Every parent only wants what’s best for their child. Which is precisely why the vast majority of parents spend time exploring ways and means by which they can interact with their children, in a manner that both fosters positive behavior and creates stronger relationships. Unsurprisingly, it is a subject that has been explored and investigated in extreme depth and a prominent matter of discussion when studying child psychology.
However, with such a wealth of information available both via the web and in print, it can be extremely difficult for parents to figure out which proposed strategies are the most effective.
In a recent Monitor on Psychology publication by the American Psychological Association, influential child psychology leaders were asked for their own opinions and input on the subjects of effective parenting strategies. The purpose was not to attempt to identify what constitutes ‘perfect’ parenting, but rather to shed little a light on the strategies that were less theoretical and more research/evidence-backed.
According to those taking part in the report, the following tried and tested parenting strategies stood out as some of the most effective for both strengthening bonds between children and parents, and generally improving behavior:
- Provision of Labeled Praise – As a parent, the behavior you can expect the most of is the behavior that gets attention. Which is precisely why punishments, reprimands and other examples of attention paid to negative behavior can actually lead to an increase in such behavior. By contrast, psychology professor Sheila Eyberg, PhD, advises parents to focus on labeled praise, which when provided in response to desirable behavior can likewise nurture this kind of behavior. She states that praise should not be indiscriminate or random, but rather provided in the form of focused feedback with regard to what it is the child did right.
- Overlooking Minor Mishaps – The pages of The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child speak of ignoring the kind of misbehavior that’s unserious and minor, rather than responding with the attention the child in question clearly seeks. From older children slamming doors to toddlers throwing food in anger, it is more important to display to children that the best way to attract and receive attention is by way of positive behavior.
- Study Child Development/Psychology – The better any given parent understands the milestones and challenges their child can expect during their development, the better-equipped they are to both assist them and deal with any emerging challenges. Whether it’s reading textbooks or enrolling in an online study course, experts highly recommend becoming a casual child development student in your own right.
- Balance Quality Time with Time-Outs – In instances where parents routinely reward positive behavior, immediate and brief time-outs where necessary have proven to be extremely effective. The key to intensifying the effectiveness of any time-out being to remain calm and refuse to lavish a misbehaving child with attention – despite the fact that your instincts may compel you to do the opposite.
- Meltdown Avoidance – According to John Lutzker, PhD, director of the Center for Healthy Development at Georgia State University, one of the most effective approaches to parenting is the proactive prevention and avoidance of misbehavior. When a child is hungry or tired for example, close attention must be paid as this is exactly the time during which meltdowns are most likely. Forward planning and proactivity can significantly reduce the likelihood of tantrums and turbulence.
- Taking Care of You – An APA study carried out in 2010 found that no less than 86% of children are adversely affected when their parents are stressed. It can seem difficult or borderline impossible to look after yourself with so many responsibilities to juggle. Nevertheless, evidence suggests that if you do not look after yourself and subsequently end up excessively stressed, it is almost guaranteed to rub off on your children.
- Time Spent Doing Nothing – Last but not least, experts advise spending approximately 1 hour per child per week doing absolutely nothing with them at all. Aside from expressing positive feelings or thoughts, this time should be spent simply being in their company and dedicating your entire focus and interest to them alone. During this time, corrections, searching questions and any type of teaching whatsoever should be left out of the equation.
As a parent, it is natural to occasionally feel as if you are grasping for straws in the dark when it comes to positive and proactive parenting techniques. Nevertheless, experts tend to agree that taking a step back from the everyday chaos and injecting nothing but common sense simplicity into the equation can often be the most effective approach of all.
Editor’s Note: Eddie Jones is a British National from the North of England, who graduated with First Class Honors in journalism and has been working as a professional writer since 2010. Prior to this, he worked with UK’s National Health Service before making the move to Ireland in search of new challenges. He now calls Poland his home, where he recently married.