This is one in a series of factsheets for parents, teachers and young people entitled Mental Health and Growing Up. These aim to provide practical, up-to-date information about mental health problems (emotional, behavioural and psychiatric disorders) that can affect children and young people. This factsheet looks at the reasons behind why it is important to use good parenting skills from an early age. It also gives practical tips on some of the best ways to discipline a child, while maintaining a happy, healthy relationship with them. Introduction
Parenting is an important part of loving and caring for your child. Good parenting is about providing a warm, secure home life, helping your child to learn the rules of life (e.g. how to share, respecting others, etc.) and to develop good self-esteem. You may have to stop them from doing things they shouldn't be doing, but it is just as important to encourage them to do the things you do want them to do. Why is parenting important?
Setting limits (rules) are an important part of everyday life. They make it possible for us to get along with one another. If children do not learn how to behave, they will find it difficult to get on, both with grown-ups and with other children. They will find it hard to learn at school, will misbehave and will probably become unhappy and frustrated. What helps?
It is important to make sure that children feel secure, loved and valued, and that all adults looking after them notice when they are behaving well. The trick to this is to find strategies that work well for you and your child. Here are some ideas: * Be consistent
Try to say the same thing each time. Be clear about the rules you want to stick to. If you don't stick to the rules and give in, then the next time you try to et limits, your child is likely to play up even more because they have learned that you will probably give in. * Give lots of praise
Let your children know when they have done something well and when you are pleased with them. Be specific so that the child knows which behaviour you are wanting to encourage. For example, give them a hug/a kiss, tell them how great they are doing, and point out the good behaviour. You need to do this straight away at the time when you see the behaviour you want to encourage. * Planning ahead
It helps if you and your child know the rules for particular situations before they happen. Don't make them up as you go along (e.g. if bedtime is 7.00 p.m., make sure you both stick to it). * Involve your child
Sit down with your child and talk to them about good behaviour. You might be surprised about how much you both agree on. * Be calm
This can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but it does help if you can be calm and clear with the words you use, for example "please switch off the TV" or "it's bedtime". * Be clear with your child
For example "please put your toys away" tells your child exactly what you want them to do. Simply telling them to "be good" will not help them to know what behaviour you are expecting. If your child can't understand you, they can't co-operate with you. So it is best to keep instructions brief and positive. * Be realistic
It's no good promising a wonderful reward or threatening to remove their favourite activity if you cannot keep your word. It is much better to offer small rewards rather than punishments. For example "when you have tidied your room, you can have an ice cream". Don't expect too much too soon. Change usually takes time. For this reason expect your child to progress in small steps. So if your child has started to or partly tidied their room, praise them for what they have done "well done for putting those toys in the box". * The importance of your relationship
When times are difficult, it is easy to forget that you you are probably already having some nice times...