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The 7 Secrets of Successful Parents

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Generally speaking, moms act as the principal caretakers of immediate physical and emotional needs. Dads, on the other hand, tend to promote risk-taking and independence, and build self-reliance and assertiveness because they are more apt to let kids work out their problems by themselves.

Each of these responses—the security of knowing you have a nurturing home base and the space to figure out what you need—communicates an important message to your child and gives him the ability to handle whatever life throws at him. Thanks to my husband, my daughter Tricie learned to swim during one of our family vacations when she was 4. While he was busy encouraging her to go down the pool's water slide, I was busy admonishing her to be careful.

The best way to start operating like a team is to agree with your partner on the big things—like what rules you'll have and how to discipline—and then let each of you handle the day-to-day routines as you see fit. Moms, especially, must let go of the feeling that they know what's best for their children. Otherwise, dads will always be consigned to the helper role.

What about single parents? Do everything you can to cultivate meaningful relationships with other loving adults, whether relatives or trusted role models, like teachers and scout leaders. And, as hard as it may be sometimes, it's important for divorced parents to work together with an ex-spouse so their child doesn't feel like he has to choose between them. If your ex is out of the picture or unable to give emotional support, be honest about the circumstances, and help your child work through his grief.