Help Wanted: Adults to coordinate growth and development of new product from inception to maturity. Must be willing to take responsibility for health, safety, education, emotional well-being and social development. Minimum 18 year commitment. Hours: 24/7. Pay: Meager. Guidelines not fully developed; instructions not included. No potential for promotion or advancement.
No one in their right mind would apply for this job. And yet every year, millions of adults begin a task that is long, difficult, sometimes scary — but always rewarding. They become parents.
As CEO of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), I have worked with experts and seen many studies that reinforce the fact that no one is born knowing how to be a parent. It’s something we all have to learn. CWLA provides a curriculum for parenting education to more than 18,000 child care, preschool and Head Start centers that use these materials to train thousands of parents of young children in positive parenting techniques. CWLA is working to give parents the information they need and want to make parenting more enjoyable and more effective.
CWLA envisions a future in which families, neighborhoods, communities, organizations and governments ensure that all children and youth have the resources they need to grow into healthy, contributing members of society. To help achieve that goal, CWLA provides the following 10 tips for positive parenting.
1. Appreciate the value of play: it is a child’s work. Play is critical to all aspects of a child’s development, but is often overlooked as a valuable tool. Play can prevent discipline problems, offers a natural way for children to learn, and is essential in the formation of a positive relationship between parent and child.
2. Talk with and listen to your child. It’s important to make eye contact and use gentle touch when communicating with your child. Give clear and consistent instructions — but not too many at once. Remember the importance of non-verbal communication, and be sure to hold a child for comfort or to share smiles and hugs.
3. Build your child’s brain and body. Provide healthful meals and snacks and model good eating habits. Encourage exercise by being active with your child and limiting time in front of the television or playing video games. Support your child’s efforts in school and provide opportunities to learn and explore by visiting the library, museums, zoos and other places of interest.
4. Be your child’s first source of information. Encouraging your children to ask questions now, makes it easier for them to ask questions when they are older. By answering questions from your child with honesty and openness, you can create a relationship of mutual trust and respect that can prevent your child from developing unsafe habits or taking unnecessary risks.
5. Learn how children develop and know your unique child. When it comes to your child, the real expert is you, the parent. Know all areas of your child’s development — physical, intellectual, social, emotional and moral — and remember there is nothing to be ashamed of if your child needs special help to progress at his or her own best rate.
6. Cherish your child’s individuality. Support your child’s interests and talents. Try to spend time alone with each of your children every day. Praise your children’s differences and avoid comparing them or asking why they can’t be like someone else.
7. Set your household up for success — make it work for the whole family. Model and teach good safety habits and establish routines. Discuss and enforce family rules that work for your household — for example, putting toys away after play.
8. Take care of yourself. If you are tired, ill or just worn out, you cannot be an effective parent. Eat healthfully, get enough sleep, take occasional breaks from parenting if possible, and enlist the support of family, friends and neighbors when things seem overwhelming.
9. Make time for family activities. A sense of belonging is enhanced when families take time to engage in common activities such as having meals together and sharing tasks and responsibilities. Use family time to discuss need and feelings, to solve problems and promote cooperation.
10. Teach your child right from wrong. A child’s understanding of right and wrong develops slowly, from within. Actively teach your children a code of moral conduct and lay the groundwork for them to develop their own moral guide.