Great parenting is a complex hybrid of success in many other parts of life.
You must maintain or track a child’s many physical needs.
A child’s motivations are uniquely different from adults.
Children must understand a few key things by the time they’ve grown up.
Give children a consistent, loving lifestyle.
You can teach most things through playing with them.
Making and enforcing rules is a challenging, elaborate experience.
Your relationship with their other parent dramatically affects your parenting.
Find small ways to keep children safe.
Watch for warning signs you’re parenting incorrectly.
Eventually, unresolved mental disorders will make a dysfunctional family.
You’ll never get parenting completely right, so enjoy your family.
What makes great parents?
Your primary job as a parent is to make children enjoyable enough to exist around others by the time they turn 4:
The quality of a child’s upbringing starts with the quality of their parent’s love and extends outward to all their relationships:
- A child will act and grow relative to how much they feel safe and feel their parents love them.
- Children are poorly mimicking their parents’ behavior (and everything else around them).
- Your child will model you constantly, even when you don’t think they’re watching you.
- They’ll inherit your habits, character traits, beliefs, hypocrisies, social norms, and lifestyle.
- Children don’t have any context except what they perceive, so you’ll probably note them performing many unacceptable things that are simply imitating you.
- Your ability to change directly determines how well your children will grow.
- Even a child’s imaginary friends teach them to socialize.
Your success as a parent comes from your success about everything else:
- Set reasonable goals and stay productive toward worthy purposes.
- Learn self-awareness, happiness, stress management, and how to have fun.
- Sleep well, manage your weight, learn to cook, and take care of yourself.
- Understanding and practicing empathy, compassion, and love.
- Build loving friendships, especially with your spouse.
Children will rarely thank their parents for self-improving until they’re adults themselves:
- In fact, self-improving parents will often disrupt what children expect, which will severely confuse them.
- Children will often misbehave around their parents’ new habits while trying to figure out the new consequences of their actions.
Each new child adds new dynamics to the family:
- With an only child, parents must give more exposure to other kids or they’ll fail to learn how to get along with others and resolve disputes.
- A married couple can easily divide out roles, but it’s far more complicated with 1, 2, 3, etc. children as they grow and take on more roles.
- With 3 or more children, parents’ attention is often split so heavily that each child may not receive enough attention from their parents.
Because young children have limits with understanding, adjust how you speak with them:
- State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in plain terms they can understand (e.g., “It is dangerous to play in the street”).
- Phrase everything in a positive way (e.g., “It is good to play where it is safe.”).
- Direct them to authorities they can trust (e.g., “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”).
- Eliminate all prescriptive, directive, or instructive elements (e.g., “Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.”).
- Remove anything that suggest certainty (e.g., “Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.”).
- (When with other children that aren’t your own) Remove anything that may not apply to all children (e.g., “Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it’s safe to play.”).
- Add a simple motivational idea that will give them a reason to follow your advice (e.g., “Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them”).
- Rephrase your new statement while repeating the first step (e.g., “Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.”).
- Relate it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand (“Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.”).
The best indicator of a healthy child is that they’re playing:
Childrens’ physical needs
Children need everything an adult needs, but in dramatically different proportions:
Children need more sleep than adults:
- 0-3 months need 14-17 hours throughout the day.
- 4-11 months need 12-15 hours throughout the day.
- 1-2 years need 11-14 hours a night.
- 3-5 years need 10-13 hours a night.
- 6-13 years need 9-11 hours a night.
- 14-17 years need 8-10 hours a night.
Children need proportionally more food:
- Help them grow fast by giving them plenty of protein.
- Their taste buds are more inclined to sweet foods, so don’t trust their judgment.
- If they start growing obese, replace their diet with healthier alternatives.
- If they’re used to junk food, teaching them to eat well will be a battle of creativity and discipline.
- Use dessert as an incentive for them to finish food.
- Place treats on the table for them to see what they get if they finish their meal.
- If you’re spoon-feeding and they refuse to eat, move chocolate toward their mouth before stuffing their mouth with what you want.
Children need unplanned time to play and explore, as well as unsupervised time outside.
Children need extra validation of their feelings:
- Children behave better when they feel better, which requires them believing their feelings were acknowledged.
- Pay more attention than when you’re talking with adults.
- Listen to them with complete focus.
- Acknowledge often with nonverbal responses (e.g., Uh-huh, hmm, I see, mmm).
- Give their feelings a clear name to help them make sense of it.
- Avoid asking “why?”, since they now have additional things they need to analyze.
- When we tell a child that their feelings aren’t relevant, no matter how kind, they will often get more upset.
- Sometimes, they’ll be too afraid to communicate what they’re feeling.
Children have unique social needs:
- Children learn the most when they play with other children.
- They need a father to give a sense of stability.
- Studies have shown that even deadbeat fathers who are physically present are better for children than absentee fathers.
- They need a mother to give them emotionally validating nurture and care.
- They also need other, non-parent role models to imitate.
- Media personalities (like kids shows) can somewhat bridge the gap, but they need one-on-one interaction with other people to feel a connection.
- Children need much more physical affection than adults, especially girls.
- Though they often subvert them, children crave clear-cut, simple family rules.
It’s taboo to discuss in most cultures, but children often get certain things they don’t need:
- Happiness doesn’t correlate with family income beyond meeting basic needs, so beyond a certain point parents never need to make more money.
- No matter how loudly they say they want something, most toys and consumer goods can spoil them and stunt their creativity.
- Children don’t necessarily need adult extended family (especially in a dysfunctional family), but do need context about those members’ behaviors.
Generally, spend about half the money you want to on them and twice as much time as you’d prefer.
They will quickly cycle through clothes:
Understand their motivations
Managing children is extremely challenging because they maintain a few paradoxes:
- They’re hyper-aware of whatever they’re focused on, but oblivious to everything else.
- They see almost everything other people are doing (more than adults), but have no words to express what they’re witnessing.
- They’re technically smarter than adults, but have absolutely no life experience to filter their understanding or skills.
- They’re extremely determined toward what they want, but are also easily frightened away from things or into telling lies.
- Children take concepts very literally (e.g., “put an animal to sleep”) and imagine extreme ideas (e.g., an eye doctor’s opthalmoscope might read their mind).
- Their words and actions are poorly performed, but constantly changing.
From birth, children set goals by using their environment:
- They’re observing patterns, then trying to gain from those patterns by taking them completely literally.
- When they’re very little (such as infancy), they’re simply trying to define reality around them, but will start creating purposes to get what they want from as early as 6 months.
- They’ll imitate what their target was trying to do, not just what their target did.
- Unlike older children and adults, they value exploration far more than rewards, so they’re constantly experimenting and testing.
- Usually, if you change the standards, they’ll remember that it worked once that way and will experiment to see if the change was permanent.
- Those enforcements are trying anything that might work and can include temper tantrums, screaming, complaining, and breaking things.
- Contrary to what you may think, they have a lot of control over themselves, but are trying to achieve a clear purpose with their actions.
- If at all possible, you’ll save tons of pain by training them correctly from the beginning, but there’s always hope until they reach adolescence.
Your child cares more about the approval and support of their guardians than anything else in the world:
- A child gains their sense of identity strictly from how they imagine you see them.
- They’re constantly asking 3 questions throughout their entire life onward into adulthood:
- A child is so sensitive to any rejection that small amounts of inauthentic affection or neglect may scar them for life.
- When you hug a child, never let go first.
- Imagine what your child sees, not how you feel about it.
- Even when their ideas are silly, those thoughts mean a lot to them, so never speak condescendingly or rudely.
- The tone you use with them will become their inner voice.
- If you’re ever yelling, you’re out of control and teaching them it’s okay to be out of control as well.
The only way to build a healthy relationship with your child is to invest in them:
- Children only feel valued or loved to the extent you acknowledge their feelings and thoughts.
- Only spend time with them on things you both enjoy, since they’ll detect when you’re not enjoying it.
- If they don’t like what you’re doing with them, they’ll feel like they’re doing chores.
- You aren’t raising children, you’re raising people.
