DIVORCE MEDIATION TOOLS / RESOURCES:
General Parenting Concepts
- GENERAL PARENTING CONCEPTS
By Howard Levitt M.A. MFT
The mutual goal of all parents is to raise happy, healthy independent children. Sounds
easy enough, but this comes with a tremendous amount of work. Parenting is not an
easy task; however by following these simple guidelines below, parents can avoid the
many pitfalls they encounter along the journey. This brochure highlights concepts that
can be implemented by parents to effectively nurture children into adulthood
It should be the overriding goal of all parents to create children that can be independent
and self-sufficient by the time they reach adulthood. In a home environment where
parents consider their own needs as well as the child’s needs, children grow up learning
that they are not always the center of the family. This helps children to mature and take
into account the needs to other people. Do not overindulge children. Children have, like
all of us, unlimited wants. It’s easy to give into children and give them things rather than
helping them to understand that there are constraints in life. When parents do not
overindulge their children, it helps the child to learn there are limits and as the child
matures they are able to understand the concept of limitations.
A second general principle has to do with giving children choices that are ageappropriate
and holding them responsible for their actions. It is important that
consequences be attached to children’s behavior, so the children learn that there are
consequences in the real world.
The more positive the home environment, the greater the likelihood that children will
grow up feeling good about themselves. That is, children need to feel respected and
have a sense of dignity. This sense of dignity can be promoted by creating an
atmosphere in which children feel they can do, rather than they can’t do.
Validating children’s feelings is an important part of parenting. Reinforce a loving
environment. One of the ways to do this is to tell your children, how much you love
them, and by physically giving them hugs. In addition, talking to them honestly about life
situations also gives them a feeling of trust and love and validates their feelings. For
example, when your child tells you that they are sad because a friend won’t play with
them, it’s first important to first tell the child that you can understand how sad it is that
their friend won’t play with them. After you can then begin to deal with the real issue at
hand, in this case, a child’s feeling of loneliness.
Many parents confuse the concept of problem solving with parenting. It’s important to
identify early on, “Whose problem is it?” Far too many times, parents assume the need
to solve problems for their children. It’s important to acknowledge a child’s feelings and
then ask yourself, is this a problem I need to solve or should I allow the child to deal
with it on their own?
It’s always better to let a child try to resolve their problems than a parent stepping in and
imposing solutions which puts the parents in the role of providing answers & ultimately
assuming the blame if it goes wrong.
When you talk to your children, try to use the “I” messages format. That is, try to phrase
your statements in the form of “I feel__________ when you do___________.” Parents
should never criticize the child, you criticize behavior. Sarcasm should never be used
with children. It is an adult form of communication that is not understood by children and
leads to resentment by the child towards the parent.
The concept of discipline is to set realistic limits and enforce those limits so the child
learns the concept of ownership of their behavior. In addition, when you set rules and
stick to the rules a child will feel more secure, because the parents are in control. Listed
below are several concepts dealing with the notion of disciplining children.
A positive relationship with children is a cornerstone of disciplining. That is, create in
your parenting plan the time to have fun with your children so when you need to be firm
you’ll have a good relationship to fall back upon, as well as activities that you can
restrict or eliminate.
It is important that you be believable. Therefore do not make exaggerated claims or
impose punishments, you do not believe in or intend carry out. Be consistent, if you give
a punishment, make sure that you carry it out and do not renegotiate it simply because
the child’s behavior has improved.
The word “no” should be an absolute. Think carefully before you use the word no, but
once you use it make sure that you enforce it and do not allow the child to argue until
you change the no to a yes.
Be consistent in your disciplining. That is try to create as much structure as you can in
your daily life, which allows you to be more consistent. An example would be a chore
chart, which would be posted and all children would know what the expectations are.
When two parents are involved in the parenting of children, both parents, prior to letting
the children know the decision, should agree upon any decisions. Do not renegotiate
punishments. It’s important that your word means something, and therefore, if you give
a punishment, it is not a good idea to retract it or modify it even though the child’s
behavior radically improved.
A good method of setting limits is to use the “rule of three”.
The first step is for the parent to ask nicely and listen for the response. Then the parent
and child agree on a time and standard for the activity to be completed.
The second step is; if the task is not accomplished in the time and to your satisfaction
you tell the child to stop what they’re doing immediately and complete the task properly.
The third step is, if the child refuses to complete the task or there is a problem, than a
punishment should be imposed. The younger the child the quicker and a short
punishment should be imposed.
Another technique that can be used is the “Five time rule”. In this case you have the
child who repeatedly forgets to do certain tasks repeat that task five times. An example
would be if a child always dropped their coat in the middle of the living room and forgets
to put it away, you’d have the child take their coat and hang it up in the closet and then
bring it up to the living room and do that five times. If that fails to work, then the child
can do at 10 times.
With young children parents can use a more subtle form of discipline. When conflict
arises parents can intervene by asking if the child can behave appropriately or if they
need a “timeout”? By doing this, you are letting the child know that they are acting in a
poor manner and if they don’t control themselves they will need to go to their room. At
first, the children will need to be put in their room as a consequence for failing to control
themselves. By repeating this process the child begins to understand that they must
control their behavior or the parent will institute additional timeouts. So that in the future
the word “timeout” will help a child to understand if they don’t control their behavior the
This technique helps children prepare for upcoming events. Before a particular event or
activity a parent carefully describes what will happen and what is expected of the
children in terms of their behavior at the event or activity. In this way children will know
what the parents expect it will be less likely to create problems. An example would be
going out to dinner and explaining to do children that they will have a half-hour wait
before they are even seated.
The 10 warning signs of possible problems in children:
1. Mood shift; a sudden lack of interest in life and or an isolation from friends and
family, or a change in grades across the entire report card.
2. Secretive behavior and lack of eye contact
3. A major change in eating or sleeping patterns
4. A change in friends or no friends
5. Not wanting to take any risks at all
6. Disruptive behavior at home or school
7. Constantly lying
9. A preoccupation, food, sex or fire
10.Excessive worries and fears
Howard Levitt has been a licensed marriage & family therapist for over 30 years in the
Conejo Valley and has extensive experience in dealing with difficult children. If you
would like to contact Howard Levitt, please call (805) 495-0375.
You can contact online by clicking here