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Parenting in a Nutshell: Set discipline rules for kid's sitters

| Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, 11:32 a.m.

Do some rules get broken by caregivers, well-meaning relatives — or even your child's other parent? Have you thrown up your hands and given up after Grandma's let the kids stay up late in your absence? The problem is that if some rules become lax (or thrown out), young children figure that all rules can follow. Maybe it's time to clarify the rules with everyone who is responsible for your kids.

Grandmas, along with other relatives or close friends, may be the most difficult people for you to get on board with your parenting rules. These are the people you least want to make waves with, so you don't necessarily want to challenge them. But you can explain that you have given a lot of thought to your rules and feel undermined when they are broken: if you don't allow sweets right before bed, but a relative allows that in your absence, your children won't get the restful sleep they need. Remind them that you look forward to a long relationship between your children and each of them and, therefore, hope they will respect your rules.

Your child's preschool or day care has its rules; hopefully, you did your homework to make sure their rules are in alignment with yours before you signed your child into their program. Yet, there might be occasions when you disagree with one or more of their rules. As you have the time, drop in unannounced. (If you are not allowed to, or if you are made to feel uncomfortable when you do, this is not the place for you.) Observe how the children are treated and whether the rules are easy to follow. What are the consequences if the rules are not followed and do those match how you would discipline? The rules may be stricter or more liberal than you like, but you can always suggest alternatives to the teachers and directors. (Note: Never let anyone spank your child or be physically aggressive in any way.)

Form a group of like-minded parents to present your concerns and suggestions. Listen with an open mind to the reasons the school created their rules, then explain the reasoning behind your suggestions, if you still find it necessary. You all should be on the same page when it comes to the bottom-line objective: your children's well-being.

You and your husband couldn't wait to become parents, planning the whole thing down to what color crib to buy — except you didn't spend a lot of time talking about rules until you found yourself at odds over them. Now what?

• Make time when the children are not around to discuss discipline issues. What behaviors need immediate attention? Which are recurring?

• When one parent slips and allows a lapse in the rules, the world has not ended. If the child is old enough, he should be told by the parentthat it was a mistake to drop the ball on the rules. If both parents present as a united front, it eliminates any confusion on the child's part.

• Still can't agree? Sometimes, a professional family counselor can help you reach agreements after just a few sessions.

Tip from the parenting trenches

Discipline — which includes making the rules — is a parent's hardest job, and the most important. Think of discipline as guidance, not punishment, and, perhaps, the job will be easier. Also, keep in mind the rules will need altering as your child grows.

Email doreennagle@hotmail.com.

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