| What makes a good parent | How to be a good parent – Top 10 tips |
Parenting is not easy. Good parenting is hard work.
What makes a good parent?
A good parent is someone who strives to make decisions in the best interest of the child.
What makes a great parent isn’t only defined by the parent’s actions, but also their intention.
A good parent doesn’t have to be perfect. No one is perfect. No child is perfect either … keeping this in mind is important when we set our expectations.
Successful parenting is not about achieving perfection. But it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work towards that goal. Set high standards for ourselves first and then our children second. We serve as important role models for them.
Top 10 Parenting Tips
Here are 10 good parenting tips on how to be a better parent, learn good parenting skills and avoid bad parenting.
Many of them are not quick or easy.
And probably no one can do all of them all of the time.
But if you can keep working on the tips in this parenting guide, you will still be moving in the right direction even though you may only do part of these some of the time.
#1 Be A Good Role Model
Walk the walk. Don’t just tell your child what you want them to do.
The best way to teach is to show them.
Human is a special species in part because we can learn by imitation1. We are programmed to copy others’ actions, understand them, and incorporate them into our own. Children, in particular, watch everything their parents do very carefully.
So, be the person you want your child to be — respect your child, show them positive behavior and attitude, have empathy towards your child’s emotion — and your child will follow suit.
#2: Love Them And Show Them Through Action
Show your love.
There is no such thing as loving your child too much. Loving them cannot spoil them2.
Only what you choose to do (or give) in the name of love can — things like material indulgence, leniency, low expectation, and over-protection. When these things are given in place of real love, that’s when you’ll have a spoiled child.
Loving your child can be as simple as giving them hugs, spending quality time with them, having family meals together, and listening to your child’s problems seriously.
Showing these acts of love can trigger the release of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin. These neurochemicals can bring us a deep sense of calm, emotional warmth, and contentment; from these, the child, will develop resilience and not to mention a closer relationship with you3.
#3: Practice Kind And Firm Positive Parenting
Babies are born with around 100 billion brain cells (neurons) with relatively few connections. These connections create our thoughts, drive our actions, shape our personalities, and basically determine who we are. They are created, strengthened, and “sculpted” through life experiences.
Give your child positive family interaction, especially in the early years. They will then be able to experience positive experiences themselves and offer them to others4.
But if you give your child negative experiences, they won’t have the kind of development necessary for them to thrive.
Sing that silly song. Have a tickle marathon. Go to the park. Laugh with your child. Give them positive attention. Ride through an emotional tantrum with them. Solve a problem together with a positive attitude.
These positive experiences create good neural connections in your child’s brain and form the memories of you that your child carries for life.
When it comes to discipline, it seems hard to remain positive, especially when dealing with behavior problems. But it is possible by using positive discipline and avoiding harsh discipline.
Being a good parent means you need to teach your child the morals of what is right and what is wrong.
Setting limits and being consistent is the golden rule to good discipline. Be kind and firm when you set rules and enforce them. Focus on the reason behind the child’s misbehavior. And make it an opportunity for them to learn for the future in a positive way, rather than to get punished for the past.
Related: How To Deal With Toddler Tantrums
#4: Be A Safe Haven For Your Child
Let your child know that you’ll always be there for them by being responsive to your child’s signals and sensitive to their needs. Support and accept your child as an individual. Be a warm and safe place for your child to explore from and return to.
Children raised by parents who are consistently responsive tend to have better emotional regulation development, social skills development, and mental health outcomes5.
#5: Talk With Your Child And Help Their Brains Integrate
Most of us already know the importance of communication. Talk to your child and also listen to them carefully. By keeping an open line of communication, you’ll have a better relationship with your child and your child will come to you when there’s a problem.
But there’s another reason for communication. You help your child integrate different parts of their brain, a critical process in a child’s development.
Integration is similar to our body, in which different organs must coordinate and work together to maintain a healthy body. When different parts of the brain are integrated, they can function harmoniously as a whole, which means fewer tantrums, more good behavior, more empathy, and better mental well-being6.
To do that, talk through troubling experiences. Ask your child to describe what happened and how they felt to develop attuned communication7.
You don’t have to provide solutions. You don’t need to have all the answers to be a good parent. Just listening to them talk. Ask clarifying questions using simple words will help them make sense of their experiences and integrate their memories.
#6: Reflect On Your Own Childhood
Many of us want to parent differently from our parents. Even those who had a good upbringing and a happy childhood may want to change some aspects of how they were brought up.
But very often, when we open our mouths, we speak just like our own parents did.
Reflecting on our own childhood is a step towards understanding why we parent the way we do. Make note of things you’d like to change and think of how you’d do it differently in a real scenario. Try to be mindful and change your behavior the next time those issues come up.
Don’t give up if you don’t succeed at first. It takes practice, lots of practice to consciously change one’s child-rearing methods.
#7: Pay Attention To Your Own Well-Being
Parents need relief too.
Pay attention to your own well-being to prevent parental burnout.
Oftentimes, things such as your own needs or the health of your marriage are kept on the back burner when a child is born. If you don’t pay attention to them, they will become bigger problems down the road8. Take time to strengthen your relationship with your spouse.
Stressed-out parents are more prone to fighting. Don’t be afraid to ask for parenting help. Having some “me time” for self-care and stress management is important to rejuvenate the mind.
How parents take care of their child physically and mentally will make a big difference in their parenting and family life. If these two areas fail, your child will suffer, too.
