LUBBOCK, Texas -- As adults chatted in the West Lubbock home of Dolly and Paul Williams, 4-year-old Skylar Williams wanted more attention.
He tried to climb up into his mother's arms and interrupt his parents with a constant, loud "Mom. Mom. Mom."
Dolly told the boy he could sit with her if he remained quiet. Grown-up talk soon bored him, so Skylar interrupted again.
"We're busy," Paul said. "Go play with your toys."
Make sure rules are consistent, but be willing to flex them if needed. Consistency does not mean rigidity.
Do not punish children out of anger. Punishment should be a cause-and-effect situation, not a reaction to bad behavior.
Spending time with children is one of the most important things parents can do. If parents don't develop a good talking relationship when the children are young, parenting teenagers may be difficult.
Leave your child if you feel you are losing control. If you fear you may hit your child, lock yourself in the bathroom or take a walk until you calm down.
Problems sleeping, worrying or acting more hyperactive and fidgety than peers may mean a bigger problem is at play. Ask physicians about any behavioral questions you may have, even if you consider them minor.
(Sources: Dr. Valerie Robinson, Gary Fireman, Lynette Wilson)
Three years ago, his parents might have reacted differently to his disruptive behavior. Dolly admitted she had major difficulty controlling Skylar and her 14-year-old daughter, Jennifer Toal. She found it easier to give in than give direction.
Paul commonly reacted with rage when the children misbehaved. He explained that he grew up in an household where talking back to elders wasn't tolerated. He grew angry when his new wife's daughter took these liberties, he said.
Being overly passive or reacting to bad behavior with anger isn't uncommon for parents, local experts said.
Today's family has a hard time dealing with the rigors of family life. Television, the Internet, divorce rates and less family interaction can make many parents lose a connection with their children, which can lead to discipline problems.
But taking time out for the family and disciplining with love can help ease anxiety of raising a family, they said.
Paul and Dolly married five years ago.
"This is the first time I've been married and the first time I've had kids," Paul said. "I've never had any nieces and nephews around, so it was a new experience for me."
When Dolly's daughter spoke disrespectfully to Paul, he grew angry, Dolly said. Dolly and Paul had Skylar, and both children could get what they wanted from their mother.
"Instead of saying no, I would agree to whatever they wanted," she said. "That was kind of hard. I guess I didn't have a lot of friends, so I would make my kids my friends."
If her children continued asking, pestering and begging, she gave in.
"But Paul was being the overbearing Sgt. Father," she said. "So we had to find the happy medium."
The couple sought help about three years ago from Family Guidance and Outreach Center of Lubbock, an organization that offers parenting classes.
There, Paul got a handle on his anger and Dolly learned how to say no to the children. They joined a parenting support group, and a mentor regularly came to the house to observe and help guide during family problems, they said.
"This is what I think a lot of parents have problems with," said Lynette Wilson, executive director for the center. "They wonder how to discipline toddlers -- how to raise responsible children."
Wilson cited the divorce rate, less family interaction, the Internet and television all as playing a role in making parenting more difficult.
Another problem is parents confuse angry reaction with discipline, Wilson said.
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