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In Montana, parents want their children to be confident, to be respectful, and to make healthy choices. Parents and those in a parenting role can grow these important skills in their children and address common parenting issues like establishing routines, listening, and chores by using a parenting process.
The parenting process is a way of interacting with your child that creates an environment for learning. The parenting process equips you with a step-by-step process for dealing with simple and challenging parenting issues, and it allows you to purposefully develop social and emotional skills in your child so that your child is able to manage their emotions and make better decisions. Using the parenting process is a way to intentionally grow these important life skills in your child.
The parenting process includes five steps that parents and those in a parenting role can use with their child at every age. The five steps are: Get Input, Teach, Practice, Support, and Recognize. Through the five step process, you are interacting with your child, teaching them skills, allowing them to practice, supporting their learning, and recognizing their effort. And most importantly, you are intentionally building a positive relationship with your child.
The parenting process is fluid, and revisiting steps multiple times is normal and expected. Keep in mind, you are successful when you engage in the parenting process with your child regardless of the outcome. Engaging in the parenting process with your child might not lead to immediate results or the exact outcome you desire, but every time you engage in the process, you are building your child’s skills to be successful. You are creating an environment for learning where your child is able to practice and grow their social and emotional skills.
Begin slowly by choosing one issue or task on which to practice using this process. Print out the tool and use it as a guide to work through each step with the issue you have chosen. Print the tool summary and put it as a reminder on your refrigerator. As you become more familiar with the process, your confidence will build.
For many, using the parenting process is a new way of interacting. Be patient with yourself and keep practicing. This way of interacting with your child takes practice. It is through practice that skills are learned and strengthened.
This document describes each of the five steps (Get Input, Teach, Practice, Support, and Recognize) in the parenting process and provides details about
- what each step is,
- why each step is important, and
- how to actively engage in each step with your child at every age.
Step 1. Get Input
The first step in the process is: Get Input. Getting input is about purposefully creating an opportunity for your child to interact and engage with you.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, getting input is about getting to know and understand your infant’s input by paying close attention to your infant’s facial expressions, movements, and sounds (including cries). Your efforts to learn from your infant build trust and help you better understand what they are trying to communicate.
Children and Teens: For parents and those in a parenting role with children and teens, getting input is about purposefully creating an opportunity for your child or teen to cognitively engage in a conversation with you. Getting input allows your child or teen to take an active role in the conversation. Cognitively engaging with you requires your child or teen to process the information being communicated and to reflect on the content. Instead of telling your child or teen what to do, lecturing, or giving advice, you invite your child or teen to participate in a dialogue about the topic or issue with you. Dialogue with your child engages the logical part of their brain.
Getting input is important for several reasons.
Getting input helps you respond to cues. Paying close attention to facial expressions and body language helps you understand what your infant, child, or teen is trying to communicate. Your efforts to learn from your child at every age create empathetic interactions that promote healthy relationships.
Getting input helps you correct assumptions you may have about behavior. Sometimes, as a parent or one in a parenting role, you can make assumptions about why your infant, child, or teen does certain things in certain ways. Sometimes your assumptions are incorrect, and getting input allows you the opportunity to correct the assumptions you make to teach the right skill.
Infants: For example, as a parent or one in a parenting role of an infant, you might assume that they are crying because they are hungry but upon watching and listening to your infant’s cries, you realize they are uncomfortable and need to have their diaper changed.
Children and Teens: You might assume your child or teen is acting out because they are angry but realize through the process of asking open-ended questions that they are really feeling sad. Engaging with your child or teen can help you avoid inaccurate conclusions about their behavior.
Getting input creates a sense of ownership in the outcome.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role of infants, getting input allows you to be responsive to your infant’s cries, grow their trust in you, grow their sense of safety, and grow their sense of healthy relationships. As your infant feels a greater sense of your understanding and responsiveness, the interactions between the two of you will become more two-way rather than one-way.
Children and Teens: When your child or teen is invited into a conversation, they are more likely to buy into the decisions that are made. Further, they will likely be more invested in following the guidelines or expectations you have created.1
Getting input builds social and emotional skills.
