," Ginott suggests parent attitudes make key difference and warns:

• Rebellion follows rejection.

• Truth for its own sake can be a deadly weapon; truth without compassion can destroy love. Some parents try too hard to prove how right they are, but that elicits bitterness and disappointment. When attitudes are hostile, facts are unconvincing.

Ginott's bestseller was acclaimed for its revolutionary, practical approach to raising children. Importance of parents notwithstanding, the NAYC's report that 59 percent of infants' mothers and 74 percent of school age kids' moms work again emphasizes that these principles are important for the whole "village" - teachers, neighbors, and all.

Children grow up, affecting and becoming the community. Kids are our business.

Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. E-mail sholehjo@hotmail.com.

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