Parenting Matters – 23 Tips For Raising Mentally Healthy Happy Kids

by Dr. Karen Ruskin on August 19, 2014

Parenting MattersParenting Matters! In this blog article I shall address a parenting approach and philosophy to be mindful of to put your best foot forward in raising mentally healthy and happy children, along with 23 specific tips to live by as parents, with consistency.

As a Family Therapist who has been counseling children, parents, and the entire family unit, as well as having talked with adults about their upbringing and experiences in their family of origin for 20+ years, I will share with you that parenting truly matters. Good parenting and bad parenting matters. There’s a link between unwanted children subject to abuse and neglect in that they typically have worse outcomes than children who are eagerly welcomed by their parents. Does this statement surprise you? Of course not, right? Documented research by experts in child development suggests this notion and is not to be ignored. Heck, even if you didn’t read any of the research, this seems pretty basic, does it not? The question of ‘how much’ parenting matters is often up for discussion. It is an important topic and for many it is suggested as complicated. Why do some feel it is complicated? The answer is because when it comes to mental health and wellness and personality, there are many variables that affect children, in addition to parenting. 

In my humble opinion, this does not have to be so complicated. Rather I say, the bottom line is: Parenting Matters! Clarifying how much it matters is ludicrous, it matters! Is that not enough to motivate mindfully aware parenting? I say, be mindful of being your best version of you each day so as to provide your children with the best version of you as a parent. Offer your children fabulous parents. Whether I am in the office speaking with parents and/or kids from the lens of a Psychotherapist/Marriage & Family Therapist, when I am on the air sharing my insights as a media guest expert on television, when I am interviewed in print or via the radio, and as a parent, my philosophy remains consistent and that is: Parenting Matters.

Give Your Best Effort As Parents:

Which dimension of children are we measuring when we make the statement that parenting matters in terms of how it affects children? Mental health? Moral behavior/character? Creative abilities? School grades? Personality? Job choice as an adult? Salary as an adult? Certain factors of a child’s outcome, personality and character for instance, are not easily measured by data. The reason is that there are so many variables that contribute to a child being who he/she is as a child and whom he/she turns into as an adult. My advice is to live and breathe this concept: Parenting is a powerful and tremendous piece of the puzzle of which makes up a child on multiple levels and who that child becomes as an adult. Thus, give parenting your best effort each and every day.

Although correlation and/or causation is quite difficult to prove in terms of one’s parenting style and who children become, we are fooling ourselves if we discount and disregard the importance of and the significant impact on children that parents have in terms of their mental health and wellness and all aspects of the child whole. Parents play a tremendous and dramatic role in the emotional and mental health and wellness and personality development, and who your children become over all as a whole self. It is my stance that measurable data is not necessary to prove the point that parenting matters. Seems obvious I would think. Yes? Yet there are parents who suggest that parenting is not as significant as we think it is and thus abdicate their parenting responsibilities. Some parents feel so overwhelmed with their own life issues that they give themselves permission to be neglectful of their children. What one person considers is neglectful parenting and/or poor parenting is not always the same as what another defines as such. I circle immediately back to the point of importance and the theme of this article: Parenting Matters!

A Systemic Mindful Parenting  Approach To Parenting Is My Recommendation:

Now that’s a mouthful. What is “Systemic Mindful Parenting”?  Think of it exactly as the words sound.

Systemic Parenting:

What you say, how you say it (mind, body, words, tone, action) all have a significant impact on your children. Just as what you say affects your children, what your children say affects you. The environment is also part of one’s system affecting children and adults, as well as the experiences your children have in their environment. In effect, understand that everything affects everything! That’s what I mean by systemic parenting. Life is not linear, we are but a system. Thus, how you treat 1 of your children will affect how your other children feel. Siblings affect one another and that relationship dynamic affects the parents thereby further affecting the children. Single child house-holds affect the relationship dynamic between parents and that child. How the parents interact with one another in all contexts affects the children further affecting the parents. In essence, the family is a system and each person affects one another. Who is living in the home affects children (e.g., grandparents, aunts, uncles). The experiences outside of the family unit are a part of the system of which makes up who children are. Bottom line: children are affected by parents, parents are affected by children, we affect one another and the system whole.

