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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Children often get mixed messages from their parents when they're told not to smoke cigarettes, to watch their diet and exercise, to put on sunblock before they go outside, and then see their sunburned parents light up after dinner and have seconds on dessert.

Countless scientific studies have examined the link between parents' lifestyle choices and their children's behavior. A new study in this month's issue of Pediatrics, for example, describes a connection between strict parents and overweight kids.

While these studies tend to focus on negative behaviors, parents who drink or gamble or watch too much TV, there's a flipside. Parents can also convey protective and positive behaviors that can help protect their children.

Today, a closer look at how parents' behaviors and attitudes affect their kids. We'll talk with two experts about this age-old, unwritten contract between parents and kids: Do as I say, not as I do. Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, one of America's best-known pediatricians, and with our friend Amy Dickinson, author of the syndicated columnist - column Ask Amy.

How do your behaviors affect your kids? Are you pleased? Are you worried? Have you changed your act or not? Our number is 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org. Later on in the show, playwright Tony Kushner joins us to talk about his musical Caroline or Change and take your questions. But first, parents and kids.

Dr. T. Berry Brazelton is the founder of Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Children's Hospital in Boston. He's the author of more than 30 books on pediatrics and child development, including Touchpoints and Touchpoints 3 to 6. He joins us today from the studios of member station WBUR in Boston. And it's nice to have you on the program.

Dr. T. BERRY BRAZELTON (Founder, Brazelton Touchpoints Center; Author): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

Dr. BRAZELTON: Good to talk to you, Neal. I hear you all the time.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRAZELTON: So now it's fun to participate.

CONAN: Well, there's obviously a nurture/nature debate, but in this context of parental effect on the behavior of their kids, is there any doubt that this happens?

Dr. BRAZELTON: Oh, no question. I think children learn more from modeling on their parents than they learn any other way. I'm intrigued with your question, because it isn't the way I would initially think a child might learn.

The only way I can see that a parent might reverse something like modeling smoking or something like that, would be to say, hey, you know, I really want to do better by you than I have done by myself; so if I were you, I wouldn't try smoking. It's just a terrible habit for me, and it might be for you.

CONAN: Hmm. And the other part of it is, well, clearly you should change your behavior. That's the other option. Not so easy for a lot of people.

Dr. BRAZELTON: Well, it isn't, because, you know, smoking is an addiction, and addictions are like an illness. They're awfully, awfully hard to get rid of.

CONAN: At what age do children become aware of their parents' behavior?

Dr. BRAZELTON: Oh, I think right from birth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRAZELTON: Most of my research here at Harvard has been showing that a mother and a baby imitate each other and become successful imitating each other's rhythms and their behaviors by six to eight weeks of age. So imitation, which then leads into modeling, is something that children are just built with.

CONAN: And, obviously, since language comes a bit later, I assume they - their early learning comes from watching what their parents do.

Dr. BRAZELTON: Oh, absolutely, and imitating them. A little two-year-old boy will walk just like his daddy, stagger down the street. A little girl will smoothly move along, and when she sits in her father's lap, she'll pat his face just like her mother does. You know, how can you ever resist that kind of learning? It's beautiful.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, let me bring Amy Dickinson into the conversation now. So, Amy, when we do things that we might not want our children to emulate so much, we always find rationalizations for it, don't we?

Ms. AMY DICKINSON (Syndicated Columnist, Ask Amy): Right. Well, you - when I was a kid, my father was a chain-smoker, and weren't they all?

CONAN: Yes.

Ms. DICKINSON: And made things even more exciting by rolling his own and, of course, teaching his children to roll them for him.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DICKINSON: So that was the atmosphere. And I came home from school - I'm part of the first generation of kids who learned that smoking was toxic - and I came home from school in maybe third grade, and I said our teacher says it's really bad for you to do that and you shouldn't do that anymore. And he said, listen, kid. When I want your opinion - you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DICKINSON: But he basically, he did say, well, that sounds really bad. You know, when you're grown up, you can choose not to do it. So, you know, that was kind of the message there. That, like, I'm an adult. I make an adult decision.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DICKINSON: When you're an adult, you can make an adult decision, too.

CONAN: That sounds a little bit like, my rules and while you're in my house, young lady.

