How to be a modern parent (2023)

VonPerri Klass, MD and Lisa Damour

Illustrations by Julia Rothman

We all want to be the best parents to our children, but there is often conflicting advice on how to raise a confident, kind and successful child. And every aspect of parenting has gotten more complicated and stressful during the pandemic, as dads are faced with complex new responsibilities and anxious new decisions while struggling with the usual issues that come up in daily life with the children we love. During the circus act of parenting, it's important to focus on balancing priorities, juggling responsibilities, and quickly switching between the needs of your children, those of other family members, and your own. Modern parents have the entire Internet at their disposal, and they don't follow any authority. It's hard to know who or what to trust. Here we're going to talk about how you can help your child become a person you really like without losing yourself in the process.

your parenting style

Good news: there is no right way to raise a child.

Research tells us that it is important to raise a confident child with high self-esteem. as authoritative. You want your child to listen to you, respect you, and trust you instead of fearing you. You want to be supportive, but not a helicopter parent.

All of these things are easy to set as goals, however.hard to reach🇧🇷 How do you find the right balance?

As your child develops, the challenges change and their thinking may evolve, butYour approach must be consistent, firm, and loving.Help your child learn through experience that effort builds confidence and helps him overcome challenges. Evaluate your expectations of what your child is capable of doing independently, whether you have a toddler learning to sleep through the night, a toddler helping put away toys, or an older child resolving conflicts.

Remember that there is no right way to raise a child. Do your best, trust yourself and enjoy the company of the little person in your life.

More on parenting styles

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conquering the basics

Your healthy attitude towards sleep, food and discipline will affect your children in the most important ways.

How to put a baby to sleep

From the beginning,Babies are very your sleep patterns. And parents deal with interrupted nights differently.

There are two general schools of thought about babies and sleep after the first few months, when they need night feeds, to lull the baby to sleep or not, and many parents balk. Those who believe in sleep training, including many sleep experts, argue that parents help parents learn important skills for comfort and independence by helping babies fall asleep on their own and lulling them back to sleep when they wake up at night.

Two techniques for this are:

  • staggered extinction,where babies can cry at prescribed short intervals over several nights.
  • bedtime disappears,where parents change bedtimes in 15-minute increments so that the child gets more and more tired.

And many parents report that these strategies improve their children's sleep patterns, as well as their own. But there are also parents who find it very difficult to let a baby cry at night.

Whatever you try, remember that no matter what you do, some babies don't always sleep well. Parents need to be aware of what sleep deprivation can do to them, their levels of functioning and their relationships, as well as take their own sleep needs seriously. For,Ask for help when neededyour pediatrician or a trusted friend or family member.


For older children, the rules surrounding sleep are clearer:Turn off devices, read aloud before bed, and develop rituals that help children relax and fall asleep. Establish regular bedtime routines and consistent sleep patternsbecomes even more important as children grow older and are expected to stay awake and alert during school hours; Getting enough sleep regularly and arriving at school well rested helps primary school childrenschool performance and social behaviorWhat. Guardbedroom screens(and slack in the hours before bed) becomes more important as kids get older, and it's not a bad habit for adults either. Even when education has remotely changed during the pandemic, sticking to regular sleep schedules has helped keep them on track.

like your sonfind puberty, her biological clock will change so that she is "programmed" to stay up and sleep later, often just when schools dictate that she start early. Again, good family "sleep hygiene," especially around bedtime screens, in the bedroom, and even in bed, can help teens disconnect and get the sleep they need. By taking sleep seriously as an essential part of health and happiness, parents are sending an important message to children of all ages.

More about sleep and your child

Parents shouldn't feel guilty about raising babies to sleep May 24, 2016
The science of adolescent sleep22. May 2017
What came first? Behavior problems or lack of sleep? October 17, 2016
Help our school-age children sleep better25. july 2016
(Video) 5 Parenting Styles and Their Effects on Life

How to feed your child

There is nothing more fundamental than raising your child.but also duringbreast-feedingThere are decisions to be made. (Yes, breastfeeding mothers shouldeat spicy foodif you like. She does notshould not respond to all child emergenciesthrough lactation). Currently, pediatricians recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and then continuing to breastfeed while introducing a variety of solid foods.Breastfeeding mothers deserve supportand consideration in society in general and in the workplace in particular, and they do not always achieve this. On the other hand, mothers sometimes feel inadequate when breastfeeding is difficult or when they fail to comply with these recommendations.

