It would’ve been nice for children to show up in our life with a comprehensive user’s manual. However, that is not how nature works. From infancy to adolescence, children undergo significant cognitive, emotional, and social transformations. By being aware of these changes, parents can tailor their approach and provide appropriate support, guidance, and stimulation. We strongly believe that aside from offering the precious gift of life to our children, we should also engage in a mission of lifelong learning and improving as their parents.
It cannot be overemphasized how important it is for scientific research in child development to be widely accessible. Caregivers who have access to evidence-based information can make informed decisions about their approach rather than relying on outdated practices or personal anecdotes. That’s why we strive to make scientific research accessible. Parents App helps parents keep up with the latest evidence and ensure that their techniques and decisions are based on current knowledge.
We encourage parents to discover their parenting styles, become familiar with the 3 basic psychological needs, and become aware of children’s developmental stages. This way, they can continuously improve their skills and provide the best possible environment for their children.
Self-Determination Theory is a psychological framework that examines human motivation and behavior from the perspective of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. According to SDT, people have three innate psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy involves the desire for self-direction and the ability to make choices. Competence refers to the need to feel capable and effective, while relatedness focuses on the desire for connection and belonging.
Self-Determination Theory was developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. It highlights the fact that we are more likely to succeed when we truly enjoy and are interested in what we are doing (Ryan & Deci, 2000). In this way, we increase our self-esteem and defy adversity. By understanding the link between parenting practices and the Self Determination Theory, parents can effectively nurture their children’s self-determination and create an environment that supports optimal motivation (Vinik, 2014).
Children are naturally curious and intrinsically motivated to explore and learn. However, well-meaning parents sometimes unintentionally hinder this intrinsic motivation by relying too much on external rewards or empty praise. Offering rewards for tasks such as homework or chores can shift the focus from inner satisfaction to the desire for external rewards. Similarly, empty praise that lacks specificity and authenticity can diminish the child’s intrinsic motivation.
It is well known that children are motivated when they have a sense of control over their choices. What parents can do is provide choices for their children within reasonable limits. For example, if you ask your child if he or she would rather start math or English when it’s time for homework, he or she may try harder to complete the necessary assignments. Another idea is to let children make age-appropriate decisions, ask for their opinions, and consider their preferences. For example, in choosing an outfit for the day or selecting a book to read. This also helps them develop decision-making skills, makes them feel valued and included, and encourages their motivation to participate and contribute.
According to Self-Determination Theory, psychological well-being is influenced by 3 Basic Psychological Needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Children’s psychological needs are paramount to their growth, development, and overall mental health. When parents meet these needs, they contribute to a strong foundation for lifelong learning, decision-making skills, and emotional stability.
The need for autonomy makes children feel that their thoughts and actions are valued and that they can act independently. Parents can promote autonomy by offering choices, respecting their children’s decisions, and encouraging problem-solving (Johansen et al., 2023). A lack of cooperation in children may be a sign that one of the basic psychological needs is not being met. Children need to feel that their actions are self-endorsed. If, on the other hand, they are forced or coerced, they may resist or rebel.
Competence is fostered by giving children opportunities to take on tasks and challenges and by appreciating their efforts, not just the outcome. If a child feels they lack the skills or knowledge to perform a task, they may avoid cooperation out of fear of failure. A child must feel able to successfully complete a task in order to fully engage in it. This is the first step in developing a sense of mastery and self-efficacy (Legault, 2017).
By nurturing healthy relationships within the family and providing a supportive environment, parents can meet their child’s need for relatedness. Central to fulfilling this need is empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. The sense of belonging obtained through relatedness has profound effects on psychological health. When children feel connected and accepted by others, they experience higher self-esteem, increased happiness, and improved overall well-being (Paleari et al., 2011).
Emotions are a fundamental part of human experience and play a significant role in our daily lives. Building an emotionally intelligent family environment helps create stronger bonds, healthier relationships, and overall well-being for each family member (Sanchez et al., 2020). Understanding emotions involves recognizing and labeling them accurately, as well as acknowledging the various intensity levels and complexities they can possess.
Emotions are not inherently “bad” or “good.” They are valuable signals that provide insight into our experiences and needs (Izard, 2009). Having a rich emotional vocabulary empowers us to accurately identify, express, and communicate our feelings. By fostering emotional literacy, families enable children to navigate their emotions more effectively and develop stronger emotional intelligence (Grosse et al., 2021). For example, when children show signs of frustration or anxiety, they should be encouraged to express their emotions using specific words. Instead of simply saying, “I’m mad,” they can be supported to use more nuanced emotional vocabulary such as “I feel irritated,” “I’m disappointed,” or “I’m overwhelmed.” By using precise emotional words, the child gains a better understanding of their emotional state and can communicate their needs more effectively to others.
Stress is the underlying factor for the strongest negative emotional expressions. When we experience stress, the amygdala, an area of the brain responsible for processing emotions, becomes activated. This triggers the release of stress hormones that impair our cognitive abilities and emotional responses (Kumar et al., 2013). We become moody, burst with anger, or shut down. Think of children expressing anger after being reprimanded for misbehaving. It’s not a pretty sight. Hurtful words may be spoken, and they usually end up being punished for their reactions.
We often put barriers between ourselves and those who do not behave “ well.” We want to defend ourselves or, on the contrary, respond with equal force. The fight-or-flight response presents itself in an unprocessed form (McCarthy, 2016). It involves the same chemical process that triggers a toddler’s temper tantrums, a teenager’s defiant behavior, or our “colorful” vocabulary when we are stuck in traffic.
When training emotional intelligence in our children, we should try to see beyond the obvious (Callaghan et al., 2019). A child who displays anger may feel frustrated, misunderstood, or lacking control. When we recognize the vulnerability behind a child’s expression of anger, anxiety, frustration, overwhelm, or lack of patience, we can provide a more empathetic response. For example, we might encourage children to take deep breaths or use relaxation techniques to calm their body’s stress response. Parents could also encourage delayed gratification, that is, intentionally teaching children to be patient (Protzko, 2020). This can help children develop resilience, goal-setting skills, and the ability to cope with frustration and disappointment. All these coping strategies empower children to manage stress effectively and build resilience rather than escalate the tense atmosphere.
It is well known that harsh parenting methods, such as punitive discipline, harsh criticism, or neglect, can have detrimental effects on a child’s emotional well-being and development (Bender et al., 2007). By dismissing children’s feelings or punishing them for their emotional outbursts, we are only modeling and perpetuating an ineffective pattern of stress management.
Therefore, we should strive to meet strong emotions with a growth mindset. A nurturing environment is central to building emotional intelligence. By creating a warm, safe, and supportive environment where children feel valued, loved, and accepted, we can lay the foundation for healthy emotional development and positive self-esteem.
Parenting is a delicate balancing act that requires a combination of love, guidance, and discipline. Balanced parents strive to create a nurturing environment in which children can thrive (Kuppens & Ceulemans, 2019).
A distinguishing characteristic of balanced parents is their approach to discipline (Nie et al., 2022). Rather than resorting to harsh punishments or authoritarian control, they use positive discipline techniques. They set clear boundaries and expectations. They make sure to provide explanations and reasons for the rules. Through effective communication and empathy, they help their children understand the consequences of their actions and encourage them to make responsible choices (Zolten & Long, 2006). For example, instead of simply grounding a child when misbehaving, balanced parents can have a conversation to understand the underlying cause and teach problem-solving skills to avoid similar incidents in the future.
Respect is a fundamental component of balanced parenting (Hendrick et al., 2010). Balanced parents recognize that children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, just as adults do. They listen carefully to their children’s thoughts, feelings, and concerns and validate their experiences. They create a safe space for open communication where children feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment. When conflicts arise, balanced parents encourage peaceful solutions and model respectful behavior.
Preparing children for life is another essential aspect of balanced parenting. Balanced parents understand the importance of equipping their children with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate the world independently (Sunarty & Dirawan, 2015).
They provide guidance in decision-making, problem-solving, and critical thinking. They encourage their children to explore their interests, pursue hobbies, and develop a growth mindset. Balanced parents also help their children develop emotional intelligence, resilience, and empathy, preparing them for the complexity of human relationships and the challenges they may face in adulthood (Fernandez et al., 2013).
Our parenting program focuses on providing parents with the tools to become balanced and effective caregivers. We recognize the importance of scientific research in shaping parenting practices, which is why our program incorporates evidence-based findings into every recommendation.
