As a parenting coach and therapist, I am regularly asked how my clients can foster smarter, happier and more confident children. In a time when technology and learning are introduced to children before their first birthday, it seems as though there are always newer and fancier ways to provide advancement to children.
However, every study I read and every family with whom I work with brings me back to the same advice -- if you want to the best for you child, all you need is love.
In my practice, I have created what I call "The Five Pillars of Positive Parenting" -- Touch, Talk, Sing, Smile and Play. These five pillars are the amalgamation of years of studying my clients and reading countless scientific research papers. They also represent the most productive, easiest and cheapest tools for helping bring out "the best" in children. Parents are regularly outsourcing many of the duties traditionally reserved for parents to their nannies, tutors, and coaches and therefore tend to think their lack of similar advanced training leaves them ill-equipped to cultivate certain desired traits in their children.
However, studies on various topics from brain chemistry to infant attachment all point to the same end result: that a parent's love, affection, and attention is by far the most influential tool in childhood advancement. Parents do not need advanced degrees or specialized training in order to give their child the best chance at success. Loving them, supporting them, guiding them and having fun with them are the most crucial factors.
My "Five Pillars of Positive Parenting" can be carried out daily by any type of parent and will lead to the educational and cognitive connections needed for their children's success. In fact, a recent study from the United States National Academy of the Sciences proved that certain areas of a child's brain actually grew when lavished with large amounts of parental affection. In order to "help their children," parents should think more about these Five Pillars than purchasing the latest app or newest gizmo. My perspective is that these basic pillars can outmatch the best tutor, flashcard or educational program aimed at creating a "better" child.
Here are my Five Pillars of Positive Parenting:
Touch them daily and often. Grab them, hug them, kiss them and hold them even if just for a few seconds. My belief is that you can never hug a child too much, no matter what their age as countless studies prove this positive physical connection between parent and child does wonders for their psyche.
Talk to your children all the time and teach them right from wrong. Teach them how to communicate their feelings and emotions. Ask open-ended questions each day, forcing them to "let you in" and teach them to use words to help others, not hurt others. Talk to them to build them up, to be firm and create boundaries so they learn the important components mutuality -- not only receiving love and kindness but also learning how to give it back as well.
Sing to them when they are little to brighten and calm them, or if they are older, sing their favorite song as a way to be silly and connect. Sometimes something as simple as a song can connect an estranged teen and their parent. Ask them, "Why do you like this song? What does it mean to you?"
Smile at them all the time. In today's tough world filled with obstacles and pain, let them see you smile constantly. Let your smile be etched into their memory so they can recall it when they need it to get through a difficult moment. Let them remember your smiling face when they come up against a mean kid on the playground so they remember they are never ever alone.
Play with them as much as you can. When life gets stressful and serious, teach your children how to play, let loose and create their own joy. Teach them coping skills so that if they are sad, frustrated or upset, they can create their own joy and happiness. As their parent, you will be their partner in helping to keep this joy going. Whatever it is they like to play, put down the phone, put down the tablet, close the laptop and play it with them. Chances are the sight of your child playing and laughing will be so fulfilling that you won't miss the extra twenty minutes of work you postponed to be with them.
The time we have with our children is so short in comparison to their adult lives. Use these easy and basic tools to connect to your children so for those eighteen years they feel loved, they feel supported and they feel that they matter. There is no one better for your child than you -- their parent -- and all you need to parent them well is love.