Parenting Positively: Ten Important Truths Adults Should Learn About Children

Appreciate your child's interests, even if it involves braving the cold!
Appreciate your child's interests, even if it involves braving the cold!

The hardest job in the world is being a parent, or maybe it's being a child. Both these roles are difficult, but as parents and adults, we need to understand children so we can be the best parents possible. The task can be overwhelming to say the least, but it is also rewarding.

To understand children better, it helps to look at the world from their perspective. What can we learn from them? Why and how do they develop certain behaviors? What are they thinking?

Following are ten important truths adults should learn if they want to be good parents.

Children are what they live.

For children environment is SO important. Ultimately, a child is a product of environment. A child who lives amidst chaos is likely to be apprehensive, agitated, nervous. The child who grows up in an abusive home will likely become an abuser. The child who spends hours in front of a tv or computer will likely have poor social skills.

You create what a child is like by creating the environment. If the environment is relatively peaceful and organized, the child will be calm. Think about where your child lives and what happens in this environment. Environment impacts children, positively and negatively.

Children are impressionable.

Words and actions impact children and shape who they become. The child who is belittled, yelled at, or talked to in a sarcastic fashion suffers. Equally harmful is always telling children they "can't" because this affects their self-perception. If a child believes s/he cannot do something or achieve something, s/he won't because the word "can't" is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Actions also affect children. Think about all the nonverbal cues we give children. These cues range from "the look" to raising a hand. Some nonverbal cues can be very positive for children -- a smile or raising the hand for a "high-five" gesture. But other gestures can be threatening to a child, especially if a child is young. Adults should take time to consider how children interpret gestures.

Children want and need limits.

Parents who fail to set limits and indulge children truly harm their kids. Children want limits because limits provide guidelines about behavior. For example, consider noisy children entering the library. A parent reminds them to quiet down and that's important because if the children do not quiet down, they will have to leave because others in the library expect the environment to be a quiet one. The parent is teaching the child to respect the rights of others, and this is an important lesson for children to learn if they are going to get along well in society.The children want to visit the library to get books, but they must follow the rules to get the books.

Indulging children and giving into them when they whine or cry is poor parenting because that's not the way the world works. Children must learn to accept the fact that there are going to be rules to follow, and authority figures set the rules. Consider an adult who whines. An adult can't go to work and start whining about tasks they must complete on their job, because then they won't have a job. Don't indulge children because it sets them up for failure in life.

Children, especially younger ones, like structure and routine.

Structure and routine lead to predictability, and predictability decreases uncertainty. For young children this is particularly important because they fear things they don't understand or feel uncertain about. Uncertainty causes apprehension.

Creating predictable structure and routine empowers children and encourages them to behave appropriately. For example, if a child knows s/he will lose privilege for breaking curfew, the child will likely be home by curfew because s/he understands breaking the curfew rule will result in a consequence. The structure (the curfew rule) has been put in place and the routine (access to the bike, or no access to the bike if rule is broken) has been practiced.

Children watch and learn what you do.

Parents wonder why their children use profanity or start smoking cigarettes. Probably because they watch mom or dad do those behaviors. Why do children speak disrespectfully to others? Maybe they've seen dad cursing out the other driver who cuts in front of him.

Children are like monkeys; they imitate. Kids see everything their parents do, both good and bad. Obviously, parents don't display stellar behavior at all times, but they should realize that children are watching, and imitating what they do. No one exhibits perfect behavior at all times, but when children are around, it's important to act appropriately and respect others.

Children look to adults for stability and security.

Although life can be difficult at times, it's important for parents to show children they are still able to manage the situation. Children rely on parents to be in control and able to handle situations.

Recently, I watched an educational television show where two teenage girls were left to manage siblings on an all-day basis while the parents worked. Clearly, not a good situation. The teenage girls were managing younger children and doing all the household chores, so, needless to say, no schoolwork got done. They could not rely on their parents for stability or security; instead, the two girls were forced into taking on parental roles. Luckily, the parents learned how to provide more stability and security in the household by managing the situation a better way. The parents took on more responsibility so the teenage girls could attend to their schoolwork.

