Jean McPhee, a Ph.D. and child and adolescent psychologist, is here today to share some of the latest research on successful parenting techniques, providing us with 7 Proven Tips For Better Parenting.
In a recent article published by the American Psychological Association, the opinions of many leading experts in child psychology were collected to present the latest thinking on “Parenting that Works.”
The following tips for parents, grandparents and childcare providers were included:
1. Embrace Praise
When you pay attention to a behavior (desired or undesired), a child will likely increase that behavior. The more you nag, reprimand and punish a child for negative behavior, the more likely you are not going to get the behavior you want. More effective ways to change behavior are:
- Model the behavior yourself
- Encourage the behavior
- Reinforce the positive behavior with a smile or friendly touch
- Praise the behavior (or anything close to it) whenever you see it
- Be specific – such as, “I really liked how quickly you came to the table.”
2. Look the Other Way
Learn to ignore minor misbehaviors. When parents ignore annoying but less offensive behavior, children learn to get attention in more positive ways. For example:
- Ignore begging and pay a lot of attention when children ask nicely
- Ignore minor spats between siblings and praise when they get along well
3. Learn about Child Development
To be a more effective parent, read up on child development or take a parenting class to understand the misbehaviors that are common for each developmental stage. Before you reprimand a young child who makes a mess while eating, understand that your child may be simply learning a new skill. This will help you to have more realistic expectations of his behavior, and you will be less frustrated and angry. Parenting classes also provide great relief when you realize many other parents struggle with the same problems.
4. Do Time-out “Right”
Thirty years of research on the Time Out for bad behavior technique shows that it works best when:
- Time outs are brief
- They happen immediately following the offense
- Parents remain calm
- There is no restraint of the child
- Parents praise the child for compliance
According to Alan Kazdin, Ph.D. of Yale, “If what is happening seems more like a fight in a bar, the parent is reinforcing inappropriate behaviors.”
5. Prevent Misbehavior
Plan ahead to prevent challenging behaviors. Many parenting programs instruct parents to:
- Prepare children for the demands of the situation
- Help children stay busy and active when they might otherwise be bored or disruptive
- Have reasonable expectations and consider their needs
- Teach children ways to cope when they are unhappy
6. Take Care of Yourself First
The message about the use of oxygen masks in an emergency situation on a plane is clear; you must first put on your own before you help your child. According to David Palmiter, Ph.D., author of “Working Parents, Thriving Families,” in many households the oxygen masks have long dropped off the parents and all the oxygen is going to the children. Years of research make it clear that children are negatively affected by their parents’ stress. One study even found the imprint of parental stress on the children’s genes.
Parents are the most powerful role models for their children. It’s important to model self-care as a powerful coping strategy to stress. While many parents say that have no time for themselves, parenting experts advise that you will be a more effective parent when you make time to take care of yourself, including time for exercise, hobbies, friends and connecting with your partner.
7. Make Time for Your Children
For many families, daily demands intrude into life so much that one-on-one time with our children is the time left over after other obligations have been met. Trying to manage, parents often multi-task – texting or checking email while attempting to spend time with their children. It’s just not the same and it will have a negative impact on the children who need regular doses of undivided attention.
Consider these tips to help build a strong, secure relationship with your child:
- Spend at least one hour a week (all at once or in segments) with each child doing an activity that your child enjoys and can be praised for, such as shooting baskets or building with Legos
- During that time, avoid teaching or correcting
- Provide support, encouragement, praise and appreciate your child’s uniqueness
Studies have shown that when parents demonstrate love for their child through nurturing behavior and support, it improves a child’s brain development. Research shows a significantly larger hippocampus, a brain component that plays a key role in cognition. This is further evidence of the most important gift from parent to child: unconditional love.
Written by Jean McPhee, a Ph.D. and child and adolescent psychologist.