Ms. DICKINSON: No, he was, like, just don't talk to me about my behavior. That's the thing. He was, like, you know...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DICKINSON: ...our parents were sort of off limits. But, you know, Doctor Brazelton really demonstrates modeling when he picks up a baby...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DICKINSON: ...and gets that baby's face eight inches from his face and smiles, and the baby starts to smile and giggle. That's what you see. That's the first example of modeling when you see an infant start to really, literally, you know, mirror your facial expressions. They're watching you every second, and so this whole process, it's not one conversation, it's not one action: It's your entire life; it's a million actions, and it's a thousand conversations.

CONAN: And Dr. Brazelton, that suggests that maybe the apologetic explanation is not going to cut much ice.

Dr. BRAZELTON: Well, I think Amy's is even better. You know, what she did really showed was rebellion.

Ms. DICKINSON: Right.

Dr. BRAZELTON: And she said, you know, I can do it my way just like you can do it yours, and if you can wait for that till five or six and then again in preadolescence, then again in adolescence, why that's a wonderful way to depend on the child...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRAZELTON: ...being, you know, having them a mind of their own.

Ms. DICKINSON: And I think my father was trying to tell me something about autonomy, and that's something that maybe my generation of parents doesn't do so well. We're very overweening, and I've tried to be the kind of parent who, you know, kind of leads by example and also teaches. But also, I give my daughter a sense of her own autonomy to make choices.

And just last weekend, 17 years old, she looked at me - we were touring a college campus - she looked at me and she said, thanks, Mom, I'll take it from here. And I thought, well, then you go ahead. Like, I've done my job.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Mission accomplished.

Dr. BRAZELTON: That's (unintelligible).

CONAN: Yeah. Let's get some...

Dr. BRAZELTON: That's great.

CONAN: Let's get some listeners involved in the conversation. If you'd like to join us: 800-989-8255, 800-989-TALK. E-mail is talk@npr.org. If you're a parent, have you changed your behavior for fear or in anticipation of what it might do for your kids?

Let's talk with Barb(ph). Barb's calling us from Goshen, Indiana.

BARB (Caller): Hi, how are you?

CONAN: I'm very well, thanks.

BARB: I'm just - I have grown children, and it's interesting because I've been thinking about this very thing as I watch them. They're in their mid-30s now, but as they were growing up, alcohol was just sort of a part of our lives. You know, almost every social situation - well, every social situation, probably involved drinking beer or wine. You know, I have a daughter that I don't think of her as an alcoholic, but I do think of her as an abuser of alcohol. And I think I have the regret of having modeled that kind of behavior for her...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

BARB: ...when she was a child.

CONAN: Did you think about it at the time?

BARB: I guess I honestly didn't. You know, I think back then I was just maybe just a little too young, although that's not a real excuse, because I was older than some parents with children. It was just kind of a fact of my everyday life. And as I've gotten older in the last couple of years, I have basically stopped drinking. I mean, I have a glass of wine if I'm out to eat...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

BARB: ...that's just about it. And I look at both my daughters and they remind me of me when I was their age. And neither one have children at this point, but I wonder, you know, what the effect will be on - when they have children, are they going to do just the same things I did?

CONAN: On your grandkids, yeah.

BARB: Right.

CONAN: And, well, first of all, it doesn't sound like you turned out all that horribly, Barb. So...

BARB: Oh, okay...

CONAN: ...didn't affect you too badly, so maybe your daughters will be all right, too.

BARB: ...you know, they're excellent human beings, but alcohol as a regular part of your everyday life is not the best thing and...

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And, Amy, it's the not thinking about it. It's - I'm going to continue - you know, I'm not - it's the not thinking about it. Smoking, too, and other people with eating.

BARB: Yes.

Ms. DICKINSON: Right. I actually took up smoking...

BARB: Like my - I actually smoked years ago, too...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

BARB: ...they told me that. They said, you know, they hated. They hated it in the car and that kind of thing and I did stop smoking. But I never really - I guess I didn't think of myself as a problem drinker...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

BARB: ...I didn't think of it as an issue. So I didn't - you know, it didn't seem like the same thing to me. It didn't feel like I was on some path to total destruction...

