With so much parenting advice out there, how do you know what works and what doesn’t?
Sticking with advice that is backed by research allows you to parent more confidently.
Sure, part of it is trial and error because no two children are exactly the same. However, there are some universal traits that all kids share. Understanding the basic principles of child development will help you make good parenting decisions.
I want to share seven great tips with you, all based on scientific research:
Make the Behavior You Want the Default
If something is good for your child, do not present it as an option. If you want her to eat vegetables, serve them. If you want her to wear a sweater, hang it up by the door. Making something optional opens up the door for refusal.
Children may still resist or turn down things they dislike. Regardless, the research indicates that it is far less likely if they are not asked whether they want something.
Often we get upset when our kids do something when they should have known better. What parents do not realize is that kids do not always know better! Children’s brains operate very differently than adults. They think in a very concrete way and do not always infer as we do.
Try simply stating or restating exactly what you want from your child. Let go of your expectations of what she should already know. You might be pleasantly surprised. Keep the faith that your kids want to do what is right!
Give Reasons for Rules
We usually have reasons behind the rules we set, but we don’t always communicate them to our kids. Children are more likely to accept limits when we explain ourselves. Otherwise, strict rules can feel tyrannical and spark a rebellion. Try, “hold my hand in the street because it will keep you safe,” instead of insisting on blind compliance.
There are two caveats here. First, keep your explanations brief and concrete. Kids do not listen to long winded backstories. Next, safety comes first. In certain situations, it is better to be firm and insist. However, children are more likely to accept exceptions when you explain yourself most of the time.
Move on Quickly, Instead of Dwelling on Mistakes
Try and stay matter of fact when disciplining. Once you’ve dealt with an issue, refocus on the positive. When children feel like they have failed, they are more likely to give up. They are thinking, if I already messed up, why try?
Let’s say your kid spilled his milk. You might hand him a rag to mop it up. When he is done, give him a warm smile and praise how he solved his problem. Ultimately, our approval encourages kids.
Work on Delayed Gratification
Being able to wait for a greater reward is a vital life skill. Measure your child’s ability to delay gratification by trying the Marshmallow Test. Place a treat that he likes in front of him. Tell him that if he waits, he can have two. Then leave the room for a few minutes.
Kids who can wait for the second treat are on track for success. According to the original study, those who could delay gratification saw benefits once they grew up. They did better in school, got along better with others, and handled stress and frustration between. They even had lower addiction rates and were less likely to become obese.
To practice delayed gratification, make the Marshmallow Test into a game. Start with a small time frame and gradually extend it. Call it The Waiting Game. Your kids will beg to play it. Also, look for any opportunities throughout the day to practice waiting. Any time your child asks you for something, you have the chance to ask them to wait.
Keep Your Promises
Parents often forget the promises they make, but kids don’t. When adults consistently break their word, kids trust them less going forward. Kids who do not trust adults are less likely to cooperate with them. This can lead to much learning lost. Consistency is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.
Have Faith in Your Child’s Capabilities
Research indicates that children live up to our expectations of them. In one study, researchers told teachers that some of their students were gifted. Although the supposedly-gifted students were selected at random, they performed much higher than their peers by year’s end.
The simple belief in their capabilities made a significant difference in what they actually achieved! It may be tricky to purposefully change your beliefs, but what you can do is change your perspective. Reframe misbehavior in a positive way. For example, a distracted child may have a vivid imagination.
You Can Do This
Motherhood is challenging, and doubting yourself is not something you can avoid completely. There will be moments where you are completely lost and confused. However, the more you learn, the better you can do. Keep reading and know that you are doing the world’s most important work!