Easy parenting strategies that can make big differences for your family

There’s no doubt that we want our children to become healthy, happy, responsible and productive. And oh the things we do, the energy we exert, and the money we spend to try to make happen. But how many of us achieve the success and see real changes in our families?

There is no doubt that setting the right kind of goals will positively impact on our families. The best news is that goals don’t have to be time-consuming or costly! The trick is finding goals that work for you and your family. 

I chose a few of my favorites that I’ve shared on the TODAY show and parents have reported they worked for them. Whatever goal you choose, I urge you to use the four essential Parenting Change Rules to help you be more likely to succeed.

Four Rules to Parent for Real, Lasting Change

Rule 1: Use the “One Rule”: Choose one (or at best no more than two) parenting goals that you can see yourself doing and is simple enough to fit into your lifestyle and will make a difference with your kids if you hang in there.You’ll be far more likely to succeed and boost your confidence that you can do this. You can add more parenting goals later. 

Rule 2: Use the Same Strategy: Use the SAME strategy to boost that parenting goal every day for a few minutes. It’s also best to do it at the same time everyday.

Rule 3: Use Reminders: Research also finds that visual or verbal cues can help you stay on track. Put a reminder on your screen saver. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you. Tag a big sign on your refrigerator. Or ask your kid to remind you (that always works!) The parenting resolution will then not only become a family routine, but more than likely greatly improve your relationship with your child.

Rule 4: Use the “2 Es”: Just remember: the best resolutions are EASY and EFFECTIVE (think of the Two E’s). Research also says lasting change takes a minimum of 21 days of repetition so hang in there!


 Top 10 Parenting Strategies for Your Family

These are just meant as mere ideas to get you thinking. Adapt the strategies anyway you want or come up with a far better one that will work for your family. Just do one! And if you start the resolution within 24 hours of reading this blog, chances are you will be more likely to succeed. Promise!

Parenting Goal 1. Increase Quality Family Time

Try this: Identify the time & place each day your child is most receptive to listening and you’re available–and plant yourself there. You don’t need a lot of time, but you do need “uninterrupted” time with your kids. Schedule it

~ Find the spot. Say it’s 5 pm around the refrigerator (that’s where my youngest was–so that’s the place I’d be each night). Or utilize the car pool: turn off the radio and talk. 

~ Make sure it’s “unplugged” time. No electronics (except kitchen appliances) allowed. Enforce  one rule: “During that time you may only talk to people in the room.” Apply that also during Family Meals.

~ Utilize bedtime. Research says kids are most receptive to us five minutes before they go off to sleep. So use that time to convey your love for your child during a bedtime ritual. You could review the day or hold a “strength talk” (hold your child’s hand in yours and for each finger tell him the five special things you love most about him).

~ Check that calendar carefully. Is there one thing you can cut??? Cutting just one activity a week can free up time.

Parenting Goal 2.  Don’t overextend so you have more family time

Try this: For parents who say “I don’t have enough time” tape an index card to your phone and write “NO” in block letters. When someone calls you (to bake more brownies, take on another unnecessary project) use your new rule is: “Tell the person ‘I’ll have to get back to you.'” You then have “stall” time to check your calendar and think through the “worth-it” factor of their request.

~ Say no to things that don’t directly involve your family, create unnecessary stress or is something you really don’t want to do.

Parenting Goal 3.  More positive morning send-offs

Try this: Parents say that mornings generally are the most stressful time of the day  and the place where they are most prone to yell or just stress out. So identify your one reoccurring stress trigger and then create a simple solution.

~ You misplace car keys and go bonkers trying to find them every morning. Put up a hook by the door to put those keys.

~ Kids complain they can’t find their homework (and miss the bus trying to find it), put a “box catcher” by the door. They put their backpack with their homework  at night-not in the morning.

~ A little dawdler? He  lays his clothes out the night before and learns to set an alarm clock.

Parenting Goal 4. Stop being “The Negotiator”

Try this: If you find you’re always stepping in between sibling to solve battles teach simple strategies so they can work out their own problems.

~ Teach kids how to use a stop watch or set an oven timer for  three minutes. Each sibling knows they have equal time and when the timer goes off the “shared object” is passed to the other sibling who sets the same time. The timer reduces squabbles, keeps things “fair” and takes you out of the loop. Best yet your kids can use the timer to end friendship wars.

Parenting Goal 5. Boost exercise to reduce stress

Try this: Stress building because you have little time for exercise? Find one activity to do with your kids.The real trick is the word “with” which means less guilt for you, more time with the kids and the needed exercise.

~ Put your infant in a stroller and walk each day.

~ Ride a bike with your preschooler.

~ Find an exercise video and do with your daughter.

~ Put up a hoop and shoot with your son.

Parenting Goal 6.Wean kids off rewards

Try this:  Is your kids always need your approval or expect a reward,  just change your pronoun from “I” to “you.” That simple switch used consistently builds internal motivation and weans kids from needing your approval and being praise-a-holics. Not only will you save money but you’ll also boost your child’s self-esteem. 

~ Instead of “I am really proud of…” switch to: “You should be really proud of…(name the accomplishment).”

Parenting Goal 7.  Reduce family yelling

Try this: Start a “No yell policy” in your home, but get the kids involved as well. (Believe me, they’ll help you stick to that resolution). Then the second anyone’s voice goes up a decibel, use a designated non-verbal Time Out hand signal (like a coach) that signifies someone needs a breather to get himself back in control. Everyone must respect it. The family member can then walk away until calm enough to come back and then talk. This one will take consistently, but it works like a gem in rebuilding family harmony. Don’t give up!

Parenting Goal 8. Regular family connection

Try this: Research shows eating together regularly reduces your child’s likelihood for drugs, eating disorders, depression and improves grades). So do try to have more regular family meals. Forget gourmet and Martha Stewart. Anything goes!

~ If connecting is difficult because of hectic schedules, then set a time such as 8:30 pm each evening for 20 minutes when everyone stops and connect in the kitchen to briefly touch base, have a snack, debrief the day, and  say goodnight.

Parenting Goal 9. Nurture self-esteem

Try this: Research shows that all that random, sugar-coated praise does not work to increase self-esteem. What does help is specific praise so your child knows what he did that deserves approval.

~ Each day identify ONE thing your child did that deserves acknowledgement.  Point out the positive, earned trait or behavior, but also add “because” to your praise. That one word takes your praise up a notch and makes your statement more specific. Your child now understands what he did that you approved of and is also more likely to repeat the deed. For instance: “You were so kind BECAUSE you shared with your friends.”

Parenting Goal 10. Focus on the positive

Try: In a bit of a negative rut around your kids lately? Time to focus on the positive.

~ Start a Family Kindness Box (an old shoebox with a slit cut in the top will do). Then encourage your family members to look for others doing kind, positive things. Write or draw noteworthy deeds and slip in the box. Read those notes during the family meal or once a week at the Sunday breakfast. Kindness really is contagious. 

There are dozens of other possibilities. I wanted to just get your brain moving. Choose one that works best for you and your family. Simpler is better! Write your parenting goal down as a reminder to you (or tell your kids your new plan — they’ll remind you!) Then keep with it. The secret to turning activities into habits is consistency!


Dr. Michele Borba

I am an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books. You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check for ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news about child development.

Follow me on twitter @MicheleBorba

All solutions in this blog were from my The Big Book of Parenting Solutions where you can also find dozens more of research-based and practical tips to raise strong kids from the inside out.