- When they learn good habits young, they’ll have an easier time when they get older.
Consistently, daily encourage them to work on good things they feel like doing, even when you’re not around:
- Focus on teaching them self-control, not self-esteem (since they must earn that themselves).
- People find meaning through responsibility, so they will feel valued proportionally to the responsibilities that you can safely give them.
- Describe with specific physical details what you see (e.g., “I see a clean room with all the toys organized and the bed made.”).
- Describe the feelings tied to success (e.g., “It feels really good to walk into this room!”).
- Sum up the child’s accomplishments with 1 word (e.g., “You were really organized!”)
Unless it’s a matter of morality, never assert your desires over theirs:
- There are universal standards for goodness and decency, but most portions of life’s decisions are open-ended experiences.
- They’ll try to imitate their parents’ career roles, but sometimes only because it’s familiar.
- Often, they’ll do exactly as you wish, even if they hate it.
- Since we often use words vaguely, discourage them from taking precise meanings of words too seriously.
- Pay close attention to what they do with their free time and talk about, then encourage them and empower them in that direction.
Be careful with what you give them, and on what terms:
- For the sake of exploration, children typically don’t understand that things have the value you’ve given to the objects you give them.
- Make it very clear whether you’re simply letting them use it, or if it’s theirs to do what they will.
- Most of the trouble comes in parents who give something, presuming their child will handle it carefully, then a conflict will ensue when the child does something they shouldn’t have with it.
What they must know
Make a list of things up to 10 things, more importantly than anything else, you want your child to know by adulthood:
They must know they’re loved:
- Like adults, children do things for social praise, status, and influence they may receive far more than a physical reward, but desperately crave it more than adults.
- More than anything else, they need constant affirming and clarification they matter to you, are important, you care about them, and that you notice them.
- Focus exclusively on them when you talk with them, and redirect yourself back to the conversation if you get distracted.
- Spend at least 1-2 hours daily with them.
- Let them overhear you love them and believe in them.
- However, at the same time, never affirm them for what they have no control over (e.g., intelligence, strength) and focus instead on what they’ve decided (e.g., problem-solving, helpfulness).
- Even when they say and think silly things, utterly respect them and their views.
Children must internalize several critical skills to succeed:
- Self-confidence that they are capable of accomplishing, which only comes from them actually risking and succeeding at something.
- Empathy for others, which they should express as motivation to act to alleviate others’ suffering.
- Self-control over their attention, feelings, thoughts, actions, and desires.
- Social skills for interacting with other children and adults, especially with respect to their most severe eccentricities.
- Ethical behavior that keeps them honest and considerate.
- Curiosity about the world around them.
- Perseverance to keep going when they want to give up.
- Optimism about the world they don’t know.
They need to know what they’re permitted to do:
- They have no context for the appropriate way to feel and express their feelings and thoughts.
- Verbally instruct them as much as possible about what’s okay and not okay.
- They always have the right to punch a pillow, talk out their frustrations, express disagreement, explain why they disagree, and do something productive with their frustrations.
- They never have the right to scream, throw things in anger, break things that aren’t theirs, and hurt others.
They must learn awareness and reasoning:
- Children have the reasoning skills of drunk people.
- Teach children to slow down and meditate whenever they start losing control of themselves.
- Children don’t know what they need, but often know exactly what they want.
- Giving children everything they want distorts their perspective of the world.
- Structure your rewards and live your life to teach them the value of hard work and the importance of waiting.
- Schedule and communicate most of their life to give clear limits and boundaries for them.
- If they’re upset from losing something, that thing is all they were thinking about.
- They’re often more disturbed by the failed expectations than the loss of the thing itself.
- Express plenty of empathy for the loss, then redirect their attention to something else and affirm your love for them.
- Ask them questions that provoke them to consider their actions and behaviors.
- Their strongest lessons come from things they’ve discovered themselves.
- Teach them the good and bad side of things.
- Most parents teach the bad sides of things like drugs and premarital sex, but fail to explain why people do it in the first place.
- More information is always better.
- While they’ll listen now, when they’re teenagers they’ll seek answers you didn’t give elsewhere.
They must learn a wide variety of life skills:
- Effectively communicating their thoughts and feelings
- Writing well
- The ability to write well in modern society by typing is far more powerful than speaking or handwriting well.
- Home skills like cooking, and housekeeping
- Self-maintenance skills like hygiene and weight management
- How to stay safe, both physically and legally
- How to make responsible and healthy decisions later about dating, relationships, and children of their own.
- It’s worth noting that as a parent, they’ll learn far more from your example than by anything you’ll verbally teach them, and they’ll still have to discover it on their own.
Help them manage uncertainty and ambiguity:
They must learn how to manage money:
- Your child should understand how to spend, save, and budget money before they’re old enough to take risks with large-scale consequences.
- You are 100% responsible for their spending lifestyle when they’re first adults.
- Children learn more from money about how you live than what you say.
- Ages 3-5:
- They must understand that money is necessary to buy things.
- Have them buy things with money.
- They must also understand that people earn money from working.
- Strictly enforce the importance of delayed gratification.
- Teach them the difference between a want and a need.
- They must understand that money is necessary to buy things.
- Ages 6-10:
- Instead of an allowance, pay commissions for added work beyond the normal contributions.
- An allowance implies that money is always available, but commissions show money’s limits and benefits.
- Teach the importance of keeping personal information private, especially with online vendors.
- Group their money into 3 categories:
- Stress the importance of giving by making them give.
- The amount of money donated directly corresponds to their generosity.
- Make it at least a dime for every dollar.
- To make it more visually appealing, use a clear jar.
- Instead of an allowance, pay commissions for added work beyond the normal contributions.
- Ages 11-13:
- Teach them how you can only spend money once.
- Show them how to comparison-shop.
- Open a few accounts for them and give monthly reviews:
- A checking account for their spending
- A savings account to show how compound interest works
- Teach them about how compounding interest on unpaid debt can charge more than they spent.
Their lifestyle needs
Give them structure and routine:
- Chidren need rhythmic daily things to pace their day and organize their world.
- Wake them up at the same time, send them to bed at the same time, and always have dinner together.
- Turn off any media like music or television to dramatically improve the conversations during dinner.
- However, since their ability to foster their creativity requires plenty of time throughout the day to play and explore, avoid excessively structuring their day.
Every child must learn a few basic habits:
- Don’t bite, kick or hit (except in self-defense).
- Don’t torture and bully other children (or you’ll end up in jail).
- Eat with a civilized style that thanks the host (so that people are happy to have you over and feed you).
- Share with others (so other kids will play with you).
- Pay attention when adults speak (so they don’t hate you and might teach you something).
- Go to sleep properly and peacefully (so your parents can have privacy and won’t resent your existence).
- Take care of your possessions (you must learn how and are fortunate to have them).
- Be pleasant or entertaining when something fun is happening (so you’re invited to fun things).
- Behave in ways that make people happy when you’re around (so people want you around).
Children need good mental habits:
- Use your actions and lessons to teach your philosophies about life.
- Your job is to instill virtue in them by giving them motivation to do it.
- Without that, children will submit to baser desires like selfishness and harsh behavior.
- Teach stories which show others’ perspectives and ask how they’d choose things.
- Give them an environment that rewards them choosing values, character, and healthy life decisions.
- Mindless rules can stifle creativity or understanding, so values are more important than rules.
- While they can change behavior back-and-forth, character is more permanent.
- Children have an easier time creating habits than adults, but a much harder time breaking and changing them.
- Teach them awareness of their feelings, thoughts, intuition, and current needs.
- Help them differentiate between themselves and others.
- Provide context for those needs.
- Teach them to think critically, objectively, and independently about their decisions.
- Give them healthy, safe, satisfying ways to prioritize and fill needs.
- Encourage them to take personal responsibility for decisions, actions, and results.
- Discourage denial, blaming, confusion, pretending something doesn’t exist or misdirecting feelings.
- They should feel a healthy guilt when they hurt others.
- If, for whatever reason they don’t understand something, you’re failing to communicate it or show it correctly.
- Give them virtue.