You have to do what works for you and your family.And if exclusive breastfeeding isn't working, any amount you can do is good for your baby. As children grow, options and decisions multiply; The first year of solid food intake, from 6 to 18 months, can be a good time to give children a variety of foods to try and experiment with, and as you try them repeatedly, you may find that childrenexpand your reach.

Young children vary greatly in their diet.; Some are gluttonous and omnivorous, and others are very finicky eaters and can be very difficult to feed. Let them feed as quickly and as much as possible; since"play" with your foodLearn about texture, flavor and independence. Incorporate the social aspects of eating early on, so kids grow up thinking about food in the context of family time and seeing other family members eat a variety of healthy foods as they talk and spend time together. (Kids shouldn't eat while watching screens.) Parents worry about picky eaters and, of course, kids who overeat and gain weight too quickly; You want to help your child eat a variety of real foods instead of processed snacks, with and between meals instead of constantly "chewing" or "sucking", and eating to satisfy hunger instead of eating both to experiment. a reward or punishment.

Don't cook special meals for a picky child.But don't turn mealtime into a regular battleground.

Some tips to try:

  • Talk to the kids about “eating the rainbow” and putting lots of different colors on their plates (orange squash, red peppers, yellow corn, green everything, etc.).
  • Take them to the grocery store or farmers market and let them pick out something new to try.
  • Let them help with meal preparation.
  • Be open to using the foods you love in new ways (peanut butter in almost everything, ketchup in spinach).
  • Some kids eat just about anything, whether it's in a dumpling or on top of pasta.
  • Offer a taste of what everyone is eating.
  • Find some reliable substitutes if your child doesn't want to eat anything that's being offered. (Many restaurants will make something simple on their menu for a child, like plain pasta or rice.)

Above all, encourage your child to keep trying; discard anything after a few tries. And if you have a kid who loves a certain green vegetable, it's okay if it keeps popping up.

bottom line:As the child grows up, do not torture yourself too much.

Family meals are also important for older children., even experiencing the biological changes of adolescence. Maintain that social context for food as much as possible, even with the complexity of middle and high school programming. Keep the family table in a screen-free area and continue talking and eating together. Some families have found that the pandemic has brought more family meal options, helping them through tough times, but if recent stress has led your family to eat more and more fast food, know that you're not alone. Regrouping as a family, storing healthy food at home, and eating together and bonding over meals will always help.

More about your child's diet

The Always Hungry Teenager, March 7, 2016
Practicing What I Preached About Breastfeeding June 12, 2017
quirky baby? Food may not be the right answer June 19, 2017

how to discipline

Young children are essentially uncivilized, and part of parenting inevitably involves some caregiving.With small children you have to be patient and constant,That's another way of saying that you should define and apply the same rules over and over again. The “timeout” works great for some kids, and parents need to pay attention to times when they (the parents) might need it too. Serious,Take a deep breath if you feel so out of control with the way your child is acting.Many parents have experienced extraordinary stress during the pandemic; Make sure you take care of yourself and get help if you need it.

Distraction is another good technique; You don't have to win a moral victory every time a child misbehaves when you can redirect the behavior and avoid the fight. The general disciplinary message to young children is that you don't like the behavior, but you love the child.

Think praise instead of punishment.Physical discipline such as hitting and spanking tends to do this.induce aggressive behaviorIn children. Remember, it's always a win-win for parents if you can structure a situation so that a child gains privileges (eg, screen time) through good behavior rather than losing them as punishment. Look for positive behaviors to praise and reward, and young children will want to repeat the experience. But parenting inevitably involves a certain number of "bad cop" moments where you have to say no or stop and your child will be mad at you, and that's okay, it's territory. Look in the mirror and practice saying what parents used to say:"I'm your mom/dad, I'm not your friend."

As parents, we should try to regulate our children's behavior, or help them regulate their own, not try to regulate their thoughts:

  • It's okay to dislike your brother or classmate, but don't hit them.
  • It's okay to be angry or frustrated as long as you behave accordingly.

Indeed, our "civilizing" task as parents can be made easier when we recognize the power of these difficult emotions and celebrate the child who takes charge. And take the opportunity to show what you do when you lose control or misbehave: apologize sincerely to parents.

