Becoming an effective parent is not just important, but it is also hard work. There are many reasons this is important for you and your children.
It is likely that you feel like you have no idea how to be an effective parent. Also, it is likely that you have fallen into some negative parenting traps – like yelling at your kids (been there, done that).
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Kids don’t come with an instruction manual. However, Dr. Benjamin Spock was a household name about 70 years ago for his book Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. It has been through multiple revisions and is now called Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care. This is a great book and covers many things an effective parent needs.
Here are ten steps that you can take to become a more effective parent.
Give Unconditional Love
Even when your children are terrible and not listening at all, make sure that you show your love towards them. You don’t have to be happy with their actions but always love your children. They should never doubt whether or not you love them.
Tell them. Don’t just say it once. Say it often. Kids especially need to hear this.
Show them. This doesn’t mean to go out and buy them something. Kids want hugs. They want your attention. They want you. Show them your love.
Make Sure that You Are Consistent
This is a biggie! Be consistent with everything. This includes the rewards and punishments that you give. Reward good behavior. Don’t reward negative behavior.
If you say there will be a punishment, stick to it. Even if that means leaving a store, restaurant, etc. It may mean your kids are without electronics for a week (I just took electronics from the twins for a week because they didn’t follow the rules).
Help Build Your Children’s Self Confidence
Children develop who they will become by first looking through their parents’ eyes. Even young babies get a feel for how their parents think of them, and this can determine behavior later in life.
The expressions that you have, the way that you are speaking to your children, the look on your face, and even the tone of your voice are going to affect the way that children think that you see them. The number one thing that will affect your children’s self-confidence is the way that you look at them and speak to them.
Spend Time with Your Kids
It is really important that you take the time to learn about your children and to get to know them. Talk to them about the tough things in life and focus on the things that you want to know about them.
Get to know who your children are, what they are interested in, and what they are doing in their spare time. Doing this will help you to be a more effective parent when there is a problem. Play games. Talk to them. Read to them. Ask about their day. These are just a few ways to connect with your children.
You don’t have to give your children attention 100% of the time. They need their space. Allow them the time for creativity. If you have activities scheduled all the time, your kids won’t learn how to do things on their own.
They should be able to play independently. Find toys that spark their imagination. Let them explore. My boys still love playing with Legos (even as teenagers). They have created a whole Lego city and are working on stop-action films. So not only does it keep them busy, but they are learning new skills.
Learn How to Set Limits
Children need limits. Learn how to set limits that are appropriate for each child’s age and that you can sit and explain to them why these are the limits that you are setting.
All children are going to test limits from time to time, but if they feel that limits are fair and they understand why you set them, then they are going to be less likely to try and test them.
You may not think so, but most kids want limits. They want to know that you, as a parent, care about them. They will test these limits to see your reaction. This goes back to #1. Let them know you love them.
Be a Good Role Model
Children watch everything you do, even from a young age. Do the things that you want your children to mimic. Show them how to behave.
If you have a bad attitude and talk disrespectfully to others, your children are probably going to do this, too. However, if you work on being positive and showing love and caring for others, then it is likely that these are the things that your children will pick up on.
Learn How to Communicate Effectively
If you want children that are going to open up and talk to you, then you need to know how to communicate with them from the time they are young.
Communicating with your children on a regular basis will help you to be more effective than if you are not talking to them. It will also help them to open up to you more and to trust the things that you say to them.
This doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend. Just keep the dialog open and let them know they can come to you with anything.
Focus on the Things They Do Right
If you are focusing on the things that your children do right and paying more attention to them being good, then it is likely that they will not act out as much. Let them know when they have done a good job. Reinforce the positives. Even children need to hear affirmations.
And if they do act out, don’t allow the behavior to be tolerated. That doesn’t mean you have to show emotion or yell at them. It means finding the right punishment, like sending them to their room or having a timeout. Ignore tantrums.
Know What You Need as a Parent
Some parents are able to handle certain situations better than others. Each parent needs to know their own boundaries and needs if they are to be effective.
Parents also have to know what to do in a situation where they have been pushed to or even past their limit. Come up with your own parenting plan for how you will deal with things when you get pushed.
No one ever said that raising children was going to be easy. Learning how to be an effective parent is very difficult and something that few people master naturally.
One great thing to keep in mind is that if you are following these ten steps, then you will start to see an improvement in your ability to be effective as a parent.
I can say from experience, being consistent is one of the best things we ever did. It required a lot of work. There were so many times I just wanted to give in and let them get away with the behavior. I hated having to discipline my boys. But I also knew that I would be hurting them later if I didn’t disciple them.
The “real world” has rules. There are consequences if these rules are broken. You could lose your job, or worse, go to jail. Kids need to know actions have consequences.
Because of consistency, our three boys don’t act out often. And they’re teenagers. Sure, there are still times they disobey, but they are few and far between. They are learning to have more responsibilities.
Stick with it. You’ve got this. Parenting is a journey. I used to hate it when people would tell me, “It will get easier.” I like to say, “It gets different.” Each stage will bring something new. Sure, some things get easier, but then there is something else that pops up. New challenges will arrive in all stages of life, even as adults.
Interested in other books on parenting? Here are a few we thought would be helpful.
The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman
No-Drama Discipline by Daniel J. Siegel, MD, and Tina Payne Bryson, PhD
Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Cline, MD, and Jim Fay
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish