Parenting 101

Family Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

There’s an old saying that it’s a pity kids don’t come with an owner’s manual. For new parents,  it isn’t long before they realize that’s more true than funny. Many people develop their parenting skills with on-the-job training, combining a bit of how they remember being raised with a bit of what they’re read and maybe adding some advice from friends who already have children. There’s also no shortage of how-to books, beginning with the classics such as Dr. Spock’s original to a shelfful of modern-day publications based on the latest research.

A young girl playing baseball

Writing for Psychology Today, Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., provides a summary of advice — a veritable cheat sheet of short-and-sweet tips to help you keep what’s important top of mind. Goldsmith’s top 10 tips are:

“Identify your child’s strengths.” If you build your child’s self-esteem by paying attention to their strengths, you’ll find they’re more receptive to changing behavior you do not favor.

“Punishing a child is not as effective as using praise and rewards.” This is an extension of building on their strengths — focus on the positive.

“Avoid negative emotional reactions, such as anger, sarcasm, and ridicule.” It’s pretty easy to get frustrated with small children, but making the kid feel worse doesn’t help them or you.

“Don’t compare siblings.” Although it’s natural to make comparisons, at least in your own mind, it’s imperative to make sure your kids know you love them equally.

“Get support if you need it.” Your own parents may know more than you think (or are willing to admit). There are also older friends, clergy and professional therapists if there are real problems. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

“Children need positive attention.” Unfortunately, the alternative is negative attention. It’s easier and more productive to keep things upbeat.

“Monitor your child’s use of the internet.” Here’s one Dr. Spock never had to deal with. Educate yourself about options to control and monitor your child’s time online — this is more important than you may imagine.

“Accept that life changes when you have a child.” Yep, with a child you’re now officially a full-fledged adult with all the attendant responsibilities.

“Parent by example.” Like it or not, your kids are going to imitate everything you do. That’s a wonderful thing at times and also a little terrifying, so watch it.

“Don’t give up on your child, ever!” It’s tough at times, but hang in there. Kids go through stages and they aren’t all fun and games. Stick with them and you’ll raise some fine adults.