By Dr. Jan Hittelman

Throughout history, parenting has had its challenges. Between ever-changing technologies, children engaging in risk behaviors at younger ages, the stress of a post 9/11 world, increases in single-parent households, and economic challenges, it’s tougher than ever to be a parent. Especially given the fact that most of us become parents with no previous training and are learning by doing, which often means a lot of trial and error. Understanding the most effective parenting strategies can help us avoid conflict and frustration, as well as strengthen the parent-child bond.

Even though our children drive us crazy at times, many would argue that it is our most important responsibility. Given that, we really want to do it well. Some basic parameters for effective parenting include:
• Take care of yourself: Before you can be a good caretaker, you must first address your own social, emotional, and personal needs.
• Communicate respectfully and often: Healthy communication is at the heart of any relationship.
• Focus on the positive: Reinforcing the behavior you want will increase its occurrence.
• Express your love: Both in words and actions, it is important that your children know you care.
• Use empowerment strategies: Giving children a voice in decision-making and discipline issues teaches them problem-solving skills and responsibility.
• Don’t sweat the small stuff: If parents aren’t careful, all they do is battle with their kids. Be smart and reduce conflict.
• And whenever possible, have fun: Sharing positive experiences enhances everyone’s quality of life and strengthens relationships.

While few things are tougher, few are more rewarding than being a parent. Strengthening our parenting skills can reduce our stress, increase our effectiveness, and most importantly, strengthen our lifelong relationships with our children.