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How to Be a Good Parent

Updated: Oct 27, 2022

Key Points:

  1. Being a good parent is related to many areas and topics. WikiHow has many articles talking about parenting, but each standalone article can't form a solid and comprehensive solution. Therefore, we have rewritten and integrated several articles together to create a better version.

  2. In addition to a general guide, lots of practices and fine-tunings are required to understand the best way for parenting. In essence, this is more like art rather than science.

According to Wikipedia, "Parenting or child rearing promotes and supports the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the intricacies of raising a child and not exclusively for a biological relationship."

Parenting is a very important life skill, and every parent should try to be a good parent. Here we quote the best way to become a good parent provided by wikiHow, a wiki that is building the world's largest and highest quality how-to manual. Please edit the articles and find author credits at the original wikiHow articles on How to Be a Good Parent, How to Teach Your Child Good Manners, How to Make a Child Feel Valued, House Rules for Kids. Content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons License.

Being a parent can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of your life, but that doesn't mean it's easy. No matter what age your children are, your work is never done. To be a good parent, you have to balance making your child feel loved while still helping them learn the difference between right and wrong. Even when it's hard, just keep doing your best to create a nurturing environment where your children can develop into confident, independent, and caring people.

Part 1: Creating a Loving Environment

1. Give your child plenty of affection. Make an effort to create a strong physical and emotional bond with your child throughout their entire childhood. A warm touch or a kind word can let your child know how much you really care about them. Here are some ways to show love and affection:

  • Give your child a cuddle, a kiss on the cheek, big hug, or even just a warm touch on their shoulder to show encouragement and appreciation.

  • Tell them you love them every day, even if you're upset with them.

2. Love your children unconditionally. Don't force them to be who you think they should be in order to earn your love. Let them know that you will always love them no matter what.

  • For instance, you might hope that your child will be athletic. If they're not really interested in sports, though, it's important to let them know that that's okay, and work with them to find an activity that better suits their interests.

  • Similarly, don't make your child feel bad if it takes them a while to warm up to people, even if you're very outgoing yourself.

3. Emphasize the importance of experiences over toys. Toys can entertain your child for a while, but they will never let them feel loved and cared for as an attentive parent can. Instead, make time to take your child to do fun things—even something as simple as eating an ice cream cone in the park can create a sweet memory that will last much longer than any toy.

  • Even just lying on the floor reading together can be a great bonding time for you and your children.

4. Praise your children for their accomplishments. Help your kids feel proud of their accomplishments and good about themselves. When they do something good, let them know that you've noticed and that you're very proud of them. If you don't give them the confidence they need to be out in the world on their own, then they won't feel empowered to be independent or adventurous.

  • Be specific in your praise to let them know exactly what is being appreciated. For example, instead of saying, "Good job!" you might say, "You did great taking turns with your sister while playing," or "Thank you for cleaning up the toys after playing with them!"

  • Make it a point to praise your children's accomplishments and good behavior more than their natural talents. That will help them learn to value taking on a tough challenge.

  • Try to get in the habit a habit of praising your children more often than you give them negative feedback. Though it's important to tell your children when they're doing something wrong, it's also important to help them build a positive sense of self. In addition, if you focus too much on bad behavior, your children may act out more as a way to get your attention.

5. Avoid comparing your children to others, especially siblings. Each child is individual and unique, so celebrate their differences. If you constantly compare your child to other kids, it might make them feel like they can never be good enough in your eyes. It might even hold them back from finding success later on. Instead of comparing them to other kids, help your children learn how to meet goals on their own terms, and encourage them to follow the path that works for them.

  • Comparing one child to their siblings can lead your children to develop a rivalry. Try to nurture a loving relationship between your children, not a competitive one.

  • Don't show favoritism between your children, either—if they're arguing, be fair and neutral.

6. Give your children your full attention when they're talking. It's important to have open communication with your kids, so be sure you take the time to stop and listen when they come to you with questions or concerns. In addition, express interest in your children and involve yourself in their life. This will help create an atmosphere in which your children can come to you with a problem, however large or small.

