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Great kids are competent, confident youngsters who are enjoyable to be with and who are assets to their communities and families.

While many factors contribute to successful child rearing, there are steps parents can take to ensure the likelihood of producing super offspring:- Spend time with your children: Great kids don't develop in a vacuum. They require constant support and education to grow into capable young adults. Moms and dads available to read stories with their toddlers, help warring siblings reach workable compromises, oversee nightly homework or answer preteen's questions about sex not only provide invaluable information, but convey the message, "You are my top priority."

- Set and enforce clear behavioral guidelines: Great kids need structure and guidance. They crave parents who can teach them right from wrong, then restate those limits over and over. For instance, when 12-year-old Tony wanted to buy saggy jeans and gang-related clothing, his mother calmly expressed that those styles were inappropriate, then guided her son into more acceptable fashions.

- Be respectful at all times: Discipline is enforced without humiliation, and differences are resolved in the absence of insults, put-downs or name-calling.

- Create a loving home environment: Great kids thrive in homes that are calm, stable and secure. They know adults will assist them when they need help. They know gentle hands will enfold them during life's mini crises. And they know laughter and goodwill will be plentiful to add sparkle to their lives.

- Provide opportunities for youngsters to be responsible: Great kids have adequate, age-appropriate chores. For example, 4-year-old Chandra helps set the table, and 10-year-old Grant mows the lawn and washes the family car. Be sure to fully teach youngsters how to perform their duties, then be available to supervise their progress and offer assistance as needed.

- Talk often and openly: Great kids flourish when family members communicate regularly. Avoid lecturing, nagging and yelling. Instead, learn to discuss issues calmly and respectfully. Don't attempt to solve problems during the peaks of arguments. Wait until you've cooled down and can discuss them in a constructive way. Be available to listen to youngster's concerns. While most of their issues seem inconsequential, your willingness to listen to their small talk encourages them to come to you when the matters are much weightier.

- Instill good manners: Great kids have a working knowledge of society's rules and expectations. Such conduct makes them enjoyable companions, infuses confidence and opens avenues available to less well-behaved boys and girls. Begin the instruction of manners early. Review expectations often. Provide opportunities to practice manners regularly. And let kids know when their behavior is topnotch.

- Let them know they're terrific: Great kids feel loved and cherished by their parents. They feel valued for their personal strengths, and appreciated for their individual differences. In fact, moms and dads can't praise their youngsters enough. Continual hugs, smiles and "I love you's" help develop healthy egos while letting children know they're on the right track.