We all know being a parent is a 24-7 job, and sometimes we feel like we run out of good parenting techniques. Dr. Liliana Lengua, director of the UW’s Center for Child and Family well-being, take a closer look at some of the best parenting tools.
What does research tell us about best parenting practices and when are there breakdowns?
Years of research highlight key aspects of parenting that make a difference to children’s well-being. Parents who are warm, accepting, and who enjoy being with their children, who can understand and meet their children’s emotional and practical needs, and who have a good balance of control or discipline, not over control or under control, tend to have children who are more socially and emotionally competent, have fewer behavioral problems and have better self-esteem.
When families experience transitions, like adding a new family member or dealing with illnesses or other changes, when there are separations or divorce, economic problems, family conflicts, or when parents experience mental health problems, we see breakdowns in parenting. Stress and adversity can lead to more harsh and critical parenting behaviors; parents can become less responsive or less engaged with their children; and parents can become inconsistent in their ability to provide boundaries for children’s behaviors. And that’s when we see problems emerging in children’s well-being.
What can parents do to improve these breakdowns in parenting?
An important first step is helping parents see where their parenting efforts can improve and recognizing how the stress or transitions or emotional issues are impacting their parenting. Next, parents can learn skills that can help them to be more mindful of their interactions with their children, be more in control of themselves and their emotions when working through challenges with their children, and to be more effective in navigating those challenges.
How can these skills help parents?
When parents can be present in the moment, they can observe their children’s emotions and needs, and they can respond to them more effectively. When parents can regulate their emotions and behaviors in their interactions with their children, they can also be more effective and more likely to engage in best parenting practices. When they are more regulated and mindful, parents can learn to look inside themselves for the answers about what are the most effective things to do for their children. These skills that we’re talking about come from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT, developed by University of Washington professor Marsha Linehan.
Can you give us examples of these “DBT skills” that can help parents?
Mindfulness. Being present, observing and participation in the moment.
Emotion Regulation. Managing our emotions instead of emotions managing us.
Distress Tolerance. Ability to tolerate and accept distress so that we don’t make situations worse with impulsive reactions.
Interpersonal Effectiveness. Effective ways of maintaining quality relationships and self-esteem in interactions, facilitating and achieving one’s objectives.
If you would like to learn more about parenting skills, an event will be held Saturday, March 17th, called “Life Skills Parenting.” It will be held 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall. Dr. Lengua and UW Professor Marsha Linehan are a few of the featured speakers.
For more information, go to the ParentMap website.