- Children have zero self-discipline, so your job is to give discipline through both their desire for good things and fear of bad things you have control over.
- By far, the most difficult and rewarding virtue for children is patience.
- Teach them gratitude by temporarily taking away things from them, especially if they abuse the privilege.
As they grow, give them chances to build toward their purposes:
- Your role is to give them a place to focus on their purposes and explore.
- Children do pay attention when they have a clear motivation for it.
- Whatever you want them to learn is a side-effect of the experience.
- Explain how the things they learn can help them do what they want.
- Unless they enjoy whatever they’re learning, you’re merely teaching them patience and discipline.
- Place them in environments that stimulate learning:
- Have them play outside frequently.
- Consistently take them to new places.
- Limit their time with entertainment media (television, movies, video games).
- Media can be so stimulating that children don’t care to learn through other methods.
- Teach them to balance life between its unhealthy extremes:
- Help them to accept and re-learn attitudes, beliefs, habits, and ideas that no longer fit their new understanding of reality.
Try to choose their acquaintances carefully, since those small encounters will define how they see the world.
If you educate them correctly, they’ll use school to build their skills:
- They must understand that school is a means to a better future.
- A child will learn the most in an educational environment where’ they’re having fun.
- Make your school choice for them by who you trust to teach what they need to know:
- If you trust yourself the most, homeschool.
- If you trust the government, send them to public school.
- If you trust a private organization, and can afford it, use a private school.
- Just remember that you care the most about their future and are their final authority until they’re teenagers.
- Irrespective of your decision, you can often supplement what you want them to know with extracurricular activities like computer camp, team sports, groups like Boy/Girl Scouts, or church events.
- To dramatically improve their public school educational experience, look for charter schools and vouchers.
Since you don’t have much time, give them freedom and responsibilities as soon as they can have them:
- You only have until about the time they reach puberty.
- The only way they succeed is by failing.
- Once they become adults, every failure has dramatically worse consequences than if they had learned it as a small child or teenager.
- However, make absolutely certain that you only give them opportunities to fail where they’re still safe.
- Ages 2-3
- Help make their bed
- Pick up toys and books
- Put laundry in hamper or laundry room
- Dress themselves (with help)
- Clean themselves with assistance
- Set place mats on table
- Once children can hold a conversation, let them play outside without direct micro-management
- Ages 4-5
- Make the bed
- Empty wastebaskets
- Bring in mail or newspaper
- Help set and clear the table
- Water flowers and indoor plants
- Unload utensils from dishwasher
- Feed and water pets
- Match laundered socks
- If they can focus enough to carry things without distractions, let them run errands within walking distance.
- Start paying children commission for their chores as soon as they can understand the concept of money.
- Ages 6-7
- Sort laundry
- Fold and put away clothes
- Sweep floors
- Set and clear the table
- Help make and pack lunch
- Weed and rake leaves
- Keep bedroom tidy
- Give them the freedom to choose their curriculum and chores as soon as they can plan their day.
- If you’re concerned, give them a cell phone and near-unlimited access to the community around your home.
- Ages 8-9
- Age 10+
- Unload dishwasher
- Clean the bathroom
- Wash the windows
- Wash the car
- Cook simple meals
- Iron clothes
- Do the laundry
- Watch younger siblings (with someone older at home)
- Clean the kitchen
- Change the bedsheets
- Let them practice driving skills on a private road.
If you ever have a second child, make a few things very clear to them from the moment you’re visibly pregnant:
- You still love them just as much.
- They’re responsible for their sibling as part of the family.
Give them fun
You can teach anything to children through fun and play:
- Children understand most lessons if you can creatively merge them with play.
- Your purpose is to teach them better judgment, not to be obedient.
- Playing is a child-specific “love language”, and how they express their feelings and communicate.
- While adults work through their feelings by talking, children unleash it through using their body to play.
- Initiate physical contact with them lightly or ask a simple question, then work off of their behavior.
- To make up for the fact that they’re small, give them more control of the situation.
- Children are happy to play with whatever you choose, which is necessary for you to enjoy the experience with them.
- If you discourage a child from playing, they’ll create emotional barriers in their mind to separate themselves from the rest of the world.
- Without learning to play, children will emotionally shut down or burst into tears at the slightest upset.
- Let them win to help them feel more confident about their ability to succeed.
The best way to bridge a connection with your children is to play with them:
- Children tend to prefer playing with their parents because the parents relent and let them win, which teaches them how to tactfully behave with others by example.
- Learn to redirect their attention with a playful voice to direct them to productive, good purposes.
- Children severely differentiate between hearing you playfully or fiercely say “Oh no, you don’t!” and “That’s not where that goes!”
- Kissing is redirected biting, caressing is redirected hitting.
- Instead of harshly enforcing a boundary, make the entire experience a game.
- When you see them extremely emotional (shaking, trembling, laughing, crying), stop there and let the emotions subside, then advance further with what they’re afraid of once they’ve composed themselves.
- Teach valuable lessons via playing that would normally be lectures.
- Speak loudly about something being a secret.
- Make an organizing game to help them clean up.
- Make pretend games to confront whatever they’re afraid of.
- Pretend to be scared of absolutely everything.
- Let them physically wrestle out a problem they had earlier that day, with you being the problem.
- If there’s something they’re not supposed to do that isn’t dangerous, try to get them to do it instead.
- Teach active listening by assigning speaker/listener roles and having the listener summarize the speaker.
- You can also assign a watcher to give feedback on both as well.
- Make a “speaking catch” game:
- Prepare at least 3 general questions that interest the child or children.
- The child who holds the ball throws it and asks a question
- The next child must catch the ball and answer with more than a few words.
- The child can only speak for 30 seconds, then must ask another question and throw the ball.
- Being silly takes practice because you have to violate most of the social rules you were trained to honor.
- You’ll look silly to other adults when you interact, climb, and run with children, especially when you’re the only one.
- When frustrated, make a mock threat that turns the situation into play.
- If you can’t think of any games you want to play, make them up by creating a “winner” and “loser”.
- Flip a coin and give an overly dramatic death scene if it’s tails and a huge victory dance if it’s heads.
- When they mispronounce a word, repeat their word exactly the way they spoke, then keep using increasingly silly ways to say it.
- Pretend to be an ox, and the child has to pull you over a line in the grass.
Enjoy time with them:
- Compete with them.
- Play board games, card games or video games with them.
- Teach them chess.
- Play a trivia game.
- Create trivia questions about each other.
- Create and play games.
- Play Twister with shaving cream, food dye, and disposable clothes.
- Alternately, pour paint on each color of the Twister board.
- Have a bad joke competition.
- Play-fight with them.
- Have a pillow fight, thumb wrestle, or tickle fight.
- Have water balloon fights where you hide with a water gun and they can hit you with balloons.
- Substitute water balloons with sponge balls.
- Have a foam dart gun fight.
- Play sports with them like organized sports or wrestling.
- Invent rules for a sport.
- Take turns speaking tongue twisters.
- Build paper airplanes and have a flying contest.
- Play board games, card games or video games with them.
- Blow bubbles.
- Make a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt with clues around the house or yard.
- Play dress-up, house or school with them.
- Fill up a children’s pool with water balloons.
- Get a slip ‘n’ slide, pour various paints on it and wear white clothes.
- Add balloons all over the slide.
Give them many opportunities to socialize:
- Social skills develop through experience, not instinct or education.
- Antisocial behavior often leads to many mental disorders.
- Give them as many chances as possible for them to spend time with a wide variety of people.
- Shared family tasks
- Organized and team sports
- Community groups like church events or the Boy Scouts
- Special interest groups like karate or band
- Instead of “how was your day?”, start more meaningful conversations after school:
- What did you eat for lunch?
- Did you catch anyone picking their nose?
- What games did you play at recess?
- What was the funniest thing that happened today?
- Did anyone do anything extremely kind for you?
- What was the most helpful thing you did for someone else?
- Who made you smile today?
- Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
- What new fact did you learn today?
- Did you ask a good question today?
- Who brought the best food in their lunch today?
- What challenged you today?
