Google ‘parenting advice’ and you wind up with more than 46 million results. That’s a lot of fact, fiction and opinion to wade through. So, how about we cut to the chase instead?
Here’s some advice from the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program. It’s advice we know works (because we’ve researched it and tested it all over the world). Get these foundational pieces in places and you’re on your way to making things calmer, happier and easier at home.
Bored kids and teenagers are more likely to find trouble. So, a secret is to keep big and little kids as busy as possible.
For littlies, a home that is safe is essential. When you put knives out of reach, lock away medicine or give your child a helmet for bike riding, you won’t always be looking out for potential dangers or yelling, “Don’t touch that!” Also, provide lots of interesting things, like crafts, dress-up and blocks, to keep boredom at bay.
If you have a teenager, try to motivate them to pursue organised and supervised activities away from home, take on responsibility and do it safely. Around the home, they could cook, do jobs, or edit your smartphone videos. Just make sure they know how to competently use appliances and are shown how to safely use power tools, and that you keep an eye on computer use and have safety restrictions in place.
Quality is better than quantity.
Children and teenagers need quality time with their parents. But Triple P’s version of quality time may not be quite what you think. You don’t have to go on expensive outings. It's about being there for them when they come to you for help or to talk – even if it's only for a minute or so at a time.
For teenagers, it’s also about giving them responsibility, and showing you value their opinions, ideas and contributions: You reassure them that you know they’re growing up.
Involve them in decision-making, which is the chance for them to learn how to make good choices and solve problems. Start simply with minor issues – like planning a holiday – and graduate to decisions that have longer-term impacts, such as choosing a school to attend. And don’t forget, teenagers like praise too!
Here’s a rule: have rules.
Discipline isn't a dirty word. In fact, good discipline helps kids and teenagers understand their behaviour always has consequences that will be followed through in a predictable, loving environment. This means your child will feel safe and secure and will know what to expect.
Good discipline not only helps children learn to accept responsibility for their behaviour, it also helps them learn to consider the feelings and needs of others. And it helps them develop self-control too.
For parents, you set clear ground rules and tell your child what to do rather than what not to do. You give clear, calm instructions and are consistent from one day to the next. Your child will soon learn that you always follow through. They know that you mean what you say!
If your child is a teenager, it’s OK to negotiate. The idea is to for you and your teenager to decide together which rules and responsibilities you consider important to your family. You can also agree on the privileges they can enjoy in return.
LISTEN: Madonna King shares her parenting advice for raising amazing women (post continues after audio...)
Children aren't all the same. They're individuals with their own personalities. Even kids of the same age develop at different rates. So, it's important that you, as a parent, don't expect more – or less – of your child or teenager than he or she is capable of.
It's also important to remember that nobody's perfect. Not your kids and not you.
If you expect your child will always be polite, happy or cooperative, you will be disappointed. Kids do make mistakes, but most mistakes aren't intentional. It's okay to let your child try and fail.
And don't forget to go easy on yourself, too. You probably want to be the very best parent ever to have children. But that's not realistic. You are human. You will make mistakes. Don't get too frustrated or upset because everyone learns through experience.
Time-out for parents.
Parenting is so much easier when you make time for yourself. It's about getting the balance right!
Make sure you get support from friends or family. Do something you enjoy that doesn't involve the kids. Maybe even spend a little time alone! And if you have a partner, try to work as a team if you can.
Look after yourself and you'll feel more patient and calm when your child or teenager needs you.
Professor Matt Sanders is the founder of Australia’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, which has helped more than 4 million children and their families in more than 25 countries. Find out more about Triple P near you.