Give your child plenty of affection. Make an effort to create a strong physical and emotional bond with your child throughout their entire childhood. A warm touch or a kind word can let your child know how much you really care about them. Here are some ways to show love and affection:
Give your child a cuddle, a kiss on the cheek, big hug, or even just a warm touch on their shoulder to show encouragement and appreciation.
Tell them you love them every day, even if you're upset with them.
Love your children unconditionally. Don't force them to be who you think they should be in order to earn your love. Let them know that you will always love them no matter what.
For instance, you might hope that your child will be athletic. If they're not really interested in sports, though, it's important to let them know that that's okay, and work with them to find an activity that better suits their interests.
Similarly, don't make your child feel bad if it takes them a while to warm up to people, even if you're very outgoing yourself.
Emphasize the importance of experiences over toys. Toys can entertain your child for a while, but they will never let them feel loved and cared for as an attentive parent can. Instead, make time to take your child to do fun things—even something as simple as eating an ice cream cone in the park can create a sweet memory that will last much longer than any toy.
Even just lying on the floor reading together can be a great bonding time for you and your children.
Praise your children for their accomplishments. Help your kids feel proud of their accomplishments and good about themselves. When they do something good, let them know that you've noticed and that you're very proud of them. If you don't give them the confidence they need to be out in the world on their own, then they won't feel empowered to be independent or adventurous.
Be specific in your praise to let them know exactly what is being appreciated. For example, instead of saying, “Good job!” you might say, “You did great taking turns with your sister while playing,” or “Thank you for cleaning up the toys after playing with them!”
Make it a point to praise your children's accomplishments and good behavior more than their natural talents. That will help them learn to value taking on a tough challenge.
Try to get in the habit a habit of praising your children more often than you give them negative feedback. Though it's important to tell your children when they're doing something wrong, it's also important to help them build a positive sense of self. In addition, if you focus too much on bad behavior, your children may act out more as a way to get your attention.
Avoid comparing your children to others, especially siblings. Each child is individual and unique, so celebrate their differences. If you constantly compare your child to other kids, it might make them feel like they can never be good enough in your eyes. It might even hold them back from finding success later on. Instead of comparing them to other kids, help your children learn how to meet goals on their own terms, and encourage them to follow the path that works for them.
Comparing one child to their siblings can lead your children to develop a rivalry. Try to nurture a loving relationship between your children, not a competitive one.
Don't show favoritism between your children, either—if they're arguing, be fair and neutral.
Give your children your full attention when they're talking. It's important to have open communication with your kids, so be sure you take the time to stop and listen when they come to you with questions or concerns. In addition, express interest in your children and involve yourself in their life. This will help create an atmosphere in which your children can come to you with a problem, however large or small.
Practice active listening with your children so they know you're paying attention to them. Look at them while they talk to you, and show them you're following along by nodding and making affirmative statements, such as “Uh huh,” “I understand,” or “Keep going.” When it is your turn to speak, paraphrase what you heard them say before you respond. For instance, you could say, “It sounds like you're saying that this week's chore list is unfair.”
Try setting aside a specific time to talk to each child every day. This can be before bedtime, at breakfast, or during a walk after school. Treat this time as sacred and avoid checking your phone or getting distracted.
For instance, during dinner you might ask your child to share something they learned at school.
Make one-on-one time for each child. It's really important for kids to feel like they're important to their parents, so intentionally carve out time to spend with each of your children. During that time, plan something fun to do together, like going for a walk, getting a snack, or putting together a puzzle. While you're doing that, give your child your full attention—talk to them and listen to what they have to say. Even just casually spending time together can be really meaningful to them.
Try to divide your time equally if you have more than one child. However, keep in mind that you don't have to do the same thing with each one—maybe one of your children loves roller skating, for instance, while the other would be happiest with a trip to the library.
Be engaged with their schoolwork as well. For example, when you can, try to attend school functions, do homework with your children, and monitor their grades to get a sense of how they are doing in school. You can also join a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) if you'd like to be more involved in their education.
Be careful not to stifle or smother your children, however—give them time to themselves, too. You want them to feel like your time together is special, not like they're forced to spend time with you.
Respect your child's privacy to build trust. Allow your children to feel that once they enter their room, no one will look through their drawers, or read their diary. This will teach them to honor their own space and to respect the privacy of others. It will also give them a sense of stability, and it will help build trust between the two of you.
Allow your child to maintain their personal space and accept that it's normal for them to sometimes keep secrets from you, especially as they get older. You can balance this by having an open door policy so that they can approach you if they need help with an issue.
Be there for the milestones. You may have a hectic work schedule, but you should do everything you can to be there for the important moments in your children's lives, from their ballet recitals and birthdays to their high school graduation. Remember that children grow fast and that they'll be on their own before you know it. Your boss may or may not remember that you missed that meeting, but your child will most certainly remember that you didn't attend the play they were in.
If something happens and you have to miss an important milestone, let your child know that you're really sorry you missed it, and make it up to them with a special celebration. For instance, if you can't take your child to class on the first day of school, you might celebrate by picking up their favorite dinner and a special dessert that night.
Enforce reasonable rules and consequences. Create a list of household rules that will help your children lead a happy, productive life. Make sure these rules are appropriate for your child's age. Remember, your rules and guidelines should help your child develop and grow, but they shouldn't be so strict that they feel like they can't do anything right.
For example, if you have a younger child, you might have rules like “Don't go outside without a grownup,” with the consequence of being grounded indoors if they break that rule. For older children, you might set rules about helping around the house, and you might take away a privilege like screen time if they don't do their chores.
Listen to your child's feedback about the rules they have to follow, but remember—you are the parent. Children need boundaries. A child who has been allowed to behave as they please will struggle in adult life when they have to obey society's rules.
Avoid overly harsh forms of punishment, and never do anything that involves physically hurting your child—in addition to being abusive, it can actually make behavioral problems worse. It's always better to help and guide your child so they can learn from their mistake.
Be consistent with your rules. Even though it can be hard sometimes, it's important to enforce the same rules all the time. Try not to let your child manipulate you into making exceptions. If you let your child do something he or she is not supposed to do just because he or she is throwing a tantrum, then this shows that your rules are breakable.
If your child feels like your rules are breakable, they won't have an incentive to stick to them.
Control your temper as much as you can. It's important to try to be as calm and reasonable as possible when you're dealing with your children, even if they're misbehaving. Obviously, this can be quite a challenge, especially when your children are acting out or just driving you up the wall, but if you feel yourself getting ready to raise your voice, take a break and excuse yourself, or at least let your kids know that you are beginning to get upset.
We all lose our tempers and feel out of control, sometimes. If you do or say something you regret, you should apologize to your children, letting them know that you've made a mistake. Teaching them to apologize and admit when they were wrong is a more important lesson than acting like you're always perfect.
Be a united front with your child's other parent. If you're raising your children with someone else, it's important that your children think of you as a united front—two people who will both say “yes” or “no” to the same things. If your kids think that their mother will always say yes and their father will say no, then they'll probably learn to play off of that to get what they want.
This doesn't mean that you both have to agree 100% about everything having to do with the kids. But it does mean that you should work together to solve problems that involve the children, instead of being pitted against each other.
Try not to argue with your spouse or co-parent in front of the children. Children may feel insecure and fearful when they hear their parents bickering. Instead, try to show them that when people disagree, they can discuss their differences peacefully.
Create a disciplined schedule to keep your family organized. Your kids should feel like there's a sense of order and a logic to things in their household and in their family life. This can help them feel safe and at peace, which can help them live a happy life both in and outside of their home. A good way to do this is to keep a regular schedule. For example, you should have set bedtimes and wake-up times, serve meals at about the same time each day, and schedule a time for things like homework and play. Here are some ways that you can provide order for your children:
Keep up with your own hygiene, such as showering and caring for your teeth, and teach your child that the same is expected of them.
Encourage responsibility by giving your children regular jobs or chores to do as part of their routine.
Criticize your child's behavior, not your child. If your child is misbehaving, let them know that you don't like their actions. However, reassure them that you still love and care about them, even though you're not happy with that behavior. That way, they'll be more likely to feel like they're can change how they're acting, while still feeling loved and supported.
For instance, if you catch your child being mean to their sibling, don't say, “You're so bad!” Instead, say something like, “It's hurtful to call people names, so I think you should apologize to Anna.”
Be assertive yet kind when you're pointing out what your child has done wrong. Be stern and serious, but not cross or mean, when you tell them what you expect.
If they misbehave in public, take them aside, and scold them privately. That way, you won't be adding embarrassment into the mix.
Don't place unreasonable expectations on your child. Try not to make your child feel like they have to be perfect or to live up to your idea of what perfect should be. For instance, don't push your child to get perfect grades or to be the best player on his soccer team. Instead, encourage good study habits and good sportsmanship, and let your child put in the effort that they're capable of.
