It is easy to become a parent — some people plan ahead, and others just let it happen. So even if it is easy to become a parent, it isn’t necessarily easy to be a good parent.
Here are some hints that can help you set your goals to be the good parent most of us want to be.
Dr. Laurence Steinberg, in his book “The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting,” provides tips and guidelines based on years of social science research. When you are having problems with your toddler or your teen, these hints can help to make a difference in your child’s behavior.
1. What you do matters. Be sure to remind yourself of this each day. Ask yourself “What effect will my decision have on my child?”
2. You cannot be too loving. You cannot love your child too much. Don’t let loving your child cause you to give her things in place of love.
3. Be involved in your child’s life. To do this you need to look at your priorities. It may mean sacrificing what you want to do for what our child needs you to do. Be there both mentally and physically for your child to feel your involvement.
4. Have your parenting fit your child. Your child is constantly changing and you need to keep pace with his development. When your child at 3 years of age says “no” all that time, this is the same drive for independence that motivates him to be toilet trained. Even as your child grows into adolescence the thing that makes him curious in the classroom might also be contributing to his argumentative behavior at dinner. Rules for your toddler today may be inappropriate for him as a teen tomorrow.
5. Set rules. If you do not set rules and boundaries when she is little, you will have a much more difficult time as she grows. Know where she is, who she is with, and what she is doing. As your child grows older, some of these rules obviously need to change.
6. Encourage independence. Your child learns self-control with the help of the limits you set for him. When you encourage his independence you encourage him to develop a sense of direction. In order for him to be successful in life, he needs both self-control and a sense of direction. He may object to the control you set because it is human nature to want to feel in control rather than to have others have control over him.
7. Be consistent. If the rules keep changing or if you are somewhat lax about enforcing them, you have lost your most important disciplinary tool: consistency. This is worth being consistent.
8. Avoid harsh discipline. Physical punishment is the worst side effects of all the forms of punishment. Children who are spanked, hit or slapped are more prone to fighting with others, being a bully and likely to use aggression to solve problems. There are better ways to discipline a child such as time-out.
9. Explain your rules and decisions. You want your child, no matter what her age, to understand the expectations you have for her. When she is young you don’t want to over-explain to her. When she is older you want to be sure to fully explain your rules and decision.
10. Treat your child with respect. If you want your child to treat you with respect, treat your child respectfully. Give him the same treatment and courtesies you would give to anyone else. Speak to him politely. Listen to what he has to say. You are teaching him how to respect others as you demonstrate your respect for him.
Give parenting the time it takes to make things right. Some of these hints take a lot of time and others can work very easily. Invest whatever you need to make sure you are working toward being a “good parent.”
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. To reach interim First Teacher Executive Director Patty Waite, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-681-2250.