Infants: As a parent or one in a parenting role of infants, your efforts to learn from your infant build trust and create empathetic interactions that promote their social and emotional skills. In becoming sensitive to the small differences in your infant’s cries and expressions and responding to their needs, you are modeling empathy and problem-solving skills.
Children and Teens: When asked for input, your child or teen will have the opportunity to practice their social and emotional skills. Practicing social and emotional skills helps to make those skills concrete. For example, getting input provides opportunities for your child or teen to practice communicating well and listening to what is being said. Getting input also provides opportunities to learn to negotiate in ways that promote healthy relationship skills. Communicating, listening, and learning to negotiate are examples of the social and emotional skills you are building when getting input. These social and emotional skills have broad application in a variety of different situations.
Getting input builds confidence and conveys respect. When you get input, you are sending a message to your infant, child, or teen that their opinions matter to you. You are sending a message that you respect their ideas and are interested in learning about them. Getting input builds self-esteem and confidence at every age.
Getting input helps you as well. Getting input and listening authentically to what your infant, child, or teen is communicating (either through body language or verbally) may shift your thinking, challenge you to rethink your own ideas, or help you to look at the task or issue in a new way. Perhaps, through their input, you develop more empathy, which is an important social and emotional skill. Empathy is being able to sense what your child is feeling or thinking without them having to tell you.2 Empathy fosters connection3 and helps you build a positive relationship with your child.
Getting input starts with creating the conditions for intentional communication, and parents can do this in a variety of different ways.
Infants: Getting input from infants includes paying attention to your infant’s distinct sounds and cries and how those connect with their body language. Working to identify their specific cries and physical cues can help you be responsive to their needs. For example, if an infant is uncomfortable, they may issue a less intense, short, whiny cry like “eh, eh, eh.” Respond by loosening or changing clothing, swaddling, or changing their position and see if it helps to soothe. If your response to your infant’s cues doesn’t seem to help, that’s okay. Test another response and see if it helps to soothe. It takes time to learn what your infant is communicating with you. As you practice, you’ll become more adept at recognizing their style of communication.
Children and Teens: Getting input is about purposefully creating an opportunity for your child or teen to engage with an issue (like stress, establishing routines, homework, etc.). Getting input is more than just asking for your child’s/teen’s opinion. It is about truly hearing and valuing what they are saying.
One approach to getting input is to start by asking open-ended questions to encourage two-way communication and to show that you value what your child or teen is thinking or feeling. Asking open-ended questions invites cognitive engagement and allows you to explore your child’s/teen’s perspective.
Open-ended questions might include:
- “How did you like that?”
- “How did that make you feel?”
- “What did you think when that happened?”
- “What are chores that should/could be done in our family?”
- “Considering all of the activities that typically take place after school, when is the best time for you to do homework?”
Listen to your child’s/teen’s responses with agreement and validate their feelings. For example, “I can see why that would make you upset.” Reflect what you heard. “Let me be sure I got everything you are saying…” (repeat back what you heard them say). Give space for them to complete their thoughts, to add more details, or correct your interpretation of what was said. Getting input is an opportunity to explore an issue or topic together and to navigate the conversation collaboratively.
Another way of getting input is to engage with your child or teen around an activity to encourage conversation and input, rather than directly asking them questions. Your child or teen may share more when the focus is not on what you are expecting them to say. An activity can also provide opportunities for your child to share in their own time.
When asking for your child’s/teen’s input, they may not know exactly what to say or how to engage with you. That’s okay. Be patient and give your child or teen time to process the information, reflect, and to respond. It is important not to push your child or teen to share before they are ready. It is also important not to talk too much or teach too soon. Getting input takes time. Allow space for thinking, reflecting, and sharing their thoughts.
Your child or teen might respond to you with a question. Instead of jumping in with an answer immediately, give your child or teen time to think. If your child or teen is old enough, answer their questions with questions like: “That’s a great question. What do you think?” or “How would you answer that?”
