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3 Powerful Types Of Parenting Goals That Will Change Your Life

What Are Parenting Goals

Setting parenting goals is not just for the new year.

Parenting goals are what you want to accomplish in your parenting. They keep you on track and focus on the important things that will bring you closer to them. Picking the right goals can be life-changing.

There are long-term and short-term parenting goals. They can be readily apparent or hidden. Having goals can be tricky because we may think we have one goal in mind, but our actions follow another that is out of sight.

When hassles are the focus on a daily basis, it is easy to lose sight of the longer-term goals. Parents overwhelmed with the day-to-day responsibilities often prioritize short-term goals over long-term ones.

Choosing the right goals is important, because short-term objectives can impede long-term parenting goals if they are not consistent.

a woman yells

Example of Hidden Goals

Here’s an example of a hidden short term goal hindering the long term parenting goal.

Parents often set a short-term goal of “no yelling”. Even though they try to adhere to it, they break down and yell at their kids after a few tries. Since their young children don’t listen, they feel that there is no other option. Shouting is the only way.

These parents know what they want, — they want to stop yelling because they want to have better relationships with their kids.

But sooner or later, they find out that not-yelling doesn’t work. Their young kids don’t listen to them. To be heard, the parents have to yell.

So what went wrong?

No yelling as a goal in parenting doesn’t work because it isn’t the true objective. The hidden parenting goal the parents are not consciously aware of is wanting their children to be obedient. 

Getting their children to comply with the parents’ wishes is the hidden, but more important, goal here. It hinders the long term goal of developing good relationships.

Most parents want to raise healthy, happy and successful kids. They want to have close relationships with their children and enjoy spending time together. But this desire is often forgotten when parents focus on getting their kids to listen. They put their relationships on the back burner while pursuing short term compliance.

When interactions are filled with orders, commands, nagging and punishment every day, the parent-child relationships deteriorate. 

Kids don’t listen to people they don’t feel connected to. Then parents get upset and start yelling again, further damaging the relationships.

While it’s good to have tangible, specific short-term goals, they can keep us from seeing the big picture and what we really want in the long run.

3 Types Of Parenting Goals

Studies have found that goals have a direct impact on parents’ behavior and the outcomes​1​.

Researchers have identified three types of goals in parenting:

  • Parent-centered goals
  • Child-centered goals
  • Relation-centered goals

Parent-centered goals

Parent-centered goals focus on the parents’ needs, such as obedience and compliance.

Parents with parent-centered goals are often concerned about control. In the short term, they want to end or change a certain behavior to meet their own needs. They want an obedient and respectful child who listens and does things the way they want.

These parents tend to use power assertion in discipline, such as yelling, punishment or threat of punishment. The interactions between the parents and kids usually result in negative emotions. The parents believe that misbehavior results from the children’s bad attitude or intention.

Child-centered goals

Parents with child-centered goals teach kids lessons or family values, such as having empathy for others or showing pro-social behavior.

These parents tend to be more empathetic. They are concerned about their children’s feelings and desires. They want to be better parents, understand their young child, instill core values and teach them social rules for the child’s future benefits.

In difficult situations, The parents are more calm. They use positive discipline such as induction and reasoning. Reasons are explained and discussed, and options are offered to the child. These parents are often warm, flexible, and accepting. When misbehavior appears, they attribute it to the situation or the environment rather than the child’s innate quality or intention.

Relation-centered goals

Relation-centered goals concentrate on fostering close relationships and harmonious connections among family members.

Parents with relation-centered goals are responsive and empathetic. They want positive interactions when parenting children. These parents are involved with the child from an early age. They value positive emotions and well being of the kids. In the long run, they want to build and maintain love, trust and close family connections.

These parents use cooperative and negotiating strategies to achieve fair solutions. They are also affectionate and accepting, and value trust and family harmony.

Which Type of Goals Is Better

The type of parenting goals aren’t inherently good or bad, but the behavior inspired by them can lead to differences in parenting style.

Parent-centered goals lead to authoritarian behaviors, while child-centered and relation-centered goals lead to authoritative behaviors. 

The authoritarian parenting style is found to result in worse outcomes than the authoritative parenting style. Experts and psychologists around the globe recommend authoritative parenting as the parenting style of choice​2​. Therefore, child-centered and relation-centered goals may lead to better quality parenting.

How To Set Our Goals

Setting goals is a way to help us identify what matters most to us and which behaviors will help us achieve those outcomes.

While most of us have long term goals that are centered around our children and relationships, the short-term behavior or desires rarely reflect that.

That’s why it’s important to be clear what we want to achieve in the long run. Our short term goals need to align with the long term ones for them to work well together.

We parents have a lot of expectations of our children. We want to raise our kids to be healthy, happy, kind, responsible, empathetic, highly educated, financially successful, and close to us.

But at the same time, while raising them, some parents also want to achieve their parent-centered goals. They want their kids to be obedient, respectful, compliant to orders, listening without disagreement, well behaved, hard working, and basically do everything we want them to do. Parents believe this will provide a smooth path for their kids to achieve success, which seldom proves to be the case.

As a result of trying to meet to these short term objectives, parents often end up hurting their chances of achieving the long term goals.

It doesn’t mean that you can’t have everything, but the traditional power assertive discipline used to meet parent-centered objectives is flawed and rarely works as intended. Instead, it creates opposite effects.

Best Parenting Goals

Strive to make goals that are relation-centered and strengthen your positive relationship with your child, because having a healthy, close parent-child relationship is the foundation of everything we want out kids to grow up to have​3​. Parental love is powerful. It doesn’t work as fast or as direct as reward or punishment, but it definitely works a lot better in the long run.

Here are some examples of good goals for parents in the upcoming year:

  • develop mutual respect
  • allow open communication and bidirectional feedback
  • spend more time in self-care
  • take care of your child’s mental health
  • build trust so your child will not be afraid to come to you with problems
  • be supportive and foster independence
  • nurture critical thinking skills
  • study more about child development
  • find ways to improve parenting skills
  • use positive reinforcement
  • turn a challenging situation into a learning opportunity
  • foster resilience and tolerance for distress
  • read books together
  • form healthy habits together, like sticking to a balanced diet
  • become a positive role model


  1. 1.
    Hastings PD, Grusec JE. Parenting goals as organizers of responses to parent–child disagreement. Developmental Psychology. Published online 1998:465-479. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.34.3.465
  2. 2.
    Spera C. A Review of the Relationship Among Parenting Practices, Parenting Styles, and Adolescent School Achievement. Educ Psychol Rev. Published online June 2005:125-146. doi:10.1007/s10648-005-3950-1
  3. 3.
    Vaillant GE. Triumphs of Experience. Published online October 30, 2012. doi:10.4159/harvard.9780674067424

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