sifting through contradictory parenting advice

There's certainly no shortage of both solicited and unsolicited parenting advice these days, much of it contradictory:

Spare the rod and spoil the child.
Never hit a child.
Set more limits and boundaries.
Let go of more control.
Loosen the reins.
Tighten the reins.

Ack!

How is a well-intentioned parent supposed to sort through all of this discrepancy?

What should I do when my kids hit or pester each other?

Q: Sometimes my son gets ornery, and just won't leave his sister alone. He'll poke or hit or verbally harass her, and it drives both me and his sister crazy! I tell him over and over again to stop, but he just keeps going until I get really angry and blow up at him. There's got to be a better way!

A: My hunch is that when your son is hitting, his cortex is probably not online. The cortex is the part of the brain that is responsible for compliance, self-restraint, logic, and reasoning, and it is not well developed enough in children to act as a consistently reliable behavior inhibitor.

what to do when your child yells at you

Q: When my child yells at me, I tell her she can't talk to me that way, and that I won't listen until she can be sweet. But rather than calming down, she often just becomes more upset at me. What is going on? I don't want to reward her lack of self-control by responding to her when she is yelling, but I don't think what I am doing is working, either.

A: What an insightful question! A little bit of brain science might illuminate what is happening.

don't overreact to teenage drama!!!!!!!!!!!

(hee hee hee - did you like all those exclamation points in the title up there? that's my idea of a real funny joke...)

But seriously, folks. Teenagers can be SO dramatic sometimes. All the parts of their brain are not yet reliably wired together for optimal synergistic functioning. The brainstem, which is in charge of the instinctive fight/flight response; the limbic system, which governs emotions; and the cortex, which is responsible for logic, reason, and learning, sometimes operate together as a well oiled machine.