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Children, and by extension everybody, have 4 basic emotional needs. No matter how psychopathic, wierd, or unprepared parents are, if they manage to fill these needs they have a good chance of raising a well adjusted child.

  • Affection and Warmth -- This is a no-brainer. Children need LOVE. They want you to pay attention to them and compliment them. Often, when a child misbehaves, it is because he is not receiving enough of this.

    Whenever you discipline a child, shower them with more of this afterward. Contrary to popular belief, you will not be spoiling them or reinforcing the behavior. You will be teaching your children that you love them, even when they misbehave. One of the very best parents I know punishes the minor offenses of his children by hugging them until they don't want to by hugged anymore.

  • A Sense Of Belonging -- The world is frightening. It is huge, and they are small. They want to know where they fit in the grand scheme of things. They want to know that they weren't an accident, and that they belong in their family.

    If you believe in a premortal life, a good way to foster a sense of belonging is to tell your children a story like this. "Way back before I was born, and before you were born, I got to pick out my children. They lined up all the little four year olds, and told me to pick one. I went down the line, and didn't like any of the ones I saw. Then I came to you, and at first, I passed right by. But then I came back. There was just something about you. Of all the four year olds that they showed me, I chose you.

  • Control -- Children do not like to have somebody else do everything for them, they hate it when their mother or father makes all their decisions for them. It makes them feel helpless and manipulated.

    Obviously, Children are unable to control all the aspects of their life. Parents can, however, give their children some limited autonomy, increasing the amount of independance as they grow older. With very young children, a good way to give them a sense of control is to designate a time slot -- 10:00 to 10:30 -- when THEY decide what to do, and can order their parents around within reason. They want to go to the park, you all pack up and go to the park. They want to play at puzzles, you sit down and put together a puzzle with them.

  • Hope and Encouragement -- Children need to feel good about themselves. They want to believe that they could master the world if they tried. A parent's role is essential in this. Nobody else's opinion is more important than that of their parents.

    When they fail a test, do not heap shame on them. They feel that already. They know they did badly, and they want to do well. Instead, encourage them. Sit down and talk about how they're going to ace the next test, and then help them study and make sure they do. When a child comes home crying because some kids at school teased him about his big butt, take him seriously. "I bet you could jump higher than those boys," you might say. "That's one big and strong jumping muscle, huh?" Kids love that.

This isn't fool-proof, of course. But it's a good guideline to remember, as you embark on the terrible gamble that is parenthood.

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