Parenting in Focus: What you do as a parent really makes a difference

Over the years we have learned a lot about the behavior of children. We now know that by examining the brains of children who have been physically, sexually, or emotionally mistreated that these kinds of abuse are not something a child gets over. These kinds of abuse change a child’s brain forever.

A child who is abused and neglected will probably do poorly in school, be suspended more frequently, must repeat grades, and may drop out of school. What you do to your child and even what you say impacts your child.

Parents take on a huge responsibility when they raise a child. You need to keep your child safe, encourage him, care for him, be with him, teach him and love him: “A child who lives with constant criticism will grow to feel incompetent and unimportant. A child whose efforts are continually acknowledged will develop a healthy sense of self-confidence and capability” (“Wonderful Ways to Love A Child,” Judy Ford, 1991).

The responsibility of raising a child/children may be the most serious responsibility you will ever undertake. Here are a few things to do to make a positive difference.

• Be consistent.

• Be there for them.

• Say you love him/her.

• Tell them what they do is right.

• Give up smoking.

• Talk about them positively.

• Be fair.

• Read to him or her.

• Give them hugs regularly.

• Know where they are.

• Stay away from illegal drugs.

• Do what you say you will do.

• Spend close time together.

• Keep them safe.

Pop quiz for parents

Here is a quiz for you to take which is primarily about ways parents can help increase a child’s confidence in themselves. It is worth six yes answers.

See how many of the questions you answer positively:

I try to find at least one positive thing to say to each of my children every day. _____

If my child is interested in a subject, I try to give him a chance to learn more about it. _______

I show my child how to do things around the house such as cooking, hammering a nail, making a bed and setting the table. _____

When my child misbehaves, I try not to dwell on it for too long. _____

I try to spend some time with my child doing what she wants to do. ______

I let my child know regularly that I love her. _____

You can really be pleased if you receive a perfect score of five points for each positive response. You are doing a good job if you receive at least six positive answers. Any other score means you have some things to work on.

Begin today to make the changes you need to make.

Remember, you are an important teacher for your child. Invest in ways that really matter because this is an important task you have undertaken.

Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which published newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents.