As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Relying on family and friends for support as you embark on the parenting 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.
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
- 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. 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.
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. 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 help 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, responsibility, and thoughtful decision-making.
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, learning to recognize 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 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 a baby, child, or adolescent, 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.
What is the best parenting advice you've ever received?
According to one study, one of the best pieces of parenting advice could be to ensure that you and your partner are getting enough food. Studies show that married couples experienced more aggression when they had lower glucose levels, a state that is often associated with hunger. While your child must be adequately fed, it can be beneficial to remember that your own food needs are also crucial. If you are experiencing relationship challenges and haven’t been eating properly, the resulting parental conflict may make it more challenging to care for your child.
What are the 4 C's of good parenting?
According to Grand Canyon University, the 4 Cs of parenting are:
- Care: Caring parents accept their children for who they are and support them as they develop a strong sense of independence. They also praise their children for their accomplishments and show them physical signs of affection, which may help them improve their self-esteem.
- Consistency: Consistent parents create a fair and predictable set of rules for their children to follow. They also maintain a stable environment for their children to grow in and give them consistent support during times of achievement or struggle.
- Choices: Children who are allowed to make their own choices (when appropriate) can develop a strong sense of autonomy. This can make them more likely to explore their passions and interests, which may help them lead more successful adult lives.
- Consequences: Parents who create appropriate consequences for their children’s actions can help them to understand the effect their actions have on themselves and the world around them.
What are the 3 Ts of parenting?
The three T’s of parenting —Tune In, Talk More, and Take Turns — are techniques that may help a child’s development.
- Tune In: Actively listen and participate when engaged in an activity with your child. Stay present and in the moment, making sure to give your child your undivided attention.
- Talk More: Even if your child hasn’t developed the ability to speak, it may be helpful to talk around and to them frequently. Use a variety of words and show them the objects that correspond to them, as this can help them form accurate associations as they develop.
- Take Turns: Converse with your child and allow them to respond, even if they are only capable of making sounds or forming single-word sentences.
What advice to give a parent?
If you are someone with parenting experience and you decide to give advice to another parent, it may be best to tell stories or situations you have personally been through. If you aren’t a parent but still want to encourage and support a loved one who does have children, it may be helpful to read books written by experts in the field of parenting and discuss what you have learned. In addition, if your loved one is struggling with the challenges of parenting, it could be beneficial to recommend they talk to a professional. Depending on the nature of the problem, this professional may be a medical doctor, like a pediatrician, or a mental health professional, like a family therapist.
What are the 5 positive parenting?
According to UC Davis Health, the five positive parenting skills are praise, reflection, imitation, description, and enjoyment.
- Praise: Praise involves showing your approval through positive statements in order to encourage your children and increase their self-esteem.
- Reflection: During conversations with your child, you may want to repeat back the words they say, elaborate on the concepts they highlighted, and encourage them to speak further. In the process, you may help them further develop their speech skills.
- Imitation: Mimicking or imitating your child can not only be a fun activity, but it can also help them to understand their own actions and potentially improve their socialization skills.
- Description: Describing what your child is doing can be beneficial to their attention spans and help them understand new concepts. For example, if your child is drawing a circle, telling them they are drawing a circle may improve their understanding of shapes.
- Enjoyment: Expressing a sincere warmth toward your child can strengthen your bond. It may also show them the benefits of a positive attitude, which may further improve their ability to socialize later on.
What are the 4 D's of parenting?
The 4 D’s of parenting — directive, duration, discipline, and disengage — can refer to a parenting strategy that may be recommended in multisystemic therapy to deal with youth behavioral challenges.
- Directive: Ensure that you give your child clear and concise instructions.
- Duration: Set distinct time limits for tasks and consequences.
- Discipline: Establish what disciplinary action will occur if a task isn’t completed; doing so ahead of time can help maintain consistency.
- Disengage: After you’ve communicated the point of the conversation (i.e. establishing the directive, duration, and discipline), leave and allow your child to begin.
What are the two best pieces of advice your parents gave you?
While parental advice is individualized and may vary, two common pieces of advice that parents may give are “Be honest and communicate with your children” and “Make sure to be a good role model.”
Honest and open communication can help your children develop a trusting bond with you; this may increase the odds they will come to you with their problems and discuss sensitive topics comfortably. Being a good role model, on the other hand, can help show your children the types of behavior you want them to exhibit. This may allow them to have better academic, social, and relationship success in the future.
What is the most successful parenting approach?
Research has shown that an authoritative style can be the most successful and effective parenting approach. Authoritative styles have been associated with numerous benefits, including a better sense of resilience, optimism, self-esteem, maturity, and self-reliance. An authoritative parenting style may also lead a child to perform better academically. In addition, the child of two positive authoritative parents was shown to have lower levels of conduct and behavioral challenges.
What is the biggest challenge as a parent?
Five of the biggest challenges that parents experience may include:
- Misinformation: There is a significant amount of misinformation on the internet related to parenting. False or misleading articles about different techniques or developmental stages can lead parents to make mistakes with their children, which may negatively influence a child’s physical or mental health.
- Potty Training: Making sure your child is potty trained can be one of the most challenging milestones to reach as a parent. Understanding when your child is physically developed enough for potty training, teaching them how to use the toilet safely, and helping them through bathroom anxiety are all struggles that can make the process more difficult.
- Balancing Work and Home Life: Maintaining productivity and good standing at work can be difficult for parents, especially those who have a newborn or infant. It can take time to balance the responsibilities a parent may have to their family (taking care of their children, participating in housework, and maintaining their relationship with their significant other) with their work responsibilities.
- Sleep Struggles: Sleep can be a challenge for both parents and children alike. Parents, particularly those with a baby or toddler, may find it difficult to sleep due to the anxiety of early parenthood. Children may also leave their bed during the night; these disordered sleep patterns can further disturb their parents’ ability to rest.
- Disrespect: For parents with older children and adolescents, dealing with anger, defiance, and disrespect can present a significant challenge. Due to the hormones released during puberty, adolescents can be prone to mood swings. This may cause conflicts at home, during which children may say emotionally charged and harmful things to their parents.
What not to do when parenting?
There are a number of mistakes one can make as a parent. These range from missteps that unintentionally harm a child’s emotions to mistakes that hinder their ability to develop in the future. Here are three mistakes you may want to avoid during parenting.
Mistake #1: Ignoring your child’s feelings
Failing to actively listen to your children or dismissing their feelings may make them less likely to open up to you in the future. By choosing to spend time acknowledging your child’s feelings, you can help them understand their emotions and deal with them in a healthy manner.
Mistake #2: Not establishing boundaries
Creating fair rules and appropriate consequences can help your child understand the boundaries that exist in the real world. While many parents wish to let their children have the freedom to do what they please, this may reduce their self-control or cause them to lose discipline in other parts of their life.
Mistake #3: Using physical punishment
A meta-analysis of over two decades of research showed that physical punishment can have a negative developmental effect on children. No study in the analysis found any enhancement to developmental health as a result of physical punishment, with many professionals supporting more effective nonviolent approaches to discipline.
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