Dear Parents,

Being a parent is one tough job. Full of many rewards, beautiful moments and great sharing. But the reality of raising children today can be very challenging and stressful. As parents, it’s our job to guide our child’s behavior and we all want “to do the right thing” to ensure our kids turn out happy and healthy, creative and smart. This is why the next 10 tips you are going to read are different; they are practical, they work and they are not too difficult to put into action. They have helped us and other parents and we hope they help you too in your parenting quest.

Ten Keys to Successful Parenting

1 - True quality time can be a matter of minutes

Your child’s self-esteem is greatly influenced by the quality of time you spend with him. We often pretend to listen and ignore our child’s attempt to communicate with us. Give your child your focused attention and you will see misbehavior fade or disappear. Children misbehave often just to get our attention – because in their minds negative attention is better than no attention at all. Try to give your child at least 10 minutes a day of full attention. Ten minutes in which “the child leads and the parent follows” during your special time together.

2 - Actions teach louder than words

We give our children hundreds of compliance requests a day, no wonder they become “parent deaf”. Instead of nagging or yelling, ask yourself, “What educative action could I take?” You know how hard it is to get your kids to put dirty clothes in the hamper? Well one way you could apply this tip is by not washing any clothes that are not in the dirty clothes hamper. As soon as your child comes complaining “why isn’t my favorite shirt washed” you can explain that “when it is put in the dirty clothes hamper properly, well then it will get washed”.

3 - Empower your children or they will overpower you

Some ways to help your children feel powerful and valuable are to ask their advice and to give them choices. A two-year-old can already do small tasks around the house. Often we do the job for them because we can do it faster, but the result is they feel unimportant. Give your children some household chores to do – like feed the dog every day, or take the recycling beans out – it will teach them responsibility and make them feel as part of “a family team”. Also encourage your children to be part of “family meetings “and decision-making process, it will give them a feeling of entitlement and belonging.

4 - Natural Consequences speak louder than words

Ask yourself “what would happen if I didn’t interfere in this situation?” If we interfere when we don’t need to, we simply take away from children the chance to learn from the consequences of their own actions. By allowing consequences to do the talking, we avoid disturbing our relationships by nagging or reminding too much. For example, if your child forgets her lunch, don’t bring it to her… allow her to find her own solutions and learn the importance of remembering.

5 - Logical Consequences Make Sense

Often the consequences of an action (or non-action) are too far in the future to practically use a natural consequence. A consequence for the child must be logically related to the behavior in order for it to work. For example, if your child forgets to return a DVD and you ground him for a week, that punishment will only create resentment with your child. However, if you return the DVD for him and either deduct the amount from his allowance or allow him to work off the money owed, your child will easily see the logical connection between his behavior and your discipline.

6 - Withdraw from Conflict

If your child is testing you through a temper tantrum, or being angry or speaking disrespectfully to you, it is best if you leave the room or tell the child you will be in the next room if he wants to “Try again”. Do not leave in anger or defeat.

7 – Ignore Attitude, not Misbehavior

Never tell a child that he is bad. Keep in mind that as parents we are the most important people in their lives and that children take everything very personally. They form opinions about themselves through what we say about them and how we act towards them. Make sure your child understands that it isn’t that you don’t like him, but it is his behavior that you are unwilling to tolerate. In order for a child to have healthy self-esteem, he must know that he is loved unconditionally no matter what he does. Do not try to discipline your child by withdrawing your love from him.

8 - Be Kind and Firm at the Same Time

When you set up rules and your child refuses to follow them, present her with choices regarding the consequences of her behavior. Once the child makes her choice, make sure that you keep her accountable to respect her choice and experience the consequence. Be loving but firm, successful problem solving rarely happens in an atmosphere of anger and upset.

9 – Children See, Children Do

Children learn through social lerning. As parents we should keep in mind how we want our child to be as an adult and model the behavior, emotional reactions and attitudes for him. For example, if we use a punitive approach to discipline our children, we will only teach them to use aggression in expressing their frustration, missing positive lessons about responsibility, problem solving or respectful communication. Similarly, if we want our children to be compassionate when they grow up, we can model this for them by our own example of volunteering in the community, or with any small but compassionate gestures toward other people.

10 - Be strong, be Consistent, Follow Through

We love our children so it’s hard to say no to them. But keep in mind that you are doing this for their well-being. Children feel safer to navigate through life when they have “a map” of rules and boundaries in their childhood. To create such a map you have to know what is good for your child, and be clear about your rules and stick to them. If you have made an agreement with the child to, for example, anot play video games or watch TV during schools days because it distracts him from his homework, don’t give in to his pleas, tears and demands... be strong and follow through. When your words are consistent with your actions, your child will begin to tune in to your words and take them seriously. Inconsistency is an invitation to limit testing for children, your consistent follow-through will earn you credibility!

Well, those are the 10 tips we wanted to share with you. Parenting, as we all know, is not easy. Just when we think we have things figured out even a tiny bit, things change so quickly and we are confronted with new situations permanently. When in doubt, check back in to the 10 tips, and you will surely find one that will help you navigate the situation, no matter how difficult. We are all in this together, learning, making mistakes and hoping that whatever we do will prepare our children for life as best we can. We hope this helps you too and if you have any ideas, wisdom or feedback, please do not hesitate to share with us.