12 Effective Parenting Skills Every Parent Should Have (Backed by Science)
Do you want to have good parenting skills?
Of course you do.
You want to help your children make the most of their potential, and you want them to be contributing members of society.
But it’s time-consuming to sift through all the parenting tips out there.
What makes it more confusing is that the tips from different “parenting experts” are often contradictory!
I wanted to know what parenting skills and tips have been proven to be effective. So I read through all the scientific articles I could find.
Based on many hours of research, I’ve come up with this list of 12 good parenting skills. (If you’d like to discover another three skills effective parents have, download the free bonus below.)
Enter your email below to download a PDF summary of this article. The PDF contains all the skills found here, plus 3 exclusive bonus skills that you’ll only find in the PDF.
Research-backed good parenting skills
To become more effective as a parent, practise the skills that have been proven to get the best results.
These will become the parenting strengths you can then rely on to raise children who develop into confident, successful adults.
Parenting skill #1: Focus more on your children’s positive behaviour than negative behaviour.
Yale University psychology professor Alan Kazdin explains that parents should be intentional about focusing more on their children’s positive behaviour than on their negative behaviour.
The more parents scold or reprimand, the more the bad behaviour gets repeated.
When they receive a lot of scolding, children start to internalise the belief that “I’m a bad child who misbehaves and gets scolded”.
As such, they don’t feel motivated to correct their behaviour, because it has already become a part of their identity.
Effective parents understand that the better approach is to acknowledge or describe their children’s good behaviour when they see it.
You may have to go out of your way to do this. (You can also check out these 50+ positive things to say to your children.)
Approach this with patience and dedication and you’ll observe your children’s behaviour improving over time.
Parenting skill #2: Teach your children to focus on the needs of others.
Lara Aknin’s research shows that children find happiness through giving to others.
In fact, children find greater happiness when they give to others sacrificially.
These are interesting findings, because most of us are naturally self-centred. We look out for our own needs before the needs of others.
But the research indicates that if we overcome our selfish nature and focus on the needs of others, we’ll be happier.
If you want your children to lead joyful, fulfilling lives, teach them to serve others and contribute. Involve them in activities where they get to help others and make a positive impact.
When your children think more in terms of contribution and less in terms of achievement, they’ll be on the path of building a happy and successful life.
Parenting skill #3: Don’t shout at your children.
You’ve probably already told yourself that you shouldn’t shout at your children.
But when your children are driving you up the wall, it isn’t easy to stop yourself from yelling.
Ming-Te Wang’s research findings are clear: The more you shout at your children, the more their behaviour will worsen.
Instead of trying to control your children’s behaviour, understand their perspective and feelings. Then use logical reasoning to get through to them.
To improve your parenting skills and better manage your anger, try these tips:
- Make a firm decision that you won’t shout at your children unless it’s a matter of safety
- Decide beforehand what you’ll do if you start to become angry
- Walk away from the situation if necessary
- Take five deep breaths when you become agitated
- Avoid using threats
- Analyse the role you have to play in the conflict
- Think about what unmet needs your child has, so that you can get to the root of the issue, e.g. he might feel as if he has no control over his life, which explains his rebellious behaviour
Parenting skill #4: Give your children responsibilities around the house.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development is one of the longest longitudinal studies ever done.
One finding of the study is that children who do more chores around the house become happier later on.
Household responsibilities teach children important life lessons related to duty, cooperation, community and hard work.
People who learn such lessons early in life are more likely to become well-adjusted adults.
Successful parents make household chores a part of the family’s routine and culture. This sets children up for future success.
Parenting skill #5: Build a strong relationship with your spouse.
What does your marriage have to do with your parenting skills?
Children from low-conflict families are happier and more successful in the long run, as compared to children from high-conflict families.
The research shows that parents who have a healthy marriage are more likely to raise children who are well-adjusted.
One of the most important things you can do to benefit your children is to build a strong relationship with your spouse.
I don’t claim to be a marriage expert, but here are some pieces of advice I’ve received that have helped my wife and I to build a strong marriage:
- Focus on solving problems instead of assigning blame
- Remember that the relationship is more important than being right
- Whenever possible, sit side-by-side when you’re at a restaurant or café
- Make time to talk every day
- Ask “What can I give to the relationship?” more often than you ask “What can I get from the relationship?”
- Discuss your future plans together
- Don’t pick on your spouse’s flaws
- Compliment your spouse in front of other people
- Occasionally ask your spouse, “What can I do to be a better husband/wife?”
- Don’t compare your marriage with other people’s marriages
- Be kind and polite to your spouse
Parenting skill #6: Teach your children to view challenges positively.
Renowned psychologist Carol Dweck has spent decades trying to understand how your mindset affects how successful you become.