  • Practice active listening with your children so they know you're paying attention to them. Look at them while they talk to you, and show them you're following along by nodding and making affirmative statements, such as "Uh huh," "I understand," or "Keep going." When it is your turn to speak, paraphrase what you heard them say before you respond. For instance, you could say, "It sounds like you're saying that this week's chore list is unfair."

  • Try setting aside a specific time to talk to each child every day. This can be before bedtime, at breakfast, or during a walk after school. Treat this time as sacred and avoid checking your phone or getting distracted.

  • For instance, during dinner you might ask your child to share something they learned at school.

7. Make one-on-one time for each child. It's really important for kids to feel like they're important to their parents, so intentionally carve out time to spend with each of your children. During that time, plan something fun to do together, like going for a walk, getting a snack, or putting together a puzzle. While you're doing that, give your child your full attention—talk to them and listen to what they have to say. Even just casually spending time together can be really meaningful to them.

  • Try to divide your time equally if you have more than one child. However, keep in mind that you don't have to do the same thing with each one—maybe one of your children loves roller skating, for instance, while the other would be happiest with a trip to the library.

  • Be engaged with their schoolwork as well. For example, when you can, try to attend school functions, do homework with your children, and monitor their grades to get a sense of how they are doing in school. You can also join a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) if you'd like to be more involved in their education.

  • Be careful not to stifle or smother your children, however—give them time to themselves, too. You want them to feel like your time together is special, not like they're forced to spend time with you.

8. Respect your child's privacy to build trust. Allow your children to feel that once they enter their room, no one will look through their drawers, or read their diary. This will teach them to honor their own space and to respect the privacy of others. It will also give them a sense of stability, and it will help build trust between the two of you.

  • Allow your child to maintain their personal space and accept that it's normal for them to sometimes keep secrets from you, especially as they get older. You can balance this by having an open door policy so that they can approach you if they need help with an issue.

9. Be there for the milestones. You may have a hectic work schedule, but you should do everything you can to be there for the important moments in your children's lives, from their ballet recitals and birthdays to their high school graduation. Remember that children grow fast and that they'll be on their own before you know it. Your boss may or may not remember that you missed that meeting, but your child will most certainly remember that you didn't attend the play they were in.

  • If something happens and you have to miss an important milestone, let your child know that you're really sorry you missed it, and make it up to them with a special celebration. For instance, if you can't take your child to class on the first day of school, you might celebrate by picking up their favorite dinner and a special dessert that night.

10. Have regular conversations. Talking to a child about daily activities allows them to know that you care about their life. Having conversations with an adult may also give the child a positive sense of maturity. Include a variety of questions to help support your conversation. Encourage a child's conversation by using conversation extenders. Children may not have the skills to express themselves without some help. If you want a child to share her experience with you, help support her by asking questions like, "And then what happened?" or "Tell me more!" When talking to your child, pay attention to your tone, his or her age, active listening, and good knowledge of yourself, your kid and the topic. If messed up, need to apologize and highlight the progress.

11. Validate their feelings. Treat their emotions as important, even if you don't understand or agree. This lets the child know that you think their perspective is important and worth listening to. Make it clear that it's okay for them to feel the way they do.

  • You can validate their feelings while not doing what they want. For example, "I know you don't want to take a bath. It's lots of fun to play with dolls, and it's not fun to be told to stop. You need a bath because it's important to stay clean. You can choose the bath toys, and we can make lots of bubbles if you want."

12. Respect the child's abilities. Doing things for your child that they can do for themselves is suggesting that you doubt their capabilities. Instead, make them feel that you value what they can do for themselves. For example, rather than putting a coat on a 3-year old, allow her to take the time to do it for herself.

13. Allow the child to learn from their mistakes. Teaching independence means to allow for a higher possibility of mistakes. This is a natural consequence of learning a new skill. Because young children are concrete thinkers, learning the natural consequences that follow an action is an important part of their learning development.

  • Showing your child that you trust them to make their own choices, and to learn from their mistakes, emphasizes that you value their independence.