Step 2. Teach
The second step in the parenting process is: Teach.
Infants: For parents or those in a parenting role with infants, teaching is about learning and understanding your infant’s rhythms, temperaments, and needs. Learning about your infant’s cues and testing responses to see what works to soothe them takes time and practice. You will make mistakes. Giving yourself permission to not be perfect can ease anxiety in responding to your infant’s needs.
Children and Teens: The purpose of this step is to demonstrate how to do a task successfully. Teaching also conveys the purpose of doing a task or engaging in an issue. Teaching equips your child with knowledge and skills.
Teaching is important for several different reasons.
Teaching builds your child’s capacity and sets them up for success. Teaching helps your child learn at every age what your expectations are. Further, teaching helps your child to learn about what is acceptable behavior. Through teaching, your child learns how to interact in the world, in different situations, and with a variety of different people. Through everyday interactions, you are building your child’s capacity and setting them up for success.
Teaching builds social and emotional skills.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, meeting your infant’s needs teaches them that they are safe and that others can be trusted.
Children and Teens: For parents and those in a parenting role with children and teens, teaching builds your child’s or teen’s perspective taking, empathy, and respect for others. Teaching also grows problem-solving skills, communication skills, and teamwork. These skills are practiced and strengthened through the teaching process.
Teaching helps you as well.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, learning about developmental milestones can help you better understand what your infant is working hard to learn.
Children and Teens: For parents and those in a parenting role with children and teens, teaching provides a platform to discuss your expectations and to demonstrate to your child what quality looks like. Teaching helps establish standards for how to do a specific task. Further, teaching provides an opportunity to establish meaningful, logical consequences for not doing the behavior/task. Step 2: Teach, also builds your social and emotional skills including clear communication, listening, and perspective taking.
There are many ways to engage in Step 2: Teach. Three approaches parents can take to teach include: Demonstrate, Connect and Label, and Model.
Demonstrate. Teaching happens through demonstration. Demonstrating a skill or a specific behavior can help your infant, child, or teen visualize what you are asking them to do.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, demonstrating your actions builds important brain connections. The interactions you have with your infant are vital to their development.
Children and Teens: For parents or those in a parenting role with children or teens, when teaching a new skill, it is important to be explicit about the skills you are teaching and your expectations for behavior. For example, if you are teaching your child about being a good friend, it is important to explore with your child what “being a good friend” looks like. If you are teaching them to “follow directions,” discuss what “following directions” looks like. Explore specific behaviors that would demonstrate what you mean by “following directions.” If your child is old enough, talk about why they think these expectations are in place. Demonstrating a behavior or skill allows you to show what quality looks like and provides an opportunity to establish expectations and standards.
Connect and Label. When teaching a new skill or behavior, it is helpful to connect the skill or behavior to something your infant, child, or teen already knows.4 Labeling the new information is one way to build onto what your child already knows.4 Labeling “capitalizes on the brain’s natural desire to label, sequence and define” (p. 91).4 Also, when you use a label for the skills you are teaching, it becomes easier to name it again when your child demonstrates the skill at a different time. This way you are building a shared vocabulary of what you are looking for in your child’s behavior.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, speak closely to your infant. Make a point when they are in a high chair, crib, or stroller to get down on their level. Narrate what’s going on around you. You could say, “Mommy sees a duck. Quack, Quack. Does Hannah see the duck, too?” Even though they don’t verbally respond back to you, they are learning.
Children and Teens: For parents and those in a parenting role with children and teens, cultivate a learning mindset. You could say, “Remember that time you did do it even when you thought you couldn’t?” or “That reminds me of when you practiced learning to ride your bike. You fell off but were determined to get back up and try again.” Help them connect their skills and behaviors to what they already know.
Model. Statements like: “Practice what you preach” and “Actions speak louder than words” are common phrases that refer to modeling (p. 38).4 As a parent or someone in a parenting role, you are always modeling behavior for your infant, child, or teen. Your child will develop skills to deal with situations and regulate their own behaviors and emotions through what they see. What you say and what you do are powerful forms of teaching. Modeling skills can be one of the greatest teaching tools.