- If the school was a ride at the fair, what ride would it be? Why?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your day?
- If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day, who would you want?
- What would you teach the class if you had to be the teacher tomorrow?
- Did anyone irritate you today?
- Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?
- What is your teacher’s most important rule?
- What’s the most popular thing to do at recess?
- Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? Why?
- Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
- If aliens took away 3 of the students, who would you want them to take? Why?
- What’s one thing today you did that was helpful?
- When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
- What was the hardest rule to follow today?
- What’s one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
- Which person in your class is the complete opposite of you?
- What area of your school is the most fun?
- What playground skill do you want to master this year?
- Does anyone in your class have a hard time following the rules?
Give them many opportunities to socialize and dialogue together as a family:
- Do yard work together.
- Go on walks.
- Go fishing or on camping trips.
- Play card games and board games
- Make dinner and eat together.
Give meaningful outlets for their creativity and learning:
- Reading with them together will expand their imagination and strengthen your connection with them.
- Give projects which help the family, both solo and together.
- Try out for a musical/drama group together
- Enroll in an art/dance/exercise class together
- Provide fun, challenging, creative problems to solve by themselves.
- They should have progressively more responsibilities and freedoms to try and learn new things.
- If they keep asking a string of “why” questions, you can respond with “I don’t know, what do you think?” or “Why do you ask why?”
Give supplies and toys that foster creativity:
- Let them build with STEM toys such as LEGO.
- Give them piles of sand, sticks, hammers, nails, and wood more than store-bought toys.
- Give them art supplies they can make messes with, then teach them to clean up:
- Make paint by mixing one part salt, one part flour, one part water, and food coloring.
- Make play clay by mixing a cup of cornstarch, two cups of baking soda, and 1 1/4 cup water.
- Melt old crayons together and pour them into empty glue stick cylinders to make twist-up crayons.
- Melt old or broken crayons in the microwave, pour them into greased cupcake tins, and freeze to make new crayons.
- Get a shower curtain with a map of the world or the periodic table.
Create with them:
- Write together:
- Make stories with them.
- Make mazes or puzzles for each other to solve.
- Make a comic book.
- Make a shared scrapbook.
- Make a family book that describes each family member.
- Write letters to family members or friends.
- Make art together:
- Paint or draw.
- Finger paint.
- Paint each other’s faces.
- Make clothing.
- Decorate a pair of jeans.
- Paint t-shirts together.
- Paint or decorate a room.
- Make decorations with them and put them around the house.
- Make Jack-o-Lanterns and costumes near Halloween
- Make gingerbread houses, paper snowflakes or Christmas ornaments near Christmas.
- Paint or draw.
- Perform with them:
- Film a movie.
- Sing songs with them.
- Tell them stories.
- Do shadow puppets.
- Create a play to perform for other family members.
- Learn magic tricks.
- Learn to juggle.
- Play music together.
Explore with them:
- Explore science and nature with them:
- Search your backyard and look for insects.
- Garden together, which can often help with their eating habits.
- Go on a hike.
- Build a rocket from a kit.
- Perform a science experiment.
- Make a bird feeder.
- Coat a pine cone in peanut butter and roll in birdseed, then hang outside a window.
- Go to the beach and build sandcastles.
- Go snorkeling.
- Go to a creek and dam it up with rocks.
- Go to a river and kayak or ride a boat.
- Take pictures of nature.
- Have a picnic.
- Sleep outside in a tent and make S’Mores.
- Explore the local community with them:
- Go people-watching and create stories about people walking by.
- Take a walk and explore the neighborhood.
- Visit a park, playground or public pool.
- Go to a museum, zoo or library.
- Take guided tours.
- Go bowling.
- Volunteer or donate items to charity.
- Shop at thrift stores.
- Visit family and friends.
- Find free and affordable events at local venues.
- Look for free and discounted movies.
Make food more fun:
- Make food with them:
- Make popsicles.
- Make milkshakes.
- Make hot cocoa.
- Bake a cake or cookies.
- Make mini pizzas.
- Barbecue with them.
- Decorate their food:
- Make bear faces for breakfast with banana slices and raisins on peanut butter bread.
- Make shrunken heads by boiling peeled apples with faces cut into them.
- Cut a message into a banana and put it in their lunch box, the cut part will oxidize to show the message.
- Make sandwiches by cutting faces into them.
- Put food coloring in pancake batter to make colored designs with them.
- Pour pancakes into cookie cutters to make fun shapes.
- Inject food coloring into lemons to flavor drinks or change colors of other foods.
- Turn their bread heels inward to make sandwiches that don’t look like crust slices.
Help them entertain themselves:
- Pull their swing with a long rope or use a leaf blower.
- Give them dogs or cats to play with and take care of.
- Make things to keep them occupied:
- Tape a square in the middle of a tile floor, then tell them to make it into a game.
- Make a fort for them:
- Secure a bedsheet, then blow a box fan into it.
- Use blankets and cardboard boxes.
- Use couch cushions with the couch.
- Make a hammock by tying up a bedsheet between two elevated areas.
- Put a slide next to your stairs for them to go down.
- Take off a wall from their crib and turn it into a desk.
- Make a water park for them with pool noodles and PVC pipes.
- Make Lincoln logs with large pool noodles and paint.
- Cut out triangles from sponges, then glue them to one side of tissue boxes to make dinosaur shoes.
- Create an obstacle course for them.
Give them games to play with each other:
- Tape ball game:
- Place the kids in a circle with one of them holding a tape ball with candy all over inside it.
- The child with the tape ball gets to keep anything they pull from the ball.
- The child to the left has two dice and gets a turn as soon as they roll doubles.
- Both of them hand it to the left as soon as the roller has doubles.
- Play-Doh creativity challenge:
- Each child has to make something out of Play-Doh within a time limit.
- Freeze tag:
- Everyone “tagged” by the person is “it” and must freeze in place until the game is over.
- Hide and seek:
- Someone is declared “it” and counts down while everyone hides, then the person who is “it” has to find everyone.
Be careful with status-enhancing activities:
- Your activities should grow and add meaning to your children and not necessarily your social status.
- If a child doesn’t want something (e.g., baseball league), try to understand exactly why they don’t want it.
- Children may want something, then discover later they don’t like it because they’re afraid of something or didn’t realize how hard it would be.
- Sometimes, if you already have money invested into the situation, you can compromise:
- Have them agree to endure the next few months, then cancel the activity.
- Work with them to help sell what you bought.
- Have them work an agreed amount to pay off what you had to pay.
The purpose of setting boundaries in the household is for teaching good values:
- Your broad purpose should be to create loving adults.
- If you’re simply trying to “survive”, you’ll teach them to simply “survive” as well through your example.
- There are many aspects to this including sharing, kindness, responsibility, perseverance, problem-solving, patience, graciousness, and altruism.
- Only two methods can drive them to good deeds:
- A child will either grow to love or fear their parents more, but desperately want a loving connection with their parents more than anything else.
They must live by the rules you set, or you have bad rules:
- At first, they’ll try to do exactly what you require.
- They’ll take you completely literally.
- If they don’t think they can do it, they’ll become discouraged and give up trying.
- They’ll break the rules, just to see what happens, and will often try again and again for state-based permutations of the situation.
- They’re usually curious, not malicious.
- At this point, to communicate their misbehavior as unacceptable, you must correct them with a discipline.
- However, if they feel the discipline was unfair, they’ll often do it again repeatedly to investigate how it was unfair.
- Once they understand the rules and the consequences, they’ll leave it alone.
- But, if anything changes (such as them learning something new or a major life event) or it’s been a long enough time, they’ll revisit breaking that rule to see if the consequences have changed.
Reward good behavior:
- Frequently affirm their good decisions:
- “Try it out!”
- “It’s your choice.”
- “We love you, and you are safe.”
- “You make me happy.”
- “I trust and believe in you.”
- “Have a great day, and don’t forget who you are.”
- “Accidents happen!”
- When they succeed, print out certificates that show their accomplishments (e.g., awarded on this day of June 13th for cleaning your room without being asked).
