Figuring out what our society deems important can be pretty easy if you have access to a computer.

Search Amazon for books on “weight loss,” and you’ll come back with over 30,000 results. There are books on how to make more money, find love, be successful — the list goes on and on. Perhaps it should be no surprise, then, that there are over 50,000 books available on amazon.com on how to be a better parent.

Is there a secret to being a better parent? If so, can it be found out without having to read millions of pages?

Dr. Robert Epstein, a Harvard-trained psychologist, has studied decades of available research on parenting in order to identify the 10 most important parenting techniques, which he calls “The Parents’ Ten.” Epstein claims that parents who use these skills are most likely to raise children who are successful, happy and have a strong bond with their parents. In a study of 2,000 parents, Epstein was able to rank these 10 skills in order of importance. So, without further ado, here is “The Parents’ Ten.”

The most important skill, the thing that children need the most, is love and affection. Children feel love and affection when they are supported and accepted by their parents. They have quality one-on-one time together. Epstein notes that this is both the most important skill and the one that parents are best at.

The second most important competency is stress management. While this has often been overlooked as a primary parenting skill, it makes sense. Parents who are able to remain calm in the seemingly constant struggle that is parenting are able to have stronger relationships with their children. Epstein noted that this is the competency that separates good parents from the rest. While the vast majority of parents show their children love and affection, not nearly as many are able to effectively manage their stress. So, if you want to be a better parent, start by working on yourself.

The third-highest indicator of successful parenting is the health of your relationship with your spouse, significant other or whoever helps you raise your children. This can be especially difficult in situations with divorced parents, but it shows how important it is for parents to try to treat each other with respect, even after a divorce. Epstein highlights how two of the Top 3 ways to improve as a parent don’t even deal with how you interact with your child. Instead, these skills are focused on a parent’s personal development and the health of his or her relationship with a spouse.

The next two are some techniques for parents to implement when interacting with their children. The fourth most important thing is to encourage your children to develop their independence. Here, parents help their children begin to be self-sufficient, such as giving them age-appropriate chores. The fifth skill is to promote education and learning. These parents push their children to explore and be curious about their world.

The sixth most important thing is for parents to provide for their children by having a job with a steady income. The seventh predictor of parenting success is behavior management. Epstein notes that these parents use lots of positive reinforcement, highlighting their children’s successes. They use punishments only when other forms of managing behavior haven’t worked.

The last three skills are health, religion and safety. Parents who encourage their children to live healthy lifestyles model this behavior themselves by exercising and eating a well-balanced diet. Epstein notes how religion is often undervalued by many in the field of psychology, but it is important for parents to encourage their children’s religious development.

Finally, the last of the Top 10 is safety. Here, Epstein notes that it is important to protect your children. Going overboard and being too protective, however, can actually be counterproductive, as it can conflict with a child’s need for independence.

Perhaps the most important takeaway from Epstein’s article is that while there are many things modern parents are really good at, such as loving their children, educating them and keeping them safe, there are some extremely important competencies that many parents are lacking — stress management and managing their relationships with spouses.

How do you think you rate as a parent? If you want to see how Epstein would rate you, visit myparentingskills.com for a free test.

Mischa McCray is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. Send questions or topics you’d like him to discuss to mmccray@wpcgreenwood.org.

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