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Published: Sunday, 3/2/2003

Fresh approach to rearing unspoiled children

BY KAREN MACPHERSON
BLADE WASHINGTON BUREAU

Even seasoned parents can benefit from a periodical tune-up of their child-rearing skills. Now parenting expert Nancy Samalin offers an easy way to do that in her new book, Loving Without Spoiling.

Subtitled “100 Other Timeless Tips For Raising Terrific Kids,'' Ms. Samalin's book (Contemporary Books, $22.95) contains brief chapters laden with practical advice for everyday parental challenges, from “surviving the public meltdown” to “jump-starting the dawdler” to “making an uninterrupted phone call.”

“The book contains the best of what I've been writing about for the last 25 years in a bite-size format,'' Ms. Samalin said in a recent interview. “The book is written as a daily guide to skillful parenting for 100 typical situations.”

In her introduction, Ms. Samalin adds that her goal is to “help parents feel less guilty about setting limits, and more competent and confident in their interactions with their children.'' She also hopes her book will give parents a “sense of empowerment . . . and, above all, a daily experience of the joy of being a parent.”

Ms. Samalin decided to focus the book around the issue of spoiling children because it is one that she is hearing more about in her parenting workshops, as well as in news stories.

“I think because of the time we live in, more parents are working full-time and they are so over-busy and stressed that it is harder to say `no' than `yes,'” said Ms. Samalin, who is the author of several other parenting books, including Loving Each One Best and Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma.

“When parents say `No,' kids will tell you, `You're mean,' or `I hate you.' But parents should know that it's not their job to be popular with their kids, or to be their kids' friends. Their job is to be parents, and that takes some backbone. Kids don't know the difference between their wants and their needs, so it's our job as parents who love them to make the distinction,'' Ms. Samalin said.

That's the theme of Chapter 8, titled “Be Authoritative.” Here Ms. Samalin shows with several examples how parents can avoid being either too permissive or too strict. Instead she counsels them to be “authoritative'' by giving children limits and still treating them with respect and dignity.

In Chapter 10 (“Use Your Power Tools''), Ms. Samalin shows that parents can be authoritative by using their “their power voice." Ms. Samalin said she hears many parents basically asking their children to obey by telling them to do something and then ending with a tentative “OK.?”

“Parents betray a lack of confidence in their authority when they ASK instead of STATE their expectations,” said Ms. Samalin, a mother of two grown sons.

Looking at the big picture of parenting, Ms. Samalin said that one thing parents can do is spend more time with their children.

“What kids really need from us is not more things, but more time. Love is spelled T-I-M-E. I'm not talking about helping kids with their homework or schlepping them to ballet. I'm talking about taking 15 minutes a day to really enjoy your child, not teaching them anything, but just having a good time together.''

Ms. Samalin stresses that she's not talking about anything extravagant, but simple pleasures like taking a walk together. She focuses on this topic in a chapter titled “Create Special Memories,'' which is based on memories of parents in her workshops about the fun times they recall with their own parents.

Ms. Samalin also tackles sibling rivalry (“Don't Even TRY To Be Fair''), helping children learn social skills (“Curb Your Rude Dude'') and minimizing daily stresses (“Survive the Supermarket'').

What many parents find appealing about Ms. Samalin's advice is that it is so “real-world.'' For example, she includes chapters in her new book that exhort parents to “drop the perfect-parent fantasy,'' to “lighten up" and - perhaps most importantly - to “find and keep good baby-sitters.''

“Some of the best tips I get are from parents themselves,” Ms. Samalin said. “And it's true: parenting is the only job for which once you're fully qualified, you'll be unemployed!''

More information can be found at www.samalin.com.



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