Are you constantly searching the latest on parenting to make sure you are doing everything exactly right? It’s time to relax. Temple University psychologist, Laurence Steinberg, says that perfect parents just don’t exist.
“Most parents are pretty good parents,” says Steinberg, “But I’ve never met a parent who is perfect 100 percent of the time. We all can improve our batting average.” Sports analogies are useful to Steinberg, the concept of the book came from his own desire to improve his golf game. “I was reading, probably for the 10th time, Harvey Penick’s Little Red Golf Book,” he says. “It is built around a series of very short essays that cover very basic principles.
As I was reading it, I was thinking that this might be a good way to teach people how to be better parents.”
Steinberg, the Distinguished University Professor and the Laura Carnell Professor of Psychology at Temple, wrote the newly released The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting (Simon & Schuster). This easy to follow how-to book uses the formula that works for golf to improve parenting. He believes it is the perfect format for today’s busy parents.
Here is a quick overview of the Ten Basic Principles:
“Spoiling a child is never the result of showing 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….”
- What you do matters. “Tell yourself that every day. How you treat and respond to your child should come from a knowledgeable, deliberate sense of what you want to accomplish. Always ask yourself: What effect will my decision have on my child”?
- You cannot be too loving. “When it comes to genuine expressions of warmth and affection, you cannot love your child too much. It is simply not possible to spoil a child with love. 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.”
- Be involved in your child’s life. “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 you to do. Be there mentally as well as physically.
- Adapt your parenting to fit your child. “Make sure your parenting keeps pace with your child’s development. You may wish you could slow down or freeze-frame your child’s life, but this is the last thing he wants. You may be fighting getting older, but all he wants is to grow up. 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.
- 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 and 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.?
- Foster your child’s independence. “Setting limits helps your child develop a sense of self-control. Encouraging independence helps her develop a sense of self-direction. To be successful in life, she’s going to need both. Accepting that it is normal for children to push for autonomy is absolutely key to effective parenting. 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.”
- 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. Your most important disciplinary tool is consistency. Identify your non-negotiables. The more your authority is based on wisdom and not on power, the less your child will challenge it.”
- Avoid harsh discipline. “Of all the forms of punishment that parents use, the one with the worst side effects is physical punishment. 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.”
- Explain your rules and decisions. “Good parents have expectations they want their child to live up to. Generally, parents overexplain to young children and underexplain to adolescents. What is obvious to you may not be evident to a 12-year-old. He doesn’t have the priorities, judgment or experience that you have.”
- 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.”
There is no guarantee that following these guidelines will result in perfect parents… remember, there is no such thing!
“Raising children is not something we think of as especially scientific,” says Steinberg. “But parenting is one of the most well-researched areas in the entire field of social science. It has been studied for 75 years, and the findings have remained remarkably consistent over time.”
“The advice in the book is based on what scientists who study parenting have learned from decades of systematic research involving hundreds of thousands of families. What I’ve done is to synthesize and communicate what the experts have learned in a language that non-experts can understand.”Good parenting, says Steinberg, is “parenting that fosters psychological adjustment”elements like honesty, empathy, self-reliance, kindness, cooperation, self-control and cheerfulness.
“Good parenting is parenting that helps children succeed in school,” he continues. “It promotes the development of intellectual curiosity, motivation to learn and desire to achieve. It deters children from anti-social behavior, delinquency, and drug and alcohol use. And good parenting is parenting that helps protect children against the development of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other types of psychological distress.”
“There is no more important job in any society than raising children, and there is no more important influence on how children develop than their parents.”
Steinberg’s other books include You and Your Adolescent: A Parent’s Guide for Ages 10 to 20 (HarperCollins, 1997), Crossing Paths: How Your Child’s Adolescence Triggers Your Own Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 1994), and Beyond the Classroom: Why School Reform Has Failed and What Parents Need to Do (Simon & Schuster, 1996).
Source: Newswise/Temple University