Parenting decisions are among your most important choices. Parents shape the adults their children become and influence the lives they lead, the quality of their adult relationships and how they raise their own children. Effective parenting requires serious thought. Study developmental stages and theories. Compare different parenting philosophies and techniques. Consider your own upbringing, why parenting techniques worked or didn't work and how they made you feel. Contemplate the characteristics of the adult you'd like to raise, then reverse engineer to identify parenting techniques most likely to develop those qualities. Guide your child to a fulfilled, healthy adulthood with effective techniques.
1. Cultivate and Teach Communication Skills
Communication is the foundation of effective parenting, according to the University of Michigan Health Center. Using clear, specific language to relay expectations and directives improves results. Consider the difference between “clean your room” and “make your bed, pick up dirty clothes, and put toys away.” Strive for productive communication, using voice tones and words that encourage positive action or change, like completing a task or improving behavior. Non-productive communication -- like name-calling and threatening -- is destructive, derailing problem-solving and damaging relationships. Communication is more than speaking. There's also non-verbal communication, including touch, eye contact, gestures and body language. Teach communication skills to your child by consistently using them and by helping your child to use these skills to better express himself.
2. Remember the Other Half of the Communication Equation
Listening is essential to communication. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension advises parents to use active listening techniques. Active listening uses verbal and non-verbal cues to signal listening and interest, like leaning slightly toward the speaker and asking contextual questions. Construct questions to avoid sounding judgmental or like you're seeking evidence of wrongdoing. Restating is another important active listening technique. The listener uses his own words to restate what the speaker said. The speaker can then confirm or correct the restatement. This ensures the listener understood what the speaker intended to express -- a practical start to solving existing problems and avoiding new conflict.
3. Think Discipline, Not Punishment
Discipline and punishment are words often -- and mistakenly -- used interchangeably. The two have very different connotations, as their Latin roots demonstrate. Punishment comes from a Latin word meaning penalty, whereas the root of discipline relates to instruction. Punishment makes children pay for bad behavior. Behavioral change, positive or negative, may result, but from a desire to avoid punishment instead of intellectual or moral growth. The 16th Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri, correctly identifies this as external control, falling short of the real goal: internal control of behavior. Discipline teaches, presenting children with clear choices and closely corresponding consequences. Internal control develops through experiencing the logical results of self-chosen action or inaction. Discipline is more reflective of what parenting is. In essence, parents are guides, teachers instructing children how to successfully function as independent adults, achieving happiness and fulfillment. So, when correction is needed, think discipline, not punishment.
4. Be Fair and Consistent
Expectations and consequences should be fair and applied in a consistent manner. If not, confusion regarding expectations and unnecessary conflict result. For example, handing a fussy toddler a cellphone to keep them quiet in the grocery line, then later scolding the toddler for taking it from the coffee table and playing with it is not fair. Yet, many parents engage in similar inconsistencies, and both parents and children feel frustrated by the problems that result. Fair expectations are based on what children are developmentally capable of. Consequences should be age-appropriate and a fair fit for the circumstances; otherwise, they become counterproductive, producing anger and resentment instead of learning and growth.
- Child Development Institute, Positive Parenting: Parenting 101 – Tips For Parents
- Child Welfare League of America: Child, Youth and Family Development, Discipline Techniques
- University of Michigan Health System, Parenting Resources: What is the Basis for Good Parenting? Communication!
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: Discipline
- University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension: Active Listening: A Communication Tool
- Oxford Dictionaries: Punish
- Oxford Dictionaries: Discipline
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