Ms. DICKINSON: Okay, Barb, you know, I actually took up smoking as an adult. And, you know, my choice, right?

BARB: Yes.

Ms. DICKINSON: And my daughter, it bothered her very much and she actually told a friend of mine how much it bothered her and my friend told me. And, you know, what that did to me? Of course, I felt terrible. And so I became a very adept, sneaky smoker...

BARB: Smoker.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DICKINSON: Went totally in the closet with that. But then, you know what? I did stop. Like people who have bad habits, you know, I stopped when the time was right and I stopped and it was my choice. And I shared that with my daughter and we were both very - we were just talking about this, how glad we both are that I stopped smoking.

BARB: Right.

Ms. DICKINSON: Yeah.

CONAN: And but...

Dr. BRAZELTON: You...

CONAN: Go ahead, Dr. Brazelton.

Dr. BRAZELTON: You became the adolescent for a little while.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DICKINSON: Right, and she, you know, like smart kids everywhere, they demonstrate how mature they are from time to time and...

Dr. BRAZELTON: Right.

Ms. DICKINSON: ...they develop some leadership doing that.

BARB: You know, I grew up in a household where smoking and drinking, you just didn't do it. I mean, my folks didn't do it and I guess I thought - and then I went out and snuck it as a teenager and I thought, oh, well, we're going to do this openly and then the kids won't, you know - it won't be such a lure to them when it becomes. And, you know, one of my daughters smokes, but I just - the whole alcohol thing, it - I mean, I think - well, I just think there's such a fine line and you can drop over that line into addiction so easily. And I just would prefer that they didn't...

CONAN: Yeah.

BARB: ...but, you know, they're adults now. I mean, they're making their own way and - anyway...

CONAN: Okay.

BARB: ...it's an interesting subject and I just...

CONAN: Barb, thanks for the conversation and we wish your daughters and perspective grandchildren good luck.

BARB: Thank you.

CONAN: All right, bye-bye.

Dr. BRAZELTON: You know, I think there's something being left out of all of this. It's not just the behavior. It's whether you can share it, whether you can share the positives, the negatives, and agree on them and feel good about the agreement and feel good about the relationship.

Amy, as you talk about this child who really tried to stop you, you were really setting yourself up to be mothered by her.

Ms. DICKINSON: Right.

Dr. BRAZELTON: And she must be...

Ms. DICKINSON: I chose well...

Dr. BRAZELTON: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: We'll have more on this after we come back from the break. If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. I'm Neal Conan; it's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're discussing parents and kids, how much mom and dad's behavior affects their children. Stay with us. Later, the Pulitzer Award-winning playwright will be with us.

Our guests are T. Berry Brazelton. He's the founder of Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Children's Hospital Boston; and a familiar voice, Amy Dickinson, who writes the syndicated column Ask Amy for The Chicago Tribune.

And we want to hear from you. How do your own behaviors affect your kids? Have you changed your act or not? 800-989-8255; e-mail is talk@npr.org. And why don't we talk with Darryl(ph). Darryl's calling us from Newport in North Carolina.

DARRYL (Caller): Hello.

CONAN: Hi, you're on the air.

DARRYL: I was interested in your subject. The only problem you haven't seemed to address is the - for the lack of a better word - village idiot, the one that throws you a curve. I have two daughters that are grown, raised in the same household, given the same example - of course, my wife and I have tried to raise them alike or treat them separately...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

DARRYL: ...or the same. The first child is - for lack of a better word - the perfect child. You know, she always went to - got good grades in school and everything and then came the teenager from Hell and for - you know, to coin a phrase. And, thankfully, since she's hit adulthood, it kind of seems to be one of the - you know, like Mark Twain said, when I was 14, my father was the dumbest thing on the face of the earth. I was amazed at how much the old goat had learned in seven years.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DARRYL: And my youngest is seeming to come around and maturing or - but just giving a good example and, you know, trying to teach them right doesn't always work.

CONAN: Individual variation, Dr. Brazelton.

Dr. BRAZELTON: I'll say. But it's intriguing to me about what he says is, how different kids slot themselves: how can two children learn so quickly to be so different? And in a way, they're getting a different side of each parent as a result of that. And this rebellious, difficult kid from Hell is really showing now that I've been learning some spunk and I've been learning how to deal with the two of you. And now, I'm ready to change back and now I can be what you want me to be.

