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Kids Need CARE

Validating and Affirming our Children


Have you ever had one of those days when you collapse into bed wondering why you spend all day correcting or yelling at the kids? Why do they seem to demand so much? Why can't you as a parent seem to get on top of their behavior? And why does all the feedback you have to give them seem so negative?

Well, join the frustrated parents club! Lots of mothers and fathers feel the way you do. But there is a growing group of parents who are learning new skills and attitudes which change their parenting forever into a more positive and affirming role.

The Better Kid Care program at Pennsylvania State University is working to give parents some much needed perspective and help in raising their children more effectively. Dr. James Van Horn, a Penn State professor of rural sociology, has developed through the Better Kid Care program, a set of simple and memorable strategies for moving from anger and frustration to affirmation and validation.

Using the acronym CARE, Dr. Van Horn has framed an issue with which all of us can relate. Take note-even print out this article and stick it on the refrigerator to remind you of these tools!


The concept is consideration is that we show careful thought and attention to family members and their needs and concerns. In our home recently, our high school sophomore had a project for her World Civilization class in which she had to build a scale model of a medieval castle. It took a lot of consideration on the part of all family members to sacrifice half the dining room table for a week or more for this project as we all worked to cut out styrofoam, glue, paint and in general make a big mess. We weren't always graceful in our response, but it taught her a lesson-we could at least try to be patient and show our concern for her project, and her grades, by giving a little. Look for ways to be attentive to the children's needs, feelings and priorities.


Showing appreciation seems to be a little thing, but it reaps big dividends in a family. One real life example might be helpful. Living in a cold winter state, we struggle a good part of the year with getting our kids to put their coats away. My wife comments about the explosion that happens in our living room as the children come home from school. There are coats, gloves, boots and backpacks strewn all across the room. And try as we might, we always end up asking someone to pick up and put away. We also have started trying to say "thank you" when we come into the room and find it orderly. A simple expression of thanks with a little hug can mean a lot. And it tends to make the children a little more likely to put things away next time when mom or dad take time to tell them thanks. Try adding a little appreciation to your parenting repertoire.


This is a big issue in many families today (think Osbournes). Perhaps in an effort to make home a little less frightening than the homes in which we were children, parents of today have relaxed some of the rules of respect. But when family members act out of respect, it is because it has been earned, not just deserved. Try acting respectfully of your children and see what happens. Just a little common courtesy goes a long way. One way to start respecting is to stop taking advantage of others. We have a daughter who takes great pride in leaving the kitchen immaculate when it is her turn to clean up after dinner. Because she does such a good job, we tend to turn to her when we need an extra job. It would perhaps be more respectful to spend time helping another child learn better cleaning skills than to take advantage of her talent to the detriment of her free time.


The process of empathy, or the sensitivity and understanding of what others are going through, involves putting yourself in another's situation and feeling what they feel. A couple of nights ago, our high school senior daughter had a friend over after a church youth activity. This friend had just broken up with her boyfriend, and he had threatened suicide over the breakup. Fortunately, our daughter had learned good active listening skills so she could help this girl identify her feelings and learn that she was not responsible for how her former boyfriend was acting. We were proud of her and glad that she had learned skills like reflective listening to communicate her empathy.

Spending time with your children in activities that communicate consideration, appreciation, respect and empathy will teach them skills, will help them know that they are important, and will bring them to a higher level of cooperation in your family and in their social worlds.

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