  • Make sure that the consequences of their learning won't have overly detrimental affects on their physical or emotional safety. For example, if your nephew is just learning to look both ways before crossing the street, you'll obviously want to protect him from busy intersections. However, allowing him to practice independently looking both ways before crossing together with you is a good idea.

14. Give your children choices. Allowing for your child to have genuine choices is an important part of letting them know you value their preferences. The choices you provide should all be equally valid choices—that is, don't present choices that are impossible to meet, or which you're sure the child won't select. Instead, present a range of options whenever possible.

  • You don't want to overwhelm your child with choices. Choosing from 2-3 options is generally enough. For example, "Do you want corn or sweet potatoes with your ham?"

  • Providing choices that you wouldn't choose yourself encourages independence in your child.

15. Showing What it Means to Be Valued.

  • Be consistent. Being consistent means that the expectations and rules that are set should be the same from day to day, and place to place. Consistency gives a child a sense of well-being, safety, and security. It teaches a child accountability for their actions, and helps provide a safe boundary for exploration.

  • Show that you value your own well-being. Modeling self-care for a child is an important aspect of teaching a child what it means to be valued. Taking care of your health, hygiene, psychological and emotional needs are all part of what it means to care for your own well-being.

  • Be there for them when they're struggling. If your child is upset, respond with empathy and patience, not judgment. Ask what's wrong, and work together on brainstorming ways to make things better.

Part 2: Being a Good Disciplinarian

1. Enforce reasonable rules and consequences. Create a list of household rules that will help your children lead a happy, productive life. Make sure these rules are appropriate for your child's age. Remember, your rules and guidelines should help your child develop and grow, but they shouldn't be so strict that they feel like they can't do anything right.

  • For example, if you have a younger child, you might have rules like "Don't go outside without a grownup," with the consequence of being grounded indoors if they break that rule. For older children, you might set rules about helping around the house, and you might take away a privilege like screen time if they don't do their chores.

  • Listen to your child's feedback about the rules they have to follow, but remember—you are the parent. Children need boundaries. A child who has been allowed to behave as they please will struggle in adult life when they have to obey society's rules.

  • Avoid overly harsh forms of punishment, and never do anything that involves physically hurting your child—in addition to being abusive, it can actually make behavioral problems worse. It's always better to help and guide your child so they can learn from their mistake.

  • Setting Family Rules. Call a family meeting to brainstorm some rules. Set a small number of rules for younger kids. Write down your list of rules using clear, simple language. Post the rules in a place where everyone can see them. Review the rules occasionally and change them if they aren’t working.

  • Enforcing the Rules. Come up with clear consequences if your house rules are broken. Explain the rules and consequences in advance so your kids know what to expect. Follow through on your consequences promptly and consistently. Praise and reward your kids for following the rules. Set a good example by following your own rules.

  • Choosing Appropriate Rules and Boundaries. Keep your rules age-appropriate. Assign family chores to teach responsibility. Encourage good manners and respectful behavior. Create strong health and safety rules. Use rules to limit screen time.

2. Example Rules:

  • Safety

    • Memorize your parents' phone numbers and know who to call in an emergency

    • Don't answer the door for strangers

    • Ask permission before leaving your home, school, or friend's house

    • Wear a helmet when riding a bike, scooter, or skateboard

    • Cross the street carefully

    • Stick to the boundaries your parents set when playing outdoors

    • Wear your seatbelt in the car

    • Don't take rides, drinks, or food from strangers

    • Be home by curfew

    • Only take medicine if your parents give it to you

    • Don't tell people that you're home alone

    • Get help and tell your parents right away if someone threatens you or touches you inappropriately

    • Never play with fire

  • Manners and Respect

    • Keep your hands to yourself and don't hurt others

    • Wait for someone to finish talking before you speak

    • Use an inside voice

    • Sit on the furniture instead of jumping or climbing on it

    • Say please and thank you

    • Knock before entering someone's room

    • Ask permission before using something that doesn't belong to you

    • Speak politely and respectfully to others (no name-calling or talking back)

