10/31/2013 12:48 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

If Only There Was a One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Parenting

Written by Jan Cloninger

Unfortunately, there isn't. I often shake my head at the "3 Steps to a Perfect Child" or "12 Ways You Can Be a Perfect Parent" articles. Parenting is just not that simple. If anyone had THE answer, we would live in a much more perfect world.

There may be techniques and tools that are helpful. But each family is different -- each child is different -- and parents have to integrate and implement what works best for them and for their children.

Sometimes, you can ignore bad behavior or reward good behavior. You can help your child practice good behavior or setting a good example. You can try time outs, expressing disapproval, allow natural consequences, create logical consequences or enforce behavior penalties depending on the circumstance and appropriate response. But each family has to decide the degree to which these options work best (or hinder their parenting process). While we know that parenting extremes rarely work, there are a whole lot of places on the continuum where individual families can find a healthy approach.

We also know that within each family, different approaches for different children may be required. If you have a child that is highly sensitive and another that challenges every limit you put in place, you may need to utilize two very different parenting strategies in order to get the results you desire for each of your children.

What's important to note is while techniques and tools may vary, there are universal skills children need to develop in order to grow into their fullest potential in adulthood. Again, there is not a perfect way to pass these skills to our children. But as parents, we do need to have a plan in place ensuring that we do.

What kinds of skills are we talking about? Here's a few we addressed in our workbook The Courage to Parent for parents to consider as they develop a personal parenting plan:

  • Being self-aware and self-accepting
  • Developing empathy towards others
  • The ability to make good decisions
  • Knowing how to set and maintain healthy boundaries
  • Being an effective communicator
  • Knowing how to deal with conflict
  • Being able to handle stress
  • Being resilient
  • Knowing how to manage change

What else would you add to the list? What are the skills that have helped you most in life? What are the skills you wish you had developed more? What strategies do you have in place to make sure your child is developing these important skills? If you haven't developed any, maybe it's time give it some thought.

We've all had different life experiences and we all have different levels of comfort with these life skills. It's great if we have mastered them for ourselves and are consistently modeling them for our children. But if that's not the case, it's never too late to put a learning plan in place for ourselves so we are better equipped to help our children learn as they grow.

Perhaps that's why one-size-fits-all approaches to parenting don't work. We're all in different places on the continuum and it's up to each of us to decide if we're going to stay there or move towards one end or the other in order to get the results we desire.

If only there was a one-size-fits-all approach to parenting. It sure would make the job a lot easier!

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