Mindful Parenting:

Be mindful of the choices that you make. For parenting matters and the decisions you make today will affect who your children are tomorrow. In essence, think before you speak and act. Be mindful of what you say and don’t say.

Systemic Mindful Parenting:

As a Systemic Mindful Parent, it is my advice, if you are asking for parenting advice, is that you would be parenting in a way in which you set up safe conditions in which children can develop. This parenting philosophy I suggest emphasizes affection, responsiveness, teaching, encouragement and positive feedback. This parenting style supports child development providing rich opportunities for children to grow. It is a style of which children develop a respect for self and others. This suggested parenting style is one in which children learn and become children and adults who are compassionate with good character. This is a style in which parents use child development information as a supportive tool on their parenting journey. Developmental, cognitive, emotional, social, intellectual – these are all areas in which the choices parents make affect their children. Being a child centered, child based parent I do believe in.

23 Parenting Tips:

In addition, you will find provided below a list of 23 parenting tips I recommend that parents are mindful of living, breathing and implementing. These items when mindful of as a parent will make a difference in the lives of your children’s mental health and wellness, their social interactional dynamics, intellect, and who they are and who they become overall. The following are parenting do’s to be consistently mindful of that will help you on your parenting journey to be successful and raise wonderful mentally healthy and happy children. 

  1. Be a nurturing parent.
  2. Keep your children out of harm’s way- it’s your job. There are harmful people in the world who are not listed in the statistics. Choose not to live in fear, rather live realistically and make decisions understanding that truth.
  3. Be an educator/teach your children.
  4. Encourage your children/be their cheer leader. Believe in them for they will in turn believe in themselves.
  5. Express your pride in your children/give them positive feedback.
  6. Provide them with emotional, mental and physical warmth.
  7. Be a responsive parent.
  8. Be involved in your children’s lives. Take interest in their interests, their joys, their challenges, and their pains.
  9. Provide them with direction/structure/boundaries/limits/routine.
  10. Take an interest in and be open to the voice of your children. Hear your children’s voice. This doesn’t mean you always obey what they say. Hearing their voice means you value and respect their perspective.
  11. Acceptance of who they are while helping them to help themselves to be all that they can be.
  12. Help your children to be responsible and competent.
  13. Help them to be respectful of following rules.
  14. Support  your children’s independent thoughts while helping them to recognize varied perspectives. Help them to be insightful, analytical, and help them to see how their actions affect themselves and others.
  15. Encourage leadership and encourage them to be successful in group dynamics as a team player.
  16. Treat your children as equally valued within the family unit. Treat your children as valued. For a child who feels they are of value will make wise choices for they feel they are valuable.
  17. Provide opportunities for your children to experience independence and inter-dependence. Life is not free range, nor do we exist in a vacuum. Life is about the combo platter of independence and interdependence. Independence and responsibility go hand in hand. Independence is not to be defined by being without adult oversight for your young children. There are many opportunities to allow for children to experience the progression of independence.  There’s no rush, it is a process and a journey of which increases over time age appropriately. Be mindful of that process. As your children age chronologically and behaviorally not either/or, rather both/and- allow them with more independence. Yes, you are the parent.
  18. Provide opportunities for social/relational, mental, emotional, developmental, intellectual, personal, familial, and physical growth
  19. Help your kids to help themselves through role modeling and providing them with varied opportunities of interest.
  20. Always remember: parenting matters.
  21. Control your control-ables. Provide an environment that is sober, clean, nurturing, emotionally and physically safe, and full with opportunities and experiences.
  22. Be respectful of your children. For children who are respected will in turn respect themselves and treat others with respect.
  23. Be involved. Children who have involved parents feel like they matter and are special. And guess what, children do matter and they are special. To feel special, important and that one matters significantly affects mental health and wellness.

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