Infants: For parents or those in a parenting role with infants, you could say, “See this rattle? Let me show you how it works,” or “Touch the button like this, and the music will start.” Narrate your daily routine for your infants. As you prepare breakfast at home or go shopping together at the store, talk about what you are doing each step of the way. As your child develops, involve them by asking questions. For example, “Mommy is getting out George’s favorite cereal bowl. I think we’ll have some Cheerios this morning. Does that sound yummy to you?”
Children and Teens: For parents with children or teens, you could say, “I would love to show you how to do this. Now, can you tell me what you saw me do?” or “Whenever approaching a task like this, there are a few things to do and a few things to avoid. What do you think they are?”
Regardless of age, your child’s brain is constantly processing information. When teaching, it is important to focus on what you do want your child to do, instead of what you don’t want them to do. Directing your child’s focus to what you do want can help your child focus their attention.5 The words you choose are important.
Infants: Rather than saying “Don’t touch that,” say, “Here, play with this.”
Children: Rather than saying “Don’t hit,” say, “Use gentle hands.” Or, instead of saying “No talking,” say, “Let’s use our listening ears.” Or, instead of saying “Don’t get close to the busy street,” say, “Walk on this side of the sidewalk.”
Teens: Rather than saying “Don’t be late,” say, “Please be on time.”
Because you are always modeling behaviors for your infant, child, or teen, paying attention to your own emotional regulation with others and around your child when dealing with difficult situations, disappointment, or conflict is important. It is okay to have strong emotions, to be frustrated, stressed, or angry, but always remember that you are modeling those behaviors for your child as well. Ask yourself: “Am I showing my child how to appropriately deal with a difficult situation, a disappointment, or a conflict? Would the behaviors I am displaying be acceptable to me if I saw my child engaging in these same behaviors?”
Step 3. Practice
The third step in the parenting process is Practice. Practice is experiential learning. Infants, children, and teens learn by doing, applying what they learn, failing, redoing, and repeating the process. Through practice, your child can grow their skills.
Practice is beneficial for several reasons.
Practice builds your child’s capacity to learn and improve. Practice provides opportunities for your child at every age to demonstrate that they understand and can apply learning to the situation. Based on practice, your child acquires new learning, which allows your child to get better at the task or skill.
Practice grows habits. When you practice a skill, your brain changes to make the neurons that are involved in that skill run more efficiently. This is done by laying fat deposits on the neural system related to the skill – like insulation on an electrical cable. The more insulation, the faster the skill can be reproduced.4
Practice grows social and emotional skills. Through practice, your child is growing social and emotional skills. For example, practicing a skill or behavior allows your child to make decisions, evaluate their performance, and reflect on the consequences of actions. In a safe environment, practice allows your child to identify problems and find solutions, which builds self-confidence and self-efficacy.
Practice supports a growth mindset and provides opportunities to handle feedback and mistakes. Feedback can be hard to hear, but it is a part of everyday life. Practice builds skills in how to handle failure/mistakes and how to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations. Practice provides opportunities for self-discipline and self-motivation. It also provides opportunities for goal setting.
Practice helps you as well. Practice is important for your child and important for you. Step 3: Practice, provides opportunities to offer guidance and provide direction to your child. Through practice, parents can continue to establish standards and expectations. Providing opportunities allows you to practice self-management skills like regulating emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Practice provides opportunities for self-discipline. You might also find opportunities for letting go.
It is important to create opportunities for your child to practice the behavior or skill. It is equally important to create an environment where it is okay to fail. Practicing any new skill or behavior takes some risk on your child’s part. As a parent or those in a parenting role, you can reassure your child that it is okay to practice and not to perform perfectly the first few times.