CONAN: So the parental behaviors didn't necessarily change, but the kid's reaction to them did?

Dr. BRAZELTON: Yeah.

Ms. DICKINSON: But, you know, I - characterizing as perfect and the other as the village idiot might be part of the issue here. Because it's like parents -I grew up in a big family - and it's like Dr. Brazelton says, we each had a little part to play. I was the, you know, know-it-all one with personality...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DICKINSON: ...but my sister got to be the pretty one. You know, but all of the roles we played were positive. No one had to be bad in order to assert their own personhood. And it sounds like it would be really hard to be the second child after the perfect daughter. And in order to assert your own autonomy and to even be seen and noticed and heard...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DICKINSON: ...you might have to be really independent and maybe even do some naughty, you know, naughty things. Sometimes, when I look at little kids and they're being naughty, you know, in ways that we parents think are naughty, I think, well, look, that is a spirited child. You know, sometimes it's just the way you see the behavior and the way you talk about the behavior and the way you think about the behavior. So...

DARRYL: Spirited is one thing, but juvenile court is another.

Ms. DICKINSON: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DICKINSON: Right.

CONAN: Darryl...

Dr. BRAZELTON: She sure got your attention.

DARRYL: Oh, she definitely did that...

Dr. BRAZELTON: Right.

DARRYL: ...but the point I was trying to make was, you know, she wanted to -she was the homemaker. The older one was the adventurous one...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

DARRYL: ...she was into sports and she liked to go camping and things of this nature. And she was more daddy's girl. My youngest was more mommy's girl. And, you know, and that - she was just - you know, that was just the way they decided to - and there's nothing wrong with that. But she got to a certain point, and like you said, rebellious teenager, and she went off - took a hard left.

Ms. DICKINSON: But Darryl brings up a great point, because it's the role of temperament and how any of us with more than one child, you know, we all notice how different our various children are. And I think that we parents really do need to adjust our parenting style for the temperament of the child we're dealing with.

CONAN: Darryl...

Dr. BRAZELTON: Amy, I love your saying - and not label them with negative labels...

Ms. DICKINSON: Mm-hmm.

Dr. BRAZELTON: ...if you do, you're asking for that kind of behavior right back. The second you think of a child as difficult or from Hell, they're going to live up to that.

CONAN: Darryl, we wish both of your daughters well.

Ms. DICKINSON: Yes.

DARRYL: Well, she kind of got that moniker after the fact.

Ms. DICKINSON: Right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Yeah, okay. Thanks very much for calling, Darryl.

DARRYL: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let me ask about the influence, though, of positive behaviors. If, you know, the fact that we smoke rather than we say don't smoke, that has a large effect on our kids because they do watch us. Does the fact that we exercise regularly or the fact that we do watch our diets or the fact that we pay the bills on time, does that have an effect too, do you think, Amy?

Ms. DICKINSON: I do, actually, but you know how when people are talking about how to lose weight and they always say the same thing: I hate it. They always say you have to exercise and diet; you can't just diet, you can't just exercise. It's the same with parenting. You can't just model, you also have to talk. And, as I say, it's not just one conversation, it's a million. So if you want your child to be, for instance, a respectful driver, not only must you not be a road rager, which is a terrible, terrible, dangerous practice...

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DICKINSON: ...and a terrible way to be in front of your kids, but then you also have to talk to them about road rage. And you have to have conversations about, you know, what do you do if somebody's raging against you. You know, you have to kind of - your whole goal - your whole goal is for them to leave you, right?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DICKINSON: And I have an older child, so my goal is for her to leave me in good shape so that she's autonomous and can make her own choices.

Dr. BRAZELTON: One thing I'd add, Amy, is - to your excellent advice, is listen...

Ms. DICKINSON: Right.

Dr. BRAZELTON: ...and ask the child what they think, what they're worried about. You know, this child from Hell, had you listened to her, she might say, you know, nobody pays any attention to me unless I really act out - and she might not, but she might.

