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Different Styles of Parenting

By Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H.

You may have heard that there are different styles of parenting. Although there is a time and place for each of them, there is one style that research shows to have better outcomes for children. On one end of the continuum is the Authoritarian style. This style of parenting can be considered “brick wall” parenting. It is known for being very demanding and strict, using punishment, and generally not allowing choice or freedom. Authoritarian parents value obedience, discourage independence, and do not like their authority to be questioned. They also do little nurturing. Children who are raised with this style of parenting do not learn self-regulation or self-discipline, but rather learn they can do as they wish as long as they do not get caught. Brick wall parenting is appropriate when health, safety, and morality issues arise. In these circumstances there should not be any negotiating.

On the other end of the continuum is the Permissive style. This style of parenting can be considered “jellyfish” parenting. It is known for being indulgent. Permissive parents give a lot of freedom without limits. They make few demands, have few if any consequences, do not provide structure, and avoid asserting authority. Permissive parents are very good at nurturing, but do not discipline well. Children raised with this style of parenting often feel insecure and confused as they need guidance. Jellyfish parenting is appropriate under special circumstances such as holidays, birthday celebrations, or when the child is sick or on vacation, as during these times you can relax the rules.

In the middle is the Authoritative style. Research shows that this style of parenting has the best outcomes for children. It can be considered “backbone” parenting. Authoritative parents provide structure with flexibility, much like our spine. Authoritative parents maintain a good balance between warmth and strictness. They have high expectation of their children. They firmly and consistently enforce rules, while also encouraging independence. Backbone parents use choices, consequences, and positive communication and listening to provide guidance and to solve problems. Children who are raised with this style learn self-regulation and tend to do better in school, have better behavior, and use drugs and alcohol less. This style of parenting is where we want to be most of the time.

For more information on parenting styles, click on the link below:

Kerri Kreh Reda, M.P.H., is a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 330 or at

Talking to your Kids about Race

By Dinah Torres Castro

Children aren’t born racists – they are taught to be.

With protests over the killing of George Floyd happening in all fifty states, many parents are concerned about how they can talk to their children about the unrest in our nation. We not only need to start these conversations about race and racism, we need to keep these conversations going long after the protestors are gone. When our country is no longer in this state of outrage, we need to make sure all children see black people as equals and not just as victims of oppression. But right now, if you are talking to your kids about the killings and protests, make sure you speak honestly and in an age-appropriate way.

  • You can start having conversations about race as early as preschool age. You should begin by discussing racial differences in a positive light. If a white child asks why another child has brown skin, a parent can take this opportunity to explain what melanin (the pigment in our skin) is, and to talk about how wonderful it is that the world has so many different kinds of people.
  • Older children will be much more aware of what’s going on right now, from overhearing the news, their parents talking, or simply noticing what is going on outside in their neighborhoods. Once you assess what they know, you can have a conversation about racism without being too explicit.
  • With children in elementary school, you should focus on how unfairly black and brown people have been treated throughout American history. Fairness is something all children can understand.
  • If you live someplace where people are actively protesting and your children have observed some destruction, you should reassure your kids that you are there to keep them safe. You can also explain why people are protesting and show them positive images of protests from our history.
  • Allow your children to express their feelings about what you’re discussing as they may be angry, sad, or scared. It’s important to validate how children feel and answer any questions honestly.
  • Parents can let their children know that the important adults in their lives are working really hard to make sure these injustices don’t continue in our city, country and world.
  • Respect your children’s feelings. If talking about race is too upsetting for them, take a break and leave the door open for future conversations.
  • In addition to keeping an open dialogue about racism, raise children who are respectful of all people by including books with black people as central figures in your home library. Children’s literature can be a great way to start difficult conversations. See link below for suggested books.

Dr. Nia Heard-Garris, an attending physician at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, was recently quoted in a NY Times article: “The best advice I can give parents is to be models for the attitudes, behavior and values that they wish to see in their children. It is not enough to talk about racism, you must strive to be anti-racist and fight against racist policies and practices. If you have the privilege, make space, speak up or amplify issues of inequity and injustice. Children see everything.”

