20 Parenting tips for creating a happy family

The younger this is taught, (0-7) the better!

1. Be patient. The ground rules/boundaries can be set via the family meeting. Parenting won’t be effective in times of conflict, set the boundaries when the child is receptive.

2. Children are not naughty but discouraged. They use mistaken behaviour to gain significance. If I can’t be the best, I will be the best of the worst!

3. Children live up to our expectations – we all do! Convey the message that you trust your child to make the right decision and they will! Expect the child to be naughty and guess what!

4. Don’t do for the child what the child can do for him/herself - this fosters dependence, denies opportunities for the child to learn new skills and diminishes self-esteem. Instead, agree shared responsibilities for running the household at the family meeting.

5. Empowerment is giving your child the message there are no limits except those that we impose on ourselves. With positive self-belief, we can achieve our potential.

6. Enforce your rules and withdraw instead of setting up a power struggle. Calmly remove yourself from the room saying, I love you but not your behaviour. This is how we behave. It gives a very clear message and avoids a slanging match.

7. Give positive attention to good behaviour/ignore bad behaviour. No behaviour is maintained if it loses its purpose.

8. Give the child one chance to misbehave. We all learn from mistakes. It is only fair to let the child make a mistake to learn from, if the behaviour is repeated, then reinforce the boundary.

9. Let siblings fight it out. If it looks like an even battle - siblings learn to communicate and cooperate. Both the elder and younger have to demonstrate mutual respect.

10. Minimise mistakes. Making mistakes is human. Don't make too much fuss about mistakes. Build on the positive behaviour.

11. Model the behaviour you want to foster. Children model what we do, not what we say! This fosters respect, that you mean what you say and equality, (that you are not asking the child to do anything you wouldn’t do). Next time you observe your child shouting or thumping the table, ask yourself, where have they seen this behaviour before?

12. Mum and dad stick together and reinforce boundaries. Without agreement in parenting, the child learns to play one parent off against the other and all hell breaks loose!

13. Natural/logical consequences teaches responsibility, co-operation and self-discipline – if you don’t do your homework, you will get into trouble at school. If you don’t clean your teeth, you will need a filling. If you shout at me, I will leave the room because I feel disrespected.

14. Over protection is the on the same continuum as rejection. If I am over protective, I am teaching my child not to take risks, to be irresponsible and to put me in his/her service. I am effectively saying I have no faith in my child to shoulder responsibility.

15. Rewards and punishment are based upon power and teach arbitrary power and external control. A child who is punished seeks revenge and will retaliate where it hurts the parent most! A child who is given rewards soon comes to expect it as his/her right.

16. Set behavioural boundaries. State clearly what is acceptable/non-acceptable in your family. Be consistent.

17. Teach time out for both adults and children. When emotions run too high, time out is required to enable one/both parties to regain composure. (10 being a temper tantrum, anything over five means the child or adult has lost control - in this state, no one can be reasonable or logical!)

18. The courage to be imperfect. Teach the child that both parents and children make mistakes and say sorry. This teaches the child that mistakes are how we learn and part of the human condition.

19. Think about when to intervene - siblings have to learn to assert themselves. Sometimes fights are created to get the adult involved. By not intervening and, if necessary, discussing the event at a later time, gives the message that we trust our children to learn to get along better.

20. Use encouragement as opposed to praise. Praise is power based and diminishes the child. It demonstrates, I am in a superior position and can therefore judge you. Encouragement teaches the child self-empowerment: how do you feel you did, were you proud of your achievements, what else do you want to accomplish?

Understanding the child’s mistaken goals of behaviour

All children’s behaviour has a purpose. Children use behaviour to gain significance within the family group. This is based on their childlike perception of their place/role within the family - behaviour which is illogical to others but consistent with the child’s view of their place within the family group

There are four goals of misbehaviour.

This is all very well but how will I tell what my child’s goal is? We can tell what our child’s goal is by tuning into our feelings:

Parental Feelings

Child's Goal Part 1

Useful Parental Response

Annoyed, irritated, constantly interrupted.

Undue attention seeking. This behaviour is demanding and repetitive.

Use Distraction. Give positive attention for good behaviour, ignore negative behaviour.

Angry, provoked, into a power struggle which escalates.

Power, to be the boss.

Stay grounded, withdraw from power struggle. Remind child of boundaries. Leave the room. I will engage when you calm down and explain what you want nicely.

Hurt, wants to get even.

Revenge. Behaviour is angry and violent ensuring the parent knows how deeply they feel hurt.

Stay grounded. Don’t take it personally. Acknowledge/allow the child to express their feelings. Make the child feel secure. Reinforce the boundaries with loving empathy.

Despairing, at wits end. Gives up.

Display of inadequacy. The child is very discouraged.

Encourage the child, focus on small successes. Seek professional help if no improvement.

Based on the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (Vienna 1870-1937).

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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Written by Kim Harries BA (Hons) MBACP Accred

Kim Harries is a qualified Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Supervisor. She has a private practice and works with individuals and couples. In her day job, as part of Social Services, she coaches people with mild to severe mental health issues back into the workplace.… Read more

Written by Kim Harries BA (Hons) MBACP Accred

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