Via WebMD: 10 Commandments of Good Parenting

You know the checkout line scenario: 3-year-old child wants this toy, this candy, this something — and she wants it nooooow! The crying starts, escalating into a full-blown tantrum.

In his new book, The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, Laurence Steinberg, PhD, provides guidelines based on the top social science research — some 75 years of studies. Follow them, and you can avert all sorts of child behavior problems, he says.

After all, what is the goal when you’re dealing with children? To show who’s boss? To instill fear? Or to help the child develop into a decent, self-confident human being?

Good parenting helps foster empathy, honesty, self-reliance, self-control, kindness, cooperation, and cheerfulness, says Steinberg. It also promotes intellectual curiosity, motivation, and desire to achieve. It helps protect children from developing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, anti-social behavior, and alcohol and drug abuse.

“Parenting is one of the most researched areas in the entire field of social science,” says Steinberg, who is a distinguished professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. The scientific evidence for the principles he outlines “is very, very consistent,” he tells WebMD.

Too many parents base their actions on gut reaction. But some parents have better instincts than others, Steinberg says. Children should never be hit — not even a slap on a toddler’s bottom, he tells WebMD. “If your young child is headed into danger, into traffic, you can grab him and hold him, but you should under no circumstances hit him.”

Ruby Natale PhD, PsyD, professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Medical School, couldn’t agree more. She offered a few of her own insights. “Many people use the same tactics their own parents used, and a lot of times that meant using really harsh discipline,” she tells WebMD.
A parent’s relationship with his or her child will be reflected in the child’s actions — including child behavior problems, Natale explains. “If you don’t have a good relationship with your child, they’re not going to listen to you. Think how you relate to other adults. If you have a good relationship with them, you tend to trust them more, listen to their opinions, and agree with them. If it’s someone we just don’t like, we will ignore their opinion.”

Steinberg’s 10 principles hold true for anyone who deals with children — coach, teacher, babysitter, he says.

The 10 Principles of Good Parenting

1. What you do matters.

“This is one of the most important principles,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “What you do makes a difference. Your kids are watching you. Don’t just react on the spur of the moment. Ask yourself, ‘What do I want to accomplish, and is this likely to produce that result?'”

2. You cannot be too loving.

“It is simply not possible to spoil a child with love,” he writes. “What we often think of as the product of spoiling a child is never the result of showing a child too much love. It is usually the consequence of giving a child things in place of love — things like leniency, lowered expectations, or material possessions.”

3. Be involved in your child’s life.

“Being an involved parent takes time and is hard work, and it often means rethinking and rearranging your priorities. It frequently means sacrificing what you want to do for what your child needs to do. Be there mentally as well as physically.”

Being involved does not mean doing a child’s homework — or reading it over or correcting it. “Homework is a tool for teachers to know whether the child is learning or not,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “If you do the homework, you’re not letting the teacher know what the child is learning.”

4. Adapt your parenting to fit your child.

Keep pace with your child’s development. Your child is growing up. Consider how age is affecting the child’s behavior.

“The same drive for independence that is making your three-year-old say ‘no’ all the time is what’s motivating him to be toilet trained,” writes Steinberg. “The same intellectual growth spurt that is making your 13-year-old curious and inquisitive in the classroom also is making her argumentative at the dinner table.”

For example: An eighth grader is easily distracted, irritable. His grades in school are suffering. He’s argumentative. Should parents push him more, or should they be understanding so his self-esteem doesn’t suffer?

“With a 13-year-old, the problem could be a number of things,” Steinberg says. “He may be depressed. He could be getting too little sleep. Is he staying up too late? It could be he simply needs some help in structuring time to allow time for studying. He may have a learning problem. Pushing him to do better is not the answer. The problem needs to be diagnosed by a professional.”

5. Establish and set rules.

“If you don’t manage your child’s behavior when he is young, he will have a hard time learning how to manage himself when he is older and you aren’t around. Any time of the day or night, you should always be able to answer these three questions: Where is my child? Who is with my child? What is my child doing? The rules your child has learned from you are going to shape the rules he applies to himself.”

“But you can’t micromanage your child,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “Once they’re in middle school, you need let the child do their own homework, make their own choices, and not intervene.”

6. Foster your child’s independence.

“Setting limits helps your child develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps her develop a sense of self-direction. To be successful in life, she’s going to need both.”

It is normal for children to push for autonomy, says Steinberg. “Many parents mistakenly equate their child’s independence with rebelliousness or disobedience. Children push for independence because it is part of human nature to want to feel in control rather than to feel controlled by someone else.”

7. Be consistent.

“If your rules vary from day to day in an unpredictable fashion or if you enforce them only intermittently, your child’s misbehavior is your fault, not his. Your most important disciplinary tool is consistency. Identify your non-negotiables. The more your authority is based on wisdom and not on power, the less your child will challenge it.”

Many parents have problems being consistent, Steinberg tells WebMD. “When parents aren’t consistent, children get confused. You have to force yourself to be more consistent.”

8. Avoid harsh discipline.

Parents should never hit a child, under any circumstances. “Children who are spanked, hit, or slapped are more prone to fighting with other children,” he writes. “They are more likely to be bullies and more likely to use aggression to solve disputes with others.”

“There is a lot of evidence that spanking causes aggression in children, which can lead to relationship problems with other kids,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “There are many other ways to discipline a child, including ‘time out,’ which work better and do not involve aggression.”

9. Explain your rules and decisions.

“Good parents have expectations they want their child to live up to,” he writes. “Generally, parents overexplain to young children and underexplain to adolescents. What is obvious to you may not be evident to a 12-year-old. He doesn’t have the priorities, judgment or experience that you have.”

