Parenting can be a source of enormous pleasure over a lifetime. However, it's also a time-consuming and demanding job. In addition to fulfilling their children's basic physical needs, parents face the challenge of fostering the intellectual, emotional and social development of their progeny. Like every child, every parent is different. However, all good parents share some essential qualities that help their children develop into responsible adults.
Making a child feel cherished is the single most important quality of an effective parent, according to Duncan. He recommends spending time with your child doing what she wants to do. For example, play your child's favorite game or read together. Show affection through warm words, hugs and facial expressions. When you must correct a child, do it in love, recommend the experts at "KidsHealth," part of the Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media team. When you correct a child in love, you are more likely to avoid criticism and blaming, instead calmly telling your child what you expect. It's important to avoid using negative vocabulary like "bad," because your child may internalize the label, thinking she's unacceptable instead of just the behavior.
Effective parents all teach their children both directly and indirectly, but especially by example. Model the traits you want your child to learn, including good manners, respect and friendliness. Set clear rules and enforce them. For example, have a set time for homework. Good parents praise good behavior, but have predetermined consequences for mistakes or negative actions, such as no television if a child didn't finish her homework. Encourage learning by taking your child to age-appropriate educational activities, such as the zoo or concerts, and by filling your home with books, whether purchased or borrowed from the library. Children who are exposed to books from an early age start school with a distinct advantage because their vocabularies tend to be much larger and they've had a greater exposure to speech and the written word.
Having clear standards doesn't mean good parents are rigid. As your child grows from infant to toddler to teen, her needs change along with her body. "KidsHealth" reports that parents shouldn't compare one child to another, and that rules should shift to match the age, needs and development of your children. You might expect a child of 2 to throw a short temper tantrum, but not a preteen, as Dr. Sears states. However, an effective parent takes cues from her child, whether an infant's cry or a teenager's moods, to know what will work best in a particular situation. Stay tuned to your child's evolving needs by keeping involved in her life.
A good parent is many things, but he is not perfect, according to Dr. Sears. He also reminds parents that it's fine to be imperfect as long as you set a good example most of the time. In any case, even the most effective parent can't control genetic traits or the outside environment. Trust your instincts as a parent, but don't confuse effective parenting with perfection. Practice showing love and flexibility toward yourself, as well as toward your children.
- KidsHealth: Nine Steps to More Effective Parenting
- Montana State University Communications Services: Family Matters -- Five Principles of Effective Parenting
- Healthychildren.org: Positive Parenting -- How to Encourage Good Behavior
- Ask Dr. Sears: Top Ten Discipline Principles
- The National Effective Parenting Initiative: What is Effective Parenting?
- Healthychildren.org: A "Perfect" Parent
- Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images