Setting a strong foundation involves acknowledging the significant role of self-esteem and self-image in a child’s psychological development. These factors, which are intimately woven into the child’s emotional and mental fabric, are significantly shaped by his or her immediate environment.
Take labels, irony, and comparisons, for example. They often act as invisible weights that pull down a child’s self-esteem and distort his or her self-image. The child begins to see himself through a distorted lens that highlights his perceived shortcomings rather than his strengths. Orth et al. (2016) confirm this in their research, showing how persistent negative experiences can affect self-esteem, which continues well into adulthood.
Next, the myth of perfectionism comes into play, an elusive goal that, more often than not, burdens the child. The pursuit of constant perfection can create feelings of inadequacy and frustration, thus affecting the child’s self-esteem. It is, therefore important to replace this paradigm with the understanding that mistakes are a stepping stone to learning, not a sign of failure.
But how can this transformation be achieved? The key lies in the type of motivation a child is exposed to. Let’s turn our attention to intrinsic motivation, a driving force that springs from within the child. They indulge in activities purely for the joy and satisfaction they offer, indirectly bolstering their self-esteem. This notion isn’t baseless. Researchers Richard Ryan and Edward Deci have revolutionized our understanding of motivation with their work on Self-Determination Theory. They emphasize the superiority of intrinsic motivation, where the impetus comes from within the child, and they engage in activities for the inherent satisfaction they yield. Such motivation builds more solid self-esteem and a healthier self-image. This is substantiated by a study by Donnellan et al. (2015), suggesting that intrinsic motivation contributes positively to the development of stable self-esteem over time.
Building a healthy environment falls upon parents, educators, and caregivers. An environment that focuses on intrinsic motivation encourages effort over perfection, perceives mistakes as learning opportunities, promotes open conversations about emotions, and provides positive reinforcement. In doing so, we give children the tools they need to construct a robust self-image and healthy self-esteem.
In the world of child development, the hallmark of a competent child is responsibility. It is a multi-faceted trait that encompasses personal, general, and specific aspects and is a central component of a child’s development.
The way to create this sense of responsibility is paved by the “Triangle of Competence.” This model, composed of knowledge, skills, and attitudes, forms an intricate web that builds a child’s sense of responsibility. A study conducted by Kunz and Grynch (2013) highlights the integral role of this triangle in fostering the development of responsibility and emphasizes the importance of self-directed learning. They examined how parental behavior and control, as well as allowing independence, affect children’s development. The study emphasized that when parents are engaged and allow appropriate freedom, it helps children become more competent in a variety of areas.
Along the way, we encounter another important stop: encouragement. A gentle nudge from parents, without coercion, can lead children to take charge of their own responsibilities. This autonomy encourages initiative and pushes children toward independence.
With encouragement, however, there must be a balance. Constructive feedback, as a study by Zeng et al. (2016) suggests, can influence learning outcomes and promote a stable self-image in children. A perfect mix of criticism and praise can maintain and strengthen a child’s self-esteem and promote growth.
A cornerstone to this balanced growth is the practice of “thinking out loud.” Parents who describe their thought processes and strategies for overcoming hurdles provide children with a template for dealing with challenges. This technique demystifies problem-solving and makes it an approachable and surmountable task for the child.
In the midst of these complicated processes, parents perform a dual role – that of role model. Their behavior, whether toward the child or others, sets an example. One important example is respect for personal space. By respecting the child’s personal space, parents communicate the importance of setting limits and establishing individual autonomy. This autonomy serves as the cornerstone for personal responsibility.
Raising a responsible child is essentially like weaving a beautiful tapestry of different strategies and approaches. If this path is successfully followed, children can grow not only into responsible adults but also into competent adults.
Is getting your child to cooperate the most difficult thing you do? Would you climb the highest mountain or dive into the deepest ocean rather than fight another power struggle with your teenager or put up with another tantrum from your toddler? Take a look at what science has to say about these parenting issues and what you can do to avoid them and build a strong bond with your child. Create an environment that promotes your child’s growth and well-being. Discover the best ways to encourage cooperation.
First, let us talk about the importance of creating structure. Every relationship is stressful, and that includes the relationship between parents and children. It may surprise you, but children expect rules. It makes them feel safe. Routines provide structure and predictability, which is important for children’s understanding of expectations and responsibilities. Research has consistently highlighted the positive effects of routines on children’s cooperation and self-discipline (Mindell & Williamson, 2018). By establishing consistent routines, you create a sense of security.