- Teach them the correlation between work and rewards by giving incentives:
- Ice cream
- Toys or games
- Educational things they’re interested in
- More fun kid-friendly variations of staple items like bedding or soap
- Go to fun places like video game arcades or amusement parks
- Turn their routine into a game:
- Make their meal like a mission with objectives.
- Make their food look like cute animals.
- Ask them how they were able to succeed, since they’ll love explaining the details to you.
Always address bad behaviors:
- Never, ever reward bad behavior.
- If you’ve relented and rewarded bad behavior, a child will learn they can get what they want if they persevere with enough bad behavior.
- Most parents fail against against the single-minded focus of a child’s will, which is why it needs a strong marriage, tons of love, and a community to consult for advice.
- Closely consider their motivations, and don’t be afraid of a direct conflict with them.
- If you have a reward for them planned for the future, do not make it something you or other family members will enjoy as well (e.g., amusement park).
- They might make a bad decision by that time, which will make the consequence very complicated.
- You have 2 choices: either make that experience miserable specifically for the child (e.g., no snacks for them at the amusement park) or deliver the consequence of their bad behavior (and infractions during the enjoyable event) after the experience.
No matter what, always give empathy:
- By providing empathy, you are respecting them and communicating that you love them.
- Empathy opens people to learning, since they feel safe that other people understand their feelings.
- Giving empathy halts our impulse to blame “mean” people, and instead we focus on mixing ourselves into the possible sources of the blame.
- Empathy also softens the blow for the uncomfortable rules and standards you’ll be setting.
- However, your empathy must come before the bad news or consequences, not after they’re aware of it.
- Very frequently, when they have to suffer the consequences of their actions, you should only give empathy.
- You’ll frequently feel like a monster, but many times intervening with the consequences of their actions can steal away a very important life lesson for them.
Never, ever argue:
- While it’s fine to discuss, a child will argue to get out of trouble.
- A child can successfully wear down absolutely every parenting method with enough arguing.
- If you start arguing, you’re in no emotional state at the moment to discuss the matter.
- Contrary to conventional wisdom, scientific studies have shown that delaying consequences is better than giving them instantly.
- You’re buying time to ensure you’re not disciplining with anger or anxiety.
- You have enough time to think out and discuss with others of a reasonable, logical consequence for their misbehavior.
- Children have to live with the pain from uncertainty over the pending consequence they’ll have to suffer.
- Children will learn that you’re human as well, which adds to their ability to recognize your empathy for them.
- Neutralizing arguing is profoundly simple:
- Do not think heavily on the subject or let your feelings take over.
- Have a predetermined one-line statement of your choice:
- I love you too much to argue.
- I know.
- What did I say?
- Thanks for sharing.
- I’ll love you wherever you live.
- I argue at 6 A.M. on Saturdays.
- (nonverbal sigh of affirmation)
- Calmly repeat that line with empathy, not anger or sarcasm.
- The reason you’re using a one-line statement is to say “I love you enough to set some limits” and “I love you too much to waste time arguing with you.”
- If done correctly, it completely sidesteps the argument because the parent isn’t dropping into a contention.
- If you ever say “no”, stay consistent and never, ever relent.
- If you do relent, children will never take you seriously, since your word means nothing.
- This is why it’s important to only say “no” to things you can fully enforce, which often requires consulting others.
- Children are often asking for possessions they know they don’t deserve, but want to test to see if they can get it.
- While they’ll be impulsive to solve the problem now, you are 100% free to delay consequences:
- “I’m going to have to do something about this, but not now…later.”
- “No problem. I love you too much to fight about this. I’ll take care of this later.
Only make reasonable consequences:
- Setting reliable limits is a relatively straightforward process:
- Find 1 routine thing you’re going to confront.
- Only focus on changing one habit/pattern at a time, since that’s the only way to successfully change habits anyway.
- Make a plan that will restrict an activity or privilege, but don’t use it yet.
- That restriction must be enforceable, with very specific criteria about what you’ll do, how long, and what conditions it’ll persist.
- Discuss it with at least a few people and do some research and reading on it.
- Get support from other involved adults (coaches, teachers, etc.)
- After you’re 100% sure you know how to respond to every possible action they take, execute the plan.
- Avoid nagging or reminding them, and let them experience the consequences of your predetermined, well-researched framework.
- Find 1 routine thing you’re going to confront.
- If you succeed with one specific consequence, children will very quickly pick up a pattern and will start making changes on their own without further conflicts about it.
- The only way consequences work is because the child knows they are loved.
- Otherwise, without love, the child will see their consequences as a challenge to overcome or an obstacle in the way of what they want.
- Children only become successful adults in their 20’s when they see their parents as both powerful and loving.
- Constantly, constantly affirm your love for them, especially when you wake up and go to bed.
- Note special things throughout the day that they’re doing.
- Even when they’re behaving terribly, you can still love them by expressing empathy for the consequences they’re feeling.
- Don’t take things away from children, since they will grow resentful to you about it.
- However, you can allow them to use their possessions to raise money to solve problems that they’ve created.
- Thus, you can give them things when life is going well, with the understanding that they may use it later to redeem themselves from the issues they’ve created.
- The consequences must be reasonable and must reflect reality as closely as possible while staying safe for the child.
- The more consequences they learn early on, the more prepared they are for the rest of life.
- Effective consequences have the following criteria:
- They’re LOGICAL relative to the child’s mistake or behavior.
- They’re provided with LOVE via sincere empathy.
- They’re ENFORCEABLE without punishing the parent in the process.
- They’re preceded, given, and followed by VERY FEW WORDS, with no lectures or nagging, and often no advance warning of what the consequence will be.
- When they’re over, THEY’RE OVER, with no revisiting them or discussions about them.
- Logical consequences are extremely difficult to enforce, for several reasons:
- Many consequences don’t create adverse consequences for a very long time (e.g., not doing homework or yelling when angry).
- The creative ability of each child is often far greater than a parent can control, so children quickly find workarounds to any rule.
- For many consequences, you often see the outcome immediately and think “I really don’t want to have to fix/clean/say…”
- Most parents reject that thought, then try to do things that will make the parents feel more comfortable with their child’s consequences.
- The only way to find logical consequences for actions requires consulting other people to find all the possible ways the child will likely think ahead to subvert the rule.
- Often, this means saying “I’ll think about the consequence for this, and it’s coming later”.
- As long as you deliver a consequence later for their actions, children learn more from it than if you’d delivered it immediately.
- You can survive your child being upset.
- However, never wait more than 1 day for the consequences for children under the age of 5.
- Delivering it later gives you plenty of time to discuss with others.
- In a conventional home, a mother can often defer to a father later: “wait until your father comes home”.
- By lavishing a child in privileges and possessions, you have more things you can use as discipline, as well as more freedoms and fun for them if they behave well.
- The consequence must be enforceable:
- You can’t make a child brush their teeth, but can only give treats to children who do.
- You can’t make them not roll their eyes at you, but you can choose to withhold things.
- You can’t stop them from spending time playing video games or watching TV, but can choose whether you’ll permit them in your home.
- You can’t make them go to sleep, but can wake them up early, remove lightbulbs, or shut off electricity.
- You can’t stop kids from arguing, but can charge them for the time they’re fighting with each other.
- You can’t make children eat, but can cut off snacks until they finish their normal meal.
- Ground them and restrict their toys, electronics or privileges.
- You can’t make them come in at night if they violate curfew, but you can lock them out overnight.
- Instead of confiscating their phone, you can take away their phone charger until they do chores.
- On long road trips bring a large bag of candy you promise to give them at the end, then throw a piece out the window every time they misbehave.
- If children fight with each other, put them together in time-out in a large Get Along Shirt.
- Change the Wi-Fi password daily, then require them to do their chores if they want the password.
- There are a few specific reasons that logical and enforceable consequences won’t work:
- The parent is delivering it with the purpose of vengeance for the pain they’ve experienced, which makes the child vengeful in return.
- The parent is angry, frustrated, or delivers the message sarcastically, which provokes the child to wonder if the parent’s mood can change the outcome.
