Parenting usually means the ways in which parents or caregivers support the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development of a child, from infancy to adulthood.
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What Is Parenting?
Parenting usually refers to the knowledge, skills, practices, and actions involved in raising a child and supporting his/her physical, mental, and social development. It comprises ways to help children successfully regulate their biological, cognitive, and social-emotional functioning by providing them with material, social, and psychological resources, as well as provisions of support, love, warmth, and guidance. It is also known as child-rearing or child upbringing.
According to one 2016 study 1, “conceptions of who parents are and what constitute the best conditions for raising children vary widely.” Parenting as behavior and practice have been traditionally associated with biological parents. However, recent research has expanded the parenting role to include foster parents, educators, social workers, child care professionals, healthcare workers, governments, the society, and other caregivers who protect and care for children, helping them chart a trajectory that promotes their overall well-being.
The definitions and approaches of parenting have also evolved with changing cultural perceptions 2 of child-rearing across time and place. However, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), parenting practices around the world share three major goals:
- Ensuring children’s health and safety
- Preparing children for life as productive adults
- Transmitting cultural values
That being said, it should be noted that there are no specific ways 3 that describes how to be a good parent. But, as research shows, the first step toward positive parenting involves understanding your children’s unique needs and your own competencies and formulating your parenting styles based on these perceptions.
What Is The Importance Of Parenting?
We’ve all heard the expression, “There are no bad children, only bad parents!” It emphasizes how positive parenting and a positive parent-child relationship are critical to the healthy development of our children and the global community as a whole.
As one 2016 study puts it, “Parents play a significant role in helping children build and refine their knowledge and skills, as well as their learning expectations, beliefs, goals, and coping strategies” to meet the demands of their immediate environments and take advantage of opportunities within those environments.
They introduce children to the social world, where they develop their identities, their place and value in society, and the understandings that influence their life choices and expectations. A 1998 study 4 further links the importance of parenting to its role as a buffer against adversity (such as poverty) or mediator of damage (like child abuse) in children’s lives.
The way we parent our children today plays a major role in influencing the person they grow up to be tomorrow. According to one 2018 study 5, a good and fulfilling relationship with parents influences a child’s “developmental competence and ultimately their life course trajectories”, including:
- Cognitive skills
- Language skills
- Communicating abilities
- Beliefs and values
- Social relationships (especially sibling, peer, and romantic relationships)
- Academic attainment
- Professional attainment
- Mental and physical health
Read More About Academic Problems And Skills Here
A parenting style usually comprises the knowledge, skills, approaches, and strategies that parents use in bringing up their children. Such parenting styles vary across cultures and are influenced by parental expectations 6, social values, and availability of supporting services.
Research 7 has roughly categorized parenting styles into the following types:
- Authoritative parenting: Parenting styles with high parental responses and demands
- Authoritarian parenting: Child rearing strategies associated with disciplinarian and aggressive parents
- Permissive parenting: Child upbringing techniques linked to indulgent and lenient parents
- Neglectful parenting: Parenting associated with unresponsive or ‘absent’ parents
Principles Of Good Parenting
Raising a child is hard and important responsibility, but the first step towards raising them is understanding their personalities, needs, and desires. While developing your parenting styles, you can consider the following principles of parenting:
1. Be Involved In Your Children’s Lives
Being physically and mentally involved in your children’s life means shifting and compromising your own priorities for your children’s needs, but try to make time for your children. Give them a sense of security and involvement through simple gestures, like attending their school play or accompanying them to a birthday party.
2. Balance Your Own And Your Children’s Expectations
Children usually develop certain expectations from their parents and if these expectations are not fulfilled, they experience disappointment and other negative emotions. While it is recommended that you should not give in to all their desires, in order to effectively parent them, you must understand their own expectations of themselves and their expectations of you as a parent.
By doing so, you can give them attachment security and help them achieve their goals and grow into well-rounded human beings.
