Parenting young children — 14 May 2012
Facilitate your young child’s future success

Many parents begin to fret early in their child’s life about planning the appropriate academic preparation to ensure his/her success in life. Though the scholastic ladder is an important element in preparation for a better life, it is only one of several ladders toward a stable and secure life. Another equally important element, though somewhat less emphasized, is the social/emotional route to a more wholesome adulthood. Parents not only endow their child with a genetic foundation but specific parenting skills are also essential in raising their offspring in ways that either help or hinder their future success.

Dr. Clyde Hertzman of the University of British Columbia who studies early brain development asserts that at birth, the brain’s thinking, memory, social and emotional responsiveness are very undeveloped. Parents provide the environment that stimulates the child’s brain to mature and become neurologically “wired”.

Dr. Megan Gunnar of the University of Minnesota found that children, as young as one year old, who received consistent, warm and responsive care produce less of the stress hormone, Cortisol, and later become better equipped to deal with eventual life challenges.

The Reiner Foundation’s publication “I AM YOUR CHILD,” lists ten guidelines for parents to help promote their child’s school readiness and healthy development: “ 1. Be warm, loving, and responsive. 2. Respond to the child’s cues and clues. 3. Talk, read, and sing to your child. 4. Establish routines and rituals. 5. Encourage safe exploration and play. 6. Make TV watching selective. 7. Use discipline as an opportunity to teach. 8. Recognize that each child is unique. 9. Choose quality childcare and stay involved. 10. Take care of yourself.”

Additional practical parenting tools are: Bend down to your child’s level, make eye contact and give your child your undivided attention. Show curiosity, wonder and appreciation for your youngster’s responses. Validate you child’s statements with appreciation. Correct his/her errors with an affirming tone and affection. Use your soft, loving voice. To discipline, use a firm voice and a serious expression followed by a verbal appreciation. “I know that you will not hit your sister again because this hurts her and you are a very kind boy.” Be “surprised” rather than critical when your child misbehaves. “I am surprised that a kind and sharing girl like you did not want to share your toy with your friend.”

Consider instituting a bedtime ritual of affirming your child’s positive traits based on that day’s observed behaviors. “I noticed how kind you were to your brother today when he was upset about losing his baseball game.” Expand the behavior to represent your child’s positive nature. “That means that you have a caring and compassionate nature and I am very proud of you for that.”

Be a great parent:

  • Accept that your parenting input does facilitate your child’s life success.
  • Be a positive and affirming parent. It builds your child’s self-esteem, which is a life asset.
  • Validate your child’s positive traits even when he/she misbehaves.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life.

Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions.

Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column “Relationship Matters” for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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