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Best Parenting Tips

Every child is different, so not all techniques are needed nor effective for a specific child or situation. However, the tips below I believe hit the “best of” tips that parents frequently forget or misapply. Adopting just a handful of these tips can make a massive difference in your and your children’s’ lives. 

Biggest, Most Effective Tip? Praising Effectively:

The natural man and woman tends to ignore positive behavior and only does something when annoying or bothersome behavior arises. Don’t let this happen to you! Proactively praising and encouraging the GOOD things is THE BEST way to prevent behavior problems and ingrain the behaviors you want. The law of the harvest doesn’t sleep, it doesn’t care if you’re tired or had a rough day at work, or if you’re in a bad mood: inaction is action, and if you don’t decide to proactively nurture the good, you have made the choice to have to deal with the problems that arise from your lack of attention. Period.

Top Parenting Tips/Misconceptions

Behavior Narration

Simply put, kids desire attention and parents want good behavior. Narrating positive behavior is one of the quickest ways to achieve both. Put simply, Behavior narration is calling attention (aloud and if possible, in front of others) to behaviors you want to see more of and reinforce. 
For example, if you expect Billy and Sally to kneel down and fold their arms for family prayer but Billy is not doing so, narrating aloud, “I see Sally kneeling down, oh! she just folded her arms” that tends to have an immediate effect upon Billy. Same for putting on seatbelts, putting feet off furniture, or a whole host of behaviors. Give the behavior you DO want the attention, and kids will follow after that positive attention (make sure to narrate Billy once he complies!)

Clear Instructions & Assisting

Especially when forming a new behavior/habit, it can’t be stressed enough the importance of specificity. You’re frustrated that a child won’t “clean their room”? Try “pick up all your clothes and put them in the laundry hamper” instead.
“Clean” most likely doesn’t mean the same to your child as it does to you. Until it does, you have to be very specific and nagging doesn’t work!

​A related tip is understanding how important STARTING a behavior is and how sometimes a child doesn’t understand (even though you think they should or do) how to begin–so assist them, or at least offer assistance.
E.g., if they’re not responding to your request to “do their homework” try instead “get out a pencil and your assignment and lets look at it together”–research shows it is far more likely to get the result you ultimately desire. Relatedly, if they don’t do their homework, and need to do an hour. Start with 10 minutes and build up.
Research shows that children are no different than adults about the trusim that even if an adult “knows” something (e.g., eat healthy, exercise regularly, it doesn’t automatically translate into behavior. Hands need to be held until a true HABIT is FORMED). See the PDF below: 

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Give Choices

One of the simplest ways to gain greater compliance in children is to offer choices. A command to bundle up before going outside is far less effective than saying “Before we go outside, do you want to put on your black sweater, or this blue coat?”

Saying “Please,” simple as it sounds (in a gentle tone) also statistically affects compliance.

Another related tip is turning in the task into a (playful) challenge e.g., “I bet you can’t put your snow things on in under two minutes. You’d have to be a grownup to do that!”

Punishment Can Do Much Harm

Punishment is a very tempting standby technique of parents, and has the added (addictive) benefit of very often stopping an unwanted behavior in the moment . BUT consider:
#1 Research shows that the effects of punishments like yelling and reprimanding or physical punishment doesn’t last beyond that brief moment (it stops the behavior almost completely because of interruption or shock rather than learning or teaching replacement behavior)
#2 Punishment often REINFORCES the negative behavior because it gives a lot of attention to the child (a form of reward, for some kids, their MOST DESIRED reward)
#3 Not only is there potential emotional problems associated with punishment, there is very often a toxic cycle of punishment: parents think that to get the same effect you have to increase the volume, intensity, or duration of the punishment (which science tells us is not effective) as well as leading to parents using illogical threats or inappropriate physical force that quickly escalates.
#4 Any physical punishment tends to MODEL that same behavior in the child, teaching them that an acceptable way to deal with problems with their peers or siblings is through hitting or leveraging violence. Further, using violent punishments greatly increases the chances that the child will respond with violence in the moment to the parents as well (subtly reinforcing that that is normal or acceptable, and linked by science to MORE aggression, and more opposition in the long and short term). 

Now, DON’T think that I’m saying you should not punish at all–it has its place–but you must reprogram your thinking to ensure that punishment is a small part of your overall approach: the focus must be on encouraging and reinforcing positive behaviors. See Child a Brat? Use Rewards, not Punishments

A related misconception is that a child engaging in bad behavior is a “teaching moment”–it’s really not. Just like it’s ineffective to teach someone to swim when they’re already drowning, the best teaching moments is repeated practice of the positive/wanted behavior when everyone is calm.

The Other “Big Idea,” Nurture the Good:

Something counterintuitive many parents don’t realize is that focusing on negative behaviors isn’t the answer. What’s really needed is inculcating POSITIVE behaviors that REPLACE the negative behaviors. The video below explains the process:

Next-Level Encouragement of Good Habits:

This site is about “Quick n’ dirty”/Best of Best tips. But this next strategic, systematic tip to build positive habits and get behaviors you want, below (turning your home into an “economy of points”) takes a lot more effort, but in turn takes results often to the next level as well.
​Child Psychologists understand that parenting is just as much about parent behavior as child behavior. If you know yourself and aren’t willing or able to a program that requires pre-planning and consistent follow through, then this tip is not for you. At the same time, that choice may also be the reason you’re not getting the full potential possible as far as getting the behaviors from your children that you desire

 More Resources + Recommended Books

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