3. Consider Your Children’s Needs And Your Competencies
Understand your children’s unique needs and consider ways in which they can be met. Also, take into account your own abilities concerning time, resources, finances, skills, etc. when you are formulating your parenting styles and strategies.
4. Combine Fun And Responsible Parenting
Try formulating flexible parenting strategies that balance out discipline and responsibility with the right amount of fun and leniency. Lay down a set of ground rules, identify the non-negotiable grounds of the parent-child relationship, and explain your rules and decisions to your children. Avoid meeting harsh punishments or spoiling them with lowered expectations or material possessions. Communicate honestly and turn scolding sessions into healthy learning experiences.
5. Respect Your Children
Respect your child and behave with them with the same mannerisms you employ when you interact with any adult, like courtesies, compliments, etc. This gives children a sense of dignity, self-worth, and confidence. It also engages them in a two-way communication channel and encourages their tendency to socially interact with others.
Recent studies 8 show that while baby talk or motherese induce positive feelings in children’s brains, in the short run, such under-developed language is detrimental. Such language often triggers the negative feelings associated with infantilization, reduces children’s confidence, and hinders their language development.
6. Respect Your Children’s Boundaries
Respect your children’s privacy and boundaries, while remaining strict and consistent about the set ground rules. Overprotective, authoritative, nosey, or extremely controlling parenting approaches harm children’s healthy development. So, encourage and support them in their interests, dreams, and goals. Bring them up to be thoughtful, passionate, self-assured, confident, and independent people.
Parenting is an important duty and responsibility, which comes with its own challenges. While becoming a parent is usually a welcomed event, most of the time, parents’ lives are fraught with uncertainty and problems related to ensuring their children’s physical, emotional, or economic well-being. Getting the “parenting balance” right is a tricky affair, and there are chances that you may “underdo” or “overdo” your strategies while raising children.
Studies about parenting reveal that, as a parent, you can experience the following pitfalls:
1. Balancing Family And Career
Parents are the fundamental providers for their children. In an increasingly competitive world of demanding jobs, if you are a working parent, you may find it difficult to balance your personal interests with your professional life. With both your and your children’s packed schedules, you may often feel overwhelmed by the scarcity of time. You may end up feeling that you are not getting enough time to spend with your family, like having meals together, spending holidays with them, etc.
2. Parent Guilt
“Parent guilt” usually means the guilt or shame a parent experiences while raising children. The guilt stems from beliefs that the parents aren’t being good or loving enough for their children, or they are not spending enough time with their kids. Studies 9 frequently link parent guilt to working parents or parents of children born with disabilities 10.
Research 11 further shows that parents who experience guilt are more likely to develop unhealthy parenting styles, like spoiling their children materially or being too lenient with them or indulging in unhealthy food habits 12.
3. Being A “role model” To Your Children
Time crunch and lack of parental monitoring and control mean you get less time to supervise your children’s behavior or know what kind of values they are learning or what kind of company they are keeping. Research shows that if there is a lack of a definitive role model at home, children look to external influence 13 to help them shape and guide their emotions, behavior, and values.
According to a 2011 study 14, such children are more vulnerable to deviant peer groups and negative nonparental adult influences 15, which makes them inculcate negative behavior related to promiscuity, violence, verbal abuse, substance abuse, etc.
In cases where, as a working parent, you don’t get enough time to inculcate values or lessons to your children, you may feel stress or guilt, thinking that you are not being a good enough role model to them.
4. Failure To Nurture Meaningful Relationships
Research 16 shows that parents and children in dysfunctional families or dual-income households do not get the opportunity to know each other or form meaningful bonds. This hampers children’s development of communication skills, social skills, and qualities like kindness and empathy. A lack of meaningful relationships at home means children look to external influences for emotional connection and, most of the time, they become vulnerable to negative or harmful influences.