- Children will always come to need at least the same number of warnings and reminders as the parents give, and will appear deaf once you’re habituated to doing it.
- The parents feel sorry for their child and relent from the consequence, which teaches the child that they’re not smart enough to learn from their mistakes.
- To make consequences work, they must be separate from the child.
- No matter what your son or daughter does, you’ll still love them, so the consequences have nothing to do with whether you love them, and you must communicate that.
- Don’t get emotionally attached to the consequences you’re delivering.
- When they say “I hate you”, they only hate the power you wield over them.
As much as possible, always give them choices:
- Only give them choices that fit your value system.
- You don’t have control over their choices, only the consequences (and in that, only partly).
- The purpose of good parenting is to teach children to make good choices before they leave you.
- Parents must be prepared to safely express the world’s natural consequences in their own home.
- You must always give the child control over their choice.
- Good parenting is telling the child that they’re free to make decisions, as long as they’re reasonable.
- Give 99% of your choices when things are going well.
- The more choices they have, the fewer problems children tend to create, since they feel empowered by their decisions.
- Give choices before they become resistant.
- If you give a choice after a command, it’ll look like you’re relenting.
- Give two options for your choice.
- As a parent, you should like both of those choices and be able to live with either of them.
- Difficult power struggles arise when parents give a bad set of choices.
- More choices will overwhelm them.
- Never disguise threats as choices.
- If you say “take out the trash or you’re grounded”, then they are free to not take out the trash.
- Don’t be afraid to say “I usually give choices, but not this time”.
- If they don’t choose quickly, choose instead for them.
- Never tell a stubborn child what to do, but instead what you’re willing to do.
- Describe it as a detached reality (e.g., “I only give candy to people who behave nicely.”)
- They will remember the last thing you say more than anything else.
- If you nag or remind, that’s all they’ll remember.
- Instead, you must say “It’s your decision”, “I love you”, or “You have control”.
Use the techniques that work best for you and your family:
- When possible, try to avoid declaring absolute statements with them.
- Use “I Feel” statements when applicable – “I feel ___ when you ___.”
- Questions create thought, while statements create resistance.
- What did you do?
- Who did you harm?
- How can you fix it?
- What can you change to avoid it next time?
- Redirecting is the easiest method to discipline a small child (if you can safely carry them):
- Sing “Uh Oh”, without yelling or threatening.
- Use very, very few words to explain the consequence (e.g., “going to bed!”)
- Pull them away from the offending situation.
- Concealing items is the best way to avoid future encounters.
- Until they’re old enough to remember where objects are, you can frequently store things away on top a fridge, in a cabinet, or in a back closet.
- If there are many things you don’t want them to hold until later, keep it organized in age-appropriate boxes.
- Spanking a small child under age 2 is literally the only way to discipline them without redirection or concealing items.
- Children start breaking rules as early as 5 months, before you can reason with them.
- The conflict will often settle quickly with a swat, but it will easily become abuse if you’re emotionally wound-up about the incident.
- By the time a child is old enough to talk, spanking isn’t very effective, and will transition to beating (which is certain abuse) unless you replace it with better tactics.
- Once they can talk, you can use the Distant Authority technique:
- Use very few words to explain the consequence.
- Do not attach emotions to it, and treat it as an unemotional matter.
- e.g., “You hit your sister, so you’re grounded.”
- If they protest, give them choices on how they can act, with their bad behavior choosing one of those decisions.
- e.g., “You can go there stomping and angry, or walk there peacefully.”
- Remain by the door, but don’t talk to them or interact through the door.
- Throw a towel over the door to give resistance if you need.
- Let them come out only after they’ve been calm for 3-5 minutes.
- Reset the timer and communicate that to them if they act up, open the door, or aren’t willing to wait.
- When they’re ready to come out, don’t lecture or remind, since they 100% know what they did.
- Hug them and tell them you love them, then go about your day as if it didn’t happen.
- Use very few words to explain the consequence.
- Use Reverse Psychology for particularly stubborn children:
- Calmly order them to do something they can safely do that demonstrates their frustration:
- “Have a nice tantrum, I’ll see you when you’ve calmed yourself.”
- “Go stomp your feet down the hall, and slam the door.”
- Applaud their behavior in public and draw attention to how awful they’re behaving.
- Calmly order them to do something they can safely do that demonstrates their frustration:
- Use the “energy drain” technique if you want them to emotionally experience the consequences they’re causing:
- Prepare yourself to speak either calmly with emotional detachment or unease.
- Postpone it if you need.
- Tell them “you’ve really drained my energy with that event, how would you like to put it back?”
- Let them come up with ideas, and give them ideas if they don’t have any.
- Accept whatever fair restoration you’ve both agreed on, and avoid lecturing.
- Behave as if it never happened after they’ve redeemed themselves.
- Prepare yourself to speak either calmly with emotional detachment or unease.
Teach them to fix their own problems:
- Very often, children have problems that they can fix, but would rather have their parents fix.
- Children who are permitted to learn from small mistakes while they’re young are guaranteed to perform much better later on in their life when the stakes are higher.
- Give them the freedom to solve problems that they can fix themselves with a very specific technique:
- Provide a strong, sincere dose of empathy about their problem.
- If they try to demand you do something, keep giving that empathy until they’ve calmed themselves.
- Only step in with a problem that’s too big or dangerous for them to solve on their own.
- If they’re simply telling you about their problem, ask permission from them first.
- Lovingly hand the problem back to them.
- “What do you think you should do?”
- If they protest, share how much you believe in their ability to solve their issue.
- Ask permission before sharing ideas.
- Give a brief menu of ideas and help them evaluate each one.
- They don’t have to be brilliant ideas, and can be simply mediocre.
- If you don’t have any ideas and it’s not urgent, ask to discuss it later.
- Avoid “you should” or “you could”, since it will make them resistant.
- “Other kids have tried…”
- “This is just my experience…”
- “I’ve heard that this works…”
- “You said you could…”
- Start with a lousy suggestion.
- A bad idea makes all the other ideas better by comparison.
- Children are impulsively driven to oppose the first idea anyway, since it’s not you fixing their problem.
- After each option, ask how that would work for them.
- Take your time, and give them time to process each option.
- Let them learn from solving or not solving their problem.
- Affirm that you believe in them, and that you want to hear how it turns out.
- Don’t tell this which solution you prefer, since that steals learning from them and they’ll never “own” the problem.
- You’ll often feel like a jerk, since the child won’t have closure.
- Carry on and enjoy the rest of your time with them.
- Don’t drive the point home, bring it up again, or allude to it.
- Provide a strong, sincere dose of empathy about their problem.
Handle household chores correctly:
- Instead of calling them “chores”, consider them “contributions”.
- Contributions are daily or weekly things they must do to continue coexisting with the family, since life always requires at least some work.
- By making them responsible to perform tasks in the household, they find meaning as part of a connected family.
- While this is controversial, studies have shown that children who don’t do chores in the house are awful at housekeeping and tend to stay single throughout adulthood more often.
- Start with contributions as soon as they can walk.
- Even if they’re making a mess, let them do anything that’s safe.
- Work together with them, and make it a team effort.
- When they’re really small, ask for their help and do most of the work.
- Focus most of your attention on their level of effort, not on their results.
- Avoid saying “be careful” or “watch out”, since they’re already trying as hard as they can.
- This is highly relative to the child’s present situation and ability.
- However, don’t accommodate laziness unless you prefer they stay lazy.
- Semi-frequently, loving family members will go over to someone else doing the chores and say “let me help”, which shows that that person is loved and valued.
- When giving responsibility for chores, always set a future deadline.
- If you mandate they do it now, you’re giving an ultimatum that they won’t like.
- By delaying, you get time to consider a logical consequence if they don’t do it.
- Never, ever remind them.
- It’s easy to not remind them if you have a creative solution if they need to learn a life lesson about not doing that chore.
- However, they can certainly do extra chores to make life easier for everyone.
- Never pay them for contributions, since that’s the bare minimum.
- Feel free to pay them commissions for extra work or an extremely great job at something, though.
