Some things are harder about raising children when we're working parents; some are easier. But for most of us, discipline is the most difficult part of being a parent. Here are some of the tricks the smart working parents I know use when it's time to set rules for their children, then enforce them:
* They give themselves time to shift gears. No parent should make decisions about discipline when he or she first walks through the door after a day in the rat race. We're entirely too likely to overreact.
* They give themselves time to think before they act. Just as good bosses think before they set company policy or deal with an errant employee, good parents give themselves time to think before they set rules or punish an errant child.
* They listen. The smart parents I know do far more listening than talking. Consequently, their children tend to listen when something important is said.
* They set clear limits. We working parents have to be even more clear about what we expect from our children than parents who are home full-time. We aren't around them as much to re-explain the rules.
* They explain the rules and the consequences for breaking them. This does not mean they threaten their children, but that they inform them ahead of time so that there are no surprises when a rule is broken.
* They're decisive. They remember at all times who is the parent and who is the child.
* They keep their perspective. They also remember that all childrenmake mistakes, and all children are occasionally disobedient. The smart parents I know set as few rules as possible and, if one is broken, can see the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony.
* They're consistent. No parent is consistent 100 percent of the time, but working parents often find it easier to be simply because they aren't around the little darlings all day.
* They offer alternatives. Because working parents must be able to trust their children to be responsible and trustworthy, we're more likely to give them choices and allow them to make decisions at an earlier age than parents who are home full-time, studies show.
* They reward good behavior. All of us have to punish our children from time to time, but the working parents I know with the best-behaved children use praise and reward for good behavior far more frequently than punishment.
* They pick their issues. They don't make rules they can't enforce, nag their children about unimportant matters or constantly criticize their children's decisions.
* Finally, they don't beat themselves up. All parents make mistakes: Sometimes we're too hard on our children, sometimes too easy.
But smart working parents know that endlessly dwelling on their own mistakes -- feeling guilty and insecure and inadequate -- is not only counterproductive and a waste of time, but a bad example to their children, as well.