Healthy families have a warm emotional tone, where there is affection between family members and parents are role models for their children by being positive, handling upsets in a constructive way, and being sensitive to their children’s feelings.  Families that get on well take time to talk with and spend time with each other.  Parents can set the climate for good communication channels to develop by listening to their children’s needs, ideas, and concerns, and allowing children to take part in decision making, such as family rules.  Parents also provide a healthy environment for children to develop positive behaviour and social skills by setting standards about appropriate behaviour and being consistent in applying standards and rules.

Professor Matthew Sanders Founder of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, has written the following top 10 tips for parents. These tips give practical examples of the parenting behaviours that are important for a healthy family.

1. When your child wants to show you something, stop what you are doing and pay attention to your child. It is important to spend frequent, small amounts of time with your child doing things that you both enjoy.

2. Give your child lots of physical affection – children often like hugs, cuddles, and holding hands.

3. Talk to your child about things he/she is interested in and share aspects of your day with your child.

4. Give your child lots of descriptive praise when they do something that you would like to see more of, e.g., “Thank you for doing what I asked straight away”.

5. Children are more likely to misbehave when they are bored so provide lots of engaging indoor and outdoor activities for your child, e.g., playdough, colouring in, cardboard boxes, dress ups, cubby houses, etc.

6. Teach your child new skills by first showing the skill yourself, then giving your child opportunities to learn the new skill. For example, speak politely to each other in the home. Then, prompt your child to speak politely (e.g., say “please” or “thank you”), and praise your child for their efforts.

7. Set clear limits on your child’s behaviour. Sit down and have a family discussion on the rules in the home. Let your child know what the consequences will be if they break the rules.

8. If your child misbehaves, stay calm and give them a clear instruction to stop misbehaving and tell them what you would like them to do instead (e.g., “Stop fighting; play nicely with each other.” Praise your child if they stop. If they do not stop, follow through with an appropriate consequence.

9. Have realistic expectations. All children misbehave at times and it is inevitable that you will have some discipline hassles. Trying to be the perfect parent can set you up for frustration and disappointment.

10. Look after yourself. It is difficult to be a calm, relaxed parent if you are stressed, anxious, or depressed. Try to find time every week to let yourself unwind or do something that you enjoy.

More parenting tips are available on the Triple P website.

If you live in the Auckland region you might be interested in participating in this free parenting programme:

An eight-week parenting programme for fathers and mothers of young children is helping families manage their children’s behaviour, according to research by The University of Auckland. The free parenting programme is aimed at helping parents or caregivers manage child behaviour in a constructive way and to help family life be calmer and less stressful.

Designed specifically for both fathers and mothers the eight-week course includes five two-hour group sessions and three 20-minute telephone consultations.

More free parenting programmes will be taking place this year in South, East and Central Auckland. For information contact the Triple P Research Group on 09 623 8899 ext 83042 or email tprg@auckland.ac.nz

Parenting support is also available at The Triple P Centre, which offers a wide range of parenting programmes such as one-on-one consultations, parenting seminars, and parenting groups. Further details available at:  www.triplepcentre.net.nz

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Dr Louise Keown is a developmental psychologist and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, University of Auckland. She undertakes research on parenting and children's development. Her latest study was on the influence of fathers on boys' behavioural development from early to middle childhood. Dr Keown is also a member of the Triple P Research Group at the University of Auckland, who evaluate the Triple P - Positive Parenting Program within a New Zealand context and as part of an international research network.

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