I’m A Family Psychotherapist And These Are The Parenting Strategies I See That Work

Everyone's different, but these things are always the same.

by Mike Leary
Originally Published: 
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What is your parenting strategy?

I taught parenting at university for years and have been a therapist to thousands of families by now. I have a few ideas as to what helps. It does tend to depend on the age, their capability, their birth order, and other resources but we do know some basic things which help children thrive.

Let’s start with what healthy parents see their purpose is. That’s to get the child to know who they are. By doing so, it creates in the child what I call the blessing. It’s what every one of us needs as a child. I am safe, I am unique and special, I belong here and have purpose, I am not alone, I am wanted and most of all, I am loved.

Flickr / Rick Flores

To do that requires a belief of what children are. That is, they are basically good and want to please. These parents see kids as innocent, developing, and individuals who just needs teaching and love to become who they are supposed to turn into. This type of parent will use certain methods which help that child become just that, starting with working hard to separate behavior from whom the child is.

  • They are gentle and kind by being playful and fun.
  • They are respectful of the child yet firm and consistent.
  • They provide safety and security of the child by being both reliable and dependable.
  • They teach healthy boundaries and use age appropriate processes for what they do share.
  • They tell stories or read to the child so they can use their imagination as well as listens to and debriefs them about their day.

These children then learn “Love is unconditional.”

For discipline, all parents use positive and negative feedback for the child. Positive feedback is about accuracy and acknowledgment. They say things like:

  • That’s right, correct or good.
  • This is the way we do it.
  • That’s extraordinary.
  • You’re working hard.
  • Wow, you stuck it out.
  • Nice to see you take turns.
  • Let me show you this time.

But all parents have to use boundaries and teach the child “No” by using negative feedback. These kind of parents see it as a normal developmental learning process instead of punishment though. They use it to startle the child or get their attention. Then they reassure the child by coding it as just a mistake, not who they are.

  • It was wrong or incorrect that time.
  • You made a poor choice that time.
  • You just got lost or confused.
  • Oh you just must have misplaced it.
  • Now wait your turn.
  • Try a little harder next time.
  • Well, accidents happen, you’re only human.
  • They’re just being “insert age.”

So these kids learn it is just a mistake, it isn’t who they are, and risking is good. They understand how to have patience and be polite. They can deal effectively with frustration and disappointment. These kids lose gracefully and are a good sport while handling failure. You can see their confidence and resiliency because they take responsibility. They’re honest as they understand, it’s just situational. It isn’t who they are.

Flickr / Chris Hunkeler

So the child learns exploring and discovery are good. Risk is normal. They believe in themselves. It sets up their morals, values and ethics. They find out how to have manners and what’s expected of them. They are able to be to be kind, fair, self-motivated and problem solve. They can differentiate between guilt (behavior) and shame (who I am). They especially are able to imagine alternatives but most of all, be happy and to love.

That allows them to acquire the 5 freedoms Virginia Satir talked about which all children need to grow: “Children have a right to be imperfect, make mistakes, and take risks. To find their own destiny and believe in him or herself.”

1. To see what is really happening

2. To say what I am feeling and thinking 3. To feel what I am really experiencing 4. To ask for what I really want 5. To take risks that I want to take

Mike Leary is a psychologist who primarily deals with relationships and parenting. You can read more from Quora here:

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