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HOW TO PARENT IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Today’s children will spend their lives in the 21st century and in the new millennium. Although members of every generation since humankind began have had to face an unknown future, now CHANGE happens so fast we don’t have time to catch our breath. The old model was change followed by a period of stability; the new model is change followed by change followed by change. And we face more than technological change–there will be changes in the ways we interact (or fail to interact) with others.

It doesn’t take a very powerful crystal ball to foresee other factors that will impact on families and children. There will be CROWDING (1999 was what I call Y6B, the year the world population reached 6 billion). We can project increasing COMPETITION–for jobs and resources including clean air and water. And we will have to deal with increasing COMPLEXITY. Remember not too long ago there was one black phone per household; now we have wall phones, cordless phones, and cell phones plus pagers, faxes and e-mail to keep track of.

Is it possible to prepare our children for the upcoming century of change? If I were parenting today I would sure give it a try.

I would try to give my children what they will surely need to cope with what is surely ahead. Parents today should do all they can to help their children acquire the following:

COMPETENCIES. Self-esteem is like a bridge supported by twin pillars. One pillar is BEING LOVED. The child who is unconditionally loved by the parents can feel, “I’m OK because I am loved and valued!”. The second pillar is BEING COMPETENT–”I’m OK because I can do it!” whether the “it” is behaving well, pooping in the toilet, falling asleep by myself, cleaning up my room, or doing my homework.

Parents foster the development of competencies by 1) encouraging autonomy so the child can say, “I did it all by myself!”; 2) setting limits so the child doesn’t have to say, “I blew it!” or “I’m bad!” (or if they did blow it or do something bad children understand there are consequences); and 3) having high standards so the child can say, “I did it well!”

CONFIDENCE. Confidence, the feeling that you can meet the challenges ahead, is based on competencies but it also comprises an inner sense of courage. Parents can help instill confidence in their children by encouragement, expecting the best at school and at home, and skills-building. Parents I talk with today are pretty savvy about encouraging their children but, alas, many do not tell their kids that they are expected to do well in school. Ongoing parental involvement with teacher and school and high expectations are vital to school success. Skills-building starts with involving children in chores around the house and continues with teaching special skills parents have acquired from sewing to car repairs.

CURIOSITY. If you are curious about what’s to come you are better equipped to deal with change. Answer all your children’s questions, reward their curiosity with enthusiasm for answering questions, and ask lots of questions–What do you think? What would you do? What would you say?

COMMUNICATION ABILITIES. Help your children express themselves fully and clearly both orally and in writing. Fight hard against our “dumbed down” culture that seems to value slang and cuss words rather than clear and articulate speech. Teach your children to avoid the use of speech fillers like “you know.” Read aloud to your children before they can read and establish a family reading hour with everybody reading aloud when they can do so. Minimize time in front of all screens: TV, video games, and even computers. Computers can help with writing skills, but in order to talk well we must practice the fine art of conversation.

COMPASSION. Teach your children to be tolerant, to embrace diversity, and to feel a sense of obligation to those less fortunate. Explain that we are one people on a fragile planet, we must learn to live together in peace, and we must help one another. Involve your children early in community activities to help others.

COMMITMENT. Help your children understand the virtues of finishing a task, following through on obligations, devotion to a cause. The future will bring more for the responsible than for the lazy or the self-centered.

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