Over the course of the past year, I have explored everything from marital stress to mischievous children, and local and national experts have imparted some sage advice along the way.
So as we start 2011, let's take a moment to remember some of the best advice of this past year. I've learned much - and plan to carry these suggestions with me into the future.
Want happier children and teens? Consider adopting some of Christine Carter's approaches to parenting: Rather than expecting perfection, expect children to make an effort and enjoy their activities, practice gratitude, and make time for family dinners.
Carter, a sociologist at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, said how parents talk to their children and praise them can have profound implications for how engaged children are in everyday activities.
Instead of saying "You're a natural" when a child scores big at the ballgame, parents should praise the work and practice, too. Try "You did really well on that math test," she said. "You must have tried really hard."
"By shaping their perspective on it, it can change how they see themselves and how they approach their activities," Carter said.
Foster gratitude by talking to children about how they are blessed. Help them make a list of what they are thankful for.
And make time for family dinners. It allows parents to model healthy eating for their kids and becomes a family ritual, which boosts kids' happiness and well-being by showing them they are part of something larger than themselves (their family) and evoking joy and positive emotions.
Sometimes it's simple skills that can help reduce stress for parent and child.
Dr. William Hughes, director of family services at the Sutter Center for Psychiatry in Sacramento, Calif., offered parents some tips on encouraging good behavior in children.
One way is to give rewards, or not give them, appropriately.
Don't offer a child a reward as motivation to do something, and then if the child says no, make him or her do it anyway.
"It undermines the reward," he said.
Instead, offer the reward if the task is completed, but be prepared to withhold it if the child doesn't earn it.
By NIESHA LOFING