Infants: Allow infants the chance to take steps to meet their big challenges, whether they are working on tasting new foods for the first time, exploring the objects in their environment, or crawling or cruising the furniture. Be sure to consider how you can create the conditions to support their success (like creating a quiet, organized environment with infant-appropriate board books or toys). Initially, practice may require more teaching, but avoid taking over and doing it for your infant. You could say, “Can you push the button again to make the music?” and then gently guide their hand to the button and help them to push it.
Children: Making sure there are times and opportunities to practice builds success. For example, you might intentionally schedule activities for your child to interact with other children. Scheduling playdates with other children of similar age can provide opportunities for your child to interact and practice new skills like sharing and communication. They also offer opportunities for you to share with them how to regulate feelings like disappointment, anger, and sadness. Depending on the age of your child, it may be helpful to engage in cooperative problem solving about challenges or barriers they come across. You could say, “So, before you try that, what are the two things you will remember?” or “Let’s try that together.”
Hang in there! Practice is an ongoing process that takes a lot of patience. Taking the time to explain why the skill your child is working on is important or useful helps your child to think more critically in general about their actions. You could try creating stories or explanations to make the skill practice more memorable.
Teens: Allowing your teen to take steps to meet their big challenges and take responsibility for their own relationships – even when you know you could do it faster and better is essential to their success. Give them an opportunity to practice and avoid offering direct solutions or solving a problem for your teen. You could say, “What’s your plan for checking in tonight while you are out?” or “I’d love for you to make breakfast that has your own flair,” or “Remember our next step? What is it?”
Step 4. Support
The fourth step in the parenting process is Support.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, support is about reinforcing your infant’s ability to be successful and helping them grow their skills. Learn about your infant’s development. Each new age presents different challenges. So, keeping up with what developmental milestones your child is working toward strengthens your empathy and patience.
Children and Teens: For parents and those in a parenting role with children and teens, support can include: coaching, providing feedback, reteaching, monitoring, re-evaluating, following through/applying logical consequences, and reflecting.
Providing support for your child when learning new skills and behaviors is important for several reasons.
Support grows cause and effect thinking. Providing coaching and feedback allows your child to pause and evaluate the situation as well as the impact of their actions.
Support reinforces your child’s ability to be successful. It helps guide your child toward the expectations you have and allows your child to understand what you want to see more of and less of when engaging in a skill. When your child practices a new behavior, you can support positive behaviors and reteach and model changes that need to be made.
Support grows social and emotional skills. Support provides opportunities for your child to evaluate the consequences of various actions, helps your child develop cause and effect thinking, and builds responsibility. Support helps your child recognize and seek out resources, so they can be successful.
Support grows social and emotional skills for parents as well. Support allows parents to practice coaching, communicating clearly, and listening. Support provides a mechanism for applying consequences and follow through for your children and teens. Support provides an opportunity for evaluating, reflecting, and learning.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, safety and supervision is essential. Infants come to know and understand the world and the objects around them through all five senses: touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight. Support looks like creating an environment that is safe for them to explore. Place infant-appropriate toys and board books near your infant. Keep a watchful eye and redirect your infant’s focus to avoid unsafe situations. You could say, “Lets play with the blocks instead of your sister’s marker,” or “This is mommy’s cup of water. Here, can you hold your sippy cup instead?” Your role is to make sure your infant’s environment is safe from harm and is supportive of your infant’s curiosity to explore their surroundings.
With infants, support is active. Use “Show me…” statements to ask them to demonstrate their new skill. “Show me how you can grab your toy.” Help when needed by moving the toy closer or helping your infant’s hand connect to the toy. Don’t move on too quickly if your infant shows interest in trying something new. Infants often need more time to stick with a challenge or pursue a goal. Your waiting could make all the difference in whether they are able to gain skills over time.
Children and Teens: For parents and those in a parenting role with children and teens, support includes reinforcing their ability to be successful and helping them grow their skills.
Provide feedback and coaching. Provide feedback and coaching about what your child did by asking your child to evaluate what went well and what they could do better. Your child might need some help learning how to evaluate their own performance. Rather than “It didn’t work” or “I just can’t do it,” ask your child to talk about what didn’t work and how they could do it differently. “If you had to redo that, what would you do differently?”
