While 16,000 books have been published on parenting, in an exciting bit of research, psychologists from the University of San Diego in California have empirically identified the ten essential qualities, in order of importance, for effective parenting.
While this list in its entirety will be the subject of a later article, the top three factors in effective parenting all have to do with our theory of self-regulation.
What characteristics make an effective parent?
It seems the “effective parent” is the parent who can model a relatively calm, consistent, and present sense of self for their child or children. This capacity–to down regulate emotions or stress–is reflected in the ability to:
- Attend, respond, identify or empathize with a child;
- Manage day to day stress and personal emotion in order to maintain or, in acute moments, return to a more balanced state of mind; and
- Do so sufficiently and consistently in adult relationships within the family.
The first point, to be interested in your children, is clearly the most important ability to have as a parent. But ability to focus, attend to, and share meaning with a child is compromised when a parent is distracted, distressed, agitated or emotionally disabled.
This ability to attend to a child is then related to their second point: management of personal reactions and emotions inside one’s own skin! A parent who manages stress and “protects” their state of mind, so to speak, demonstrates the second most important factor in effective parenting.
Finally, the third point, capacity to facilitate good relationships within a household is most possible where events are managed/addressed in the least demanding, confrontational or emotion evoking sense, again product of self-regulation and stress management.
These three skills all relate to the capacity to create, maintain or value a more balanced state of mind. While most parents and even profes- sional educators discuss things like consistency, discipline, education and creativity as important in parenting, it seems these actions are secondary to these first three essential and predominately self-regulatory parenting competencies.