Parents are Teachers


Parents love their children and want to raise them so that they can succeed in life on their own someday. But, most parents lack the training to raise their children. Without formal training parents can revert to coercive, harsh punishments and threats to control their child’s misbehavior. If this is becomes the family environment, though it often happens unintentionally, there are many risks for negative consequences. If children grow up in homes of consistent harsh punishment, the risks of these outcomes increases:

  • aggression,
  • depression,
  • the child withdrawing from home, school, and peers,
  • a dysfunctional family situation,
  • feelings of fear, guilt, stupidity,
  • a lack of self-confidence,
  • hostility, and
  • non-compliance.

These children don’t learn how to handle life’s challenges but instead learn to distrust and avoid.

To avoid this situation, parents can strive to create a “home environment [that] is rich in love, praise, and support to teach and direct their children [and] to establish this positive overall tone to the relationship, adults should try to have at least four to eight positive interactions with their child to offset each incident of criticism or punishment.”

“Praise your children more than you correct them. Praise them for even their smallest achievements… Encourage your children to come to you for counsel with their problems and questions by listening to them every day.” -Ezra Taft Benson1

Here are 4 steps to influencing your child for the better:

1. Recognize that parents are teachers. “All parents are teachers. In fact, they constantly teach their children whether they recognize it or not. All of us teach by our actions, our example.” (See Lead Your Child to Good Health.) Here are a few basic principles that will make our parenting more effective.

  • Remember that our actions speak louder than our words. “Parents need to model correct, positive behavior.”
  • We need to treat our children with respect as we are interacting with and teaching them.
  • Teaching is more likely to be internalized when there is a loving, positive relationship established. “When there is a positive relationship between a parent and a child, the child is far more likely to listen to the parent, value what the parent has to say, and accept the teaching. Positive relationships are the foundation for successful parent-child interactions and effective parental teaching.”

2. Build positive relationships with your children. The foundation of a positive relationship is time. A small amount of “quality time” can’t make up for missed “quantity time.” Family time serves its purpose, but to build relationships with our children, it takes one-on-one time with each child. Parents need to be available so children can talk and share their thoughts with them at most times, not just when it is convenient for the parent. The dinner table is a great place to start building relationships with your kids on a daily basis. (For more information on the benefits of having meals together as a family, see the ACPeds resource page The Family Table and patient handout How to Have a Healthy Family Table.)

“In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home.” -Dieter F. Uchtdorf2

3. Think of disciplining as teaching rather than punishing. The word discipline comes from the Latin word disciplina, meaning “teaching, learning.” Other definitions and synonyms of discipline include “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character,” “to train or develop by instruction and exercise, especially in self- control,” self-restraint, diligence, drill, exercise, practice, training, instruct, train, teach, educate, school, tutor, and prepare. “The best discipline for misbehavior is to teach alternate positive behaviors.” (For more on discipline, see the ACPeds blog post Discipline: Knowing the Facts and the ACPeds discipline resource page Responsible Discipline.)

4. Modeling is an important way of communicating to our children which behaviors we hope they will learn. Whatever our behavior is, intentional or not, our children will pick it up. We can be conscious about what behaviors we are modeling and highlight the ones we want our children to learn.

 “Your children will become what you are; so be what you want them to be.” –Anonymous3

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