#8: Do Not Spank, No Matter What
No doubt, to some parents, spanking can bring about short-term compliance which sometimes is a much-needed relief for the parents.
However, this method doesn’t teach the child right from wrong. It only teaches the child to fear external consequences. The child is then motivated to avoid getting caught with inappropriate behavior.
Spanking your child is modeling to your child that he/she can resolve issues by violence9. A child who is spanked, smacked, or hit is more prone to fighting with other children. They are more likely to become bullies and to use verbal/physical aggression to solve disputes.
Later in life, they are also more likely to result in delinquency and oppositional behavior, worse parent-child relationships, mental health issues, and domestic violence victims or abusers10.
There are a variety of better alternatives to discipline that have been proven to be more effective11, such as positive discipline (Tip #3 above) and positive reinforcement.
#9: Keep Things In Perspective And Remember Your Parenting Goal
What is your goal in raising a child?
If you’re like most parents, you want your child to do well in school, be productive, be responsible and independent, be respectful, enjoy positive relationships with you and others, be caring and compassionate, and have a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.
But how much time do you spend working towards those goals?
If you’re like most parents, you probably spend most of the time just trying to get through the day. As authors, Siegel and Bryson, point out in their book, The Whole-Brain Child,
instead of helping your child thrive, you spend most of time just trying to survive!
To not let the survival mode dominate your life, next time you feel angry or frustrated, step back. Think about what anger and frustration will do for you or your child.
Instead, find ways to turn every negative experience into a learning opportunity for them. Even epic tantrums can be turned into invaluable brain-sculpting moments if you focus on teaching your child, not trying to control them.tip
Doing these will not only help you keep a healthy perspective, but you are also working on one of your primary goals in parenting — building a good relationship with your child.
#10: Take A Shortcut By Utilizing Findings In Latest Psychology And Neuroscience Research
By shortcuts, I don’t mean shortchanging your child with tricks. What I mean is to take advantage of what is already known by scientists.
Parenting is one of the most researched fields in psychology. Many parenting techniques, practices, or traditions have been scientifically researched, verified, refined, or refuted.
For best parenting advice for raising a child and information that are backed by science, here is one of my favorite science-based parenting books, The Science of Parenting.
Using scientific knowledge is of course not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Every child is different. Even within the best parenting style, there can be many different effective parenting practices you can choose according to your child’s temperament.
A good example is using spanking to discipline. There are many better alternatives, e.g. redirection, reasoning, time-in, etc. You can choose a non-punitive discipline method that works best for your child.
Of course, you can also choose to use “traditional” or “old school” parenting styles (e.g. punishing or spanking) and may still get a “similar” outcome.
Differential susceptibility has shown us that children with different temperaments react to the quality of parenting differently.
Those who are more susceptible to parenting quality will have better outcomes under good parenting but worse outcomes under bad parenting.
Those who are less susceptible may “turn out fine” no matter how tough their parents treat them. But it doesn’t mean those practices are good. These children are simply lucky. They can thrive despite bad parenting, not because of it.
Why take a chance with sub-par parenting practices when you can use well-researched, better ones?
The importance of parenting cannot be underestimated. Taking science-based parental advice may not be the easiest way to parent. It may require more work on your part in the short term but can save you lots of time and agony in the long run.
Also See: What is the worst age to lose a parent
Final Thoughts On Parenting
The good thing is, that although parenting is hard, it is also very rewarding. The bad part is the rewards usually come much later than the hard work. But if we try our best now, we will eventually reap the rewards and have nothing to regret.
To Happy Parenting!
Also See: Parenting Quotes
- 1.Rizzolatti G, Craighero L. The mirror-neuron system. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2004;27:169-192. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15217330.
- 2.Landry S, Smith K, Swank P, Assel M, Vellet S. Does early responsive parenting have a special importance for children’s development or is consistency across early childhood necessary? Dev Psychol. 2001;37(3):387-403. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11370914.
- 3.Viero C, Shibuya I, Kitamura N, et al. REVIEW: Oxytocin: Crossing the Bridge between Basic Science and Pharmacotherapy. CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics. July 2010:e138-e156. doi:10.1111/j.1755-5949.2010.00185.x
- 4.Bradley B, Davis TA, Wingo AP, Mercer KB, Ressler KJ. Family environment and adult resilience: contributions of positive parenting and the oxytocin receptor gene. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. September 2013:21659. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v4i0.21659
- 5.Landry SH, Smith KE, Swank PR, Guttentag C. A responsive parenting intervention: The optimal timing across early childhood for impacting maternal behaviors and child outcomes. Developmental Psychology. 2008:1335-1353. doi:10.1037/a0013030
- 6.Fishbane MD. Wired to connect: Neuroscience, relationships, and therapy. Family process. 2007;46(3):395-412.
- 7.Siegel DJ. Mindful awareness, mindsight, and neural integration. The Humanistic Psychologist. 2009:137-158. doi:10.1080/08873260902892220
- 8.Maternal depression and child development. Paediatr Child Health. 2004;9(8):575-598. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19680490.
- 9.Gershoff ET. Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin. 2002:539-579. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.128.4.539
- 10.Gershoff E, Grogan-Kaylor A. Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses. J Fam Psychol. 2016;30(4):453-469. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27055181.
- 11.Effective discipline for children. Paediatr Child Health. 2004;9(1):37-50. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19654979.