For more information, check out the links below:

They’re Not Too Young to Talk About Race:

These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids

10 Tips for Teaching and Talking to Kids About Race:

Raising Race Conscious Children:

Dinah Castro is a Bilingual Family Well-Being Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 351 or at

Overindulgent Parenting – What is “enough” for Preschoolers?

By Nancy Olsen-Harbich, MA

We live in an environment on Long Island that encourages all of us to overindulge. There are shopping opportunities at every turn in the road, plentiful entertainment, arts, and sports activities to choose from, and many service providers for the tasks we can’t seem to find time for – house cleaning, lawn care, car maintenance, etc. Some disposable income is all it takes to slip into a little overindulgence, and Long Islanders are more likely to have this than families in other parts of the country. Those who can afford to (and some who can’t) treat themselves and their children very well. But are we also using the necessary restraint to avoid spoiling our children? If we are able, why not make children’s lives as happy and comfortable as possible?

Research into family life since the 1990’s (Clark & Bredehoft 1998, Kindon 2000) points to some very good reasons to try to stem the tide of entitlement flowing in the direction of our young children. Receiving too much, too soon, in conjunction with what is called “over-nurturing” (doing for children what they could do for themselves) seems to deter young human beings from developing good character traits like perseverance, helpfulness, cooperation, and consideration for others, and seems to encourage self-centered attitudes and behaviors.

Starting to feel uncomfortable yet? We are all guilty of this to some extent, and it is love for our children (a GOOD thing; they can’t have too much of that) that inclines us towards overindulgence and over-nurturing. Here’s some common sense advice from the experts concerning “giving” of possessions, time, and service to your children:

Learn about your child’s developmental stage

What’s reasonable to expect from a child in terms of chores and self-care? What toys and activities help to support the learning they need to do now as opposed to later? How can you tell the difference between normal frustration intolerance and tantrums that become a habitual behavior in order to get what they want? Attend parent education workshops, look for opportunities to be around other families of young children to compare notes, try to read and learn as much as you can about supporting, in healthy ways, your child’s growth and development.

Avoid the “Happiness Trap”

Be willing to say “no” when saying “yes” would not, ultimately, be in your child’s best interest, even if it makes them unhappy at the moment. Sometimes they are very loudly unhappy. Young children haven’t yet learned the boundaries of budgets and time, or the need to weigh one member of the family’s individual needs against the bigger, overreaching goals of the family. It is a parent’s job to set necessary limits. And you’ll be very unhappy if you don’t, ultimately resulting in a negative attitude towards parenting that impacts your children much more seriously than losing out on a new toy.

Empower Preschoolers to “do for themselves”

Even a 3 year old can bring their finished dish to the sink. Look closely at the level of service you provide to your children. Yes, they need our help, but “doing for” constantly sends the message that they are not very competent. Put the paper towels where they can reach them themselves to clean up messes, create organized toy storage areas so that they can put things away in a place they belong. Expecting young children to contribute to the family and their own self-care teaches life skills and builds confidence.

Watch your spending

A small collection of good toys (balls, blocks, trucks, dolls, puppets) gives young children tools for learning and exploring through play. A huge collection of toys (gathered through parents buckling under the pressure of demanding children) can create storage chaos and actually result in poorer quality play and concentration – there’s just too much. In addition, having to wait for a holiday or birthday for a special toy can be good practice in delayed gratification, an important concept to understand in adulthood when you must work towards your own goals.

Keeping the “long view” in mind is challenging when our natural inclination is to want to please our children. A little indulgence, once in awhile, spreads joy in their hearts and ours. But a steady diet of overindulgence is no gift at all.

Nancy Olsen-Harbich is Program Director and a Human Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at 631-727-7850 ext. 332 or at

Everything is canceled!