She has found that people who view challenges and obstacles positively are far more likely to become successful than those who don’t.
Successful people look at challenges and think: “It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be fun. I’m going to learn a lot through the process of overcoming these challenges.”
On the other hand, people who aren’t so successful look at challenges and think: “It’s going to be hard, so I’d rather do something easier. I’ll try to avoid these challenges, but if I really can’t I’ll find a shortcut instead.”
These differing attitudes develop in childhood and adolescence. As such, good parents hone their skill of enabling their children to view challenges positively.
Parenting skill #7: Don’t do things for your children that your children should do themselves.
Parents want their children to be responsible and independent.
But, at the same time, they feel the urge to supervise their children closely and do things for their children that their children ought to do themselves.
This explains the prevalence of helicopter parents.
Larry Nelson’s research shows that helicopter parenting causes children to become less engaged in school, and causes their well-being to suffer too.
A good parenting skill to develop is how not to be a helicopter parent.
Here are some ways to ensure you don’t become a helicopter parent and instead develop parenting strengths:
- Don’t do things for your children that are their own responsibility
- Let your children make age-appropriate choices
- Let your children deal with the natural consequences of their choices
- As far as possible, refrain from saying “You’re too young to…”
- Don’t allow your children to become the centre of your universe
- Let your children fail
- Ask your children, “How do you think you might be able to solve the problem?”
Parenting skill #8: Help your children develop social skills.
Researchers tracked more than 750 children over a period of 13 to 19 years. They found a correlation between the children’s social skills as kindergarteners and how self-confident and successful they were as adults.
These findings highlight the importance of teaching children social skills.
Here’s a list of social skills that you can help your children develop:
- Giving feedback
- Accepting differences
- Respecting others’ rights and property
- Identifying others’ feelings
- Seeing things from others’ perspective
- Making eye contact
- Managing negative emotions
- Not interrupting
- Resolving conflicts
- Disagreeing respectfully
- Helping others
- Complimenting others
- Being polite
- Asking for help
In addition, here’s a handy resource that’s filled with activities to teach children social skills.
Parenting skill #9: Guide your children without controlling or micromanaging them.
Psychologist Diana Baumrind has done years of research about the effects of different parenting styles on children.
She concluded that there are three types of parenting styles in general:
- Permissive: The parent is too lenient and gives in to the child’s unreasonable demands too often. The parent doesn’t set consistent boundaries or rules. Children with permissive parents often become “spoiled”.
- Authoritarian: The parent is too strict, and is frequently harsh and uncompromising. The parent often coerces or forces the child into doing things. Children with authoritarian parents often become resentful and rebellious in the long run.
- Authoritative: The parent is “just right”, showing warmth and affection toward the child without being indulgent. The parent sets boundaries for the child, but is willing to compromise or negotiate if the situation calls for it. All else being equal, children with authoritative parents are the most likely to lead happy, successful lives.
Furthermore, Wendy Grolnick’s research also indicates that children who are raised by controlling parents are less independent and are less likely to develop problem solving skills.
Of course, it’s easier said than done for parents to adopt an authoritative parenting style all the time. But the research shows that this is the most effective approach to take.
So make an effort to guide and coach your children, without being controlling. This is a parenting skill that’s definitely worth developing!
(You can also look into educational coaching as a means to help your children become more proactive and self-motivated.)
Parenting skill #10: Give your children a sense of security.
Research by Lee Raby indicates that children who have a strong sense of security early on in life go on to perform better in school. These children also go on to have healthier relationships in adulthood.
This may seem like an obvious finding, but it’s interesting to note that early experiences have such a profound impact on a child’s development.
To build on your parenting strengths and give your children a sense of security, do the following:
- Show affection toward them
- Appreciate them
- Treat them with respect
- Acknowledge their feelings
- Set consistent boundaries
- Give them your full attention when you’re with them
- Be approachable
- Remind them that you love them unconditionally
- Keep your promises
- Be dependable and trustworthy
Parenting skill #11: Help your children to develop resilience and perseverance.
Psychologist Angela Duckworth has found that grit – defined as “perseverance and passion for long-term goals” – is one of the most important traits that leads to success.
When it comes to long-term success, the research indicates that grit is more important than factors like IQ and talent.
How can you master the parenting skills that will help your children develop grit?
Here are some suggestions:
- Emphasise progress over perfection
- Encourage them to take on manageable challenges
- Emphasise effort over outcome
- Model for them what it means to be gritty
- Show them that you’re continually taking risks and getting outside your comfort zone
- Talk about the challenges you face and what you’re doing to overcome them
- Focus more on contribution and less on achievement
- Let them make mistakes
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