The Department of Health and Human Services declared July as Purposeful Parenting Month.
Juanita Banks-Whittington— an Odenton, Maryland-based U.S. Army veteran, wife, mother, diversity and inclusion practitioner, licensed master social worker (LMSW) in Maryland and author of “I Love My Daddy,” suggested strategies for parents to bring out the best in their children through purposeful parenting.
“Purposeful parenting is going above and beyond to pour into your children’s needs and being intentional in making sure their needs are met. It’s more than just raising a child with morals and values. It’s setting clear values and goals focused on the development of the child,” Banks- Whittington said.
A few key measures that can be taken to parent children better can be a trial-and-error process, but Banks-Whittington believes that “a few key measures that can assist in parenting children better are working on your patience, being supportive and allowing children to have their own identity.”
For younger children, implementing positive reinforcement can be as simple as using a sticker reward system or praise to increase the behavior.
“Older adolescents can be trickier because they may be at an age where they have to learn by experiencing or seeing the consequences of their actions,” Banks-Whittington said.
Regardless of age group, parents should always give the reasoning behind why they are being disciplined for breaking rules, so that the child understands.
Rules or boundaries are needed for any household to run successfully.
“For two-parent households to better function when enforcing boundaries: they must communicate with each other; be on the same page; set realistic expectations; and identify what they are enforcing,” Banks-Whittington said.
She added that a single parent can enforce boundaries by communicating why the boundary is being set, listening, and setting realistic expectations with their child. Additionally, a child’s parent “can have someone the child looks up to or respects as a resource to assist during difficult situations if the other parent isn’t actively involved.”
When a child has access to at least one person that the parent feels comfortable with their child talking to and letting them know what is happening, it could also help a young person cope with peer pressure.
“That will provide some form of open communication and a listening ear. Peer pressure is never easy to deal with regardless of age and sometimes it’s easy to question your self-identity when you may not fully know who you are yet,” Banks-Whittington said.
The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that during nine to eleven years of age, “healthy friendships” are very important to a child’s development, “but peer pressure can become strong during this time. Children who feel good about themselves are more able to resist negative peer pressure and make better choices for themselves.”
The CDC added that parents should help their child develop his own sense of right and wrong during this stage.
Dealing with defiant children can require parents to effectively educate themselves with various tools and techniques. Banks-Whittington added that each child is different. A child’s age determines their level of understanding and the type of consequences they may receive, so there is no blanket response or way to deal with children who may be defiant.
“When dealing with a younger defiant child, parents can set expectations by using positive and negative reinforcement. For example, incorporating a token system/reward for good behavior or giving less screen time for misbehavior. When dealing with an older defiant child, parents may have to think outside the box when setting expectations and rules by identifying the root of the behavior, showing empathy and validation, having open conversations and always building on the positive,” Banks-Whittington said.
Children need structure in their homes. One tip Banks-Whittington offered entailed starting with establishing schedules and routines which will instill discipline and responsibility.
Some parents face challenges incorporating rewards into improving a child’s behavior although giving rewards may not always be warranted. Age and the situation can be factors.
“As the child ages, the reward needs to be evaluated to determine if the behavior is improving or being masked by the expectation. Many forms of behavior modifications can modify and stop inappropriate behaviors like positive/negative reinforcement and positive/negative punishment. When incorporating rewards there needs to be consistency, patience and realistic expectations,” Banks-Whittington said.
Leading by example and validating a child’s feelings while trying to promote respect and obedience can help attract a better response from children. They must be “taught what it looks like first,” according to Banks-Whittington.
Visit www.diversecbm.com and www.nehicares.com to learn more about Banks-Whittington and her book.