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The 10 Things You Need to Know to Be a Good Parent

Here's a post from our partners at BabyCenter! Every week, we bring you the best parenting and lifestyle stories from the experts at BabyCenter, including this post from Stacie Lewis about being a good parent.

After my daughter, May, was born, and I was told of her disabilities, I spent a lot of time worrying over what to do to help her. There were only so many hours in the day. May needs help physically, cognitively, visually. She needed to learn to bite, make sounds, reach out her hands. That's a lot of stuff.

Was it better to use our time for stretches? Sit in a darkened room, looking at colored lights? Feed her only organic, homemade food and never use a microwave? (That brilliant advice to cure brain damage was made by a dietician we swiftly dismissed.) I asked nurses, physiotherapists, play therapists, neurologists; no one had an answer. But, they had plenty of suggestions. Too many to include in one 24-hour period.

Related: Is kissing your child on the mouth gross?

My daughter has issues beyond most children, but the question is no different for any of us. What do we want? Happy, healthy children. But, how do we get there? We can't do it all.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. wrote a post on Psychology Today's Momma Data blog called What Makes a Good Parent: Hint, It's Not Breastmilk or Buying Organic. (See! The secret isn't organic food! I was right to fire that moron dietician.) Palumbo explored the research of Robert Epstein Ph.D., a psychologist at Harvard, who identified 10 areas of parenting skills that routinely predicted a child's health, happiness and success.

Here are the top 10, as written by Palumbo, in order of importance:

  1. Love and affection. You support and accept the child, are physically affectionate, and spend quality one-on-one time together.
  2. Stress management. You take steps to reduce stress for yourself and your child, practice relaxations techniques and promote positive interpretations of events.
  3. Relationship skills. You maintain a healthy relationship with your spouse, significant other or co-parent and model effective relationship skills with other people.
  4. Autonomy and independence. You treat your child with respect and encourage him or her to become self-sufficient and self-reliant.
  5. Education and learning. You promote and model learning and provide educational opportunities for your child.
  6. Life skills. You provide for your child, have a steady income and plan for the future.
  7. Behavior Management. You make extensive use of positive reinforcement and punish only after other methods of managing behavior have failed.
  8. Health. You model a healthy lifestyle and good habits, such as regular exercise and proper nutrition, for your child.
  9. Religion. You support spiritual or religious development and participate in spiritual or religious activities.
  10. Safety. You take precautions to protect your child and maintain awareness of the child's activities and friends.

I still wish there was someone who could tell me the secret to improving May. But, three years later, I know the answer isn't stretches or visual stimulation. In retrospect, the most important thing wasn't at all clinical, and it is number one on the list.

Give her love.

Do you agree with everything on this list — I was surprised to find religion on it — and its order?

More great reads from BabyCenter:
Study: Moms who work full time are healthier
What did you wear to give birth?
Boy Scout chairwoman ousted for breastfeeding
The magic of spaghetti pie

Source: Flickr User Fê Candia

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Great article. The best tool for using positive reinforcement (tip #7) is the Caught Being Good app available in the app store.
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