Be careful with technology:
- Children have an unusually high capacity to become addicts, so teach them how to detect when their behavior is excessive.
- Most consumer technology (e.g., smartphones, social media) is designed to be addictive.
- All technology, however, is a privilege.
- You can simply draw the line with them as “good children who do their chores and don’t fight get to keep using technology”.
- If you don’t teach them responsibility with technology gradually, they’ll abuse it by the time they’re teenagers.
- Starting around middle school, your child’s peers start becoming as heavy an influence on them as you, and they’re free to look at naked people on the phones their friends’ parents didn’t lock down.
You won’t treat any two children the same because they’re completely different people:
- Push non-social children out of their comfort zone more and teach patience to children who hate being alone.
- Teach restraint to hyperactive children and tolerance to quiet ones.
- Give expressive children an outlet and teach subdued children to express more.
- Stand against intense children, but pay close attention to devious ones.
- Some children are especially difficult:
- Understand their needs, but you must also teach them understand your needs.
- Sensitive children are constantly fearful, so consistently give empathy, reasoning, and over-communicate any changes with them.
- Self-centered and defiant children must understand they share the world with other people, which usually requires your discipline.
- Aggressive and energetic children need their efforts directed to something useful.
When your child finds an interest in something you don’t want:
- Refocus their passion toward something they do like.
- e.g., redirect an interest in drums to the guitar.
- Focus on something meaningful in that thing they like.
- e.g., improvised percussion from their interest in drums.
- Give up what you want for them and find good qualities in their decisions.
- e.g., accept they will always like drums and how it teaches rhythm.
When they misbehave in public:
- They’re trying to get what they want and know that public behavior is different than private behavior.
- Deal with their behavior first, then apologize to bystanders.
- You can warn them that consequences will come, then deal with the consequence later or keep them home the next time you go.
- If you’re bold, redirect the shame back to them by publicly advertising as a celebration of how awful they’re behaving.
To address conflicts as soon as they arise, allow anyone in the household to call a family meeting at the couch at any time.
Your romantic relationship affects parenting
Don’t let the child’s needs eclipse the rest of your home:
- Keep your marriage a priority, since it affects how reliably you can be a parent.
- Children are intimately aware of their parents’ relationship, sometimes more than the parents.
- Keep date night a priority.
- Kiss your spouse regularly in front of the children.
- Continue affirming your love and gratitude.
- Make a date night co-op with three other sets of parents to babysit once a month and date night for the other three weeks.
- This is easy to do because adults don’t usually feel and express their needs as urgently as children.
- If you prioritize them too much, they’ll expect that you determine their happiness, which eventually becomes impossible.
- If you give children everything you have, they’ll assume they can have everything of yours later.
A child needs both a mother and father figure:
- While single parenting is possible with help from other people, one person can’t replace the psychological needs a child has for both a father and mother.
- Children need a present, involved father.
- Missing or inadequate father figures are the cause of many mental disorders.
- Absentee fathers increase the chances of suicide, rape, running away from home, dropping out of school, and institutionalization.
- Children need a loving mother to teach self-love and compassion for others.
- Uncaring or absent mothers inspire children to be critical and mean-spirited toward themselves and others.
- The nuclear family model has worked for thousands of years:
- The father provides for a household financially with a career.
- The mother works to maintain the home and manage numerous details, including the children.
- The more analytical spouse manages the finances.
- The parents have authority over the children, who possess miniature roles that imitate their same-sex parent until they move out.
A broken home will be severely devastating, but a child can still recover from it.
While you should be concerned about their safety, only worry about what you can do.
They must learn about painful objects and unstable surfaces through one of a few methods:
- By heeding what you say and instruct.
- Experiencing now, with a relatively rapid recovery from the injury.
- Once they understand object permanence (around age 3), they will adequately learn pain permanently without having to re-experience it.
- Listening later to someone they trust more than you.
- Experiencing later, with an adolescent’s or adult’s slower injury recovery.
Pool noodles can protect most things:
- Cut them in half for most sensitive areas or in 3/4 for most corners.
- Put a pool noodle under a fitted sheet to keep them from falling out of bed.
Learn basic first aid to avoid most hospital visits:
- Freeze ketchup packets as small ice packs.
- Always keep antibiotic ointment and band-aids, just in case.
- While it’s good to give empathy, they will often shake off small bumps and scrapes if you encourage them to get back up and keep playing.
Try to protect their minds:
Watch carefully for their health:
- Children don’t tend to clearly articulate how they’re injured, especially before they’re 5 years old.
- Pay close attention to anything out of the ordinary, such as them being particularly non-talkative.
- Often, they simply need sleep, even if they fight you on it.
- If you must give them medication, try to mix it in with sugar (which is why most children’s medication is practically candy).
- To administer eye drops, have them look upwards, then apply the drops just above their lower eyelid.
- For them to get shots, have them shake out the anxiety on an arm they’re not using.
Watch for sexual predators:
- Educate them on “safe” versus “unsafe” touching.
- “Unsafe” touches are anything that covers the swimsuit, and only parents and doctors can touch there.
- Make sure they understand that they’re 100% safe to let you know about unsafe touching, even if it’s adults who do it.
- They should also know that they’re always safe to voice their discomfort with any touching of that sort.
- Any time you go somewhere with them, have photos of them to show an authority if they get lost.
- Don’t post public pictures on the Internet of your children which could help predators:
- Don’t post locations in photos.
- Don’t post pictures of their hobbies or interests.
- Don’t show any images that indicate official information like name or birthday.
- Don’t post photos next to a car, especially showing a license plate.
- Don’t show them half-dressed, even if you find it cute.
- Don’t show something that may embarrass them someday.
- Don’t post photos of them with their friends, since it can put the whole group at risk.
- Don’t ignore any suspicions you have about abuse.
- While the chance of sexual abuse is small, a few moments with the wrong person could permanently traumatize your child.
- Some of the most clear warning signs will be that they’ll make sexual drawings, talk about sexual things, or recreate sexual activities with friends.
- Pay close attention to their stories, and trust any instincts you feel about it.
- An abused child will often fear others won’t believe them or that you’ll blame them for the incident.
- Contrary to public opinion, most sexual predators are familiar people in the child’s life.
- They’re very often very nice people, but prey on children.
- Watch for anyone over-volunteering in the family unit, buying excessively nice things, or being overly religious.
- Children are often groomed for sexual predation.
- The favorite people in a child’s life are the custodian and lunch lady, since they don’t have any responsibilities with them.
- Carefully, directly, approach your child if you suspect abuse.
- Listen to what they have to say.
- Don’t ask leading questions or prejudge what they’re going to say.
- Stay calm.
- Hearing what they’re telling you is difficult, but they have a harder time saying it.
- As much as possible, you must be stronger in the situation than they will be.
- Assure the child it wasn’t their fault.
- Since they’re too young to lie about sexual abuse, believe them and confirm whatever feelings they have.
- Let them know you’re glad they told you.
- Assure the child your relationship with him or her doesn’t change.
- Be honest with the child and inform them what you intend to do
- Let them know you’ll try to find help for them from people who know how to handle the situation better.
- If you tell someone else later without informing them, they will feel betrayed.
- Listen to what they have to say.
- Watch closely for seemingly innocuous social media sites (e.g, Roblox) that appear harmless but quietly endorse sexual misconduct.
Only a few things cause most bad parenting:
- Focusing on what the child is doing instead of what causes their behavior (which often expresses as an “I feel…” or “I need…” statement).
- Fear-driven prevention of letting a child learn things for themselves.
- Impatience at a child’s comparatively aimless or whimsical approach to tasks.
- A narrow cultural range from only a few caretakers (i.e, no extended family or friends babysitting).
Watch for frequent discipline:
- There are only a few possible reasons why a child needs constant correction:
- The child feels uncertain about something, so they’re feeling out the boundaries.
- The parents are failing at setting and maintaining enforceable, logical boundaries.
- The child doesn’t feel loved, so they’re seeking attention to establish their identity with something.