Reteach and model any changes that need to be made. It is important to support your child’s social and emotional development without taking over. Communicate behavioral expectations, and give your child a heads up before transitions occur. For example, let your child know how long you will spend at the park, and before it is time to leave, let your child know how many minutes they have to start transitioning. This might sound like, “We have five minutes before we leave; let’s start wrapping up.”
Provide reminders to your child and communicate agreed upon rewards and consequences. Reminding your child can be helpful. For example, before a school drop off, remind them to “Use their listening ears,” or “Be a good friend today,” etc. Stay engaged. Don’t lose track of what you asked your child to do. If you don’t follow through, your child may think that it isn’t important.
Always connect then correct, and affirm before you redirect. When you connect with your child first, it helps them be more receptive to any correction from you. For example, if your child has made a big mess, start with “You look like you’re having so much fun” before saying “Clean up.” If your child really wants your attention and you are busy, say, “I know you have something so important to tell me, and I really want to hear it, so give me two minutes to finish up, and I will be ready.”
Allow your child to practice the new skill and support their learning. Avoid taking responsibility for their disappointments, focusing on “fixing” them, or absorbing their struggles. These behaviors can hinder their ability to develop skills to regulate their own social and emotional progress.
Reinforce their behavior by acknowledging the behaviors you want to see! Avoid only focusing on when they mess up. “I love how you just slowed down right then and thought through your response. What made you do that?”
Apply logical consequences when needed. The way you provide logical consequences will change depending on the age of your child. Logical consequences are not appropriate for infants 0-12 months. There are certain guidelines that apply for children older than 12 months. Ideally, logical consequences should come soon after the negative behavior and need to be provided in a way that maintains a healthy relationship. Rather than punishment, a consequence is about supporting the learning process. First, get your own emotions in check. Not only is this good modeling, when your emotions are in check you are able to provide logical consequences that fit the behavior. Second, invite your child into a discussion about the expectations established in Step 2. Third, if you feel that your child is not holding up their end of the bargain (unless it is a matter of them not knowing how), then apply a logical consequence as a teachable moment.
Step 5. Recognize
The final step in the parenting process is to intentionally recognize your child’s efforts and successes. No matter how small those successes are, acknowledging them is important.
While it can be easy to only focus attention on whether or not your infant, child, or teen completes a specific task, acknowledging the small steps they take and the progress they make is important. Children at every age love to hear that they are making choices that please you. After all, your recognition can go a long way to promoting more of the same positive behaviors and expanding your child’s sense of competence and responsibility.
Recognition grows motivation. Recognition encourages your child to keep trying and grows motivation for them to continue improving. Recognition supports your child’s desire to succeed.4
When providing praise, be sure that:
- The praise or acknowledgment is honest and sincere (you must mean it).
- The praise focuses on your child’s effort, the process they engaged in, or other aspects of their behavior that are controllable (Praise behavior, not characteristics – say “You did such a great job thinking through that problem.” Don’t say – “You’re so smart”).
- The praise leads your child to believe they have a choice in doing the task (e.g., “You could have chosen to quit and yet you kept going; that’s excellent and shows so much dedication”).
- The praise focuses on competence and builds their belief in their ability to perform the task (“I am really impressed with your skills at…”).
- The praise weaves in meeting expectations or standards (e.g., “You did that like a pro”).5
Recognition builds self-confidence and self-esteem.
Recognition grows social and emotional skills. Specifically, recognizing success and your child’s progress supports skills in setting and working toward goals. It increases intrinsic motivation and bolsters self-management skills such as persistence and self-awareness.
Recognition is important for parents as well. Recognition helps build a positive relationship with your child, fosters a sense of optimism, and helps develop and maintain a growth mindset, which helps you believe that change is possible.
