7 Must Haves for Successful Parenting


As parenting experts, (and we have 5 kids) we have spoken with hundreds of families for more than 30 years. We have seen trends and attitudes shift, yet there are several tried and true parenting structures that stand the test of time.

Here are 7 basic caveats:

1) Structure: All children, ages 1 to 18 need structure. Kids usually resist it, some vehemently, yet parents must provide boundaries, plans, house and behavior rules, directions, expectations, order and organization.

2) Alignment. In a two-parent home it is essential that parents have one voice. Kids, like sonar mammals, know when one adult is not in lockstep. One. Unified. Voice.

3) Consistency: This goes for directives as well as expectations and consequences.

4) No Bargaining. Bargaining is for garage sales only. If clear expectations are given ahead of time, bargaining in the moment becomes a non-issue. (see consistency)

5) Positive reinforcement only. With a 4:1 ratio of negative thoughts to positive thoughts in the evolutionary human brain, we need to really focus on giving positive affirmations. Reframe the negative thought. If your kid gets a B on a test or project, tell him you’re proud of him for working hard to prepare. When a toddler throws herself on the floor in a tantrum or the teenager makes snarky comments in front of your friends, ignore it or calmly say, “We value respect in our home.”

6) Eye rolls: If your preteen does not roll her eyes at you, you are not doing your job as a parent. You get the F; not your kid.

7) No Bail: The most important parenting advice of all: do not bail them out of literal or figurative jail.  Teach coping skills to children. Practice problem solving life skills. Let them fail. Fall down. Make mistakes. Screw up. Spend the night in jail if arrested. (Do NOT lawyer up). Role play “what would you do if…” scenarios. Let them figure it out.

There is a great danger in being a passive parent. Kids grow up with no clear sense of boundaries, which will impact their psychosocial relationships. The model, “Play as you go,” will direct their behavior; they get to make the rules. This early entitlement will not only serve to wreak havoc on their later personal and professional relationships, it will leave them emotionally and psychologically underdeveloped. For the well-being of your child, please don’t be that parent.

Even if you’re exhausted, parent up.


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Poppy and Geoff Spencer