Children, no matter how old (yes, even teenagers) need to feel a sense of stability and security in the home. They are not able to take on adult tasks because their brains have not developed to the point of making responsible decisions. When forced into these roles, they become overly apprehensive and resentful.

Children crave consistency.

Children need consistency in environment and discipline. They need to know they have a safe, secure place to be, and they need to understand there are consequences to actions. Without consistency, children can't develop in a socially acceptable manner because they feel insecure; they don't know what's going to hapen next.

Children need to be respected.

As a teacher of high schoolers, the first day of school is always interesting because with each class rules are introduced. When we discuss respect, the first question students ask is: are you going to respect me? Maybe this is because I work with "at risk" youth who have been violated in some way by someone.

Respect starts with listening. As parents of newborns, we listen for a cry which lets us know a child is hungry. When children are toddlers and have temper tantrums, a cry may mean they are overly tired. As children get older, they may become harder to listen to because they send mixed messages. By the time they're teenagers, we need to listen to what they are NOT saying and read between the lines. Respect is built on a foundation of listening, and if you want respect, you have to respect others. Adults need to listen to kids, if they want children to listen to them.

Children need time and attention.

Beyond basic caregiving, children must be nurtured. You must spend time with a child, and many parents fail to understand this as they devote more and more time to their jobs. Parents need to spend one-on-one time with children. That means reading a book, playing a game, doing sports activities, going to recitals and programs, and whatever else comes up.

You can't put a child back in the box, like a toy, when you're tired of playing with it. They require a lot of time and effort. Without this devotion of time and attention they do not thrive and grow into productive, responsible adults.

Children need love and understanding.

As parents, we all get frustrated and parent meltdown can happen. Before you react in a negative fashion, walk away and count ten. Think before you say or act because children are impressionable and they learn from YOU. Think about why your child is acting in a particular way. You need to love your child no matter what s/he is doing and respond in a loving way. Take time to understand and evaluate the situation so you react in a positive way that helps your child.

Children can try your patience and make your day difficult at times, but remember you were a child once too!

Respect and Communicating with Children:

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Comments 20 comments

Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 5 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

Unfortunately, you don't have to get a license to be a parent.


gmwilliams profile image

gmwilliams 5 years ago from the Greatest City In The World-New York City, New York

To Julie A. Johnson: Great hub. Many parents are actually children in adult bodies. These people have no conception of the responsibilities that parenting entail. A lot of parents view their children as appendages, believing that they can treat their children anyway they want and wonder why their children are amiss. There are many thoughtless and insensitive parents out there who should not be parents in the first place. Many parents should receive a failing grade as parents because they were abyssmal parents. Only a small percentage of people would be classified as great parents.


Charlu profile image

Charlu 6 years ago from Florida

Great Hub Looking at life from their perspective could really help parents enormously. Thanks and make it an incredible day


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

lenkasvec, Indulging kids is a problem here in the United States, too. And lots of the families where indulgence occurs have a few children. I am amazed at how many young children (and I mean young) are walking around with their own cell phones. Also, so many teenagers drive around in newer model cars, and they certainly don't have the money to pay for them. It shocks me how many parents are willing to put ut so much money so their children can have all these luxuries.So many feel they are entitled to receive without putting forth effort. This attitude saddens me. All parents need to think about how they parent because there is always room for improvement. Julie


lenkasvec profile image

lenkasvec 8 years ago from Slovakia

Nice work, really helpful,makes me think about my parenting and revise.

I like the point about indulging kids. I don´t know why but in the last two decades this has become quite a problem in Slovakia. Young parents either do not have time or energy to set limits or, becauese they often decide to have only one child, they want to "give the sweet little angel everything". And then you can see a mom who gets a nasty punch or two from her three-year-old darling just because she dares to tell him that he has already eaten all cookies and she has no more... And a few years later I meet that darling in my class and he can´t understand he won´t be given A for his D performance...


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

budwood, You must have done something right if your kids still like you! I think parents feel they should offer advice, and they do it because they care about their kids. Thanks for your insight. Julie


budwood profile image

budwood 8 years ago from Southern Nevada

What's that old comment?  The first part of life is spoiled by your parents and what's left is spoiled by your kids?!

