More on Successful Parenting
A recent article in the American Psychological Association’s monthly magazine, the Monitor (October 2012), titled “Parenting that works”, examines seven ways to improve parenting, based on scientific research. I wanted to share them with you in this post.
Embrace praise. Dr. Kazdin, a Yale University psychology professor, puts it simply. “Giving attention to undesired behaviors increases those bad behaviors. Giving attention to good behaviors increases positive behavior”. This is very basic. Parental attention is highly reinforcing for children. Putting your spotlight of attention on behaviors that you want to see will bring results.
Be specific when you give praise. Focus on the specific behavior that you want to acknowledge. “I really appreciate how helpful you are when you put your dishes in the sink” is better than “Thanks for helping tonight in the kitchen”. Kids are concrete thinkers.
Reinforce praise with a smile or a friendly touch. And make sure the feedback is honest and based on reality. If your daughter puts away one dish, don’t make a big deal over it.
Look the other way. Ignoring minor negative behaviors tends to decrease their occurrence. Not responding to whining and giving attention to children when they asked for something politely is more effective in the long run.
Learn about child development. This is very useful. Parents run into trouble when they lack understanding of their child’s developmental capacities. This can result in unrealistic expectations that frustrate both adults and children. Louise Bates Ames has a wonderful series of books about each year of your child’s life. These books help you understand each developmental phases of your youngster.
Do time-out right. They should be immediate. They should be brief. Parents need to stay calm. “Time-outs” should be far less frequent than “time-in” when parents are giving positive feedback and attention.
Prevent bad behavior. Thinking ahead is probably the best cure for bad behavior. If a child has trouble with too many transitions, limit the number of trips in one day. If bedtimes are rough, think ahead as to how to make it easier. Work on how to help a child cope better with trouble spots. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Take care of yourself first. Air travel experts know this well. If the cabin loses pressure, put on your oxygen mask first, then put your child’s mask on your youngster--easy to say, but not so easy to do. Children are emotional sponges. They soak up your stress and tension. And they absorb your happiness and well-being. Take your pick. It’s up to you. At the same time it is also important to nurture your relationship with your partner. Date nights are necessary—not optional. Single parents need to nurture important connections too. We need to take care of ourselves—first and foremost.
Make time to spend one-to-one with your children. As a full time working parent, I figured this out early on. I spent one-to-one time with each child every week. Since I like to eat (and so did they), I took each one out for a meal or hot chocolate and a donut every week. Over the years, these breakfast and lunch dates with my children cemented our bond. It was never dependent on good behavior---it happened no matter what kind of week they had or I had. It was independent of family time.
Have you had success with any of these approaches? What has helped you do a better job as a parent?