By Cara Weiner Sultan, MSW

Within mere weeks, our entire world has been upended. We have been told to shelter in place and remain at least 6 feet apart from others. Wash hands and wear masks. With these new guidelines for living in place, everything in our world has been canceled, with all “normal” events of daily life are either re-imagined, rescheduled, or moved online. Suddenly calendars worth of events, weddings, parties, vacations, concerts, sporting events, etc. have been wiped clean.

Much has been written over the past few weeks about what losing these shared events or experiences, commonly known as social rituals, does to us individually, our community, and our society as a whole. Rituals may be defined as choreographed events that create a shared experience among people that connect people emotionally. These rituals are special; they go beyond everyday experiences into something that is memorable and meaningful. Rituals mark the passage of time; they can be simple things like Sunday dinners with family or Friday pizza with friends. Rituals mark sacred events and accomplishments, weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies, and graduations. Rituals may also be collective or group experiences, such as the happiness of sports fans to witness their favorite team capture a title.

When everything gets canceled, mental health experts agree these losses are all real and should be acknowledged and even grieved. Losing these rituals can invoke a sense of tremendous sorrow, grief, and isolation. These losses should be discussed, especially with children, who don’t have the life experience to put things in perspective. Allowing yourself to take the time to talk about and put names to the feelings can help you better cope with these missed experiences.

While adults and children alike all face the roller coaster of ups and downs, and look ahead to uncertain opportunities to celebrate rituals, finding ways to look for the silver lining of this crisis can be helpful. After grieving what is missed, refocus on creating new rituals, both online or within your own home. There has never been more time for connecting virtually with old friends, reunions, family dinner time, fort building, movie night, bake offs, and finding charitable ways to help others. Even collective rituals like blasting sirens for healthcare workers at the same time each night may foster connections. Refocus on things in your life that you do have, not things that you are missing. Take the time to notice new experiences that build memories. Supporting others and facing these challenges will help to build strength both within ourselves and our children. As a society, we must learn to refocus and build resiliency during these life changing times.

Cara Weiner Sultan is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program.  She can be reached at

Overloaded with Covid-19 News?

by Erica Posniak, MD

Breaking News! This familiar and inviting alert flashes across our televisions, smart phones and computers 24 hours a day. It calls us and it’s difficult to resist. After all, it might be telling us there is new information we need to know in order to survive. Especially during a pandemic, we need to be informed, and having updated, current information can make us feel more in control. The so called Breaking News, however, is often an endless rehash of the same negative information.

Mindfulness teaches us that what you bring your attention to and what you take in determines how you feel. Taking in disturbing news about Covid-19 many times a day can cause us to experience heightened stress, fear, worry and anxiety and can even result in sleepless nights. Often functioning on automatic pilot, without thinking we turn to the news on our televisions and devices. While it is important to be informed, constantly turning on the news can become a habit. If you are frequently experiencing an urge to check the news, you are not alone.

What can we do?

Mindfulness has been shown to be effective in changing habits.

Becoming aware of the choices we make is the first step.

The next time you feel an urge to check the news, notice how you are feeling and what sensations are present in your body. Ask yourself, where in my body do I feel the urge? Bring curiosity to the exploration.

Take a cleansing breath and then ask yourself, why do I want to check the news?

After watching or reading the news, notice the physical sensations that are present in your body. Observe your thoughts. Are they calm or racing? What’s present for you?

Notice what emotions you are feeling and if the experience is pleasant.

Ask yourself, was seeing the news nourishing and what did I get from it?

Noticing, with curiosity, the urge to check the news and becoming aware of how the news makes you feel can take you out of automatic pilot so that you can start to change your habit. Sometimes, just by watching it, the urge will pass. Other helpful strategies include limiting your news consumption to once or twice a day, and taking news alerts off your smartphone and laptop. It’s not easy to change a habit, so treat yourself with kindness, congratulate yourself for starting this journey, and approach any attempts at change without self-judgment.

With all the negative news, it can be hard to remember that there is so much more going on in your world. Ask yourself, what else is true in my life in this moment? Looking out the window or going outside and noticing the color of a tree, the sound of rustling leaves, and the appearance of the sky, or bringing your attention to something in your environment that gives you joy, can bring you into a positive state of mind.