Actually, we have always referred to our kiddies as the "little people".  That's like in "people" who we figured that they are indeed.  Treating them like people seems to have paid off.  All five of our kiddies still like us and ditto we like them.  Of course, I never thought that I'd be the father of fifty and forty year old men, but here I am, still telling them what they should do.  (And they still don't listen very closely).


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

ananta, Yes--love, understanding, and respect; children just wanted to be treated like people. I think we all do! Thanks for your insights! Julie


Ananta65 8 years ago

Love, understanding and respect, Julie, I agree. Respect that every child is unique and requires a unique approach. An approach for which your truths form the starting point.


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

wannabwestern,Thanks for your positive comments. Being a parent is difficult for anyone, and I know I have areas I need to work on, too. I liked your comment about being thoughtful because it is important to reflect on what you are doing as a parent. Thanks. Julie

Ananta,Thanks for pointing out your considerations. You're right the word "things" is vague, and not all children become fearful. In fact, my son is quite the daredevil. Every situation is different for each child because each child is unique. And I certainly support and encourage the pursuit of new endeavors for children because this encourages confidence. Equally important, is allowing children to take on responsibilities as they mature. Again, every child is unique and we, as parents, need to assess in a responsible way where our child is. Love and understanding is key! Thanks for your clarifications. Julie

Jim, You are so right--putting the knowledge into practice is not easy, but it is important, for a child's sake. Thanks for your positive comments. Julie


jimbrad121 profile image

jimbrad121 8 years ago from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, USA

Excellent hub. It's one thing 'knowing' these points, its another making them happen. Good post!


Ananta65 8 years ago

First of all: a great hub. I subscribe to the truths you bring forward. I do have some considerations, however. And I’d like to share them with you :)

“For young children this is particularly important because they fear things they don't understand or feel uncertain about.”

In my opinion this differs per child. Some are less fearful by nature than others and you can teach your child to be open to new experiences (teach by example). This also helps in the development of confidence. By stimulating them to engage in new endeavors you build confidence which helps them later on. This doesn’t mean that children don’t need structure and routine though, mind you. You are absolutely right that structure and routine are required to provide a stable fundament.

“They are not able to take on adult tasks because their brains have not developed to the point of making responsible decisions.”

I’d put it differently. The nature and level of maturity of the tasks and decisions that a child can deal with increase over time. Children grow into taking more responsibility and it is up to us, the parents, to assess continuously just how much they’re ready for. We should reward their development by giving them more responsibility yet at the same time be keen on not giving them too much to handle.


wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 8 years ago from The Land of Tractors

This is an excellent collection of advice. It goes beyond the typical 10 things format because it explores the attitudes and reasons behind the advice. I give it a huge thumbs up!

Most of us don't try hard enough to be thoughtful and consciencious parents to our children. I loved your advice. It is encouraging and gives some areas for me to work on (like listening more to my children and not treating the older ones like adults.)


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

marisue, Glad you enjoyed it. You are so right--example is the key! Thanks. Julie


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 8 years ago from USA

loved this hub! Julie!! i've always said 3 ways to teach a child...: example, example, example.

=) good parenting info.


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

Thanks Hope. Yes, perspective is important, even if it is the viewpoint of a child. Thank you for your insight. Julie

ripplemaker,

I agree -- children are definitely not robots; they need nurtutring. Thank you for the lovely compliments. Julie


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Beautiful parenting tips Julie. Something that struck me this early morning is that indeed children need to be nurtured. They are not robots to be dictated in to what you want them to be.


Hope Wilbanks profile image

Hope Wilbanks 8 years ago from Louisiana

Great hub and excellent points! I especially agree with your final point. Sometimes we need to take a look at our children from THEIR perspective, which is always different from our own (an adult's).


Julie A. Johnson profile image

Julie A. Johnson 8 years ago from Duluth, MN Author

Thanks steve. Children are gifts and we need to handle them with care. We need to examine our actions, too. Thanks for your comment.


stevemark122000 profile image

stevemark122000 8 years ago from Southern California

You make many excellent points in your hub. It is easy to blame a child for his/her behavior when many times their behavior is a result of what the parents did or did not do. Great Job!

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