How to be a good parent?

Good parent

Being a parent is one of the most rewarding yet challenging jobs in the world. While no one is perfect, there are many things we can do to become the best parents we can be and support our children’s healthy development. In this article, we will discuss research-backed parenting strategies from psychologists, pediatricians, and child development experts that can help us become more effective parents.

1. Boost your child’s self-esteem

A child’s self-esteem begins to develop from a very young age based on how they see themselves through their parents’ eyes.[^1] According to a study conducted by the Eric Educational Resources Information Center, parents who use positive reinforcement techniques are more likely to have children with better behavior than those who use punishment.

A study published in the National Library of Medicine suggests that parental warmth and support are positively associated with children’s mental health. How we communicate with our children, both verbally and non-verbally through our tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language has a significant impact on how they view themselves.

Praising accomplishments, however small, will help children feel capable and proud of themselves. Allowing children opportunities to complete tasks independently builds confidence and self-reliance. On the other hand, belittling comments or favorably comparing one child over another damages self-esteem. Avoid blaming, shaming, or name-calling your child which can cause psychological harm.

Choose your words carefully. Be compassionate and let your children know you love them unconditionally, even when you want to see an improvement in their behavior. Positive reinforcement through encouragement and compliments can “grow” behaviors you want to see more of in your children.

2. Catch kids being good

While it’s necessary to address misbehavior, parents tend to focus more on what children are doing wrong rather than what they’re doing right. However, the research highlighted above shows that children whose parents praise and acknowledge good behavior are more likely to exhibit that behavior again.

Make an effort to notice something you appreciate about your child’s actions or character every day. Specific compliments like “I loved how patient you were waiting your turn” or “You were so kind helping your sister with her toys” reinforce the traits you want to see in your children. Catching kids doing something right, even minor things builds self-esteem and fosters good behavior long-term.

3. Set limits and be consistent

Children thrive with structure and boundaries that help them understand expectations and develop self-control. While rules differ based on each family’s values, some basic guidelines like no physical violence, respectful language, and treating others with kindness apply to all households. Communicate clearly what behaviors are acceptable in your home through household rules.

Consistency is key – children learn what they can “get away with” based on how consistently parents follow through with consequences when rules are broken. A 2004 research paper from the University of Leicester comparing parental discipline styles found children whose parents practiced consistent discipline exhibited better conduct long-term compared to those with unpredictable or inconsistent consequences.

If you provide timeouts, take away privileges like screen time, or ground children from activities, make sure to enforce the same for similar behavior each time to avoid confusion. Being consistent and sticking to your word builds trust in the parent-child relationship.

4. Make time for your kids

While quality time seems like a buzzword, research shows it’s one of the most important things we can offer our children. A meta-analysis published in the National Library of Medicine found parental involvement in activities like family meals and conversations was associated with better child well-being and development. Children with engaged parents demonstrate better social skills, grades, and self-confidence compared to children who feel neglected.

Finding opportunities to make meaningful connections with our kids, even in brief moments, can have lasting positive effects. Schedule daily one-on-one activities your child picks where distractions are limited. Morning and bedtime routines, walking together after dinner, or just talking with your full attention make big impacts on children and their behavior long-term. Quality trumps quantity – focus on engaged listening rather than screen or phone preoccupation during bonding time.

5. Be a good role model

Children observe and emulate behaviors in their homes starting from a very early age. How parents resolve conflicts, treat each other, talk to others, and handle anger and stress all influence children’s social development and character. Even simple daily habits like saying please and thank you, putting away toys, and being respectful shape social skills kids will use in school and beyond.

Model the traits you want to see in your child by consistently demonstrating them yourself. Treat your kids with the kindness and respect you want them to show to others. Be conscious of language and behaviors you don’t want your kids to copy, and try to curb behaviors that could confuse children as they’re learning how to interact socially.

6. Make communication a priority

Children are constantly evolving and learning, and what they need from parents changes as they grow. To establish open communication channels, make time each day to engage, even if briefly, whether over meals, during routines, or on walks outside. Active listening is important – maintain eye contact, ask open-ended questions, and reflect back on what your child shares without judgment to understand their perspective fully. This nurtures secure bonds where kids are comfortable coming to you any time for help or just to talk.

