Parenting Skills that Shape Children's Behaviors
This paper will clearly point out the positive
attributes of effective parents. It also points out certain
skills that parents must have to effectively shape their
children’s behaviors. Effective parenting includes
developing and clarifying clear expectations, staying calm in
the midst of turmoil when your child gets upset, consistently
follow through with positive and negative consequences, being
a positive role model, role playing corrective behaviors and
lastly, praising your child for his behavior. All these things
are just beginning to be researched in depth, and this brief
overview gives a sound basis for understanding the interesting
relationship between parents and their children.
Effective parenting has never been more important to a
family’s success than today. Proper parenting shapes the
coming generations, and the way the next generation will
behave, affecting the world around them. History has taught us
that parenting without a proper foundation has always and
indefinitely lead to confusion for any developing child. That
is why the attempt of trying to be a successful parent is so
important and will be the most important job of one’s life.
Knowing what healthy methods are best for one’s child during
parenting is time consuming but a rewarding effort.
Developing and Clarifying Clear Communicative
Before one concentrates his efforts on disciplining a
child for misconduct, one must have a strategy, or game plan,
for teaching their child how they are expected to behave (Christophersen,
2003, pg. 680). In addition, parents must model the
appropriate behavior for their children if they want their
children to be successful in their behavior, but that will be
First, developing clear expectation of what
both parents want is the basis and the first steps
to parenting. Depending on the background, or what
is deemed as right and wrong, parents, within reason,
should plan and communicate their expectation to
each other. Creating a list of expectations (such
as social, academic, religious, family oriented,
personal appearance or hygiene) for different settings
and activities will help parents be very specific
and concrete in teaching their children (Burke,
1997, pg. 73).
Some expectations are certainly more demanding
than others; however, parents must take into consideration
the child’s age, ability, developmental status,
and resources that are available to the family (Burke,
1997, pg. 73). For example, expecting a four year
old child to prepare dinner for the family and then
punishing him for not meeting the expectations is
very unreasonable due to his developmental status
and age, as one can see. Ray Burke states, in his
book, Common Sense Parenting, that one way
to see if one’s expectations are reasonable is to
answer these three questions: 1) Have you (as a
parent) taught the expectation to your children,
2) Can your children clearly understand the expectations
given, and 3) Can your children model and perform
what you have expected (Burke, 1997, pg. 74-75).
Clearly these three questions cover the majority
of whether ones expectations for their child are
realistic or not due to the child’s age and ability.
Second, once both parents have set appropriate
expectations and rules for their child, the next step is to
communicate those expectations clearly to their child in word
and in deed. One question to take into consideration is how
one plans on communicating those expectations verbally (Burke,
1997, pg. 77). For
example, if a child draws on the kitchen table, keeping the
feedback positive and specific on what they should have done
will have a clearer understanding of how he or she should
perform in the future when confronted with a similar
situation. Another question is how is one going to communicate
those expectations through one’s behavior (Burke, 1997, pg.
77). By acting
out the expectations that the parents have clearly stated to
the child, the child will associate the “perfect model,”
from the parents.
Finally, another way of getting to express clear
communicative expectations is to hold family meetings
together. The family can set time out of the week to express
what expectations are to be held within the family household,
as well as going over any concerns or clarifications between
both parents and the child. Doing this will only help improve
the child’s behavior for the better not communicating
expectations and then punishing one’s child can cause
confusion, anger, and in sometimes spite in the child (Dodson,
1923, pg. 43).
Staying Calm in the Midst of Turmoil
Staying calm is an important part before applying any
positive or negative consequences to your child’s behavior.
As Ray Burke states, “children can be sarcastic, defiant,
rebellious, and possibly violent. Parents have to prepare
themselves for times like these and learn to keep their cool
(Burke, 1997, pg. 83).” There are times when children will
make their parents so furious that the parents get caught up
in the moment and as a result are not able to think properly.
The parents must be aware of what is going on around them,
they must know their limits to which the child pushes, and
redirect situations back in focus to properly respond
otherwise? Some tips that Burke offers in his book, Common
Sense Parenting, are to; practice positive thinking, to
not take what your child says personally, to keep focus on
behaviors instead of what you think the reasons are for your
child’s misbehaviors, and if you ever get angry and say or
do something you regret, to always go back and say you are
sorry (Burke, 1997, pg. 87-89).
Consequences and Consistency
Positive consequences are used to increase or encourage
desirable behaviors (Dodson, 1923, pg. 12). Catching your
child doing good acts and following directions are great
examples of when to apply a positive consequence. Positive
consequences can range from short term rewards (such as candy
and extra play time) to long term rewards (such as trips and
gifts). Also you must use positive consequences that will work
for your child, as well as using consequences that don’t
cost money (e.g. helping mom while she loads the groceries
into the van for being so good while in the grocery store
shopping). Creating a reward system can be helpful in shaping
behavior (Dodson, 1923, pg. 13). A list of actions you want him to do less of and rewarding
him when the opportunity to disobey is given but avoided, and
a list of actions you want him to do more of (Dodson, 1923,
pg. 13). Everything listed above will give you clear
expectations of when and why positive consequences are given.
Negative consequences are defined as, “adding
a negative consequence to prevent or decrease a
certain behavior, which is problematic, or taking
away something that the child holds dear” (Hurlock,
1929, pg. 87). Doing extra chores in the house,
taking away a positive, and having no television
for the night are examples of negative consequences.
Children will soon realize that the behaviors that
are causing these consequences are to be avoided.