Really and actively listen to your child. This simple act of mindfulness can do wonders for your relationship, whether your child is 2 or 22. Empathy plays a critical role in getting children to cooperate. Numerous studies have shown that empathetic parenting leads to better cooperation and positive behavior in children (Boele et al., 2019).
Instead of resorting to negative tactics such as bribery, threats, or punishment, offer your child alternative options. Offering alternatives empowers children and gives them a sense of control and autonomy. Research shows that offering alternatives promotes cooperation by allowing children to practice their decision-making skills (Antaki & Kent, 2015). Children want to be independent. They are natural explorers. If boundaries make them feel pigeonholed, they will resist. Give them as many age-appropriate choices as possible within the limits you set and watch their cooperation improve. The desire to make decisions about one’s life does not come with the first ID, but is an innate psychological need that wants to be satisfied. The most effective way to do this is to choose your battles. If you allow them to get the red cup instead of the blue, it’s no effort and means more to them than you think.
Humor can also be helpful, especially with teens. By bringing lightheartedness to difficult situations, you create a positive atmosphere and reduce stress. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, promotes emotional connection, and improves cooperation (Martin & Kuiper, 2016).
Embrace these scientifically-backed strategies, and you will successfully promote cooperation among your children. Establishing routines, encouraging empathy, offering alternatives, introducing appropriate consequences, using humor, and setting boundaries with options are all valuable approaches supported by scientific research.
Discipline is important. The balance between being accommodating and being demanding is important. If parents are too strict, children resist; if they are too lenient, they become confused. Traditional parenting often relies on corporal punishment, silence, and strict obedience to enforce discipline. However, these conventional approaches can be detrimental to children’s emotional well-being.
Consequences are not synonymous with punishment. Consequences are occurring results of actions, whether positive or negative. Punishments are intentionally designed to cause physical or emotional harm in order to get a person to cooperate or change their behavior. (Gershoff, 2002). When children experience physical punishment, they internalize the belief that it is their own fault. They do not have the reasoning capacity to question the fairness of their parents’ or caregivers’ methods. As a result, children may develop feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and shame.
The 4 Rs of punishment-resentment, revenge, withdrawal, and rebellion-illustrate the negative consequences associated with traditional disciplinary measures (Nelsen, 2006). Resentment occurs when children harbor feelings of anger and frustration toward their parents or authority figures as a result of punishment. These negative emotions can lead to a desire for revenge. In some cases, children rebel against the imposed authority, which further strains the parent-child relationship.
To promote positive discipline, it is important to involve the children in the decision-making process for determining consequences. By involving children in this process, parents empower them to take responsibility for their actions and understand the connection between their behavior and its consequences. Effective discipline involves not only addressing specific behaviors but also helping children develop self-discipline. By teaching children to evaluate the consequences of their behavior, parents can support the development of self-regulation skills and encourage responsible decision-making.
Strong family bonds and shared values are essential to a harmonious and fulfilling family life.
Values serve as guiding principles that shape a family’s identity, beliefs, and behaviors. Shared values not only foster a sense of belonging but also help family members overcome challenges and make informed decisions (Collins, 2022). It would be wonderful if all family members had the same values, but that is usually not the case. Try to find a middle ground between the beliefs of the oldest family member in the household and the youngest, and you will see that it is virtually impossible. Yes, children have values, too. They shape their beliefs with each new experience. By discussing and clarifying family values, individuals can develop a deeper understanding of each other and create a supportive environment for personal growth and mutual respect.
Family councils provide a platform for open and collaborative discussions among family members. These regular meetings allow everyone to voice their opinions, express concerns, and make decisions together that affect the family as a whole (McGarvey, S. & Leon, 2007). Through family councils, parents can actively involve their children in decision-making processes, fostering a sense of ownership and shared responsibility.
Each parent and caregiver has their own approach to raising children, which can lead to differences in parenting styles within the family. Living with different parenting styles requires open-mindedness, empathy, and effective communication (Feinberg, 2002). Recognizing that different parenting styles can also have positive aspects and acknowledging the importance of compromise can help create a balanced and harmonious family environment.
Promoting shared values, holding family councils, dealing with different parenting styles, and understanding gender responses to criticism are essential elements in getting all family members on board.
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