When challenges arise, have calm discussions explaining issues respectfully. Get on a child’s level by kneeling or sitting next to help them feel heard and understood. Let them have input in solutions, even if minor, so they feel empowered over their choices and consequences. Good communication leads to cooperation long-term.

7. Know your own needs and limitations

All parents have strengths and areas needing improvement. Admitting weaknesses, such as difficulty with consistency or expressing patience, allows focusing efforts where children need the most guidance. Give yourself permission to learn from mistakes without harsh self-judgment which helps prevent resentment towards children.

Recognize when stress or burnout could affect your reactions and recharge through personal care activities. Teach kids to handle frustration using activities for self-calming like deep breaths, movement of choice, or quiet activities until big emotions settle. Let kids help problem-solve challenges together respectfully to strengthen bonds.

Everyone struggles at times – what’s most important is that parents are emotionally available, listening without judgment, and loving unconditionally. With this foundation, addressing specific issues like overscheduling, picky eating, or tantrums can be tackled gradually over time through team cooperation.

8. Foster your child’s independence

As children grow, independence levels increase gradually through opportunities to master tasks, gain life skills, make choices, solve problems independently with guidance instead of rescue, and take responsibility for actions. This boosts self-esteem by being capable. However, risks must match development to avoid discouragement – guide rather than intervene at each stage.

Pushing a toddler to feed themselves may backfire, for example, but providing finger foods and utensils is suited to help autonomy. Limited choices boost empowerment even for preschoolers like two outfits offered to pick from, or what book to read. Ask open-ended questions instead of yes/no inquiries, and validate feelings while limiting demands so children feel heard and understood during emotional development stages.

Independence leads to responsibility in the form of reasonable chores suited for their age group. However, coercing work to earn approval harms well-being long-term and undermines intrinsic motivation. Kindness always outperforms strictness, and divided attention affirms children that they’re loved as individuals rather than primarily as an extension of their parent’s desires.

9. Teach gratitude daily

From a young age, make expressing thanks part of regular routines. Meal grace is traditional but can be modified to kids’ participation levels, like going around sharing one good thing to be thankful for with each turn of speech. Providing examples and prompting gets them started, and then gratitude habits stick through modeling appreciation for others.

Teach by thanking people in front of children by name for specific favors or qualities. Point out generosity in books and acts of service to spread appreciation. Be sure to validate gratitude with actions at times, not just words to show appreciation means more than verbalizing thanks. Promoting gratitude reduces entitlement and social ills like bullying while raising happy, resilient kids.

10. Spend quality time in nature

As highlighted in a study published by the National Library of Medicine, outdoor activities boost child development, especially when families enjoy nature and play together daily. Simply getting fresh air and exposure to natural settings improve children’s behavior and focus, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children love exploring outdoors, and playtime in nature fosters creativity, and problem-solving, and lowers stress levels.

Activities can be as simple as a nature walk together pointing out discoveries, a picnic where kids collect treasures in jars to document experiences, gardening or caring for outdoor pets together or playing at the playground in your neighborhood. Prioritizing time in green spaces provides grounding for busy families when the pace of daily life feels overwhelming. It can even nourish empathy for animals and respect for the environment instilled from a young age.

Leading by example of healthy relationships

Model behaviors through how you treat your partner:

  • Resolve disagreements respectfully and avoid conflict spilling over to anger around children.
  • Share responsibilities fairly to teach gender equality and cooperation versus resentment.
  • Express affection regularly so children see intimacy modeled positively and learn relationship skills.
  • Admit when you’re wrong and forgive each other’s flaws to set an example of emotional maturity.
  • Balance work and family so kids learn self-worth comes from character, not achievements or possessions.
  • Spend solo time with your partner regularly as children see security in parents’ solid bond long term.

Wrapping up

Being a good parent starts with creating an emotionally safe and nurturing environment for children to grow in. But it also requires learning about child development, adapting expectations, providing guidance consistently, and modeling strong relationships ourselves. Our efforts impact little people enormously as they become Big people with each loving lesson learned along the way.

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