Good Parenting Skills - What Makes a ‘Good’ Parent?

Parenting is a tough job. Good parenting skills, I believe, are a result of several factors – the understanding of, and processing our own childhood experiences, concern for the parent-child relationship we are building with our offspring, and the willingness to look at some new, and perhaps different ways of viewing children and discipline. Parenting skills, like other skills, can be learned.

I have found that parents’ hearts are in the right place – we all want to do this job successfully, and we want to raise healthy, successful people – we just haven’t been given the good parenting skills that serve us well in today’s society. Parents often have no training in the stages of child development, and as a result, frequently have unrealistic expectations of children’s understanding and behavior, and of how to discipline in a way that makes sense to the child.

One example with regard to toddler parenting might be taking a toddler someplace that involves extensive waiting (a restaurant, or doctor’s office, etc) and expecting them to ‘be good’. This usually means expecting them to do nothing but sit in a chair and wait.

This is almost impossible for toddlers, whose biology makes it necessary for them to move, explore, discover the world around them. Toddlers and preschoolers also do not understand ‘no’ and ‘don’t’ the way we think they do.

Parenting preschoolers, in terms of understanding development, means letting them do things on their own and giving them some choices so that they feel a sense of empowerment and control, as well as building competence.

Parenting teens is often about helping them make decisions and think through situations by asking questions rather than ‘laying down the law’. Teens are figuring out who they are, and it is very easy to push them into rebellion and revenge when there are too many rules, especially if they appear to be arbitrary.

In the parent child relationship it is an absolute necessity for parents to understand human development from birth through adolescence, in order to parent children effectively.

Another factor in parenting is that most of us were raised with a paradigm (belief system) based on behaviorism. Behaviorism is a theory begun by John Watson, who believed that human beings are basically the same as animals, that we are simply stimulus-response beings. This theory holds that in order to get the results we desire, we must punish behavior we want to extinguish, and reward behavior that we want to see more of.

This belief system is founded on the idea that we only do better if we feel bad. One of my favorite quotes on parenting from Jane Nelsen is ‘where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order for children to do better, we first have to make them feel worse? Children do better when they feel better.’

And isn’t this true for all of us? We all do better when we feel encouraged, not discouraged.

It is certainly true that in many instances, punishment and reward work…we get the behavior we want immediately. However, often we are not building the long term qualities of respect, empathy, responsibility, competence, and confidence with which we want our children to move out into the world as a young adult.

Positive Discipline, in this time of more horizontal relationships among people, is focused on the long-term relationship we build with our children, and believes that children do better within this relationship when there is love and compassion as well as limits and structure. It often is not as much about WHAT one does as it is HOW one does it.

You can learn more about good parenting skills from the book, Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen.