Help Kids Improve Mental Health & Chances for Success with these Parenting Strategies
One of the more common themes I discuss with parents centers around best parenting approaches to use to strengthen relationships with kids, specifically as this applies to gaining greater compliance with family rules. What is the psychology behind getting kids to willingly study, do their homework, commit to sports practice, and complete all responsibilities that come with being a kid? Often when I first meet with parents their family expectations are vague, accountability is inconsistent, and consequences are lacking, and herein lies the problem why kids fail to live up to family expectations. For example, telling your child to “do good and get your stuff done” might work for a select few, but most kids need far more than that with respect to specificity, accountability, and consequences for failing to complete tasks. The approach I am about to discuss not only increases efficiency and productivity, it also improves mental health.
Breaking down the basics
Helping kids succeed in life is no small task, but there are a few basic concepts that will help you toward this pursuit. Using basic psychology, patience, and empathy, parents will benefit from employing a parenting model that includes the following:
- Clear expectations. Kids will improve proficiency in the tasks they face when they are provided encouragement with clear and specific instructions. For example, telling a kid to “work harder” at school is not nearly as effective as specifying the class(es) that need to most help, along with a written improvement plan to follow. When it comes to house rules, kids need to know exactly what is expected of them when it comes to cleaning around the house, their curfew, driving limitations, and rules around screen time. When parents are casual in their expectations and general with their language, kids are left confused about expectations and often fail to live up to family rules as a result. For example, saying “read pages 10-20” is better than saying “go study,” and telling your child to “be home by 11” is better than saying “don’t stay out late.”
- Accountability. What consequences do your kids face when they disrespect family rules? For some families the answer to this question is “essentially none,” and this can lead to big problems. Similar to how you will have to pay a fine if you are ticketed for speeding, your kids need to know that they are also accountable for their actions — and that consequences will follow. When kids are held accountable for the decisions and behaviors, only then will they begin to weigh out future actions against the cost of choosing to ignore responsibilities.
- Consequences. There are consequences for our actions in life, and this applies to kids, too. It is important for parents to spell out specific actions that will occur when your kids decide to blow off homework, leave their room a mess, or come home way past their curfew. Consequences need to be appropriate to the violation, consistent, and delivered with future instructions how to right the problem (authoritative parenting).
Before you go down the road that your child can’t be helped, or that you will need to take dramatic steps to help your kid improve (i.e. seeking out any kind of psychopharmalogical drugs that might “work”), do a self-audit on how you are doing with the concepts discussed in this article. The level of happiness and success your kids experience are directly related to how you parent, and employing specificity with future goals, accountability for actions, and consequences for breaking rules will help your kids reach their full potential.