As Burke states, “finding a negative consequence
that works effectively is quite a challenge and
if your child misbehaves remember to stay calm”
(Burke, 1996, pg. 47). Staying calm and focusing
on one will help your child learn the appropriate
Everything mentioned prior would hold absolutely no
water and crumble to failure if it is not being done with
consistency. Consistency is the “backbone” to discipline (Cutts,
1952, pg. 7). As Cutts states in his book, Better Home
Discipline, “You must be consistent in what you ask and
forbid and in what you punish…if not, inconsistency between
both parents could lead to certain paralysis (Cutts, 1952, pg.
7).” To a child, inconsistency gives double messages;
children need to know where they stand in their behaviors (Braga,
1975, pg. 31). Consistency is the key to being a successful
parent, showing the child that you are reliable and serious.
Being the Role Model to Your Child
Do what I say and not what I do is a common phrase that
is often repeated; however it only confuses children. Children
will not do what the parent says, since they will do what the
parents have modeled. Children model the behaviors that the
parent has presented to them time and time again. Looking at
the messages one sends to his or her child is easily seen by
analyzing one’s own behaviors. The parents’ main goal is
to always set a positive example that the children can model
by (Burke, 1997, pg 150).
Role playing proper behavior with the child is another
way of role modeling. Role playing with your child is another
method to teach your children proper behavior without
resorting to the use of punishments or consequences. Each and
every time you practice doing the right thing in a situation
with your child; you increase the chances for their success
and decrease the likelihood that your child will see that
problem behavior in the future (Burke, 1997, pg. 97). Robert
Eimers provides a simple four step role playing format helps
parents teach their child appropriate behaviors. These four
steps are one: 1) taking roles, swapping roles with your
child, 2) set the stage, narrate the situation that occurred
for your child; 3) begin the role play, and 4) give critiques
by giving feedback on the performance, using praises when
needed (Eimers, 1977, pg. 43). Techniques such as role playing
can help a child to think in advance and rehearse adaptive
responses to potentially frustrating situations, thus
developing a more thoughtful and flexible response to the
everyday problems that they face (Schaefer, 1982, pg.
Ray Burke states, “Praise is powerful. Praising your
child is one of the most important things you can do as a
parent. Praise is nourishment. It helps your child grow
emotionally, just as food helps your child grow physically”
(Burke, 1997, pg. 51). One could not have summed up what the
effects of praise are any better than that. Praise is a method
of keeping focus on the positive of any situation. Charles
Schaefers’ book, How to Influence Children, states
that praise is to give a “realistic, positive appraisal of a
child’s performance” (pg. 230).
The reason behind giving praise is to build up self
esteem, to give a belief of personal satisfaction, with the
addition of feeling secure within ones self (Hurlock, 1978,
pg. 311). There is a sense of confidence that one has when one
knows that someone has paid attention and has encourage them
with a positive response, due to their efforts. Norma Cutts
stated that praise makes you radiate “well-being” (Cutts,
1952, pg. 245). So in praising your child it will only
encourage them to do well at whatever task they are faced with
So now knowing what praise is we take in mind how often
we should praise a child and when without over saturating with
praises or not giving enough praises. On one side of the
spectrum, when a child is not praised enough the outcome is
usually a lack of confidence, a feeling of non importance, and
a concept of not being approved when attempting new things.
However, on the other side of the spectrum praise given too
often can result in taking things for granted, a sense of
arrogance, a false expectation of never failing, and of course
spoiling of the child. To effectively praise children, one
must have balance in responses. Ray Burke covers the whole
subject on the “how and when” of praising a child without
over saturation or in not giving enough praises (Burke, 1996,
pg. 52). First, praising your children at tasks they already
do well at but have been taken for granted by the parent.
Second, praising your children when they make improvements on
current skills or tasks. Third, praise your child when he/she
makes positive attempts at new skills or tries new tasks
(Burke, 1996, pg. 52). These three situations answer the
questions on how often and when a child should be praised
without negative behaviors surfacing.
Lastly, in the spectrum of praising is how to
effectively and clearly communicate your praises to your
child. First, make your approval known of your child’s
behavior whether verbal or in action. Give vocal praises such
as “wow”, “keep it up”, “amazing”, “super”, or
“that’s a great job”. Actions are also effective such as
a hug, kiss, a high five, nodding in agreement, or the
clapping of hands. These
physical praises are also known as a tangible way of
reinforcement (Burke, 1996, pg. 56). Second, describing the
positive behavior of the child that you want them to continue.
This lets the child know what behaviors to keep doing in the
future. Third, always give a rationale of why you approve of
the positive behavior. It is always good for the child to know
why that specific positive behavior benefits them or others,
since this helps them to understand the relationship between
certain behaviors and what the outcomes are (Burke, 1996, pg.
54.) Sometimes you can add in a reward, which reinforces the
behavior that you have approved of, described, and given a
rationale of why you approve of it.
Being an effective parent requires dedication,
attention, love, and a constant denial of easily giving swift
punishments. Parenting is possibly the most important job and
role to play. It
is very time consuming but brings about very rewarding fruits
in the long run. Effective
parenting skills that have been covered include developing and
clarifying clear expectations, staying calm in the midst of
turmoil when your child gets upset, consistently follow
through with positive and negative consequences, being a
positive role model, role playing corrective behaviors and
lastly, praising your child for his behavior. The future
generations of the world (our children) will prosper
psychologically when devotion and effort is put into their
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