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Monday, December 31, 2007

Five Resolutions Every Parent Should Make

Parents Can Strengthen Their Relationship With Their Kids With Five Resolutions

Today's the day many Americans will try to start making good on their New Year's resolutions.

Before starting a weight-loss plan or savings account, "Good Morning America's" parenting contributor Ann Pleshette Murphy wants parents to consider one important resolution -- strengthening their relationship with their children.

Murphy offered five resolutions that parents could follow to have a better relationship with their children in 2007.

1. Catch Kids Being Good -- Try to Stop Saying 'No'

First, Murphy said, parents should vow to stop saying "no" to kids.

"According to a recent study, young children are told 'No!' every nine minutes, so they can quickly become 'parent deaf' if you don't change your tune," she said.

Instead, moms and dads should try to find opportunities to praise children.

"Resolve to catch kids being good. Pay attention to the good behavior every day, and you'll probably see less of the bad," Murphy said. "Rewrite the script. Instead of saying 'Don't run,' try 'Thanks for walking!' And be specific with your praise. 'Thanks for putting your toys away' is a lot more effective than 'That's a good boy.'"

2. Add Some Boredom to Kids' Lives

Brain research shows that when people are in a daydreamlike state, they do their most creative thinking. But children these days rarely have a chance to "veg out" and entertain themselves.

Murphy suggested getting kids involved in physical and mental activities that allow them to think, like knitting, puzzles, exercise or even meditation.

"It's about teaching kids how to relax," she said. "So build downtime into the calendar and encourage your kids to just contemplate the clouds. Set up chairs on the lawn, bundle up, and try some stargazing as a family."

3. Read to Kids Every Night

Many parents read to their kids but may not realize how much more they should be doing it.

"Parents should read to kids every night," Murphy said. "Even 10 to 15 minutes of reading can make a huge difference in a child's development of language skills, and this is something you should be doing even before they can understand it -- by the time they are 6 months old."

4. Laugh a Lot

The logic for this resolution is simple: Laughter makes being a family fun.

"Research on laughter confirms that it releases endorphins and other hormones that make us feel good," Murphy said. "Young kids love physical comedy -- goofy sounds, wearing your pajamas on your head. It goes a long way if they're having a meltdown and you can make them laugh."

With older children, parents have to understand that the joke may sometimes be on them.

"Older kids can be counted on to make fun of you, so learn to laugh at yourself a little," Murphy said. "I know when my teenagers stopped making fun of each other and started making fun of me, it was a good milestone. It helps them bond."

5. Plan Adult Time

To be good parents, moms and dads sometimes need to get away for a little adult time. Murphy suggested that moms schedule a girls' night out with their friends at least once a month.

"Get together with friends regularly. This is particularly important for women, because when we're stressed, we excrete oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that makes us want to 'tend and befriend,'" she said.

Romantic getaways can help a husband and wife reconnect, and in doing so, make them better parents.

"Leave the kids and the guilt with grandma," Murphy said. "Nurturing your marriage should be a priority, because more than anything, kids want their parents to be happy -- and together."

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