June 1 marks the Global Day of Parents as proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in honour of parents around the globe, and provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents for their “selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship. The General Assembly emphasises the critical role of parents in the rearing of children, and recognises that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children. The UN states: “For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”
Being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences in life, but it can also be one of the most challenging. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to parenting, and at times it can be overwhelming to navigate the many responsibilities that come with raising a child. That role can see us fulfil many duties such as teacher, chef, cleaner, nurse, personal assistant, motivational speaker, driver, entertainer, accountant, counsellor and more!
The Global Day of parents acknowledges our efforts, and more importantly, gives us the opportunity to reflect on our own parenting behaviours. Here are six tips for effective parenting that may hone your parenting skills.
- Practise positive reinforcement
Positive reinforcement focuses on rewarding the appropriate behaviours and actions of a child so that they are encouraged to repeat them (eg doing homework, brushing teeth, being kind to people). Research has shown that positive reinforcement can also decrease parental stress and increase children’s academic capability. Praise your child for their actions and effort, so that they develop an understanding about acceptable behaviour. Some examples of positive reinforcement might include: praising your child for cleaning their room without being asked, voicing your appreciation at the effort your child has put into something, or hugging them for showing kindness to others. The key is to ensure the positive reinforcement is genuine and appropriate.
- Be the person you’d like your child to be
Children learn by watching those around them. As a parent, you are their most influential role model, and ‘walking the walk’ is far more effective than ‘talking the talk’. Leading by example, also referred to as ‘parental modelling’, is when you demonstrate the behaviours, attitudes and values that you want your child to adopt and emulate.
Some behaviours you may wish to model for your child include being respectful and responsible, demonstrating effective communication by using clear language, regulating emotions in appropriate ways, or even prioritising self-care.
Modelling is a powerful way for children to learn and acquire new skills. The key is in remembering that children will also copy poor behaviours, so if your instinct is to yell rather than reason in an argument, or give up at your first failure, your child is likely to follow suit. It is important to remind ourselves how our actions can influence those of our children.
- Provide unconditional love
Research suggests that the quality of a child’s early relationships has a profound impact on their ability to navigate relationships throughout their lives. Secure relationships, built on respect, trust, and love, play a crucial role in shaping a child’s social and emotional development.
Loving your children goes beyond just an emotional connection; it serves as a powerful teaching tool. Through acts of affection, playing together, offering encouragement and advice, and providing a sense of security, you impart valuable life lessons. Research conducted by Bowlby (1969)1 emphasised the significance of attachment and affection in a child’s development, highlighting that these experiences contribute to the formation of secure and confident individuals.
By remaining steady, being attentive, and actively listening to your children, you foster an environment that promotes their self-confidence and higher self-esteem.
- Focus on the process and not the outcome
At times, the outcome may not always reflect the amount of work and effort a child puts in behind the scenes. For example, your child might perform poorly on a test due to external factors such as test anxiety, personal challenges, or external stressors, despite having put in the effort by preparing comprehensive notes, revising and completing practice tests. Similarly, positive outcomes may not accurately reflect your child’s genuine efforts, particularly if luck, or natural ability plays a part. It is important to acknowledge the ‘effort’ rather than the result.
When we focus on the process, we encourage experimentation and continuous improvement. Children are encouraged to look at what they can do differently in order to achieve a different outcome. It alleviates the pressure of achieving a specific result, instead finding joy and fulfillment in the journey itself. Parents and children develop a growth mindset from focusing on the skills and abilities developed over time through dedication and practice.
Learning to enjoy the process allows children to foster a sense of mindfulness and presence, by appreciating each step of the journey and finding fulfillment in the here and now. Focusing heavily on the outcome can lead to an unhealthy amount of pressure, unrealistic expectations and a desire for perfectionism through a developed fear of mistakes.
- Actively listen to your children
By being attentive, and actively listening to your children, you foster an environment that promotes their self-confidence and higher self-esteem. Research by Rogoff (1990)2 suggests that responsive and attuned parenting enhances children’s sense of competence, autonomy, and overall wellbeing.
Creating an environment where children feel encouraged to express their true emotions is crucial. While the role of a parent is a busy one, as there never seem to be enough hours in the day, it is important to set aside time during the day to talk and actively listen to your child without distraction. It need not be formal – it can happen through play with younger children, or with teens, the car in particular, offers a safe place to open up with minimal eye contact.
By properly engaging with our children, we enhance their communication skills and emotional awareness, improving their ability to respond to their own feelings and those of others. Meaningful conversations lead to a deeper understanding of our children and provide the opportunity to support their growth into caring adults.
- Encourage independence
While it can be hard to let go and relinquish control over our children, it is important that we allow them to assert their independence. Yes, it may be quicker to just dress our preschooler, but in doing so, we lose the opportunity to teach, praise and build our child’s self-esteem. Children need to experience independence from a young age as it also helps build confidence and a sense of accomplishment. While it is hard to watch our children stumble, it is imperative that we don’t protect them from failure or try to solve their problems for them. They will be better equipped for life as an adult if they make their own mistakes and learn from them, with your support.
Parenting can sometimes be frustrating, anxiety-inducing and challenging in equal measure. It can however, also be rewarding, fill our hearts to the brim, and provide us with an immense sense of pride. Although it is our responsibility to raise self-reliant children who can navigate adulthood, the reality remains that our presence will always be essential. Whether it’s seeking guidance, a listening ear, or unconditional love, our children will continue to rely on us. We express our gratitude to all parents for their ceaseless dedication and unwavering backing of their children.
Oakleigh Grammar mirrors the essentials of effective parenting within its pastoral care guidelines. By offering support and guidance, the school strives to empower students and foster their self-confidence and resilience, enabling them to develop into responsible young adults. Our school is an extension of home, where our community is treated like family in a nurturing and consistent environment. To learn more about Oakleigh Grammar, download our prospectus.
- Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment and loss: Attachment (Vol. 1). Hogarth Press.
- Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. Oxford University Press.