Recognizing doesn’t have to take a lot of time, be a big deal, or be expensive. Acknowledging effort in small ways makes a big difference. Recognizing doesn’t mean letting your child off the hook from doing what was asked. Your expectations for a task or behavior don’t have to change. There are many ways to recognize. Recognizing is most effective when it is done as soon as the event/skill/behavior occurs as possible so that your child associates their positive behavior with the recognition. Putting off recognizing until later won’t provide the same impact.
When recognizing, focus on your child’s effort and be specific. For example, “You did a great job taking out the trash” is an effort-based recognition. The recognition is anchored to the action or effort of your child. Effort based recognitions are important at every age, because they help your child see the link between effort and success. This is important because they have control over their effort.
Avoid trait-based recognitions, which focus on the personality traits or characteristics of your child. For example, “You’re a good kid because you took out the trash” is a trait-based recognition. In this example, taking out the trash is tied to the child’s behavior or personality. Although this type of recognition is well intended, it can mistakenly send your child the message that if they don’t take out the trash, they are not a good kid.
Recognitions can be simple, specific, and honest. Recognize effort, quality, and small successes.
Acknowledge your child’s effort. Even if your child did not meet the goal or intended outcome, seek to recognize their effort.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, you could say, “I like how you are trying to reach for the toy you want to play with.” or, “I can see that you are putting a lot of effort into rolling over.”
Children and Teens: For parents and those in a parenting role with children and teens, you could say:
- “I can see that you put a lot of effort into deciding how to handle that situation.”
- “I like how you played together as a team.”
- “I like how you kept trying even though it was difficult.”
- “I am so impressed with your problem solving on this issue!”
- “I love that you went back and tried it again.”
Acknowledge the quality of your child’s effort. Examples include:
- “I know this is tough, and I appreciate how hard you are trying right now.”
- “Wow, the plan you made was really detailed.”
- “I can tell you took your time in creating that plan.”
Look for small successes. There may be many steps required for your child to reach an intended outcome. Single out a small step that your child engaged in as they made progress toward the outcome.
Infants: For parents and those in a parenting role with infants, you could say, “You crawled over to reach the toy. Great job.” Or, “I noticed you listened when I asked you to back away from the staircase. I know you’re curious about climbing, and I am glad you are keeping safe.”
Children and Teens: For parents and those in a parenting role with children and teens you could say:
- “Great job completing the first step of that project.”
- “You tackled the first section well.”
- “I like how you asked for help and didn’t quit.”
- “It was a good idea to organize the art supplies that way.”
- “I could tell that you thought through that well.”
Provide special one-on-one time with you.
Infants: Hold your infant close regularly. Infants require close contact. Rocking in a rocking chair is a soothing way to connect and hold your infant and to have one-on-one time with them.
Children and Teens: Find a time, maybe before your other children wake up or after your other children go to bed, when you can spend time doing whatever your child wants to do with you to celebrate an accomplishment. This special time doesn’t have to be lengthy (10 minutes or so); it just has to be dedicated to your child.
When appropriate (for children and teens) adjust responsibilities. When appropriate, you might decide to adjust your expectations or your child’s responsibilities. For example, instead of having your child’s curfew at 10pm, you could adjust it to 11pm. Or, instead of making your child call every hour when they are out with their friends, you could adjust your expectation and have them text you instead.
Build celebrations into your routine.
Infants: Include hugs, kisses, and snuggles in your repertoire of ways to appreciate one another.
Children and Teens: Include hugs, high-fives, and fist bumps into your repertoire. Write a personal note and leave it for your child or teen to find. Send a spontaneous text to your teen to let them know you appreciate them.
Share your child’s accomplishments with others. In the presence of your infant, child, or teen, share their success with grandparents, family, friends, aunts, and uncles.
The parenting process has wide application for a variety of topics and challenges. As a parent, or someone in a parenting role, you can intentionally engage in this process to build your child’s social and emotional skills at every age and to build your own skills as an effective parent. The parenting process is a way of interacting with your child that creates wonderful opportunities for learning. Even though this process may feel uncomfortable at first, sticking with it will pay off in a stronger relationship with your child. Start small, start slow, and build your skills over time.