Parenting is one of life’s most rewarding yet challenging experiences, where the quest for perfection often overshadows the essence of the journey. Let’s explore the top 10 parenting tips supported by science to guide you through raising a child. These tips range from being a responsive and empathic guardian to understanding the significance of emotional regulation and the parent-child relationship.
How to be a good parent?
To be a good parent, strive to make decisions in your child’s best interest.
Being a good parent doesn’t mean being a perfect parent. No parent is perfect. No child is perfect, either. Striving for “perfect” parenting sets you and your child up for disappointment.
Love, connection, understanding, and enjoying the journey are the most important things. Both you and your child are learning and growing together, and embracing imperfection paves the way for a more joyful and fulfilling experience.
What are good parenting tips?
Here are the top 10 parenting tips supported by research to help guide your parenting strategies.
1. Be a responsive parent
Substantial research has been conducted on the effects of parenting styles on child development. Studies found that warm and responsive parenting in early childhood can help children develop a secure attachment, laying the foundation for the child’s social competence, emotional well-being, and physical health.
The attachment theory developed by psychiatrist John Bowlby and psychologist Mary Ainsworth suggests that securely attached children tend to have a positive self-image and view of others. This positive perspective allows children to develop trust, self-esteem, emotional regulation, empathy, and resilience, which are essential for a healthy and successful life ahead.1
Here are ways to be responsive to your child’s emotional needs.
- Be warm and kind: Even if you have high expectations for your child, you can be kind and firm.
- Validate their emotional experience: Acknowledge, rather than dismiss, their feelings.
- Emotion-coach: Teach your child to recognize and name their feelings.
- Attune and co-regulate: Help them calm down when upset.
2. Help your child develop emotional regulation
Emotional regulation is a crucial skill that supports a child’s well-being in many ways:
- Boosts self-esteem and confidence: Children who manage emotions feel capable and have higher self-esteem.
- Fosters healthy relationships: Children interact positively and show empathy.
- Develops empathy and compassion: Children who recognize and understand their own emotions can better identify emotions in others. This builds empathy as they realize other people have feelings, too.
- Improves academic success: Children can focus and handle challenges like test anxiety.
- Enhances problem-solving and decision-making: Children can choose more rationally between decision-making options.
- Promotes mental health: Children cope better with stress and are more resilient.
- Prevents risky behaviors: Children make healthier choices and less impulsive acts.
- Helps physical health: Children are healthier.
3. Prioritize parent-child relationship
The parent-child relationship is a critical aspect that often gets overlooked amidst the hustle of daily life. It’s easy to focus on obedience, discipline, and academic achievements and forget that the heart of parenting is building a loving, trusting relationship.
The Harvard Grant Study, a groundbreaking research started in 1938, followed 268 male Harvard undergraduates, including notable figures like John F. Kennedy, over seventy years. This extensive study recorded their physical and emotional health, successes, and failures.
The findings were compelling – the key to a happy, successful life lies in strong, healthy family relationships. Researchers found that a nurturing and accepting childhood was a significant predictor of adult achievements, overall well-being, and life satisfaction.2
A strong bond with your child isn’t at odds with teaching discipline; it reinforces it.
Discipline is about guiding and nurturing prosocial behavior, not about being strict or harsh. A positive, supportive relationship with your child is a powerful tool in fostering good behavior, not a hindrance.
Prioritizing your relationship allows you to raise a child who respects you and genuinely loves and connects with you.
4. Use kind and firm inductive discipline
Discipline your child by setting clear boundaries, explaining the reasons behind rules, discovering the reasons behind misbehavior, and allowing safe, natural consequences. By being kind and firm and guiding your child to understand the consequences of their actions, you help them learn self-discipline and responsibility without hurting the relationship.
Multiple studies have found the benefits and effectiveness of inductive discipline. For instance, a 2013 study published in Developmental Psychology showed that children with mothers who used inductive discipline had fewer behavioral problems than those who didn’t.3
5. Be consistent
Establish clear and age-appropriate rules and explain why these rules matter. Enforce them consistently with warmth and firmness. Consistency helps children understand what’s expected, builds trust, and teaches them about cause and effect.
6. Support autonomy
An autonomy-supportive parent nurtures intrinsic motivation in children.
