'Robobabe' shapes us up talking better with kids


Choice reading: You should be in the gym, figuring out what not to say to your youngsters.

January 28, 1996|By Bruce McCabe | Bruce McCabe,BOSTON GLOBE

Gabrielle Reece is Robobabe. She's 25, a 6-foot-3-inch 175-pounder who's a beach-volleyball champ and sneaker designer. This week's Time Out New York, the cover of which she graces, says she's a "sports hero in the making."

Don't tell her you're too tired to work out, writes Joel Stein.

"People shouldn't make like it's an option," Ms. Reece says. "They should make the decision: For three days a week for one hour, I'm getting into the gym. That takes the emotional part right out of it.

" 'Well, if I'm not too tired, I'll go work out.'

"Yeah, right. That's never going to happen."

3' Yeah, right, Robobabe. Shape us up!

Becoming a smarter parent

Harriet Webster's "Seven Things Smart Parents Never Say," in February's Reader's Digest, shows you how you can be such a good parent you'll have time to work out three hours a week.

Ms. Webster's key piece of advice is never to "should" a child, as in "You should've done it this way." In critiquing your child's accomplishment, she writes, you can leave your child "focusing on the down side."

Further, "Even constructive criticism can sting when it's delivered at the wrong moment." It's when a kid has messed up that he or she is most vulnerable. Sometimes it's better to avoid the impulse to give immediate feedback.

Teasing is most painful when it comes from a parent, especially when it concerns the child's appearance, weight or figure. Children look to parents as a mirror to tell them who they are.

And when your child says something mean -- i.e., "I hate Grandma" -- try to avoid telling him that he doesn't mean it. When you tell him that, you're telling him his feelings don't count. Listen to and acknowledge your child's feelings, no matter how distasteful, and try to help him or her work them out in a positive, constructive way.

You don't have to overdo praise with comments like: "That's the most beautiful picture I've ever seen."

Writes Ms. Webster: "Children who receive a steady stream of parental compliments are likely to experience a big letdown when they get into the larger world."

You're also advised not to refer to your energetic 2-year-old son as "a real animal." He might try to live up to his label. Children believe what their parents tell/call them. The trick is to critique the behavior, not the child: Don't use such gender stereotypes as "sissy" or "crybaby." And false threats, like false compliments, undermine a parent's credibility. Replace threats with promises.

Finally, avoid "not now." Whenever you say "not now" to a child looking for a response, you're telling the child he or she isn't worth your time.

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