    • Tell the truth

    • Clean up after yourself

    • Apologize when you hurt someone

    • Be kind and helpful

    • Do your chores without complaining

  • Electronics and Online Safety

    • Stick to the screen-time limits your parents set

    • Take good care of your devices

    • Don't make a social media account until you're at least 13 years old

    • Avoid giving anyone your online passwords (except for your parents)

    • Don't tell people you meet online your full name, address, phone number, or other personal information

    • Only post appropriate photos of yourself and others

    • Show respect and kindness to everyone you interact with online

    • Let your parents know if someone is being rude, mean, or inappropriate or if they make you feel uncomfortable

    • Never agree to meet someone you met online in person unless your parents know and approve

    • Ask your parents before downloading new software or apps

    • Put privacy settings on your accounts

    • Only "friend" people you know, not strangers

3. Be consistent with your rules. Even though it can be hard sometimes, it's important to enforce the same rules all the time. Try not to let your child manipulate you into making exceptions. If you let your child do something he or she is not supposed to do just because he or she is throwing a tantrum, then this shows that your rules are breakable.

4. Control your temper as much as you can. It's important to try to be as calm and reasonable as possible when you're dealing with your children, even if they're misbehaving. Obviously, this can be quite a challenge, especially when your children are acting out or just driving you up the wall, but if you feel yourself getting ready to raise your voice, take a break and excuse yourself, or at least let your kids know that you are beginning to get upset.

5. Be a united front with your child's other parent. If you're raising your children with someone else, it's important that your children think of you as a united front—two people who will both say "yes" or "no" to the same things. If your kids think that their mother will always say yes and their father will say no, then they'll probably learn to play off of that to get what they want.

  • This doesn't mean that you both have to agree 100% about everything having to do with the kids. But it does mean that you should work together to solve problems that involve the children, instead of being pitted against each other.

  • Try not to argue with your spouse or co-parent in front of the children. Children may feel insecure and fearful when they hear their parents bickering. Instead, try to show them that when people disagree, they can discuss their differences peacefully.

6. Create a disciplined schedule to keep your family organized. Your kids should feel like there's a sense of order and a logic to things in their household and in their family life. This can help them feel safe and at peace, which can help them live a happy life both in and outside of their home. A good way to do this is to keep a regular schedule. For example, you should have set bedtimes and wake-up times, serve meals at about the same time each day, and schedule a time for things like homework and play. Here are some ways that you can provide order for your children:

  • Keep up with your own hygiene, such as showering and caring for your teeth, and teach your child that the same is expected of them.

  • Encourage responsibility by giving your children regular jobs or chores to do as part of their routine.

7. Criticize your child's behavior, not your child. If your child is misbehaving, let them know that you don't like their actions. However, reassure them that you still love and care about them, even though you're not happy with that behavior. That way, they'll be more likely to feel like they're can change how they're acting, while still feeling loved and supported.

  • For instance, if you catch your child being mean to their sibling, don't say, "You're so bad!" Instead, say something like, "It's hurtful to call people names, so I think you should apologize to Anna."

  • Be assertive yet kind when you're pointing out what your child has done wrong. Be stern and serious, but not cross or mean, when you tell them what you expect.

  • If they misbehave in public, take them aside, and scold them privately. That way, you won't be adding embarrassment into the mix.

8. Don't place unreasonable expectations on your child. Try not to make your child feel like they have to be perfect or to live up to your idea of what perfect should be. For instance, don't push your child to get perfect grades or to be the best player on his soccer team. Instead, encourage good study habits and good sportsmanship, and let your child put in the effort that they're capable of.

  • If you act like you only expect the best, your child will feel like they may never measure up, and may even rebel in the process.

  • Be clear about what you expect from your child. For instance, you should say, "Please put your shoes on," rather than, "We need to leave, shouldn't you have your shoes on by now?"

Part 3: Helping Your Child Build Character

1. Teach your children to be independent. Teach your children that it is okay for them to be different, and they do not have to follow the crowd. Teach them right from wrong when they are young, and encourage them to make their own decisions, rather than deciding everything for them.