Ms. DICKINSON: You know, I - it's funny, Dr. Brazelton, I was asking my daughter before I came on the show, I said, what do you think makes for good parenting, in terms of being a good example, and that's exactly what she said. She didn't say tell us what to do. She didn't say show us what to do. She said listen...

Dr. BRAZELTON: That's right.

Ms. DICKINSON: Listen to us and respect us.

CONAN: Well, let's listen to Karen(ph). And Karen's calling us from Des Moines in Iowa.

KAREN (Caller): Yes, I would like to offer encouragement for people who grew up in families with less than stellar role models. I think I am what some people would call a resilient - one of those resilient kids who actually made a decision early in life. Somehow I had the ability to look at my parents and view them as people who were positive in some ways and not so positive in others. And I made a decision and was fortunate to marry someone whose values supported mine and who was supportive of my desire to be a different kind of parent than I had grown up with.

When I modeled for my kids, and my husband and I modeled for our kids, it was like we decided what we wanted in five years from now and would the decision that we would make about whether the kids could do this or that or be this or that, would this decision contribute to the view that we had of our children, who are now in their 30s?

So I just want to encourage people who might be sitting out there saying, oh gosh, my parents have provided awful role models and, therefore, you know, I will follow somehow naturally in their path.

CONAN: Yeah, we fear we become our parents.

KAREN: Yes, don't we all? And so I just want to tell people - in fact, I read baby books. I read child development books. Although, I had no training in that background, I was so tuned in to wanting to be a different kind of parent. So I think that one is capable of choosing the opposite or some blend of in between.

CONAN: Yeah, conscious change, Amy.

Ms. DICKINSON: I love that. In fact, your story is like a miracle. I love it, because you haven't just turned it around in your own life, you've no doubt raised children who are going to be excellent parents, great citizens, and what an accomplishment.

KAREN (Caller): Well, and those children - I am so grateful. You know, as soon as they went off to college - the first one went off to college and he came home at Thanksgiving and said, mom and dad, now I've had a chance to really live with people who've got, you know, problems and different ways of doing things, and I want to thank you for all of the stern - no, you can't have a car and you can't do this and whatever. He said it was just a real gift. So they were generous with us as parents, as well.

Dr. BRAZELTON: I think we learned this after 9/11, we went to New York every week afterward - we'd come from Boston - but we went down there and parents were absolutely knocked for a loop. They didn't know what to tell their children. And the one thing we could promise them was that if they could give their kids resilience, they could face anything we have to face in the future. And we all need to think about that today. We have a really tough future ahead for our children, and resilience is probably the greatest gift we can give them.

KAREN: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Karen, thanks very much for the call. Let's talk with - this is Maxine. Maxine calling from Redwood City in California.

MAXINE: Hi, it's such an honor to speak with Dr. Brazelton. I read his books and I give them to every new parent I encounter these days.

Dr. BRAZELTON: Great.

MAXINE: I just had a little story. My daughter got me to quit smoking for the second time when she was six years old. I had recently separated from my husband and I had custody and she caught me one morning - she had just gone through the D.A.R.E. program and she caught me one morning as I was finishing my morning cigarette, blowing it out the front door. She looks up at me with her big brown eyes and says, mommy, if you don't quit smoking, you'll get sick and die. And then I'll have to live with daddy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MAXINE: After I picked myself off the floor from laughing, I promised her to quit smoking that New Years and I did. And I haven't smoked since.

Dr. BRAZELTON: Isn't that wonderful? I love it when kids nurture their parents. You know, that's what she was doing to you. She was playing the mommy role to you.

MAXINE: Which she still does occasionally.

Dr. BRAZELTON: That's wonderful.

CONAN: I did see a few flashes of guilt go across Amy Dickinson's face as she remembered sneaking cigarettes.

Ms. DICKINSON: Blowing smoke out the window, yes. Oh, yes.

MAXINE: Yeah. Well, the one thing I'm real happy about is she does not smoke.

Ms. DICKINSON: Yay!

CONAN: All right. Maxine, thanks very much for the call and congratulations.

MAXINE: Bye-bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye. We're talking with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, the founder of Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Children's Hospital in Boston. And with syndicated columnist Amy Dickinson, who writes the column Ask Amy. If you'd like to join us our number is 800-989-8255. Email is talk@npr.org. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

And as we look at this ability to affect our children's behavior, Amy you were saying this is a daily incident. It's not something you can change in everyday. Yet, a lot of people find this is a burden, that they're being help up as an example everyday and find it extremely difficult.

