Principles of Effective Parenting
By Don R. MacMannis, Ph.D.
1. Parents play a very important role in teaching their children how to behave. Effective parenting includes love and warmth, as well as the setting of limits.
2. Kids can misbehave to get their parents attention, show them how they are feeling, and sometimes to get them back for ways that they feel mistreated.
3. Try to avoid negative games by learning how to be positive with your kids, paying attention to their appropriate behavior.
4. Forms of positive attention include praise, thank yous, smiles, hugs, and giving them something they like. Try to catch them being good and give them attention then.
5. When you put your time and attention into positive behaviors and qualities, it softens the conflict, increases self-esteem and fosters warm feelings between family members.
6. Using a positive approach also increases the effectiveness of any punishments you use because your kids will care more about you and what you think.
7. For more complex behaviors, break them down into smaller steps and reinforce each step toward that goal
8. For mild behavior problems, consider ignoring the child.
9. Most kids don’t need or respond well to repetitive explanations or lectures. When a negative behavior occurs for the first time, provide a brief explanation to your child as to why it’s not OK. If a behavior is occurring as a pattern, the best solution is to create rules with pre-arranged and agreed-upon consequences.
10. Punishments should be used very carefully with children, and only after you have tried more positive ways of dealing with them. One of the best ways to punish is to deprive them of something they like. A mild punishment connected with the problem behavior is usually most effective. This minimizes hostile feelings and yet the child “gets the message.
11. Punishments should be given as soon as possible after the behavior problem occurs, and ideally are thematically connected with the problem. One example is to take away a toy as a consequence of the child’s misusing it.
12. When mild punishments are insufficient at changing the behavior, re-evaluate and select stronger consequences, using only the minimum amount of punishment needed to accomplish the goal.
13. Prior to making changes in your parenting practices, arrange a family meeting and
talk with your kids about the anticipated changes. As much as isappropriate and as they are willing, involve them in the creation of the rules, reinforcements and consequences. Ongoing family meeting can serve as a time to re-evaluate the behavior program you’re using.
14. It is important to communicate well with your children to avoid problems. This means guiding them and helping them to understand what is happening in their lives. It also means listening to them and understanding and accepting their feelings.
15. Pay attention to the feelings behind things that kids say and the questions they ask. Try to
identify for them the feeling that is being expressed, e.g. “I know you really want to go to the basketball game and you’re very disappointed. I’d like to let you go but I just can’t since you still have a fever.”
16. Our kids act like us, and when we are concerned about their behavior, we need to consider
our own actions If a parent doesn’t listen to a child, the child probably won’t listen to the parent.
17. Everyone needs to hear that they’re loved. Don’t assume that your children know this. Tell them you love them. Almost every family would benefit by increasing the amount of positive things they say and do. This investment in your kids can reap immeasurable returns.