An example: A 6-year-old is very active and very smart — but blurts out answers in class, doesn’t give other kids a chance, and talks too much in class. His teacher needs to address the child behavior problem. He needs to talk to the child about it, says Steinberg. “Parents might want to meet with the teacher and develop a joint strategy. That child needs to learn to give other children a chance to answer questions.”

10. Treat your child with respect.

“The best way to get respectful treatment from your child is to treat him respectfully,” Steinberg writes. “You should give your child the same courtesies you would give to anyone else. Speak to him politely. Respect his opinion. Pay attention when he is speaking to you. Treat him kindly. Try to please him when you can. Children treat others the way their parents treat them. Your relationship with your child is the foundation for her relationships with others.”

For example, if your child is a picky eater: “I personally don’t think parents should make a big deal about eating,” Steinberg tells WebMD. “Children develop food preferences. They often go through them in stages. You don’t want turn mealtimes into unpleasant occasions. Just don’t make the mistake of substituting unhealthy foods. If you don’t keep junk food in the house, they won’t eat it.”

Likewise, the checkout line tantrum can be avoided, says Natale. “Children respond very well to structure. You can’t go shopping without preparing them for it. Tell them, ‘We will be there 45 minutes. Mommy needs to buy this. Show them the list. If you don’t prepare them, they will get bored, tired, upset by the crowds of people.”

“Parents forget to consider the child, to respect the child,” Natale tells WebMD. “You work on your relationships with other adults, your friendships, your marriage, dating. But what about your relationship with your child? If you have a good relationship, and you’re really in tune with your child, that’s what really matters. Then none of this will be an issue.”

Via Psychology Today: 4 Keys to Resolving Conflict with Your Kid

Every parent knows the nightly ritual: You read your child a bedtime story, say “lights out,” and then brace for the storm of “I do not want to go to bed!!!” Night after night, we parents all suffer from this same malady, until we finally lose that last sliver of patience and snap back at our child with some not-so-nice words. Our child eventually falls asleep, but we lay awake worrying about what we said and wondering whether we may just be the single worst parent in the world.

You’re not. In reality, every parent and child fights — and a whole new set of tools offers powerful methods to resolve conflict, whether you are struggling to put your four-year-old to sleep or tussling with your teenager over screen time. Here are four crucial guidelines:

1. Don’t fall into “vertigo.”

Perhaps no relationship in life is as intense as that between parent and child. So as conflict intensifies, you risk having the tension emotionally consume you, to the extent that you can think of nothing else in your life. I call this experience vertigo, for you feel like the world is spinning out of control. Every time you try to regain focus, your child makes a new demand of you or a child lobs a punch at a sibling, pulling you one step further into that emotional swirl.

The best way to break out of vertigo is to avoid getting into it. As tensions escalate, ask yourself one critical question: “Do I really want to get caught up in this conflict?” Most likely, the answer will be no. So take a moment to regain perspective: Take a deep breath and imagine yourself an hour from now, alone in the shower or in your bed relaxing and reading a book. Or imagine yourself on the moon looking down at your interaction. Is it really worth getting so worked up over your kid’s bedtime? Probably not.

2. Appreciate your child’s concerns.

We parents tend to think that we know all the right answers, especially when we are in arguments with our children. But just because we have power over our kids doesn’t mean that there is no validity to their perspectives. Kids often have a good rationale motivating their behavior, and it pays to take the time to inquire, listen, and try to understand. When your ten-year-old starts shouting that you treat him unfairly, don’t just defend your behavior. Ask why he thinks that way. He may be jealous of the leniency you show in disciplining his younger brothers, or he may be making a call for more attention.

3. Give your child some autonomy.

Imagine how disempowering it can feel to be a child: Your parents tell you what time to wake up, what to eat, when to sleep, and even how to talk. Unsurprisingly, then, children want some freedom to determine their own destiny. Even my four-year-old son Liam will break out in a temper tantrum if I choose his dessert for him. “Daddy! I want to choose!!!” So the next time your child asks if she can stay up an extra half hour, don’t just say no. Ask why. Listen to her reason, and give her a choice: “If you stay up later tonight, you will have to go to bed earlier tomorrow night. Which do you want?”

4. Resist the repetition compulsion.

Notice the patterns of conflict that you tend to repeat when in a fight with a child. In my own family, I noticed a common pattern develop with my ten-year-old son, Noah. The moment he started to tease his younger brothers, I would immediately step in with tough words: “Noah … stop!” He tended to ignore those words and persist with his behavior, which undermined my authority but elevated his status in his brothers’ eyes. Of course, I would then further assert my authority, again demanding he stop. Inevitably, our conversation would end in a verbal clash.

But our relationship was not doomed. The key is to notice a dysfunctional pattern of conflict and commit to changing one or two actions in that process. In my relationship with Noah, I came to understand our typical pattern of mutual confrontation, and I sought to change my behavior. When Noah next teased his brothers, I stepped in and asked him to stop. He refused. But instead of escalating my demand, I asked his advice on how we might deal with the situation. He appeared caught off guard, and told me that his younger brothers had been invading his space on the couch. Nowwe were talking, listening, and effectively communicating. By asking Noah for advice, I jolted us out of our typical pattern of discord, which created space for us to have a more productive conversation.

So take action today, tomorrow, and the next.

As I write this article, I realize that the advice I am sharing is as much for me as for you. My three boys are loving and adorable, but they certainly test their daddy’s patience on a daily basis. Patterns of conflict are hard to change. But with conscientious effort, you can avoid falling prey to vertigo, to the repetition compulsion, and to the usual fight. As you keep trying, your fights will start to feel more manageable, and your relationships will feel more constructive. And with enough effort, you may just be able to master the fine art of conflict resolution by the time your child grows up.