Need Parenting Advice? Here Are Parenting Tips To Improve Your Child’s Development

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia, LCSW
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Relying on family and friends for support as you embark on the child-rearing journey is common. Looking to psychologists and experts for research-backed parenting advice can be helpful too, as can speaking with a therapist. Read on for eight tips on what works when it comes to raising a child, resources for parenting based on recent studies, and find out how a mental health professional can provide support for parents and caregivers.

Do you need guidance and advice as a parent?

1. Prioritize quality time

It can be difficult as your kids get older and life gets busier, but continuing to prioritize your relationship with your child by spending quality time with them may be key to their well-being. Children are perceptive, and they may internalize it if they notice that they always come second to your job, phone, or other priorities. 

Aiming to have meals together often is one common way to ensure you regularly connect with your family and let your kids know that they matter, especially if your children are adolescents. One study found that, when controlling for the quality of family relationships, mealtime communication was “significantly associated with higher positive affect and engagement and with lower negative affect and stress." These findings suggest that this frequent opportunity for kids to talk with their parents can benefit the emotional well-being of adolescents in particular.  

2. Establish rules and consequences

In general, children can benefit from structure and guidance. Having a caregiver clearly explain routines, house rules, and consequences can help them feel safe and supported and can guide them as they grow into healthy, caring, and responsible adults. As one academic review on the topics, effective discipline should generally be

  • given by an adult who has a significant bond with the child
  • consistent
  • perceived as “fair” by the child
  • appropriate for the child’s developmental stage and temperament
  • self-enhancing, with the aim of teaching the child self-discipline for the future

Limits and boundaries can teach kids how to make sense of the world and learn how to defend themselves and respect others. Understandable, age-appropriate rules and consequences can help prepare them to grow into well-adjusted young adults.

3. Model positive behaviors

Parenting is not easy and most parents seek tips on what makes a good parent. As mother, father, or guardian, you are typically your child’s first and most influential role model and teacher. Research shows that children naturally use imitation as a form of learning, and that it can help them “infer and reproduce the goals others strive to achieve and cognitive rules that guide others’ behaviors.” In other words, modeling good behavior and peaceful parenting can help your kids learn them, too. You can show your children what calm, compassionate conflict resolution looks, for example, by pausing for a moment to breathe instead of reacting in frustration, or by going for a brisk walk when upset. You can strive to raise grateful kids by modeling gratitude in your own life. Your child is also likely to take cues from how you treat others, so by consistently showing kindness and respect, you teach your child these positive behaviors.

4. Show them affection

It’s widely accepted that children need a nurturing environment in order to be emotionally well-adjusted during their upbringing and later in life.

Infact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that children having “safe, stable, and nurturing relationships” with caregivers can help safeguard them from a variety of mental and physical health consequences later in life, from substance use issues, depression, and eating disorders to diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

One study showed that parental warmth was an important factor in a child’s self-esteem. Showing your child physical affection like hugs and cuddles, letting them know verbally that they’re loved and appreciated, and preventing excessive stress from causing them more harm can all be beneficial for them at present and in the long term.

5. Maintain open communication

Keeping the lines of communication open with your child from a young age can have many benefits. First, one study found that children who had more conversational experiences with adults showed greater activation in the part of the brain related to verbal skill and neural language processing. 

In addition, as your kid grows, continuing to foster an environment of open communication with them and showing an interest in what they have to say can make them feel cared for. It can also provide you with the opportunity to check in on them and notice warning signs of any mental health conditions, for instance. Finally, it can help your child know that you’re there for them, and that they can come to you if they ever need help or support.

6. Focus on positivity

It’s not realistic for anyone to be positive at all times, including parents. Your child’s behavior may frustrate you from time to time, and the stresses of life may negatively impact you. However, being positive role models of healthy ways of coping with these emotions—such as deep breathing, taking a break from the situation, and practicing self-care—can help your child learn these coping mechanisms themselves. 

Determining how to discipline a child effectively can be challenging for people practicing positive parenting. However, it may be helpful to focus on positivity when it comes to discipline. Positive discipline centers on using mistakes as learning opportunities, which can teach children accountability and learn about telling right from wrong in a way that helps them grow, rather than using punishment for the sake of it. According to family science experts at the University of Missouri, positive guidance and discipline can also help promote self-control, self-reliance, responsibility, and thoughtful decision-making. 


Do you need guidance and advice as a parent?

7. Watch for signs of mental health conditions

Mental health conditions can affect children, too. Statistics show that approximately one in five children in the US has a mental health condition, but only 20% of those affected are receiving treatment. As a parent or caregiver, watching for the potential warning signs of common conditions in children can be helpful. If you notice any, you can pursue the support from a doctor and/or mental health professional that your child may need. Potential symptoms of mental illnesses in children may include:

  • Persistently feeling sad, hopeless, or anxious

  • Drastic changes to sleeping and/or eating patterns

  • Difficulty making and keeping friends

  • A sudden loss of interest in hobbies or activities

  • A sudden drop in grades or school performance

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Pulling away from friends and family

8. Demonstrate care for yourself

Parents and caregivers are human, too. Even though you’re responsible for your child’s life and well-being, you’re responsible for your own as well. Prioritizing your own well-being in this role can look like treating yourself with kindness when you make mistakes as a parent, setting appropriate boundaries and limits, and taking time to yourself to recharge and tend to your own needs. Taking these actions can also help you be a good role model for your child. As the authors of a paper about the importance of parental self-care put it, “It may be unhelpful to frame parent self-care as an addition to their to-do lists. That list is already too long, and parents are already challenged and accountable in a thousand ways. Instead, it may be important to consider self-care as a quality of action: It can be an act of love and kindness.”

How therapy can help parents and caregivers

Raising young kids can be a stressful job. For parents or caregivers who could use extra support, speaking with a therapist may be helpful. A trained mental health professional can offer you a safe space to express your emotions, problem solve, and learn healthy techniques for coping with stress such as a child’s behavior challenges or medical problems. They can also assist you in tweaking your parenting style and improving skills like communication, boundary-setting, conflict resolution, and others that can help you foster healthy family dynamics. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition, they can offer support and treatment options as well.

Whether caring for babies, children, or adolescents, parenting often entails a busy schedule. For those who don’t have time to travel to and from in-person therapy appointments, virtual therapy is another option to consider. With an online therapy service like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from anywhere you have an internet connection. While you may already know that traditional face-to-face sessions can be beneficial, recent research also shows that web-based parenting interventions such as therapy can be a cost-effective alternative.


Being the parent or caregiver of a child is no easy task and you may sometimes feel like you don’t have all the answers. Taking advice from psychology researchers and experts can be helpful, as can speaking with a therapist.
Explore the complexities of parenting in therapy
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