It's also important to note that we've all had extraordinary moments, and if a child is angry or frustrated, for example because activities have been canceled or stopped, he shouldn't feel guilty about expressing these emotions. Even young children can understand that what is "wrong" or "bad" is the pandemic, not the child's feelings.

more about discipline

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social questions

Education in times of Covid

This is an anxious time to be a parent. They help children navigate a pandemic world where new, sometimes frightening, sometimes confusing information must be absorbed and put into practice on a regular basis. Perhaps you are helping an anxious child deal with a fear of going outside, or trying to enforce safety protocols on a child who is anxious to declare the pandemic "over." You may be dealing with financial pressures, concerns about vulnerable family members, or mourners who have been lost. And many of the day-to-day decisions of parenthood just got scarier and scarier. It never hurts to say: understand that you are living - and growing up - in very difficult times, and take care of yourself as much as possible.

When you are anxious, when you are depressed, when you are angry, think of coping strategies that will help you and seek additional help when you need it from your partner, if you have one, from close friends and family in your spiritual community. , your doctor, a psychotherapist. Understand that parents have been faced with a series of difficult and sometimes impossible "tasks" and have responded, many of them with everyday heroism, in caring for their children. But they also need to take care of themselves.

moral harassment

There are steps you can take to help your child deal with bullying and conflict, and it will be most helpful if you know which one you want to address.Children who are bullied are abused and unable to defend themselves, while children in conflict situations find it difficult to relate.Fortunately, most friction between children is conflict, an inevitable, albeit unpleasant, consequence of being with other people, not bullying.

When children are bullied, it is important to reassure them that they deserve support and that they should let an adult know what is going on. You can also remind your children that they cannot sit idly by and watch another child get bullied. Regardless of how your own child feels about who is being attacked, you can expect it.He or she will do at least one of three things: confront the abuser, keep the victim company, alert an adult.

When it comes to conflict, you should try to help young people deal with it well by learning to stand up for themselves without stepping on others. To do this,You can model affirmation, not aggression,in the inevitable disagreements that arise in family life, and teach your children to do the same as they learn to settle backyard disputes with their peers.

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All parents have in commonthe desire to raise children to be good people🇧🇷 You certainly worry about how your child treats others and how they behave in the world. In some homes, regular attendance at a religious organization gives the family time to reflect on its values ​​and allows parents to teach their children that these beliefs are held by members of a larger community that extends beyond their homes.

Even in the absence of strong spiritual beliefs, the celebration of religious holidays can function as a common thread in the structure of family life. While it's generally true that children benefit when their parents provide both structure and nurturing, even the most diligent parents can struggle to do both on a regular basis. Rituals and traditions that are part of many religious traditions can bring families together reliably and memorable. Of course, there are opportunities every day to teach your child your values ​​outside of organized religion, like helping out an elderly neighbor or taking your kids to volunteer work that interests them.

but especiallyChildren learn your values ​​by watching you live.

More on morality and children

The stories that connect us March 15, 2013
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academic pressure

When it comes to school, parents take a hard road: They want their kids to strive and succeed, but they don't want to put unfair pressure on them or cause unnecessary stress. At any age and ability.Children benefit when parents help them focus on improving their skills rather than testing them.In other words, children need to understand that their intellectual abilities are just a beginning and that their abilities can increase with effort.

Many kidsfought during the pandemicwho face more difficult learning difficulties than in conventional school; this may be particularly true for children with learning disabilities and special needs, but it is true in general. Like themReturn to face-to-face classesChildren need time to catch up and need to feel comfortable asking for that extra time or help; therefore, they need to hear the message that what matters is the learning and understanding that they are gaining, not looking at a timeline that they may have. late

Children who adopt this growth mindset - psychological terminology for believing that industry is the path to mastery - are less stressed than their peers who believe their abilities are fixed and excel academically. Students with a growth mindset appreciate feedback, are motivated by challenging assignments, and are inspired by the accomplishments of their talented peers.

Can nurture thinkers with growth thinkingEmphasize celebration of effort, not intelligence,how children navigate school. (This may be more important than ever as schools reopen and children return from their varied distance learning or blended learning experiences.) When they succeed, say, “Your hard work and perseverance really paid off. Well done!" And if they're having trouble, say, "Your score on this test reflects what you knew about the material being tested on the day you took the test. It does not tell us how far into this material topic it is. Stay tuned and keep asking questions. It will come soon".

Parents need to intervene when students face academic challenges that cause constant or excessive stress. Some students keep to themselves or are held to unrealistic standards by adults. Others have lost a step along the way, struggled through the pandemic, are ineffective learners, or are struggling with an undiagnosed learning gap. Parents should check in with teachers to see how things are going. Determining the nature of the problem points the way to the most useful solution.