Dr. Erica Posniak is a physician focused on wellness who teaches mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. She is chairperson of the Family Health and Wellness advisory committee and a member of the Board of Directors of CCE-Suffolk

Beat the Heat During Pregnancy!

By Laura Keiley, RN

Being pregnant is hard work, especially during the hot summer months. Because your body works so hard to protect and nourish your baby, you are more likely to experience negative effects from the heat than someone who isn’t pregnant. Your body is trying hard to cool itself and your unborn baby, and also keep you both healthy. This means that you need to take extra care when you are exposed to very hot conditions.

Here are some tips for staying cool and safe on hot days:

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • On very hot and humid days, seek shade and air-conditioned areas when possible
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing
  • Avoid exercise outside in very hot and humid weather

If you are exposed to high temperatures and experience the following symptoms, seek medical care:

  • Unusually warm skin
  • Unusual headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Temperature over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Braxton-Hicks, or ‘practice contractions’

If you experience any of the above, move to a cooler area if possible, apply cool, wet cloths to skin, and/or sit in a cool bath until you can receive medical care.

Laura Keiley, RN

Diabetes Educator


Laura Keiley is a Registered Nurse and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at



May is Mental Health Awareness Month! Anxiety in Children

By Cara Weiner Sultan, MSW

Since 1949, National Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May. The goal of this initiative is to bring attention to mental health through education, media, local events, and screenings. The hope is to reduce the stigma around mental health issues and embrace the notion that mental health is something everyone should care about.

Anxiety and depression are common mental health issues on the rise in children. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have been diagnosed with anxiety, and 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression. According to the Child Mind Institute, some anxiety is normal, natural, and part of everyday life. When feelings of anxiety and worry begin interfering in everyday life, it becomes problematic and needs more significant intervention.

There are many types of anxiety:

  • Separation-characterized by a child’s extreme distress when separated from a parent or caregiver
  • Social-characterized by a child’s intense avoidance of social situations, excessive fear of being humiliated in social situations
  • Selective mutism-characterized by a child’s persistent and intense inability to speak in some situations but not others
  • General anxiety disorder-lasting and excessive worry about a range of things, may be worried about perfectionism, and may cause sleeplessness in addition to restlessness and irritability
  • Specific phobia-strong fears of objects or situations (fear of dogs, snakes, the dark, the doctor)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder-characterized by children who have intrusive thoughts or impulses that interfere with functioning and cause excessive worry. Compulsions are the actions kids perform to get rid of their worry.

Many of these feelings are normal in a developing child, especially at times of transition or change. The time to be concerned is when your child experiences anxiety for a long period of time, which then interferes with school, home, and play activities.

The good news is that anxiety is very treatable! Mental health professionals are adept at helping children change the way they think about things, and reset their minds from thoughts of worry to more positive thoughts. Left untreated, anxiety can have physical and behavioral manifestations that cause stress. If you are concerned about your child, reach out to teachers, counselors, and friends for help. It’s more common than you think!

Resources on anxiety in children:

Child Mind Institute


Anxiety and Depression Institute of America

Harvard Health-Harvard Medical School

Cara Weiner Sultan is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program.  She can be reached at

Spotting Sneaky Sugar

By Cristina F. Toscano, RD

What do tomato sauce, yogurt, cereal, ketchup, soup, and even protein bars have in common? They are all examples of foods that often contain large amounts of added sugar. In fact, sugar is added to a whopping 74% of packaged foods sold in supermarkets. We know that excess sugar intake has been linked to weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. So how can we cut down on sugar when it seems to be lurking everywhere?


Next time you go to the grocery store, read the ingredients label on any packaged food item that you may purchase. But watch out – sugar is disguised as many different names. In fact, there are more than 61 different names that may be used, but they all mean sugar! Some examples are corn syrup, cane sugar, brown sugar, sweetener, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, raw sugar, sucrose, turbinado sugar, and beet sugar. Some of these words sound like they are healthier, but when it comes down to it, added sugar is added sugar. Rather than memorizing every single word for sugar, use these quick tips:

1) When reading the food label look up any words you do not know.

