In his book ‘The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting’, Dr. Laurence Steinberg explains the fundamentals of raising happy and healthy children. His decades of research conclude that the basic principles for effective parenting are simple, universal, and apply to all parents and children regardless of background.
Adapted from his book, here are his ten basic principles.
1. What you do matters.
You are the child’s first and lifetime teacher. Your kids are watching and learning from you. They are like sponges absorbing everything they see and hear. What you do makes a difference. Be the best role model for them through your actions and speech. 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. Bonding and loving your child will form secure attachments that will give them confidence and good self-esteem. 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.
Give your child your undivided attention at least 15 minutes a day. Talk to and listen to them. 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.
4. Adapt your parenting to fit your child.
Know your children’s Developmental Milestones. Understand what they are able to do at different ages. 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. 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.
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 when 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.
6. Foster your child's independence.
Setting limits helps your child develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps develop a sense of self-direction. To be successful in life, he/she is going to need both. It is normal for children to push for autonomy and 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. When parents aren't consistent, children get confused.
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. They are more likely to be bullies and more likely to use aggression to solve disputes with others.
9. Explain your rules and decisions.
Good parents have clear expectations and communicate this to their children.
10. Treat your child with respect.
The best way to get respectful treatment from your child is to treat him respectfully, 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.
Laurence Steinberg, Ph.D., one of the world's leading experts on adolescence, is a distinguished University Professor and a former President of the Division of Developmental Psychology of the American Psychological Association and of the Society for Research on Adolescence.