More about kids and school pressure

Our Pursuit of "Passion" and Why It Hurts Kids April 8, 2015
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How to raise a child with a healthy attitude towards shiny screens and blinking buttons.

screen time

You could try raising a kid without screens, but let's face it, you're reading this on a screen. like with everything elseThe challenge is to reconcile the ideal and the the right way for your family. The pandemic has turned the rules and practices of many families upside down, as everything from grandma visits to teen social media and math classes took place on screens. And some aspects of those experiences might help you think of positive screen experiences you want to incorporate into your kids' lives: regular family get-togethers at the movies, reading a book on an iPad, FaceTiming with urban relatives. Technology plays such an important role in children's lives today that when we talk about it, we mean everything from sleeping to learning to socialize.

"Technology is just a tool, and it can be a very enriching part of children's lives," said Scott Steinberg, co-author of "The Modern Parent's Guide to Facebook and Social Media"A lot of what we teach about technology education is just basic education," he said. "It boils down to the golden rule: Do you treat others with respect and empathy?"

Phones and social media are empowering older children to anticipate responsibilities they didn't have before, like going to school. B. sending an inappropriate image or asking to share it, said Ana Homayoun, author of the book."Social Media Wellbeing: Helping Teens and Tweens Thrive in a Digitally Unbalanced World."Parents need to talk to their children about this side of life so they don't abandon them.

And then there's the issue of protecting family time. Mr. Steinberg recommends setting house rules that govern when devices can be used and having clear, age-appropriate guidelines so kids know what they can and can't do.

Some of these guidelines are appropriate for all ages, including parents, such as

  • There are no phones on the dining room table.
  • No screens an hour before bed.

It is important to practice what you preach.And if your family needs to reinstate some of those rules when the kids return to the classroom, you can discuss this with your kids and explain why it's important to use devices well but set some boundaries. And in addition to making time for dinners and family chats, parents should make time to sit down with their young children and see what they're up to online, rather than leaving them childcare with their devices.

Parents as digital role models

If a parent wants to post something on social media about something a child has done that might embarrass them, Homayoun said it's worth taking a step back and thinking about why. Are you posting to get attention?

You must respect your child's privacy, as well as the privacy of your friends, family, and co-workers. As sweet as it may seem to post pictures of a naked child, consider a "no butt" policy. This may not be the image your child wants to show you 15 years from now.

"We need to teach children what consent looks like from an early age," said Ms. Homayoun. "It doesn't start when a child is 15, 16 or 17. It starts when a child is 3 and doesn't want to hug his uncle." Or when he doesn't want you to post that video of him crying over a lost toy.

Our children will leave fingerprints as they grow up, and one of our jobs will be to help them, guide them and make them think about what something will look like in a few years:You can start to respect your privacy and apply the same standards throughout your life.


technical toy

It's easy to dismiss high-tech toys as expensive gadgets, but by choosing more nurturing options, you can find toys that help kids grow. For young children, however, there is a strong case for letting them explore non-digital versions of blocks, puzzles, finger paints and all other toys that provide tactile and fine motor experiences.As children grow, some high-tech games encourage dynamic thinking, problem solving and creative expression.

“These high-tech games can be an opportunity to bond with your kids. Learn more about their mindset and interests,” said Steinberg. Some games encourage children to be part of or lead a team. And others allow them to be wilder than they could be in real life, in a way that parents appreciate: "You can't always throw paint blobs around the house, but you can in the digital world," she said.

The right age for a phone?

"Many experts would say there are about 13, but the most practical answer is when they need one: when they are outside of your direct supervision," Steinberg said. Mrs. Homayoun recommends them for certain situations, e.g. B. for a child who goes back and forth between two houses and then plays sports.

Consider granting tiered access to technology,For example, start with a flip phone and remind children that privilege and responsibility go hand in hand. A child's best access to personal technology should depend on its appropriate use.

To put these ideas into practice, the American Academy of Pediatrics website provides guidelines for creating a custom one..

More about technology and kids

Steve Jobs Was a Low-Tech Dad September 10, 2014
Setting boundaries: How do we decide what kids watch, listen to, read and play with? October 26, 2015
Parents control teens online, and more importantly, they do it right Jan 7, 2016

Time management

Balance your schedule and your child's with a reasonable approach to time.