2) Check the “Nutrition Facts” for Added Sugars. Any number above 0 means that there is added sugar in the food item.


The best way to know that there are no added sugars in the food you eat is to prepare your own food. When you cook, using fresh ingredients, you’ll be in control of what goes into the food you are eating!


Cristina is a Registered Dietitian, Diabetes and Family Health Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

Healthy Fats

By Ruchi Shah, MS, RD, CDN

One component of a heart healthy diet is healthy/good fats. When thinking of fats, we think of foods that are not good for us. In fact, about 20-35% of our calories should come from fat. There are good fats and bad fats. We should consume good fats, also known as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. We should reduce consumption of bad fats, also known as trans-fats and saturated fats. These bad fats can cause many health problems such as obesity and heart disease. Good fats such as fish, olive oil, vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds provide omega 3 fatty acids which provide many benefits of protection and prevention against diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Good fats also fight against inflammation of the body. If you have elevated LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), the recommendation is to add healthy fats to your diet. Good fats help increase HDL and fight against the LDL that has built up. Even when eating these healthy fats, make sure that you consume them in moderation. Eating lots of fat, even good fats, is not recommended.

What foods are considered good fats?

  • Olive oil, avocado oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil
  • Fish
  • Nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.
  • Peanut butter or almond butter
  • Hummus
  • Avocado
  • Seeds such as flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, etc.
  • Low fat mayonnaise

Increasing good fats in your diet is easy. There are lots of fun ways you can add these foods to your usual meals. For example, try this simple oatmeal recipe for breakfast:


  • ½ cup of oats
  • 1 tbsp of chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp of peanut butter
  • ½ cup of blue berries
  • Cinnamon to taste


  • Cook oats with water or low-fat dairy and chia seeds in the microwave or on the stove
  • Remove mixture from microwave or stove and place in bowl
  • Add peanut butter right away, melting it on top
  • Add blueberries and cinnamon on top

Ruchi Shah is a Registered Dietitian and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at



Poison Alert for Parents and Grandparents during Covid

By Maxine Roeper Cohen, M.S.

In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, families live in close quarters, day in and day out. Grandparents have been enlisted to care for their young and school-age grandchildren all day or night if their parents are essential workers. Children are under foot and into everything. What can these conditions lead to?

A February, 2020 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that more than half the poison cases in American children under age 5 are poisoned by prescription pills they find and eat! Parents and grandparents often take these pills out of their original, child-resistant packaging, making it easy for curious children to discover. In fact, there are 50,000 emergency room visits each year involving children who swallow dangerous pills when adults don’t see them. Adults tend to place pills in easy to open containers, baggies, or daily pill organizers and leave them on kitchen counters or bedroom night tables. They might also drop or spill pills and fail to find them all.

This is not a new phenomenon. The Poison Prevention Packaging Act was passed in 1970 to cope with this dilemma, and childhood deaths from accidental medication poisoning dramatically decreased. In the 2000s, however, prescription use in the U.S. greatly increased due to the rise of statins, antidepressants, asthma, diabetes, and opioid medications.

It is not possible to watch children every minute of the day. Here are some practical recommendations for parents and grandparents to follow:

  1. Keep medications in child resistant packaging.
  2. Make sure to close the container after opening.
  3. Keep pills out of sight and out of reach!
  4. Make certain medication is not left in clothing pockets or purses.
  5. If medication is spilled or dropped, vacuum the entire area.

It’s a good idea to keep the CDC Poison Control Hotline Number on your cell phone:  800 – 222 – 1222. Don’t hesitate to call if you think your child/grandchild may have ingested any medication. Look at each room from a young child’s point of view and place anything potentially dangerous out of sight and reach. We are living in a very challenging time. Vigilance and extra care will help to keep our young ones healthy.

Maxine Roeper Cohen is a Parent Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at

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