In 20 years as a family psychologist, I noticed what usually works and what doesn't. These tips are the best I know.
The reason they work so well is that almost any approach succeeds if it's grounded in consistent love and common sense. Kids are hard-wired to develop, and will so if we make things safe, then get out of their way. The vast majority of parents are alreadly more than good enough. These hints provide ideas for moms and ads when they are distracted or troubled or want to fine tune their approach.
Even if your biological mom and dad aren’t available, there are plenty of willing older adults who’d be glad to give advice and support. Expand and extend your family and your kids will benefit. It can also ease your stress. When I try to explain my work as a child custody evaluator to friends in Thailand, they invariably say “but where are the grandparents?”
Don’t ever hit your kids. It doesn’t work and it sends the wrong message. But if you do ever slip and strike your child, let it be in the heat of the moment. Later, when you apologize, you can use the moment to teach about how to manage feelings, and how to express anger with words instead of fists. If you cause a child physical pain in a cold, calculated and deliberate way, there’s no way to create a teachable moment. Scheduled and ritualized infliction of pain on a child is never good parenting.
11. Bonus tip: Co-parent with patience and deep respect. Whether are still married to your children's other parents and still madly in love, or long divorced and cordial but distant, they way to treat that other parent is your prime way to teaching your children about healthy adult relationships.
David McPhee, Ph.D.
March 25, 2016
This is an update of an article I wrote in 2012