Parenting is an important part of loving and caring for your child. Good parenting is about providing a warm, secure home life, helping your child to learn the rules of life (e.g. how to share, respect others, etc.) and to develop a good self-esteem. You may have to stop them from doing things they shouldn’t be doing, but it is just as important to encourage them to do the things you do want them to do.

Why is parenting important?

Setting limits (rules) are an important part of everyday life. They make it possible for us to get along with one another. If children do not learn how to behave, they will find it difficult to get on, both with grown-ups and with other children. They will find it hard to learn at school, will misbehave and will probably become unhappy and frustrated.

What helps?

It is important to make sure that children feel secure, loved and valued, and that all adults looking after them notice when they are behaving well. The trick to this is to find strategies that work well for you and your child. Here are some ideas:

  • Be consistent
    Try to say the same thing each time. Be clear about the rules you want to stick to. If you don’t stick to the rules and give in, then the next time you try to set limits your child is likely to play up even more because they have learned that you will probably give in again.
  • Give lots of praise
    Let your child know when they have done something well and when you are pleased with them. Be specific so that the child knows which behavior you are wanting to encourage. For example, give them a hug/a kiss, tell them how great they are doing and point out good behavior. You need to do this straight away at the time when you see the behavior you want to encourage.
  • Planning ahead
    It helps if you and your child know the rules for particular situations before they happen. Don’t make them up as you go along (e.g. if bedtime is 7.00 p.m., make sure you both stick to it).
  • Involve your child
    Sit down with your child and talk to them about good behavior. You might be surprised about how much you both agree on.
  • Be calm
    This can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but it does help if you can be calm and clear with the words you use, for example, “please switch off the TV” or “it’s bedtime”.
  • Be clear with your child
    For example “please put your toys away” tells your child exactly what you want them to do. Simply telling them to “be good” will not help them know what behavior you are expecting. If your child can’t understand you, they can’t co-operate with you. So it is best to keep instructions brief and positive.
  • Be realistic
    It’s no good promising a wonderful reward or threatening to remove their favorite activity if you can’t keep to your word. It is much better to offer small rewards rather than punishments. For example “when you have tidied your room, you can have an ice cream”. Don’t expect too much too soon. Change usually takes time. For this reason, expect to progress in small steps. So if your child has started to or partly tidied their room, praise them for what they have done “well done for putting those toys in the box”.

The importance of your relationship

Everybody can at times feel cross and upset. It is helpful if you do spend some time together doing nice things. It is easier to do this if it is already a part of your everyday life. So try to plan for some good times together every day or most days. For example, you could plan to play a game, read together or cook with your child for 10 minutes.

How can it go wrong?

Your own experience of childhood is very important. Even if you want to do things differently from your own experience, you may find yourself doing the same with your own children. Or you find that you are doing the opposite! It is helpful if you can aim to be as clear and consistent as you can be.

If parents disagree about rules and their expectations for their children, the children may get mixed up because they don’t know what they are expected to do. They may find that if they ask each parent/carer the same question they get different answers. So whether parents are together or living in different homes, it is important, as far as possible, that everyone who cares for the child agrees on the most important matters and the behaviors they want to encourage their children to do.

Parenting can be hard work, both physically and emotionally. It’s easy to let things slip if you are stressed, depressed, tired, very busy or don’t have any help looking after your children. Without consistent encouragement and expectations, children may get into bad habits with their behavior.