According to the self-determination theory proposed by Deci and Ryan in the 1970s, autonomy is one of humans’ three fundamental psychological needs. The theory suggests that allowing children to make choices within safe boundaries can foster intrinsic motivation, a sense of ownership in their decisions, and internalization of values.
According to a longitudinal study published in the Journal of Personality in 2005, autonomy support is associated with better academic achievement and social adjustment in children.4
Another study by Ghent University in 2015 found that parents supporting autonomy was associated with better emotional regulation, increased self-esteem, and decreased depressive symptoms in children.5
Furthermore, providing children with autonomy allows them to develop independence over time.
7. Pick your battle
Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s impossible to correct every behavior. Focus on the issues that truly matter for your child’s safety, health, and values. Let minor frustrations slide. This reduces tension and builds a stronger parent-child bond.
In addition, not achieving immediate results in behavior change doesn’t imply that your child will never learn the desired behavior. Change takes time and consistency. Like learning to write or ride a bike, mastering new behaviors takes practice and patience.
Every interaction, whether guiding or problem-solving together, is a lesson for your child to absorb. Your patience and understanding nurture their trust and eagerness to learn.
8. Reflect On Your Own Childhood
If you have ever wondered why you react in certain ways when it comes to parenting, examining your own childhood may provide an answer. Research shows that how we were raised often influences how we raise our own children.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family followed 2,338 adolescents for over two decades and confirmed that parenting patterns are often repeated across generations. This doesn’t imply blind repetition but relatively unconscious patterns or learned behaviors that resurface when we take on the role of parent.6
By reflecting on your upbringing, you can uncover the reasons behind your parenting behaviors and feelings, providing a clearer pathway to addressing and potentially altering these patterns to improve your parenting approach.
9. Remember self-care
Parents tend to overlook their own needs or the health of their marriage following a child’s birth. Neglecting these aspects can lead to more significant issues in the future. Stressed parents are prone to conflicts and cannot readily attend to their children’s emotional needs.
Therefore, prioritize your self-care and personal relationships. Reach out to friends and families for help if needed.
10. Be a good role model
Your actions speak louder than words. Children learn by watching you. Model the kindness, responsibility, and problem-solving skills you want them to develop. If you make a mistake, own up to it. This shows them it’s okay to be imperfect and that we all learn from our experiences.
For instance, if you are angry and want to yell at your child, consider if that is what you want your child to do when they are angry.
Being a good role model for your child is important because parents are children’s first teachers. Kids watch their parents carefully and learn from them.
For example, a 2014 study conducted by the University of Minnesota revealed that children observed and emulated their parents’ eating behaviors. The study found that when parents modeled eating fruits and vegetables, especially at snack times and during meals, their children were more likely to consume the recommended amounts of these foods.7
Therefore, model the behavior you want your child to learn.
- 1.Bosmans G, Bakermans-Kranenburg MJ, Vervliet B, Verhees MWFT, van IJzendoorn MH. A learning theory of attachment: Unraveling the black box of attachment development. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. Published online June 2020:287-298. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.03.014
- 2.3 A short history of the grant study. Triumphs of Experience. Published online April 12, 2012:54-107. doi:10.4159/harvard.9780674067424.c4
- 3.Choe DE, Olson SL, Sameroff AJ. The interplay of externalizing problems and physical and inductive discipline during childhood. Developmental Psychology. Published online 2013:2029-2039. doi:10.1037/a0032054
- 4.Joussemet M, Koestner R, Lekes N, Landry R. A Longitudinal Study of the Relationship of Maternal Autonomy Support to Children’s Adjustment and Achievement in School. Journal of Personality. Published online July 27, 2005:1215-1236. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6494.2005.00347.x
- 5.Brenning K, Soenens B, Van Petegem S, Vansteenkiste M. Perceived Maternal Autonomy Support and Early Adolescent Emotion Regulation: A Longitudinal Study. Social Development. Published online January 15, 2015:561-578. doi:10.1111/sode.12107
- 6.Chen Z, Kaplan HB. Intergenerational Transmission of Constructive Parenting. J of Marriage and Family. Published online February 2001:17-31. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2001.00017.x
- 7.Draxten M, Fulkerson JA, Friend S, Flattum CF, Schow R. Parental role modeling of fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks is associated with children’s adequate consumption. Appetite. Published online July 2014:1-7. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.02.017