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Top 10 Parenting Pitfalls

Experts offer advice that will help you raise a well-behaved child -- instead of a brat.

The Morning Routine

It's hard enough for you to get out of bed at 6 a.m., let alone get your two kids out of bed. Should you let them sleep late, just this once?

Brat-building response: "Sometimes kids come downstairs in the morning, they watch TV, they get around to eating their breakfast, they get dressed, the process gets delayed, mom or dad gets frustrated and angry, and maybe they make the bus, maybe the don't," says Donahue. Better yet, the whole routine starts over again the next day.

Angel-building response: "Kids shouldn't come down and watch TV or play a video game first thing in the morning," says Donahue. "It's like saying you get to have this fun experience before you get dressed, brush your teeth, or do your work. You have to take care of your responsibilities first."

The Homework

As your child gets older and wiser, his pile of homework grows -- as does the frustration you feel in making sure he gets it all done.

Brat-building response: "We want our kids to do well in school, and yet we are not clear that homework takes precedent over a play date or after-school activities," says Donahue. "So then the homework gets left until after dinner, and then it's diminishing returns: they're tired, and it's getting much more difficult to get them to do it, and they don't have incentive to get it done."

Angel-building response: "There needs to be a reasonable structure for homework," says Donahue. "Say to your kids, 'At 3 p.m. you get to play, but at 4 p.m., you sit down and do your homework.' It's especially important in most families that homework get done before dinner. Set the structure in place so when they are older and they have more activities, they know they still need to get homework done before dinner."

Parenting Tips

No matter the scenario, here are tips for dealing with parenting pitfalls:

Mean business. "Speak to your child like you mean business, and send clear messages when you're communicating with your kids," says Donahue.

Stick to your guns. "The toughest thing is to have endurance," says Donahue. "Stick to your guns, even when the kids are whining and pushing your buttons. Kids know that if we have a history of not sticking to what we say, they're going to push and push. Have the endurance and the strength and the energy to keep up with them."

Plan ahead. "Parents have to do a better job of helping kids to anticipate the behavior that is expected of them beforehand," Donahue tells WebMD. "When you're in the middle of a situation, you're busy and rushing and don't think about it, and then things can get out of control."

Take care of yourself. "Sleep more, exercise, and take care of yourself," says Donahue. "Parenting is extremely exhausting work."

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Reviewed on May 15, 2006

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