According to a 2011 study, lack of parental monitoring and positive parent-child relationships are linked to adolescent problems like “early pregnancy, premature independence from parents, school dropout” and drug abuse. On the other hand, “parents, who form warm relationships with their children, have minimal conflict with them and provide adequate monitoring and supervision” that reduce problems 17 in their lives.
5. Single Parenting
In recent years, cases of single parenting and co-parenting have risen and, unfortunately, a growing body of research 18 links the single-parent family structure to higher levels of parenting stress, difficulties in children’s adjustment, and problems 19 related to delinquency 20, substance addiction, poverty 21, and welfare dependency 22.
Single-parent challenges mostly arise from the scarcity of time and lack of social and financial support 23. However, experts claim that healthy parenting strategies and quality child care, coupled to government and welfare policies, can help parents and children belonging to single-parent family units prevent poor health and social outcomes 24.
Steps To More Effective Parenting
Parenting is one of the most widespread phenomena in the world. Unfortunately, there is no rulebook to specify how to be a good parent. Across the world, parenting styles come with a great deal of diversity. So, how we interpret “what does it mean to be a parent?” is largely left to our own perception and practice, as well as decisions and devices.
Even with age or expertise, parenting is not easy, so you can consider the following parenting tips to make your journey easier and more enjoyable:
1. Be Involved
Be actively involved in your children’s lives. Maintain a warm and balanced parent-child relationship and try to spend quality time with them. Remember that healthy parenting involves effectively monitoring their physical and mental developments and resolving conflicts 25 with understanding, empathy, and respect.
2. Be Informed
Be informed about and take advantage of parenting-related programs 26, parenting interventions, policies, and governmental initiatives that can provide improved developmental outcomes for your children.
3. Be Realistic
Don’t beat yourself with unrealistic parenting expectations or parent guilt. Be realistic and formulate your parenting goals and strategies based on your children’s unique needs and your competencies. Anticipate and try to plan 27 and prepare for challenging situations related to raising children.
4. Be Patient
Have patience with yourself, your partner, and your children throughout the parenting process. In any parent-child relationship, you go through phases and grow together. Acknowledge your children’s growth and changing needs and priorities 28, reconcile yourself with changing realities, and accordingly manage your parenting styles.
5. Be Positive
Most importantly, approach your parenting habits with positivity, hope, and commitment. Understand that parenting is not an easy task, but if you try, you may make the best out of it.
Most of the time, the parenting journey is a mixed bag of emotions and responsibilities and caregivers in parental roles are overwhelmed by the sheer demands of child-rearing, their own imbalanced lives, and uncertainty and problems related to their children’s well-being. But, experts assure that parenting is a beautiful journey of a lifetime in itself and can be easily executed by positive and healthy parenting skills and behaviors that aim at the whole-rounded development of children across the different stages of their lives. We must reconcile ourselves to its realities, good and bad, and continue to approach parenting with whole-hearted positivity and commitment.
Parenting At A Glance
- Parenting usually means the ways in which parents or caregivers support the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social development of a child.
- It is not limited to biological parents.
- It also involves the caregiving of a child by legal guardians, educators, childcare professionals, governments, and the society at large.
- Parenting comes with challenges posed by financial security, unhealthy parenting style, etc.
- Positive parenting involves combining fun and responsible parenting, with realistic expectations and a positive and committed approach toward parental duties.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is a narcissistic parent?
A narcissistic parent is a parent who is affected by a narcissistic personality disorder. They are usually self-entitled, manipulative, possessive about their children, controlling, and emotionally abusive. Most often, they disregard personal boundaries and manipulate their children into fulfilling their parental expectations.
2. What is co-parenting?
Co-parenting is a type of parenting in which two people who are not in a relationship share the duties of bringing up a child. In most cases, co-parenting is an arrangement between divorced partners or partners who share children outside marriage or in an intimate relationship.
3. What do foster parents mean?
Foster parents are people who take a child into their family for a brief period of time, usually upon instructions from a government or a social service agency. They do not become the child’s legal parents, even during the period of stay.
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