You know the checkout line scenario: 3-year-old child wants this toy, this candy, this something — and she wants it nooooow! The crying starts, escalating into a full-blown tantrum.
In his new book, The Ten Basic Principles of Good Parenting, Laurence Steinberg, PhD, provides guidelines based on the top social science research — some 75 years of studies. Follow them, and you can avert all sorts of child behavior problems, he says.
After all, what is the goal when you’re dealing with children? To show who’s boss? To instill fear? Or to help the child develop into a decent, self-confident human being?
Look, we love our kids. But singing “Twinkle, Twinkle” to your baby for the umpteenth time—or just sitting in their darkened room, handing them their pacifier ad nauseam—isn’t exactly exciting stuff. And pulling out your phone to keep yourself entertained may have the unintended effect of keeping your baby awake.
A 2011 study published in Neuro Endocrinology Letters revealed that blue light from devices reduces the concentrations of the sleep hormone (melatonin) in the blood, potentially shortening sleep duration and reducing its quality. Whenever possible, put the phone away when you’re trying to get your little one to sleep and you’ll probably find them drifting off a whole lot faster.
Good parenting helps foster empathy, honesty, self-reliance, self-control, kindness, cooperation, and cheerfulness, says Steinberg. It also promotes intellectual curiosity, motivation, and desire to achieve. It helps protect children from developing anxiety, depression, eating disorders, anti-social behavior, and alcohol and drug abuse.
“Parenting is one of the most researched areas in the entire field of social science,” says Steinberg, who is a distinguished professor of psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia. The scientific evidence for the principles he outlines “is very, very consistent,” he tells.
Too many parents base their actions on gut reaction. But some parents have better instincts than others, Steinberg says. Children should never be hit — not even a slap on a toddler’s bottom, he tells WebMD. “If your young child is headed into danger, into traffic, you can grab him and hold him, but you should under no circumstances hit him.”
Ruby Natale PhD, PsyD, professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Medical School, couldn’t agree more. She offered a few of her own insights. “Many people use the same tactics their own parents used, and a lot of times that meant using really harsh discipline,” she tells.
A parent’s relationship with his or her child will be reflected in the child’s actions — including child behavior problems, Natale explains. “If you don’t have a good relationship with your child, they’re not going to listen to you. Think how you relate to other adults. If you have a good relationship with them, you tend to trust them more, listen to their opinions, and agree with them. If it’s someone we just don’t like, we will ignore their opinion.”
Steinberg’s 10 principles hold true for anyone who deals with children — coach, teacher, babysitter, he says.