Life Times Newsletter

Winter 2011
Vol. 13, No. 1

Positive parenting skills: Think before you act

Elizabeth Reinsch, PhD, LCSW, ACSW
Human Development Specialist


Have you ever reacted to your child’s behavior without taking time to discover from your child why that behavior occurred? Many times parents react to the negative behavior of a child without understanding the child’s perspective. The way the parent “sees,” defines, or describes a behavior often limits the solutions considered.

The stress associated with trying to balance work and family goes across all social and economic levels. Sometimes we get tied up with day-to-day “stuff.” At times by the end of the day, we may just be tired and make a mistake. Most parents have not participated in a “Parenting” class; we usually learn how to parent from our experience within our families or from trial and error. Positive parenting skills can be learned, but it does take time and some effort.

As an example: My mother raised seven children by herself during the Depression after my father died suddenly. She had to go to work to make ends meet. Balancing work and family wasn’t easy, but I believe she did the best she could under the circumstances.

As a child about the age of 10 or 11, I decided one day to make a flower garden by the back door of our home. I spent the entire day digging and weeding and planting some seeds I had found. I was very proud of the little garden I had created, looking forward to the flowers I hoped would grow. At the end of the day I went into the house to get a drink of water after all my hard work.

I remember standing on a chair to reach the kitchen cabinet to get the glass. While standing on the chair, my mother entered the kitchen from her work day and asked angrily, “Who dug the hole in the back yard”? In my mind I had not dug a HOLE, I had made a GARDEN. She repeated her question several times, when finally my sister pointed to me and said that I had dug the hole. My mother took it that I had lied to her, and I received a whipping for what in her mind was wrong.

I share this event as I present Parenting Education classes and relate it to the concept of perception. My mother and I were on different paths. Many times parents are too busy to take the time to look beyond the behavior, yet if the time was spent, different solutions and responses may evolve.

Following are some adapted positive parenting tips from a University of Minnesota Extension parenting guide that can help you help your child learn how to behave better in the future.

1.   Think before you react. Remember self-esteem is fragile.

2.   Listen to what your child says.  Do not lecture.

3.   Make a habit to apologize when you make a mistake. Your children will pick up that habit.

4.   Pick your battles. Big deal or small deal? What is really important?

5.   Avoid power struggles. Choose the power to be a positive influence with your child.

6.   Use mistakes to teach. Share mistakes you’ve made and how you learned from them.

7.   Try to understand your child’s perspective. Their point of view may be different from yours.

8.   Time is precious. Spend time getting to know your children and letting them know you.

9.   Celebrate! When your children do something right, let them know how proud you are of them.

10.  Love your child. Think positively and expect the best from him/her.

Resource:  Pitzer, R. L. (2003). A Parent’s Guide to Teens:  The Growing Season. University of Minnesota Extension. Available at



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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller