Practical Parenting Principles
Seven Principles of Parenting by John Thurman M.Div., M.A., LPCC
Parenting can be one of the most challenging journeys a couple can ever embark on. This article is designed to give you some practical tools that you can begin using today to help you more be a more effective parent to your children.
Tool 1: Parenting with Point
I know it sounds sort of odd. You need to have a point, reason, or purpose in order to have a positive outcome as you help your child become the person they are designed to be. While no parent can relive their life through their child, they can lead the child into a process that will help the child as they mature. One of the most important things a parent can do for their kids is parent in such a way that defines clear cut goals and behaviors for you child. You must become a student of you child, choosing, sharing and working on age appropriate behaviors and goals for your child.
There are a couple of broad goals to consider as you raise your children. These are socialization and authenticity. Simply stated, socialization means assisting your child to become an honest, law-abiding citizen as well as learning how to work, worship and play with others. In this process they will learn how to develop honest, open, trusting relationships. Authenticity has to do with helping them become the unique person they are with their gifts, abilities, interests and personality.
You have to have a point (purpose) to parent.
Tool #2: Parenting with Plainness
This is not very fancy, but is effective. Listen. To have a loving, productive relationship with your child you must build on effective communication. Children want to be heard and know that their feelings are being considered. They want to know that they can earn certain rights and privileges if they do what is expected of them. They want to have a perception of some power, some ability to create what they want.
You are the parent and they are the child, but you are the one who has to lead the conversation with clarity. Look for teachable moments to communicate with you child. Ten minutes before bedtime is not the moment to have the talk about bed time.
Tool #3: Parenting by Parley (Negotiation)
As parents, you can negotiate with many different styles. There are basically three parenting types.
The Authoritarian Parent – “My way or the highway.” This parent tells the child what to do and not do; the rules are clear and usually inflexible.
The Permissive Parent – “Well, as long as you don't hurt anybody, I guess it will be OK.” This parent takes the more gentle approach, intervening only when the kids get off track or in trouble.
The Equalitarian Parent – “What are our options.” This parent works in the context of giving the child come choices. Rules are simple and straight forward with natural consequences.
Children will usually respond in one of three ways.
The Rebellious Child – A power struggle usually exists between the Power Child and the Authoritarian Parent. The Rebellious Child will seek power in various ways to include drama, yelling, crying, anger, tantrums, rage, violence and hissy fits.
The Passive Child – This child prefers to have a parent tell him or her what to do. They need instruction and direction. They can tend to be loners so they may need some help in getting into groups.
The Cooperative Child – This is the child everybody dreams of because they rarely cause any commotion. They tend to be well-rounded and need encouragement and direction.
In order to make your home less chaotic you will need to learn your style, your spouse’s style and the style of your children. This process can go a long way in helping you discipline your children more effectively.
One of the first steps in teaching your child negotiation basics is to make sure he or she can predict the consequences of their actions so they have a sense of responsibility for the outcomes generated. Five critical steps to successful negotiation are:
- Narrow the area of dispute.
- Find out what it is they really want.
- Work to find a middle ground.
- Be specific in your agreement and the negotiation's outcome.
- Make negotiated agreements shorter term in the beginning.
Tool #4: Parenting with Currency
If you want your child to behave appropriately, you have to set the standards for the behaviors you want.. Too often, parents only look for negative behaviors and they tend to lower their parenting styles into a negative, reactive mode. By focusing on building up positive behaviors the bumps of the negative behaviors will not knock you off course. You also have to determine your child's currency. Before you get excited, we all operate on currency. Currency is anything that when presented during or immediately after a target behavior will increase the likelihood of that behavior occurring again. Figure out a way for them to get as much of what they want through appropriate behavior.
There are a number of different currencies that can vary with your child's age. This can be stuffed animals, DVDs, television and computer privileges and stereos. Once you understand what is valuable in your child's life, then you can mold and shape his or her behavior.
It is also effective to put in writing what you expect of your child, and what the consequences will be if he or she does not go with the program. These are called behavioral contracts.
Tool # 5 Parenting Through Change
To change the parenting structure of your home will take some tough, mindful work. You must be willing to adopt a hardcore commitment. This is having a whatever-it-takes mentality. This may mean that you may have to take two weeks off from your job and stay home with the children. You might have to drive a less expensive car, live in a smaller house, cut down on eating out or vacationing closer to home. The future of you and your children is at stake. Drastic problems call for drastic solutions. It's called creating "disequilibrium," because it results in a redefinition of roles and a major shift of power that can be temporarily unsettling to those who were running the show and having their way. Shaking up a family requires thoughtful planning.
Some ways to create disequilibrium are writing an expression of commitment, developing a communication system, holding a support system and anticipating resistance.
Tool #6: Parenting in Harmony
You do not have to compete with distractions like TV, cell phones, video games or Instant Messaging. The best way to accomplish your mission for family control is to insist on an environmental cleanup. The sooner you start this process and the younger your children are when you change the rhythm of your life, the easier it will be and the more profound will be the impact.
You can start by listing your family's top ten priorities. Then list the top ten things that waste time in your household. Once you compare the two lists, determine whether or not the way your family is living and investing their time is congruent. If you find the priorities and values at the top of your first list reside at the bottom of your time allocation list, you must consciously start reordering your time and energy commitments in such a way as to put what you know to be important back on center stage.
Tool #7: Parenting By Example
The most powerful role model in any child's life is the same-sex parent. It's a fact that children learn vicariously by observing the behavior of others and noting the consequences of their actions. They watch what happens to family members when they succeed or fail and those experiences become a reference for how they live. This is known as modeling.
Through your actions, words, behavior and love, you can direct your children to where you want them to go. Show them how to be happy, well-balanced and fulfilled adults. Shed any negative attitudes. Dump self-destructive behavior patterns. Turn up the positive attitude.