- Be very careful if you observe yourself scaling up your disciplines to resolve an issue, since your choice of correction is obviously not working as well.
Domestic abuse comes in all varieties:
- Physical abuse is the most visible, and can include striking, beating, burning, throwing, and dropping.
- Emotional and psychological abuse involves devaluing someone, and happens whenever someone doesn’t feel loved.
- Neglect abuse involves not affirming and giving children what they need, whether it’s physical or psychological.
- Financial abuse involves forbidding someone to use money in the household without open discussion about it.
- Often, most other forms of abuse can create psychological abuse after the fact, where a single glance can create trauma.
Avoid extreme passivity:
- Ignoring visible problems and hoping the child will eventually learn or things will get better:
- The issues won’t resolve themselves.
- Instead, children will feel neglected and confused by a hands-off approach.
- Staying too busy working to involve themselves with the child’s life:
- While neglected children don’t see how busy their parents are, they’ll feel unloved.
- Trusting institutional groups more than themselves (e.g., church, school):
- More than anything else, a child needs both parents.
- Even if it’s inconvenient or you feel unqualified, never dismiss how much that child needs you.
- Excessive concern with making children “behave” while overlooking their motivations:
- Children in excessively controlling homes learn to hate authority and rules.
- Most of the time, they learn their life lessons later outside the home.
- Setting stringent, immovable rules:
- The rules must ease up as the child matures or their teenage years become unbearable.
- Forced to do homework for hours every night:
- If they honor their parents, they can easily become a workaholic adult.
- Forcing homework time doesn’t give them the freedom to fail.
- If they’re old enough to be assigned homework, they’re responsible for it without supervision.
- Children learn the most from stimulation and experiences beyond schoolwork.
Avoid getting overly involved:
- Taking the children to every possible extracurricular activity:
- Up to a point, extracurricular activities are great for children.
- The activities are excessive when:
- There’s no “downtime” for the child to process their experiences.
- The parents are getting burned out and miserable.
- Preventing the children from failing or hurting themselves:
- While it hurts to watch, children must learn to manage failures and setbacks because most adult life is about persevering.
- They often come to expect that you’ll always fix their problems, long into their adulthood.
- Also, overprotective parenting often leads to adult binge drinking and drug abuse.
- Giving the child endless fun or the absolute best of everything:
- It’s setting false expectations for them about the world.
- While seeing your children happy is fun, they’ll be anxious about the rest of the world.
- It’s easier to give them what they want than hear them complain, but you’re harming their ability to succeed.
- Instead, teach the importance of delayed gratification and changing things you can do something about.
- Constant snacking makes them constantly needy and increases the chances of future obesity.
Don’t distort their self-image:
- Giving ego-inflating affirmations:
- Children who think they’re smart, gifted, brilliant, and better than the other kids will expect everyone else to constantly praise them.
- Praise children about what they do, never for who they are, and only if it’s a new thing for them.
- Creating awards for general things will encourage them to either succeed for awards or become discouraged without prizes.
- Using children as an excuse for lousy lifestyle decisions:
- Children are oblivious to most of their environment until they’re older, but they can feel shame more than you.
- Children can adapt to any career or lifestyle changes, but only make your decisions to benefit the whole family.
- Justifying a poor choice as “for the kids” will damage your child’s trust in your ability to make decisions later
- Fun things outside your financial means lead to worse problems later.
- Giving frequent negative reinforcement:
- If a child feels inferior they’ll become perfectionists, apathetic or a mix of both.
- Since they didn’t ask to be born, repeating how much you had to sacrifice for them sets an unfair expectation on them.
- Comparing kids to others, especially their siblings, makes them feel their only value is in what they do.
Don’t lie to them:
- Making up stories to deter behavior, since they’ll eventually outgrow them and come to resent you.
- Teaching about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy:
- The stories contribute to an entitlement mentality, especially with Santa Claus.
- Though a child’s blissful happiness is fun, they will feel deeply betrayed and distrust you later.
- Scaring children with stories to maintain good behavior:
- While this tradition is as old as history, children never outgrow remembering what you scared them with.
- Once they find out, they’ll explore other legitimately risky endeavors to see if you were wrong about those as well.
Eventually, mental disorders will make a dysfunctional family.
Dysfunctional families share certain qualities:
- Extremely rigid family rules and roles
- Little or no back-and-forth communication
- High levels of tension or plenty of arguing
- Family members use the coping mechanisms of silence, blame, and avoidance
- Members are generally encouraged never to feel, talk or trust
Underneath the facade, dysfunctional families share a similar attitude:
- The group, family or environment is responsible for changing, not the individual
- While members feel controlled by others, they take responsibility for others’ feelings, thoughts, and actions
- Conflicts are locked in a vicious cycle of blame toward other members
- Members can’t set or enforce effective boundaries to protect themselves
Dysfunctional families adopt extreme roles:
- They often are physically, sexually, psychologically or emotionally abused or abusive.
- They’ll often demonstrate too much or too little sexual behavior.
- They’ll find addictions and will lock into mental disorders:
- Chemical dependency on drugs or alcohol
- Compulsive eating, dieting or gambling
- Workaholic or addicted to a lifestyle
- They form into a few major archetypes:
- That person is declared the cause of the family’s problems, so they usually identify with the role and counter-cultural things.
- They usually have trouble with self-acceptance and finding happiness without a perceived enemy.
- Lost Child
- The family is so busy with the Scapegoat that they don’t meet their needs, so they learn to be self-sufficient.
- They usually have trouble working with others or when others depend on them.
- They’re trying to release all the stress of everyone else by being funny and entertaining.
- They tend to have trouble seriously discussing in-depth issues.
- They assume responsibility for everyone else’s possessions and actions.
- Their greatest fear is for others to not need them.
Enjoy your family
You’re never going to get parenting completely right:
- The only way to be a perfect parent is to be a perfect role model, which is humanly impossible.
- Beyond a bare minimum set of specifications (feeding them, clothing them, etc.), most of a child’s success is dictated by their decisions, not the quality of their parenting.
- At the same time, the quality of your parenting will determine whether your children stay your friend in adulthood, decades later.
- There’s no set of standardized rules for parenting, and all parenting advice is subjective to the situation and culture.
Society vilifies relatively innocuous issues compared to what really matters:
- Media (music, video games, TV) are only issues in the realm of excess, and it doesn’t “destroy their innocence” if you give them context for it (either before or afterward).
- One abusive event doesn’t scar a child nearly as much as permitting it to happen again or having a routine with it, and the worse problem is parents refusing to admit they failed.
- Who a child associates with isn’t nearly as important as what they learn from those people.
Mind who you learn from:
- Raising children doesn’t have any universal rules, only guidelines, but every parent has their own opinions.
- Listen to advice from stressed parents, but be careful using it unless you want stress yourself.
- Only learn from your extended family and friends if you like how their children have turned out.
- If you grew up in a dysfunctional home, try to find out what to do instead of what not to do.
- The advice from experienced parents, though, is sometimes life-changing.
- The best way to plan is to imagine your children’s behaviors in various scenarios and how you’d respond.
Some components of parenting are always controversial:
- The scope of how much to discipline children (e.g., spanking, school choice) has swung back-and-forth with society’s trends, and varies by world region and religious belief.
- 20th-century post-WWII Western values advocate preserving childrens’ innocence, but historically parents gave more responsibility to children and taught them that they were bad at decision-making.
- All of this expands outward into debate about how to parent teenagers, where the stakes are higher.
No matter how you’ve gotten your children, they are worth having:
Healthy family members, beyond their relationships, transform communities:
- Positively changing a child’s life dramatically changes the family’s entire structure.
- They have better social skills from their biological family’s training.
- A healthy family’s nurturing, supportive environment fosters success and happiness.
- Great family rituals and customs infect other families that want to reproduce it.
Capture the memories as often as you can:
- Document the experiences frequently.
- Take photos of them before they grow to resent their siblings and parents.
- Put your child’s graduation year on a large shirt, then take a photo of your child every year after completing a grade to see them grow into it.
Finally, once they’ve reached puberty, it’s time to start letting them go.