Parenting Advice: Characteristics of a Good Parent
by Jef Gazley, M.S., LMFT, DCC
Here I enumerate some characteristics of good parenting in no particular order:
- Giving only one warning before issuing a consequence.
- Making sure the consequences are natural and logical for the given situation.
- Being consistent and following through on all consequences given.
- Keeping a calm, businesslike tone to your voice is a hallmark of good parenting.
- Staying detached and not taking the misbehavior personally. Usually children are just testing limits, which is how they learn.
- Not arguing or discussing the issue with the child until after the consequence. Then reinforcing and welcoming the child back from the consequence with encouragement, and a discussion about what took place.
- Providing a quiet place for the time out, and isolation from other family members. Ignore the child's verbalizations while they are in time out. (The time only starts after they are quiet and starts over if the child speaks or comes out of the room). The length of the time out should be age-appropriate: 10 minutes for younger children, and 20 minutes for ten to twelve-year-olds.
- Work together as parents. If you disagree with a particular consequence, try waiting until after the incident to discuss it with your partner, and try not to take suggestions as a personal affront.
- Using praise and encouragement often, but not excessively. Men often seem to specialize in limits and discipline. This is a very important part of parenting, but encouragement and affection are equally beneficial.
- Remembering that up to the age of twelve, children see things as black and white and are unable to understand exceptions to the rule. If you exhibit inconsistency, they will believe they have been lied to.
- Keep in mind that children personalize everything! They are unable to see their mistakes are only about behavior. Instead, they will view it as if their personhood is bad, and they are, therefore, not good enough. This will produce shame. Reiterate that mistakes are about behavior, not personhood.
- Offer the child numerous opportunities to help with tasks that the parent is involved in. Children love to belong, and to feel useful, especially when very young. They often become discouraged if told they are too young to be helpful. When this occurs, the child often becomes rebellious.
- Remember that children have a different sense of time than adults do. To them, one minute is 'an hour.'
- Sometimes the best parenting is the 'least' active. Think about intervention and whether it is needed, or not. Children often resolve their difficulties with each other unless a caretaker tries to fix or control it. Interference could actually cause children to spend the rest of the day misbehaving in order to 'finish the fight.'
- Be careful to discipline only when really necessary. Oftentimes, parents try to control their children because they (themselves) are responding to feelings that are coming from their own history and that do not match the present situation. An example would be when parents are feeling overly anxious by their child's behavior, when, in reality, most people would not view their actions as misbehavior.
- View discipline as teaching and caring because that is what it is. There is no need to feel guilty for helping your child.
Jef Gazley. M.S., LMFT, DCC