Using Nurturance and Prevention Tools
Effective parental nurturing may be the single best predictor that a child will turn out successfully. Nurturing means giving our children the time, love, care, attention, and affection they need to develop into competent and healthy adults. Nurturance builds self-esteem, develops attachment, and allows children to be disciplined. Nurturance builds a relationship between parent and child, a “bank account” of good will. If this account is established very early in a child’s life, when babies are cuddled and cooed at, it can be a great benefit during the teenage years. A child who feels loved is more apt to realize that parents set limits and give guidance because they love and care about him or her. Children are more likely to feel secure within loving boundaries.
Love and Care for Our Children
- Provide real affection (all ages). Express unconditional positive feelings for your child.
- Love unconditionally (all ages). Children need to be accepted, trusted, even prized for who they are — our children — not for what they do. Acceptance means that when children don’t behave you still love them, while letting them know you don't approve of the behavior. This love and acceptance gives children a sense of security, belonging, and support. Show love through hugs, kisses, or touch.
- Spend time together (all ages). Someone once said, “Children spell love T-I-M-E.” Words of love are important, but they don’t take the place of time spent with our children. Find things to do together such as reading, playing games, or doing chores — something enjoyable for both of you.
- Really listen (all ages). When a child comes to you with a question or comment, stop what you are doing, look at the child, and really listen. Your listening ear is more important to your child than your advice. Watch your children. What you see can help tell you how your children feel.
- Trust and respect each other (all ages). Encourage all family members to treat each other with respect. What children become has a great deal to do with the example set by those who raise them — parents who keep promises and who are honest and sincere.
- Show interest in what your child does (all ages). When you think your child is about to misbehave, ask her to talk about what she is doing. This may distract her from misbehaving.
Prevention Tools Help Stop Misbehavior Before It Starts
As a parent you can use tools to prevent a problem from happening in the first place. The prevention tools are organized into four groups:
- change your attitude
- teach values and behavior
- change the situation
- increase security
Change Your Attitude
- Change your thinking about the misbehavior (all ages). Know what behavior is expected for your child’s age, ability, and personality and accept that behavior. Allow your child to make mistakes. Don’t accept behavior that hurts others.
- Allow minor misbehavior (all ages). Don’t respond to misbehavior if you have a more important goal you want to reach. Continue to watch the behavior in case it becomes troubling to others.
- Understand the child’s point of view (all ages). You and your child may have different perspectives about what misbehavior is. Also, take time to think what may be going on in your child’s life that may be a reason for the misbehavior.
Teach Values and Behavior
- Model the desirable behavior yourself (all ages). Children strongly reflect the example set by those who raise them. A parent’s behavior clearly tells the child what values and principles should guide his life. As a parent, you are always setting examples for your children to follow.
- Tell stories to make a point (all ages). Read or tell stories to your children to help them understand why something is important.
- Give specific instruction (all ages). Children don’t always know the rule or know what you want them to do. Tell them, but be careful not to be too controlling.
- Prepare the child for a difficulty (4-18 years). When your child is faced with a problem that can’t be changed or avoided, give him information to help him handle the situation.
- Catch your child being good (all ages). Let your child know immediately when she’s done something good. Give her affection and encouragement.
- Give progress reports (5-18 years). When your child takes steps toward achieving a goal, talk with him and recognize him for his progress.
Change the Situation
- Encourage humor and fun (all ages). Make things fun by doing the unexpected. Come up with a new twist to the usual routine.
- Change the surroundings (all ages). Remove forbidden objects or change the environment to prevent the problem or misbehavior.
- Change the activity (2-11 years). When your child is about to misbehave because she is tired or bored, find another interesting, acceptable activity.
- Distract or redirect the child (2-4 years). Physically steer your child away from a possible problem to a place where he can do a more acceptable activity.
- Take time out (to calm down) (3-12 years). Gently remove a child from a difficult situation where she is losing self-control.
- Provide physical and emotional security (all ages). Children need to know that their basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing will be taken care of. Keeping a family routine helps children feel secure; they know meal, nap, and bed times. Being gentle and dependable assures your children you are there for them!
- Move physically closer (all ages). Move near your child when he may lose self-control and misbehave. Your being nearby, in a warm and friendly way, may reduce his temptation to misbehave. It’s equally important to move close to the child when making a request or command. “Long-distance” discipline is not very effective.
- Hold the child (all ages). Similarly, when a child is distressed a touch on the back or shoulder or being held close is comforting and reassuring. Often a child who is out of control also can be calmed by being held firmly but gently.
- Provide reassuring routines (2-16 years). Your child may sometimes misbehave because of stressful changes in his life. When routines are upset, be sure your child has familiar experiences.
- Provide transitions (3-8 years). When young children have to change from a busy to a quiet activity, prepare them for the change.
Clark, J. I., & Dawson, C. (1997). Growing up again: Parenting ourselves, parenting our children. New York, NY: Harper & Row.
Smith, C. A. (1993). Responsive discipline: Effective tools for parents. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University Cooperative Extension Service.
Steinberg, L. (2004). The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
University of Minnesota Extension. (1997). Positive parenting II: A video-based parent education curriculum. St. Paul, MN: University of Minnesota Extension. This product is no longer available.
Catch Your Child Being Good — Many parents spend a good deal of time attending to their children when they're misbehaving. However, when they are behaving appropriately, parents often don't say or do anything.