By Ticily Medley, PhD
Effective parenting can be a tough job! Parenting is a job that doesn’t require an application, prior training, or proof of skills to be filled. Most of us parents would probably benefit from taking a parenting class, but how many of us actually have such an opportunity? Instead, many people are thrown into the role of parent with few, if any, helpful instructions.
There’s no comprehensive manual on how to be an effective parent. To be sure, some people look to the Bible or religious teachings, child development research, and parenting books that can be found at any bookstore, but there’s nothing that covers every aspect of parenting the way your car manual covers every nook and cranny of your new car. And many of the popular media options may feel like they don’t really cover parenting in a way that fits for Black or other minority parents.
So, here are some quick tips for effective parenting. To raise a healthy child, regardless of the child’s gender, economic setting, or age, you need the following 3 things:
Love during the time that you have authority over your child you also have a chance to love your child unconditionally in a way that the world will not. Research shows that whichever discipline method you choose (spanking, time-out, or otherwise), it will be less effective if the parent-child relationship is not experienced as warm and supportive.
Structure includes things like setting appropriate boundaries, offering stability and helping foster responsibility. Children like knowing what they can expect from the world, and this starts by helping them know what to expect at home.
Learning includes offering your child opportunities to explore, experiment and enhance their natural cognitive abilities. You can limit your child’s intellectual capacity by being too restrictive or critical at home.
Offering love, structure and learning on a consistent basis will limit acting out behaviors, rebelliousness and rule-breaking, making it easier to parent. After all, parenting should be an enjoyable role, not something that’s dreaded. To help you display healthier parenting patterns here are some examples of how love, structure and learning can be integrated into your everyday parenting based on your child’s age.
Age 0 – 7 years
- Love: Share play time (not just TV time)
- Structure: Set a consistent daily/weekly schedule of meals and bedtimes
- Learning: Explain accidents so they learn the connection between their behavior and its effects
Age 8 – 13 years
- Love: Help with homework and attend/support school and extracurricular functions
- Structure: Set expectations about age-appropriate behaviors and assign chores
- Learning: Allow them to try out different skills and abilities in school and at home to help identify their strengths
Age 14 – 18 years
- Love: Listen, understand and give them space to find their way
- Structure: Assign curfews and allow opportunities to practice independent decision-making
- Learning: Help them learn how to correct their mistakes and prevent future mistakes through talking/explaining
Age 19+ years
- Love: Support their identity and career/vocational development, help them strive for independence
- Structure: Set expectations about appropriate contributions to the household through time, energy and/or money
- Learning: Share your wisdom and the lessons you’ve learned in life to provide direction
BMWK, where you fall in on this list?
Ticily Medley, PhD, LMFT-S, LPC is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and college professor in Fort Worth, TX. Her passion is increasing mental wellness in the African American community. Her mental wellness crusade is carried out through research, advocacy and outreach particularly in the areas of diversity and inclusion, sexual/gender identity development and a variety of life skill areas such as anger management and role overload prevention. Dr. Medley can be reached for counseling, life coaching and workshops at www.NewDayLifeSkills.com