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Effective and Successful Parenting

Godwin S. Ashiabi, Ph.D., former Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Making mistakes is part of parenting, but we have to learn from them to become successful parents. Research on successful parenting summarized by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) suggests that being a successful parent means being effective, consistent, active and attentive. As an effective parent, your words and actions influence your child the way you want them to. A consistent parent is one that follows similar principles or practices in words and actions. An active parent participates in the life of his or her child, and an attentive parent pays attention to his/her child’s life to know what is going on. According to the NICHD research summary, parents have to respond, prevent, monitor, mentor, and model behaviors in day-to-day parenting activities to become successful parents

Parental Responsiveness. It means not only giving your child attention, but ensuring that you are responding to your child, not reacting; and that your response is appropriate to the child’s age, the situation, physical and emotional needs of the child, and not too late. To respond appropriately also means that you take some time to think through things before you speak, do anything, or make a decision.

Build a strong but flexible bond of trust between you and your child; a bond that can stand up to difficult times, but flexible enough to survive changes. As a parent, ask yourself do my words get across what I am trying to say? Do my actions match my words? Do I know the reasons for my child’s actions or behavior? Am I being a consistent parent?

Prevention of Problems. Prevention involves not only saying no or stop, but spotting possible problems before they arise, and knowing how to work through problems. To be able to spot problems you have to be involved in your child’s life. Being involved helps you know how your child usually thinks, feels, and acts and will help you to notice when things begin to change. Also, set realistic limits and enforce them consistently, and create healthy ways for your child to his/her express feelings.

Know how to work through a problem when it arises, and understand that each problem is different, and how you solve them may also differ. If you feel overwhelmed talk to other parents, a friend, or relative. Admit when a problem is more than you can handle alone or requires special expertise, and get outside help.

Parental Monitoring. As a monitor you pay attention to your child and his/her surroundings, friends and peers. You also ask questions, make decisions, set limits, and encourage your child’s positive choices when you aren’t there. To be an effective monitor means being able to determine and know who your child with is; where your child is; what your child doing is; when your child will be home or leaving home; and how your child will get there or get home?

As a monitor, open lines of communication when your child is young and keep them open. Tell your child the thoughts and ideals you value and why. Know what your child is watching, reading, playing, or listening to. You also have to ask “I am being flexible?”

Parental Mentoring. A mentor is someone who provides support, guidance, friendship, and respect to a child. As a mentor you help your child learn more about him/herself, how the world works, and his/her role in that world, and you also support your child as he/she learns.

As a mentor be honest about your own strengths and weaknesses; your child can benefit from hearing about your mistakes. Respect your child’s thoughts and opinions without judging them. Support your child’s interests and strengths, but don’t force things. Introduce your child to things that you like to do. This is a useful way for your child to learn more about you. Also, try not to be judgmental of your child.

Parental Modeling. Being a model means that you use your words and actions as examples that show your beliefs, values, and attitudes in action for your child every day. As a model you may want to: "do as you say and say as you do" because children want to act like their role models, not just talk like them.

You also want to show respect for other people, including your child; be honest with your child about how you are feeling; make sure your child knows that being angry does not mean not loving; and pinpoint things that you wouldn’t want your child’s role model to do, and make sure you aren’t doing them. Some thoughts to consider: are you being a positive role model? In sum, be sure your words and actions match, and that you are being honest with yourself about your own actions.

Adapted from NICHD/NIH (2001). Adventures in parenting: How responding preventing, monitoring, mentoring, and modeling can help you become a successful parent. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development/National Institute of Health.


Last Updated 05/05/2009









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