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Kelly Ripa's Take on Mothering

Talk show host Kelly Ripa weighs in on healthy kids, parenting that works, and family dynamics.

Raising Boys, Raising Girls

Parker praises this approach. "Setting limits without being overly deterministic is a great strategy for kids. Allow children to choose, but give them specific boundaries in which to do so."

In terms of the gender question, psychologist, sociologist, and five-time Scholastic books author Adele M. Brodkin, PhD, who penned Raising Happy and Successful Kids, says it's generally true that "girls like to talk and conduct what's been described as ‘face-to-face' relationships, and boys like to do and conduct ‘side-by-side' relationships. But the research shows that differences are greater from child to child, rather than from gender to gender. In other words, it's the luck of the draw: Both genetics and environment play a role. Children are born with their own unique temperaments, and, individually, you might have a very chatty boy and a more activity-oriented girl. It's only within groups that we see them behaving more uniformly."

Parker agrees: "If [Ripa] had another five kids, let's see if she doesn't get a nice, compliant girl" and a boy who pushes boundaries just like Lola does, he speculates.

Still, Ripa wonders how she'll handle her exceptionally articulate daughter in a crisis. "This is New York. There could be a terrorist attack. And I can just see me having to debate with Lola about why we have to leave right this minute. I've literally had to say to her: ‘Honey, if there's an emergency, you don't have the liberty to argue with Mommy, OK?'"

Kelly Ripa's Parenting Challenges

Ripa, who famously juggles family life with a high-profile career -- and for years acted on a soap (All My Children) or a sitcom (Hope & Faith) in addition to her morning show duties -- loves being a mom, even if by her own admission she's a much stricter and more structured parent than her mother was.

"I grew up in the suburbs. ... There was so much less stimulation then, more freedom. And we were content with less. Kids today are so much savvier. ... I remember getting one of those huge boom boxes at 16 and thinking I was cool. Even Lola wants a cell phone and an iPod; all the kids do. It's much tougher on parents now."

In this era of tech excess, Brodkin advises that Ripa and all parents maintain "the courage of their own convictions." In other words, "Make sure you're not succumbing to peer pressure from other parents who are giving their kids these things. ... And remember: What feels right generally is right. Trust yourself if you want to say 'no.'"

So what, according to Ripa, makes for a "good mom"? "I wish I had the answer. ... I get advice from both my mother and mother-in-law all the time. But I think the most important thing is to remember to be a parent and not a friend. My kids know I'm not their BFF.

"Basically, it's my philosophy that doing the easy thing in the short term makes it harder for parents in the long run. Giving in when you want to say 'no' quiets things down momentarily, but you'll just have more of the same -- and then some -- down the road," says Ripa. "I'm big on letting my kids know exactly what to expect. I think children are consistency junkies; they need schedules and parameters, and it's up to us to provide them. My kids understand that we love them no matter what -- and they also know that 'no' means no."

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