Cliff Notes of Effective Parents

I want to share a “Cliff Notes” version of how to be a more effective parent.  These are the things I find myself advising over and over.  While they sound simple, I know they are not easy in the moment. I’ve been there too.  Here’s the short version.

  1. Be brief.  Kids really do stop listening after a couple of sentences.  It’s good to explain why, but if you’ve done that many times,  don’t say it over and over.  Lectures are not effective.
  2. Be calm. Directions given calmly are much more likely to elicit a good result.  Angry tone is likely to increase anxiety and or defiance.  Calm and firm can go together. 
  3. Be positive.  Tell your child the behavior you want to see, not what you are seeing and don’t like.  For instance, tell him to pick up his shoes rather than complaining about all the times in the past week you have tripped over the shoes.  That leads to the “not listening, fingers in ears, la-la-la” state of mind.  (See #1 above.)
  4. Listen. When a problem presents or persists, find out what your child would suggest.  This is especially true for older elementary school children and up.  You might agree or not.  Perhaps you can incorporate part of a child’s suggestion in your solution.  In any case, if you have listened and responded, your child will feel heard. Very important.
  5. Be respectful. Yes, even when you are not being treated with respect.  Stay to the high ground. Name calling, swearing, shouting — all actually model the behavior you don’t want.  (Not saying this is always easy.)
  6. End fruitless interactions.  This refers to the times you have said no to a second ice cream or a sleep-over.  You’ve even explained why in a respectful way, but your child persists in asking why, etc.  It is perfectly alright to say that you have said all you have to say on the topic and stop talking.  Hard to do with a very persistant child but very worthwhile. I wish you fortitude.

Good Luck in your challenging yet rewarding job of parenting!

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4 Responses to “Cliff Notes of Effective Parents”
  1. Hi Carolyn –
    Thanks for the “Cliff Notes!”
    I appreciate the idea that parents should keep things brief. But I do want to add that deep listening and also keeping ones mouth shut are also great parent skills to have!

  2. Carolyn,

    As I was reading this, I was doing a mental checklist of how often I use these skills at home. Thanks for the important reminder. 🙂


  3. dr.cstone says:

    Good for you. The basics take practice all life long!

  4. dr.cstone says:

    So true! Just listen and hear what comes out. You can learn so much that you need to know. Thanks for the reminder!