  • Give your children the chance to make choices on their own. If you have a young child, for instance, you might offer 2-3 outfits and let them chose the one they want to wear, or you might let them pick between several snacks.

  • When your children are older, give them choices on things like which extracurricular activities they want to participate in and the friends they want to hang around—as long as you feel like they're safe influences, of course.

  • Remember that your child is not an extension of yourself. Your child is an individual under your care, not a chance for you to relive your life through them.

2. Be a good role model. Arguably the most important thing you can do as a parent is to be a good influence. If you expect certain behaviors from your children, you really have to model them yourself. You don't have to be a perfect person, but you should strive to do as you want your children to do, and be willing to admit when you make mistakes.

  • For instance, if you want your children to be polite and kind, don't yell in traffic or snap at someone who's holding up the line at the grocery store.

  • If you want to teach kids about charity, take your kids with you to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and help serve up meals. Explain to them why you do acts of charity so they understand why they should.

  • If you want your children to do household chores, ask them to help you while you're cleaning around the house. Don't just ask them to clean their room while you sit on the couch.

  • If you want your kids to get off their digital devices, don't spend a lot of time hooked to your tablet or phone.

3. Practice good manners with your children. Basic manners will take a person a long way in life, so from the earliest ages, teach your child to say things like, "Please," "Thank you," and "Excuse me." Also teach them about waiting their turn, sharing with others, and how to act in a social situation. Remember, the best way to teach your children manners is to model them yourself!

  • Teaching manners to a young child may seem a little overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. You can encourage your child to be polite by teaching them a few key phrases and greetings, encouraging them to understand the importance of empathy and compassion, and modeling good behavior so that they have a good example to look up to! This article explores these methods and more so that you can help your child learn the importance of good manners and etiquette.

  • Teach your child to say “hello” and “goodbye.” These phrases are the first steps to politely interacting with others. Practice by making a point to say "hello" or "good morning" when you wake up each day. As your child starts to get the hang of it, try to remind them to say hello to relatives and friends. If they forget to say hi, gently remind them. Try something like, "That’s our neighbor Tom! Do you want to say hello?"

  • Remind them to say “please” when asking for something. It wouldn’t be an article on manners without the phrase "please." It’s the perfect way to ask for a question or favor in a gentle, polite way. Anytime your child asks for something, whether it be a cookie or some help with their homework, tell them to say "please" somewhere in that request. Encourage them not to forget by reminding them to say it before completing the task.

  • Make sure they know the importance of “thank you.” Expressing gratitude is an important part of good manners. Teach your child when it’s appropriate to say "thank you," like after someone has helped them, answered a question, or given them a gift. Gently remind your child to say thank you if you notice that they forgot. For example, if their friend gave them a picture they drew and your child takes it without a thank you, try something like, "Sarah drew that just for you! What do we say when someone gives us a gift?"

  • Encourage them to sit still and avoid mess when eating. It’s very common for kids to play with their food. Who wouldn’t want to throw mashed potatoes if given the chance? Though tempting, there are many strategies you can employ to teach your child to be polite at the dinner table. First, try not to react when your child makes a big mess. If they’re throwing food, for example, they may just want your attention. Avoid laughing or getting angry, and simply ask them to stop. If they continue to make a mess, let them know that mealtime is over. Enacting gentle but firm boundaries can help your child understand the consequences of their actions.

  • Help them learn how to make eye contact in conversation. Looking someone in the eye is an important part of having a meaningful conversation! It can be hard for anyone, child or adult, so understand if this step takes a little extra time. To practice, ask your child to look members of your family in the eye to determine their eye color. This can make it feel more like a game and can help them get more comfortable in conversation!

  • Instruct them not to interrupt people in conversation. Help your child understand that when you speak to people, you take turns. Anytime you have a conversation and your child interrupts you, ask them to wait until you are done speaking. Remain consistent anytime they interrupt you, and praise them for waiting their turn when they do!

