Kathy Ramos Bentley of PARENTS Inc. talked with daughter Sandy Ramos last week about Sandy's schedule.

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PARENTS Inc. helps keep
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More resources for parents

By Nancy Arcayna

Too bad babies don't come with instruction books. Instead, parents are shuffled home from the hospital with a little bundle of joy, wondering what to do next.

People assume that parenting gets easier as children mature and assume more responsibility. But over the years, new challenges arise. "Parents get busy as their children get older," said Kathy Ramos Bentley, program coordinator at PARENTS Inc. The reality is that parents who are working overtime at their jobs become slaves to their children as chauffeurs, cooks, maids and caregivers.

PARENTS Inc. offers classes on topics such as discipline, nutrition, developing and maintaining self-esteem, family rules and stress management for both children and parents. The classes are split into three age groups: birth to age 6, 7 to 12, and 13 to 18. Each group covers timely topics such as temperament for infants, communication for 7- to 12-year-olds and drug prevention for teens.

Bentley noticed that most parents take classes when their children are toddlers, then stop without realizing changing concerns as children mature. They may not realize older kids require as much attention.

"Parents have almost given up their responsibility," said Bentley. "We want them to get back into these roles and be there for their children. We work with parents' strengths." That means taking the good that people learned from their own parents and combining it with new information to make them even better parents.

John Kalulu, left, held daughter Jodyleeann, 2; and his wife, Jaime, held Kawehealani, 8 months, as 6-year-old Moku Kanae read to them. Jaime Kalulu works at PARENTS Inc.

The key, she said, is, "Never give up. Parents really are the most important person in a child's life."

Bentley offers the following tips for children of any age:

Set boundaries

Children like clear-cut rules. Discipline provides them with peace of mind. And age-appropriate rules let children know what is expected of them.

Parents who fail to establish authority and set boundaries are almost certain to face difficulties as their children mature. Every kid needs at least five basic rules that should change as they get older. The rules should be posted and consistently enforced. "Oftentimes, this is a problem for parents because they are so busy," Bentley said.

Children are confused when parents give the appearance of not caring if they do chores, what time they come home or what movies they are allowed to watch. "It scares kids when there are no limits."

For kids who are not disobedient but merely disorganized, daily to-do lists may be the answer. Backpacks can be packed the night before and clothes chosen for the next day. "The lists should always be in simple form so kids can easily follow along. Parents don't need to stand over them nagging. It gives the kids a great sense of control, responsibility and self-worth," she said.

Learn to listen

"Parents need to put down the newspaper, turn off the TV or stop cooking when their child needs to talk," Bentley said. "As kids get older, we need to listen when they are ready to talk."

To improve self-esteem, be specific about praise. "You can't just say, 'Good job.' It has to be something like, 'Thank you for doing your chores without being asked.'"

Honesty also goes a long way. "They need to know that things are not always wonderful. Life is not always fair." The events of Sept. 11, 2001, taught us that kids need to know what is going on. If parents aren't truthful, children learn to be dishonest. "They quickly see through the bull," said Bentley.

Parental lying starts when children go to doctors and are told that shots aren't going to hurt, she said. It's best to explain that it will hurt, but only for a few moments.

According to Bentley, back talk should be ignored, in most instances. "Parents tend to get hung up on back talk. Younger children use these tactics when learning how to communicate. As they get older, it's best just to tell them that is not an appropriate way to speak to adults. If we really listen to what our kids say, often we can hear ourselves. That is the really scary part."

Parenting classes

Eight-week sessions cost $25 on Oahu, $10 on neighbor islands. Financial aid on a sliding scale fee is available.

Kahuku: Call 254-7955 for dates.

Kaimuki: Starts Saturday for birth to age 6; call 733-8460.

Kaneohe: Starts Saturday, with classes for birth to age 6, and 7 to 12; 254-7955.

Kapolei: Starts Thursday for birth to age 6; 692-8210.

Mililani: Starts Oct. 3 for birth to age 6; 235-0255.

Waipahu: Starts Oct. 2 for ages 13 to 18; 675-0254.

Future classes: Call 235-0255 for Oahu dates; 808-249-8471 on Maui; 808-934-9552 on the Big Island.

Break time

Parents worry when kids go to their rooms and close the door. "It's one indicator of drug abuse," Bentley said, "but parents don't need to worry unless they spend hours in there and never come out."

Adults need to understand that kids of every age need space. Studies on children's stress levels have found that kids really want time to be alone, said Bentley.

Adding to the worry is the reality that older kids are forming new attachments and breaking away from parents who may have trouble letting go. "Children spend years asking for help and being needy, and all of a sudden they are saying, 'I can do things on my own.' Parents need to see this as a positive progression toward becoming a responsible adult."

Some parents may try to "fast-forward" life and expect their kids to take on too many chores, extracurricular activities and projects. Kids can get burned out, so parents should make sure they aren't overextended by too many activities.

Also, keep in mind that children learn to cooperate, follow rules, use language and work out problems through the interactive nature of playing with other children. This kind of play does not extend to the computer, which Bentley says "is good for the fingers but doesn't do much for the imagination."

Children who spend hours in front of a TV or computer monitor can encounter serious health problems. "Children are having problems with obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure at a very young age. They don't play outside, run around and ride bikes like we did as youngsters," she said.

Be supportive

Some parents unknowingly try to relive their own lives through their children. Instead of molding children into Mini-Me's, Bentley stressed that parents need to encourage their children's individuality, even if it means your dream quarterback wants to be a dancer.

Support does not mean giving children everything they want. Parents need to be willing to say no. "I see these fifth- and sixth-graders with cell phones. I only have a cell phone for work," said Bentley, who offers an option: "Give them 50 cents so they can use a pay phone."

Homework blues

Success in education often depends on parental involvement. When parents are enthusiastic about education, this confirms school's validity. This can be reinforced by giving the child a space to work and turning off the TV, said Bentley.

Parents can also schedule a study time but should stop short of doing the homework, which has become a family obligation in some households.

"Children need to learn to be responsible. Parents should be fostering independence," Bentley said, adding that parents should worry less about grades and concentrate more on what a child is learning and the effort they place on their work. "We don't need to accept D's and F's, but if a child is getting a C and that is the best he can do, parents need to accept that."

Demanding A's causes stress and may set children up to be overachievers on one level, without regard to moral and civic responsibility. "We know that our kids can get into good colleges without straight A's. Colleges and universities now look at the whole child: grades, extracurricular activities and community service."


More resources for parents


A free statewide confidential telephone line offers support and information on parenting issues such as sibling rivalry, divorce or separation, toilet training and bedtime routines. Staffers also can provide information on adolescent behavior and development and assist parents with problem-solving in difficult situations. Tips and information can be mailed to callers upon request. Call: 526-1222.


Baby Hui

Support group for parents of children under age 3.

Call: 735-2484.

1234 Parents!

Kapiolani Medical Center program helps parents with children ages 1 to 4 to understand their children and selves.

Call: 535-7000.

Sessions also held at Queen's Medical Center.

Call: 537-7117.

Active Parenting of Teens

Kapiolani Medical Center program for parents who are feeling hopeless, helpless or challenged by their teens.

Call: 535-7000.

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