If you act like you only expect the best, your child will feel like they may never measure up, and may even rebel in the process.
Be clear about what you expect from your child. For instance, you should say, “Please put your shoes on,” rather than, “We need to leave, shouldn't you have your shoes on by now?”
Teach your children to be independent. Teach your children that it is okay for them to be different, and they do not have to follow the crowd. Teach them right from wrong when they are young, and encourage them to make their own decisions, rather than deciding everything for them.
Give your children the chance to make choices on their own. If you have a young child, for instance, you might offer 2-3 outfits and let them chose the one they want to wear, or you might let them pick between several snacks.
When your children are older, give them choices on things like which extracurricular activities they want to participate in and the friends they want to hang around—as long as you feel like they're safe influences, of course.
Remember that your child is not an extension of yourself. Your child is an individual under your care, not a chance for you to relive your life through them.
Be a good role model. Arguably the most important thing you can do as a parent is to be a good influence. If you expect certain behaviors from your children, you really have to model them yourself. You don't have to be a perfect person, but you should strive to do as you want your children to do, and be willing to admit when you make mistakes.
For instance, if you want your children to be polite and kind, don't yell in traffic or snap at someone who's holding up the line at the grocery store.
If you want to teach kids about charity, take your kids with you to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and help serve up meals. Explain to them why you do acts of charity so they understand why they should.
If you want your children to do household chores, ask them to help you while you're cleaning around the house. Don't just ask them to clean their room while you sit on the couch.
If you want your kids to get off their digital devices, don't spend a lot of time hooked to your tablet or phone.
Practice good manners with your children. Basic manners will take a person a long way in life, so from the earliest ages, teach your child to say things like, “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me.” Also teach them about waiting their turn, sharing with others, and how to act in a social situation.
Remember, the best way to teach your children manners is to model them yourself!
Encourage your children to have a healthy lifestyle. It's important to make sure that your children eat healthy food as much as they can, that they get plenty of exercise, and that they get enough rest every night. Don't force them to eat or act a certain way, but do try to provide healthy options instead of filling up the house with junk food, and plan activities for the family that will get everyone up and moving.
One way to encourage them to exercise is to get them to play a sport early on in life, so they find a passion that is also healthy.
Start healthy eating habits at a young age. From the time you first start introducing solid foods, offer a variety of age-appropriate fruits and veggies, rather than unhealthy snacks like chips and sweets.
Let your children make their own mistakes. Life is a great teacher, so don't be too quick to rescue your child from the results of their own actions. Know that you can't protect your children forever, and they're better off learning life's lessons sooner than later. Though it can be hard to stand back and watch your child make a mistake, this will benefit both you and your child in the long run.
For instance, if your child refuses to wear a jacket, don't force them—they'll realize their mistake when they get cold. However, you can bring the jacket along in case they change their mind.
Be reasonable when you're letting them face their own consequences. For instance, sometimes it's better to let your child fall off the couch rather than yelling at them to get down for the 14th time in a row. However, if they're standing on the edge of a cliff, you'd obviously want to intervene.
Try not to say, “I told you so,” when your child learns a life lesson on his own. Instead, let your child draw his own conclusions about what happened.
Emphasize moderation and responsibility when it comes to alcohol consumption. You can start talking about this even when children are young. Explain that they will have to wait until they are old enough to enjoy a drink with friends, and talk about the importance of designated drivers. In addition, be frank with teens about the effects alcohol can have on their brain and body.
Encourage your teens to wait until they're legally old enough to drink. Tell them that even then, they should never drink and drive, and assure them that if they're ever impaired, they can call you and you'll make sure they get home safely.
Be honest with your children about sex. If your child has questions about sex, it is important to answer their questions calmly and without embarrassment. If you don't answer their questions, this can leave them uninformed and ashamed, which can harm them later in life. From an early age, talk to your children about their anatomy, including the proper names for their body parts. As they get older, talk to them about puberty, conception, contraception, and the impact sex has on relationships.
It's natural for your child to become curious about their body as they get older. If they come to you with questions, answer them openly, and try not to feel embarrassed.
Be there for your child all the way into adulthood. Your parenting will have a life-long effect on your child, and they'll always need your love and affection, even if you're hundreds of miles away. While you won't always be a constant daily presence in your child's life, you should always let your children know that you care about them and that you'll always be there for them.
No matter what age they are, if you have a good relationship with your children, they'll still turn to you for advice.