Ms. DICKINSON: Well, and, you know, you don't have to be perfect, but, you know that whole What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas?

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DICKINSON: What happens at home doesn't stay at home. Unfortunately, there are repercussions for your actions. And it shouldn't be a question of having to be perfect, because actually - and Dr. Brazelton touched on this, after 9/11 -I think it's okay to show your kids that you don't always have the answers, that you don't always - you're not always certain.

My daughter's seen me go through more job things, ups and downs, and I don't, you know, expose her to all of my anxieties, but I don't necessarily hide the ups and downs, vicissitudes of life. I mean, that's part of her life, as well.

CONAN: So, Dr. Brazelton, should parents show their children at least a glimpse of their demons?

Dr. BRAZELTON: Absolutely. I think, you know - first of all, I think parenting - you don't learn to parent by being perfect, you learn from making mistakes and each mistake you learn from. You go back and try something else and try something else and finally it works. If it doesn't work, maybe the kid tells you. Hey, that's not working, mom. Let's do something else. And that is real learning.

It's not only learning for the parent, but it's learning for the child. And I think what Amy's talking about is that when she went through these downs, the child could participate with her. Feel good just like she did when she came out of them, and even feel a role in the fact that they'd both come out of them together. Isn't that wonderful?

Ms. DICKINSON: Yeah, and actually when I'd gotten this most recent job, we had to move. And I had to ask a fourteen-year-old entering ninth grade to please put the cat in a van and drive across the country and move to a city where we knew not a soul. And because she had something of a stake in how things went for our family, she did that.

CONAN: Hmm. Here's an e-mail we got from Andy.

(Reading) "My wife and I have two daughters, ages 9 and 11, and like one of your callers almost all social situations, especially family parties, involve social drinking. My wife even has her girlfriends and their children over one or two times a week to chat and drink wine. To me this seems quite harmless and somewhat normal, as my wife and I grew up with parents who always had their cocktail hour promptly at 6 p.m. Even though we do drink in front of our children, aren't there stronger family values that ultimately determine a child's personality?"

Dr. Brazelton, what do you think?

Dr. BRAZELTON: Absolutely. Thank goodness. My children grew up in a house where we have our cocktail at 6:30 everyday. And they all have gone to AA, they've gone to Children of Alcoholics, but none of them drink. It's really so irritating to have four children that won't drink with you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

So, you know, you aren't really passing this on. You're really just giving them a model to take or not take. And this is the beauty of it and this is what Amy's been talking about. That sometimes when these kids turn against the model, they're learning more than when they go ahead and model on you.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And the fact of the matter is - and, Amy, you know this well if you're daughter's 17 - after awhile, their models are not just their parents, but their siblings, their teachers, their camp counselors...

Ms. DICKINSON: And their friends. I mean, we had better hope that other parents are doing as good a job as we're trying to do, because our children - older teens are very influenced by their friends. And one of the things we do at home, if, you know - those of us who are trying to be thoughtful about it - is we try to model great friendship behavior and great relationship behavior. And it doesn't mean that you pick your children's friends, but it means that you -one thing I like about having your friends and their kids over to drink wine is that your kids are seeing that you have friends. I love that. That's great.

CONAN: Thanks to you both. I guess this is part 78,000 of a never-ending conversation about nurture and nature and how to raise children. That was Amy Dickinson, who was here with us in studio 3A today. Nice to see you back in Washington, Amy.

Ms. DICKINSON: Thanks.

CONAN: She's the author of the Ask Amy column, syndicated by the Chicago Tribune. And our thanks too to Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, founder of Brazelton Touchpoints Center at Children's Hospital in Boston, who joined us today from the studios of our member station there, WBUR. Appreciate your time today, Dr.

Dr. BRAZELTON: Thanks, Neal. Great to talk to you. And thanks, Amy. It's wonderful to hear your voice.

Ms. DICKINSON: Same here.

CONAN: When we come back from a short break: award-winning playwright behind Angels in America, the movie Munich, and the musical Caroline or Change. Tony Kushner joins us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

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