6 things that effective parents do

Daniel Wong is a learning and personal development expert, as well as a certified youth counselor. A sought-after speaker and coach, he is also the best-selling author of "The Happy Student: 5 Steps to Academic Fulfillment and Success". He offers programmes to help students attain exam excellence while also finding happiness and fulfillment, and to empower parents to motivate their unmotivated teenagers. He writes regularly at www.daniel-wong.com. Download his FREE e-books, "The Unhappiness Manifesto: Do You Make These 150 Mistakes In The Pursuit Of Happiness?" and "Singapore Scholarship Guide: The $500,000 Decision". The views expressed are his own.

Ever wonder what separates good parents from bad parents?

I regularly interact with all sorts of students and their parents.

Strict parents. Lenient parents.

Anxious parents. Carefree parents.

Protective parents. Paranoid parents.

I’ve observed how children are affected by the way they’re brought up and I understand—from a child’s perspective—what makes for effective parenting.

Based on my observations, I’ve come up with a list of six things that effective parents do.

1. Apologise when you’re wrong

None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. When your children are young, they might think you’re faultless, but they’ll eventually see the truth that you’re human.

When you mess up, don’t let your pride prevent you from saying sorry. Every time you display humility in this way, you’ll deepen the relationship with your children.

Furthermore, they’ll learn from your example that it’s important to do the right thing, even when it’s hard or makes you feel uncomfortable.

2. Tell your children that you believe in them

I know far too many parents who call their children “stupid” or “useless”. These words can scar children for life!

People — both children and adults — have a strange way of becoming what their closest friends and family think of them.

Don’t blindly praise your children (especially not for talents they don’t actually possess), but do encourage them in their passions and strengths. Show them that they have your unconditional support.

Above all, create a home environment that’s safe — a place where your children can share their feelings, fears and failures.

3. Give your children adequate challenges

Children need to feel challenged but they also need to feel successful.

Set challenges for your children that they’ll overcome about two-thirds of the time. Adhering to this guideline will ensure that your children are stretched, but not to the point where they might break.

An example of one of my teenaged clients who’s learned to avoid challenges: He hadn’t set up his personal email on his smartphone yet and he said he didn’t know how to.

I suggested that we go through the process together, to which he replied: “I don’t know how to do things like this! My mum will do it for me later.”

I encourage you not to give your children so much help to the point where, like this client of mine, they become averse to challenge.

4. Praise your children for their effort and perseverance more so than their performance

If you praise your children for their effort and perseverance, they’ll be willing to take on bigger tasks and will build their determination.

(Check out this interesting experiment conducted by Professor Carol Dweck.)

Traits like resilience and diligence are key to long-term success. It’s more likely that your children will develop these traits if you turn your focus away from performance and toward effort instead.

5. Teach your children that there are many aspects to intelligence

Even though there’s been more talk in recent years about emotional intelligence (EQ) and adversity quotient (AQ), when we use the word “intelligence”, we usually think of someone’s intelligence quotient (IQ).

It’s important that you teach your children that intelligence is multi-faceted.

For example, if your child says, “Jane is so much smarter than me,” you could respond by saying, “In what ways do you think Jane is smart?”

This will start a conversation about the different kinds of intelligence, and will enable your child to see that intelligence isn’t just displayed in the realm of academics; it’s displayed in the realms of art, music, athletics, interpersonal and intra-personal communication, and many others.

6. Show appreciation for your children

Many parents I work with have lost the joy of parenting. It seems like their children are just another problem in their lives that’s causing them a great deal of pain!

But if you make an intentional, daily effort to focus on just one thing you appreciate about your child, it will make parenting that much more enjoyable.

Don’t take it for granted the next time your child displays kindness, generosity, maturity, integrity or courage. Tell her specifically what you appreciate about her behaviour and tell her that you’re proud of her for that behaviour.

In closing…

Parenting is a tough job — it might just be the toughest job in the world. It’s also an immense responsibility that’s not to be taken lightly.

I hope these six tips will help you to become an even more effective parent!

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