The Rushmore Report: Ten Things Great Parents Do

I’ve given parenting workshops all over the country. There is one person I have yet to meet – a parent who wants to do a bad job with their kids. The problem for many parents is not a lack of desire, but knowledge. In my workshops I highlight ten practices I have observed in successful parents; these cross generations and ethnicities. Here, we will offer a simple summary of these ten things great parents do.

1. Do what you say you are going to do.

This goes two ways. Don’t make rules you can’t or won’t enforce consistently, and keep your commitments. It’s important for kids to know that you mean what you say; this builds trust and respect.

2. “Catch” kids being good, and tell them specifically what you liked.

Kids really do want to please their parents, and they thrive on constructive, positive feedback. We parents often focus a lot of time and energy on pointing out things our kids can improve. It’s important to balance those messages with acknowledgements of things kids are already doing well. Like adults, kids want to be appreciated.

3. Harness the power of natural consequences.

Let kids experience the natural consequences of their actions or choices. This is essential to learning. Allowing children to experience the natural consequences of their choices can also minimize power struggles, since you won’t have to intervene.

4. Show them the way.

Punishment only suppresses behavior. Be sure also to tell kids the behavior you want to see instead, and then praise it specifically. Don’t expect your kids to learn more than you teach them.

5. Beware of over-functioning for your kids.

Making mistakes and experiencing “failure” and disappointment are essential life experiences that provide the opportunity for kids to learn and practice good coping skills.

6. Practice positive touch.

Research consistently shows that positive touch (e.g. hugs, loving pats, cuddles) is absolutely critical to children’s development and ongoing well-being. So take time every day to give your kids a long hug or cuddle. If your older child doesn’t want to cuddle anymore, you can still give them a loving squeeze on the arm or a pat on the back.

7. Make a clear distinction between kids and their behavior.

Always communicate with your words and actions that you love them no matter what. When they misbehave, say to them, “I don’t like that behavior” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”

8. Avoid disciplining kids when they are hungry or tired.

When kids are tired or hungry, they won’t be focused on what you are trying to teach them. Since the goal of discipline is learning, make sure that your kids are in a physical and mental state that will enable them to learn from their mistakes.

9. Teach kids the three “P’s.”

Instead of telling kids, “You can’t do anything,” teach them the three P’s: practice, patience, and perseverance. These habits are the cornerstone to success.

10. Help kids learn to feel their feelings and to choose their actions.

Coach kids in how to respond (instead of react). It’s always okay for them to feel whatever they’re feeling, but it may not be okay to follow their feelings into action (e.g. hitting, yelling). This may be one of the most important skills we can teach our children.

About the Author

Erica Reischer, Ph.D., is a psychologist, author, and parent coach who offers both therapy and parenting support for thousands who seek to raise great kids. She leads workshops at the University of California, San Francisco, and is a frequent blogger.

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