As the world opens up, kids who used to lead more restricted lives will have the opportunity not only to go back to school, but also to get back into sports, classes and extracurricular activities. At the same time, pandemic protocols can complicate all of this, both for children and parents. We've all heard the cliché of the planned child rushing from assignments to music lessons to tutoring, and there will certainly be times when you feel the urge.this father, with a truck full of equipment and a schedule so complicated you'll wake up in the middle of the night afraid you'll lose track. But it's also a joy and a pleasure to see children discover activities they really enjoy, and one of the privileges of parenthood is encouraging your children as their skills improve.

Some kids really thrive, which would be overplanning for others. But the complexity of managing social contacts in an era of Covid protocols makes it even more important to prioritize so that a child can be involved in the activities that are really important to that particular child.Get to know your child, talk to him and, if necessary, help him make the decisions that will allow him to keep doing the things that matter most to him, even if it means giving up other activities.

Remember that children can derive great joy and value from learning music, playing sports, and also participating in the many extracurricular activities that many schools offer. However, they also require a certain amount of unplanned time. The exact combination varies from child to child and even from year to year. On the one hand, we need to help our children understand the importance of fulfilling their commitments: you don't have to give up your instrument because you're struggling to learn a difficult piece; You don't leave the team because you're not a starter, and again, we need to help them decide when it's time to change direction or just let something go.

So how do you know how much is too much?Reconsider the schedule if:

  • Your child is not getting enough sleep.
  • Your child doesn't have enough time to do homework.
  • Your child can't schedule silly time with friends or even a little time off for family fun.

And make sure high school students get a positive message about choosing activities they love, not an alarmist message about picking the perfect match to impress college admissions officers.The purpose of planning is to help us accommodate the things we need to do as well as the things we love to do. Excessive planning means we can't do this.

Take care

Parenting is your life's work, your heart's work, and the work that will change you forever. But while we're at it, we should stick to the passions and hobbies that make us who we are and that helped us get to the point in our lives where we were ready to have kids. We owe our kids attention, and these days it's probably worth remembering that giving them real attention means limiting our own screen time and making sure we're talking, reading aloud, and playing. butwe should pay attention to each other too, and this has been an extraordinarily stressful and anxious time for many parents.

Your children will definitely remember the time you spent with them, and that holds special meaning for many families after the recent lockdown and months of isolation, but you also want them to grow up noticing how you share your friendships, caring in the right way. how you invest time and energy in the things that matter most to you, from your job to your physical well-being and the unique interests and passions that make you the person they know. They'll see how you hold on to what matters most and how you do it securely, the same imperatives you try to fit into your own lives.Whether you're taking time out to paint or dance, knit with friends, or try to save the world, you're taking action and living your values ​​and your love, and those are messages you owe your children.

You may not be able to pursue any of your passions in the same way or to the same extent as before having a child and before every social interaction had a Covid question. You may need to negotiate time on an hourly basis, acknowledging what is most important and perhaps trading it for what is most important to your partner if you have one. By definition, you are a different painter, just as you would be a different runner, dancer, friend and savior of the world. But you might find that the experience of caring for a young child helps you focus more, almost more passionately, if you have that precious moment to yourself.

This is how you find balance

As children return to face-to-face learning, the distinction between homework and homework becomes an issue for some. Many parents fear that their children will be given an excessive amount of homework and that homework will start too soon. While it's easy to say that homework can help a child learn time management and study habits and cause children to try and sometimes fail on their own, the reality is that many of us are poorly supervised and For parents who were supervising distance learning, it may be more difficult to step back and let the child do the work. This is another reason to keep in touch with your child's teacher and find out how things are going at school. You must report if it appears that a particular teacher is not following the school's policy on reasonable amounts of homework. And for many kids, it's helpful to discuss the stages of big projects and important tasks so they can mark some in-between dates on the calendar.If difficulty with homework dominates your personal life, it could be a sign of another problem, such as a learning disability.

(Video) The Modern Parent

For many families today, the biggest time management negotiation revolves around screen time, and of course, screen time has become part of many kids' school work. Screen time can be homework time (but is talking in a corner really part of homework?) or social time or just entertainment time.Bottom line: As long as a child is doing well in school, you probably shouldn't be too concerned if homework, by your standards, looks like it's being done with too many distractions.

And remember that some family commitments can help anchor a child in the non-virtual world: walking the dog or taking out the trash. And when it comes to having fun, let your child see that you appreciate the homework-free part of the evening or weekend, that you understand that time with friends is important, and that you want to stay in touch with what's going on. his own life to speak of. Ultimately, we need to practice what we preach, from leaving our own jobs for unstructured family time to putting our phones on the table for family talk.Our children listen to what we say and watch what we do.


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