Parenting Tips for Raising Happy Children

Abby Trott & Lindley Round

How can parents best influence development of their children? Parents constantly seek to raise children who will grow to be happy and healthy, but are not often aware of the pertinent psychology that influences human development. While parenting differs cross-culturally and there is not one perfect style, psychological studies have proven that there are a variety of methods parents can employ that most effectively promote the healthy development of children.

First of all, parents want to guide their children so they flourish into successful, happy young adults. Parents can teach their kids through socialization. Socialization allows children to obtain values, standards, skills, knowledge, and appropriate behaviors. There are at least three main mechanisms of parent socialization. The first one is direct socialization. This is when the parent teaches their children by directly giving them rules, skills, and strategies.  The next strategy is indirect socialization. This is the parents ability to guide their children by modeling good behaviors and attitudes. Finally, parents can shape their kids through social management. This is when a parent guides their child through making choices about their social environment. For example, parents can enroll their kid in multiple activities. For instance, many parents sign their kids up for sports like ballet and soccer.

Typically, the most well-adjusted children are raised by authoritative parents who employ specific techniques in behavior modification. Baumrind’s ‘Parenting Style’ that is generally considered the most effective in Western cultures is authoritative. An authoritative parent is highly demanding of their children, setting clear rules and guidelines. While their children are held accountable for their actions, the parents are also emotionally responsive. That is, they are attentive to the needs of their children, provide support, and are willing to engage in open communication. When their children fall short of their expectations, they are nurturing and understanding, but are quick to address the poor behavior. Children who are raised by authoritative parents typically perform well academically, are less likely to experiment with substances, and grow up to be confident and independent adults.

The method of behavior modification that should be employed by an authoritative parent is reinforcement. Typically considered more effective than is punishment, reinforcement a a technique used with the goal of increasing the frequency of a behavior, whereas punishment is an act that is committed with the intention of reducing a behavior. An example of positive reinforcement would be if a parent wanted their child to make their bed, so they rewarded the child when he or she did so. On the other hand, parents often want to decrease the frequency of a child’s behavior. For example, a parent might want their child to stop screaming while at the grocery store. Through negative reinforcement, the parent would discourage this behavior by rewarding the child when he or she went to the grocery store and did not scream. On the other hand, a parent could use punishment to discourage this behavior,for instance, taking his toy away. According to  The National Association of School Psychologists, the use of punishment is less effective than negative reinforcement, thus punishment is not advised (Thompson, 2014). Additionally, parental authority should be exerted through behavioral control rather than psychological control. A study conducted by David Manzeske (2009) reveals the dangers of psychological control. This study examined the maternal parenting styles of behavioral control, and psychological control. Participants included 246 young adults from a large Midwestern university, as well as their mothers. Higher levels of maternal  psychological control were related to lower levels of young adults’ emotion regulation (Manzeske, 2009). Furthermore, behavioral control leads children to feel a responsibility towards others, psychological control leads to feelings of shame and can cause low self-esteem.

When parents respond to successes or shortcomings by their children, they should consider Dweck’s Theory of Self-Attributions and Achievement Motivation because the simple wording of a parent’s praise or criticism can have a major influence on how their child views himself. According to this theory, children will develop one of two orientations, mastery or helpless. From a young age, the way in which children are treated by their caregivers influences which orientation they will adopt. To promote a mastery orientation, parents should attribute an outcome to effort on the part of the child. In adapting this orientation, the child will believe himself capable of improvement and will seek challenges. Conversely, children will develop a helpless orientation if their parents attribute success or failure to enduring traits in their child. A child who obtains this view will be likely to give up in the face of failure and base their sense of self worth on others approval.

All in all, being a parent easy. However, it is important that these tips are taken into consideration. Try your best to be a balanced parent by incorporating an authoritative parenting style and implementing techniques to promote a mastery orientation. Also, remember that if you want to reduce a behavior, use negative reinforcement rather than punishment!

 

Sources

Manzeske, D. P., & Stright, A. D. (2009). Parenting styles and emotion regulation: The role of behavioral and psychological control during young adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 16(4), 223-229. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10804-009-9068-9

Siegler, Robert S., Judy S. DeLoache, and Nancy Eisenberg. How Children Develop. New York: Worth, 2006. Print.

Thompson, Van. “Negative Reinforcement vs. Punishment in Elementary Schools.” Everyday Life. Global Post, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014.

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