Many ingredients go into raising a well-adjusted child. While parenting is not an exact science, and one size does not fit all, there are some research-backed skills that have stood the test of time.
Here is an easy-to-remember acronym that spells out some of these skills: PARENT.
I believe that patience is the most important quality for effective parenting. As difficult as it can be at times, when we’re busy and stressed and our children are whining or acting out, it is important to remain calm. This involves changing our focus and directing it to the child. Patience results in giving our kids our attention and time as we meet their needs. And, usually, what our kids really need is our attention and time.
In order to conjure up patience: take a deep breath, count to 10, refocus your attention, make a conscious effort to be patient, and think about the message you’re sending the child.
Kids can never have too much love. According to the Mayo Clinic, expressing our love through hugs, kisses, cuddling, playing together, and other loving interactions, is the most important parenting tip for parents of young children. Kids Health experts agree that loving physical contact is the “most crucial ingredient for a happy life for your child.”
Positive reinforcement is a behavioral technique that is used to increase desired behavior. It involves noticing when your child is doing something right, and praising him or her for it. Its benefits are two-fold: it helps our children to develop acceptable behavior, and it makes them feel better about themselves. Our children want our attention, attention is reinforcing, so it makes sense to give them attention for the good things they do.
According to the Mayo Clinic, frequent praise can motivate young children to follow rules. Kids Health says that praising their accomplishments will make them feel proud, so it is important to find something to praise them for every day.
Empathy is the ability to share and understand someone else’s feelings, putting ourselves in their shoes, or seeing things from their point-of-view. We need to put ourselves in our children’s shoes and try to feel what they might be feeling. Maybe they’re whining because they’re hungry, tired, or frustrated because they aren’t able to communicate their needs.
According to research by Education Northwest’s School Improvement Research Series, by showing empathy and caring, we are teaching our children to develop empathy and “prosocial attitudes and behavior.” They are learning skills that will benefit them for a lifetime.
Nurturing means to care for and encourage growth or development. While parenting obviously involves taking care of our children’s physical needs, it also involves fostering and encouraging their talents, self-esteem and growth of character. We nurture our children with our words, actions, tone of voice, and body language. According to Kids Health, our words and actions affect our children’s self-image and self-esteem more than anything else.
It’s important to find as many opportunities to facilitate learning and prepare our children for a successful future. Teachable moments are everywhere. We teach our children by reading with them, engaging in games and educational activities, and spending time talking with them. We teach our children about manners, how to take care of their needs, how to be safe and healthy, and how to get along in the world. With everything we say and do, and every parenting skill we employ, we are teaching our children. We are our children’s first and best teachers, so let’s be the best teachers we can be.