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5 Tips for a Common Sense Approach to Parenting

When it comes to parenting, Richard Greenberg believes in a common sense approach. He’s the voice behind Common Sense Dad and he comes with over 30 years of experience as a husband and father.

“Being a parent is about being in charge, about doing what’s right for your child,” says Greenberg. He believes that common sense parenting means teaching children to accept personal responsibility, be grateful and rebound from letdowns.

Along with his blog, commonsensedad.com, Greenberg has published a new book, Raising Children That Other People Like to Be Around. In it he promotes five principles that can help every parent become better in their role.

Set an example.

Make the rules.

Apply the rules.

Respect ourselves.

Teach in all things.

His first suggestion is to take a close look at the “ghosts in the nursery.”

“Examine your own life. Look for what went right and what went wrong when you were raised as a child. Then determine the values you want in your own family.”

If that seems like a daunting task, Greenberg has compiled a parent questionnaire to help in the process. Once you’ve decided what is most important, you can set an example for your children believes Greenberg. “It will happen on a subconscious level. Your children will absorb [your values] by watching you as you model them. Look for the good in others. Hold the door open. Return your shopping cart. Be grateful.”

Teaching gratitude is one of the leading values Greenberg and his wife JoAnn have embraced as the parents of four children. “Children should be grateful for what they have, the food on the table, a good school to go to, the fact that mom is there to pick them up.” Greenberg believes that engendering a sense of gratitude gives children not only an appreciation for their family but for the bigger world as well.

Once parents have examined their own lives they can make rules based on those values. In many ways, Greenberg has taken a decidedly different approach to raising children than his own parents had. He says he isn’t as concerned with grades and a clean bedroom but he believes there are some hard and fast “capital crimes” such as disrespect and lying. Others can be negotiated. In Greenberg’s opinion, rules should be logical and fair and should be explained to children in a way they can understand the rule and the reason behind it. He also notes that we are evolving as parents, and that each of our children are individuals. That’s where the flexibility comes in.

Applying the rules comes next. Greenberg believes it is important to give children as much responsibility as possible—appropriate of course for their age. “Children want you to value them. We feel lucky to have them as our children and children should feel the same way about their parents,” says Greenberg. He also encourages parents, as often as possible, to take the cheerleader approach to parenting rather than playing the cop. One way to do that is by “ambushing your kids with something positive every day.” Greenberg admits this probably doesn’t come naturally for most adults. Yet he believes parents can train themselves to look for the good and to comment on it. He acknowledges that parenting can be tiring but changing our frame of mind can have a positive effect on our children.

“Give them attention for good behavior and blend in positives wherever you can. It will help them appreciate your point of view more often. It will also teach them to appreciate others.”

Then says Greenberg to parents, respect yourselves. “It is inexcusable to let your child tell you to shut up—but there are parents who allow it,” says Greenberg. “You are the boss and you need to lead with confidence.”

He uses an analogy of a taxi driver. He asks parents how they would feel if they got in a cab with a driver that didn’t know where he was going. He reminds parents that just as they would be nervous, children feel the same way when parents don’t take charge the way they should.

And what happens if you haven’t already established respect with your child?

“You have to reestablish authority. Sometimes parents project their own emotions on their children. When a child doesn’t want to go to bed, parents can get too empathetic. But they need to remember, ‘I’m doing what’s best for my child.’ Children will come back and respect and trust you. Sometimes children are angry because there is not enough order imposed in their lives. They really want their parents to help them know what to do,” says Greenberg.

Finally teach them all things. “A parent’s job is to help their children navigate the world. As teenagers and young adults, help them find what it is they want to do,” says Greenberg. He reminds parents to see their child as an “Adult in Training.” Keep the long view goal in mind and that will help keep your mind on the task at hand when they are younger. It is those day-to-day life lessons that help children become good citizens—lessons like helping an older person cross the street, understanding why we have to wait in line and what happens when toys get broken.

And what should parents do when the days goes wrong?

“Don’t feel guilty. You have to accept that as parents we have good days and bad days,” says Greenberg. “Maintain a strong sense of calm. Panic breeds panic. Anxiety breeds anxiety. Calm breeds calm.”

That approach sounds like common sense.

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