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Responding in Moderation:

“Nothing in excess – everything in moderation.” This old saying certainly applies to being a parent. The challenge usually has more to do with “How much?” than it does with being correct or incorrect. This dilemma of child rearing is more easily understood than explained.

For example, whether your child should be praised is usually not an issue. The real issue is how much praise is just right. Too little praise and he receives insufficient encouragement or recognition. Too much praise gives him a false sense of accomplishment and achievement.

The same holds for discipline. Too much abuses and mistreats your child. Too little does not teach him to internalize the consequences of his actions. If there is too much emphasis on work and responsibility, your child does not learn how to relax and have fun. If there is too little emphasis in this area, he does not learn how to work and be responsible.

What is the right amount of encouragement and rules, freedom and restrictions? There is no final way of deciding this. Still, your goal is to come close, minimizing overdoing it and under-doing it.

The right amount for any child in any specific situation is to be neither excessive nor insufficient. Seldom can parents, with full understanding and awareness, respond just right. Very often, they find themselves in the awkward position of being off the mark, even if ever so slightly.

What is the effect on your children if you frequently overdo it or under-do it? As your child grows, instances of excess and inadequacy add or subtract like wins and losses. The excesses of normal parents score as plus and inadequacies as minus. Those rare occasions when you respond exactly right score zero. This process continues throughout childhood. When your child reaches adulthood, all of the pluses, minuses, and zeros add together to give a final score. If you have been successful, the pluses and minuses cancel each other out. A perfect score is zero.

Good parents do not always do the right thing, do not always do things right. They love, care, and try to understand. Sometimes they do too much, sometimes too little. Sometimes they overreact, sometimes under-react. Sometimes they interfere too much, sometimes not enough. Sometimes they set too many limits, sometimes too few. Influencing and containing the potentials of your children is not prescriptive. It is finding the balance between overdoing it and under-doing it.

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