  • Educate them about being kind. Teach your child the importance of empathy, compassion, and care for their community. To help them understand empathy, encourage them to look at conflicts from another person’s perspective. For example, if they are arguing with a sibling, ask both children to explain their point of view. Motivate them to really listen to the others’ perspective by having them repeat back how their sibling feels. Come up with a compromise so that your child learns how to react positively even when they don’t get exactly their way. You can also foster compassion through talking to your children about issues in the world that may cause people to experience hardship, like racism, poverty, and homophobia.

  • Set clear expectations. Instead of simply telling your child not to do something, say what they should do as well. A "no" without any alternative suggestion may leave your child feeling confused about what to do next. Give your child directions so that they know what good behavior they should practice instead.

  • Be aware of your child’s limits. It may take time for your child to understand manners. As a young kid maybe they know how to say "hello" and "goodbye," but they don’t yet know how to say "please." Celebrate the small victories and take things one day at a time. It’s also best to take the context into account when teaching your child new manners. If your child is exhausted from a long day of preschool, that may not be the best time to introduce a new expectation.

  • Remain consistent. Always follow through with the expectations you set for your child. If you teach your child not to interrupt people, for example, and then say nothing when they interrupt you, that gives your child mixed messages. As soon as you introduce a new lesson in etiquette, hold your child accountable by reminding them to practice their manners consistently.

  • Model good manners for your child. Children learn best through example. Always be kind, polite, and courteous in front of your child so that they have a positive role model to look up to. Yes, we all have our bad days, but try your absolute best to express anger and impatience in a healthy way in front of your child.

4. Encourage your children to have a healthy lifestyle. It's important to make sure that your children eat healthy food as much as they can, that they get plenty of exercise, and that they get enough rest every night. Don't force them to eat or act a certain way, but do try to provide healthy options instead of filling up the house with junk food, and plan activities for the family that will get everyone up and moving.

  • One way to encourage them to exercise is to get them to play a sport early on in life, so they find a passion that is also healthy.

  • Start healthy eating habits at a young age. From the time you first start introducing solid foods, offer a variety of age-appropriate fruits and veggies, rather than unhealthy snacks like chips and sweets.

5. Let your children make their own mistakes. Life is a great teacher, so don't be too quick to rescue your child from the results of their own actions. Know that you can't protect your children forever, and they're better off learning life's lessons sooner than later. Though it can be hard to stand back and watch your child make a mistake, this will benefit both you and your child in the long run.

  • For instance, if your child refuses to wear a jacket, don't force them—they'll realize their mistake when they get cold. However, you can bring the jacket along in case they change their mind.

  • Be reasonable when you're letting them face their own consequences. For instance, sometimes it's better to let your child fall off the couch rather than yelling at them to get down for the 14th time in a row. However, if they're standing on the edge of a cliff, you'd obviously want to intervene.

  • Try not to say, "I told you so," when your child learns a life lesson on his own. Instead, let your child draw his own conclusions about what happened.

Part 4: Parenting Teens and Young Adults

1. Emphasize moderation and responsibility when it comes to alcohol consumption. You can start talking about this even when children are young. Explain that they will have to wait until they are old enough to enjoy a drink with friends, and talk about the importance of designated drivers. In addition, be frank with teens about the effects alcohol can have on their brain and body.

  • Encourage your teens to wait until they're legally old enough to drink. Tell them that even then, they should never drink and drive, and assure them that if they're ever impaired, they can call you and you'll make sure they get home safely.

2. Be honest with your children about sex. If your child has questions about sex, it is important to answer their questions calmly and without embarrassment. If you don't answer their questions, this can leave them uninformed and ashamed, which can harm them later in life. From an early age, talk to your children about their anatomy, including the proper names for their body parts. As they get older, talk to them about puberty, conception, contraception, and the impact sex has on relationships.

  • It's natural for your child to become curious about their body as they get older. If they come to you with questions, answer them openly, and try not to feel embarrassed.

3. Be there for your child all the way into adulthood. Your parenting will have a life-long effect on your child, and they'll always need your love and affection, even if you're hundreds of miles away. While you won't always be a constant daily presence in your child's life, you should always let your children know that you care about them and that you'll always be there for them.

  • No matter what age they are, if you have a good relationship with your children, they'll still turn to you for advice.

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