Being a good parent isn’t easy and no two families are alike. Though there are no rules to parenting, here are some guidelines that will make parenting go a little smoother and help you raise children who are responsible, honest and caring.

Enjoy your children!

Childhood goes by faster than you think! Try to plan family time with your children. Family time does not mean an expensive outing. You can play with your children, take a walk in your neighborhood, read to them, cook with them—any time you spend with your children builds your relationship and is an opportunity to lay the important foundation of trust and love. If you do take outings, talk to your children about what you are doing, where you are going—these are important opportunities to develop important language skills in children.

Teach your children what you value

It is crucial to show and teach your children the values that you hold dear. Discuss with your children the importance of being honest, of being fair, of being respectful, of caring for others, and of being patient and understanding. Model these values for them, as children are astute in watching how adults behave and imitating that behavior. Whatever your spiritual beliefs may be, teach them to your children in a way they can understand. By doing these things, you are laying an important foundation that will guide your children throughout their lives.

Show children how to act and speak

Children watch everything that we do as parents. Model the kind of behavior you would like to see in your children. When you catch your children acting inappropriately, show them a different way of acting by modeling it for them. Discuss behavior with them and give them examples of how you would like to see them behave. In addition, discuss why certain behaviors are inappropriate.

Set reasonable expectations

Children like to know what is expected of them, so consistency is important. Try to develop a daily routine, such as a time for meals, snacks, playtime, naptime, etc. Children feel comfortable when they know what’s coming next. Likewise, try to be consistent in how you expect children to behave. Showing children the right behavior is an important part of parenting. Depending on your child’s age, you can discuss your expectations. But be realistic, and know what your child is capable of at different ages. For instance, young children may not understand directions clearly, so you may have to model or communicate your requests to them. Communication is also important. For instance, instead of saying, “Your room is a mess,” you might say, “Let’s clean your room together and I’ll show you how to do it.” Young children also have a limited attention span, so doing most things for more than ten minutes is unrealistic. Be positive with your children, make chores into a game, and reward them with praise when they do things well.

Show your children how to get along with others

It is important for children to socialize with other children. When your children are playing with their siblings or other children, keep an ear out for what is going on. If children start to bicker or have a dispute, you can try to let them work it out themselves, but intervene if the situation starts to get out of control. Never allow hitting, pinching, biting or bullying. Model for children how to express their feelings with words. Encourage them to share, to take turns, to be respectful of each other, and to be kind.

Encourage your children to be responsible

Even young children can learn to be responsible for themselves and to be helpful. Encourage children (when they are ready) to begin to dress themselves, to help clean up their toys around the house, and to help with minor household chores. When they are younger, remember that you are teaching your children how to do these things, and you are also establishing good habits. It is unrealistic, however, to expect children to do everything by themselves, and can even be dangerous. For instance, help your children clean up their toys, and eventually they will be able to do it themselves.

Understand how your children grow

Take the time to understand how your children develop at different stages in their growth. It is important to have realistic expectations from your children. Talk to other parents, to teachers and caregivers, and read information about parenting and child development. All children are different, and every family situation is unique, yet there are general guidelines on what to expect from children at different stages in their development. Being aware of these milestones will help you do things with your child that will enhance his or her innate abilities.

Read to your children

By reading to your child, even at an early age, you are helping your child develop language. Use the library to check out books, and ask the librarian for age appropriate books for your child. Help your child select the books that he or she is interested in, although at times you may need to provide guidance. Reading on a daily basis will help to develop the joy of reading in your child. If your child doesn’t seem interested in a book you’re reading, don’t push, but try something else another time. For a two year old, books with bright pictures that name things and tell simple stories are appropriate. Three year olds also like naming books, rhyming books and simple story books. Four and five year olds can listen to longer stories—but make sure he or she is interested in the story. Show your child the right way to hold a book, and point out the illustrations as you read, so your child will realize that the story and the illustrations go together. If you are reading stories online, follow the print with your finger, so that your child will understand that the story you are reading comes from those words. Ask your child to connect what you’re reading to his or her own experiences. Encourage your child to talk and explain new words, as this will increase his or her vocabulary. Ask your child to retell favorite stories or even to ‘read’ to you. Encourage your child to use his or her own words. Remember that young children often enjoy hearing the same story over and over again. Reading with your child is a way to spend valuable time together, and to foster the foundation of literacy skills.

Give yourself a break

Be kind to yourself—you’re doing a good job! Being a parent can be challenging. No one is perfect and we learn as we go. Take the time to celebrate the great things you’ve done as a parent, and to anticipate the best from your children!

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