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15 Insightful Parenting Books That Help Your Kids Start off a Healthy Life

15 Insightful Parenting Books That Help Your Kids Start off a Healthy Life

It wasn’t that long ago when the only resource that parents could reliably turn to were books. Nowadays, flipping through a book may not be most parents’ first instinct when looking for parenting advice.

Instant access to blogs, websites, and forums provide multitudes of answers and “expert opinions,” which can either be helpful or contradicting and overwhelming. Books are still a valuable resource when it comes to parenting. Just because information is printed in a book does not mean it is infallible.

However, it is much easier to find reliable reviews and criticisms of published works from reputable sources than of websites or blogs.

The following parenting books discuss topics about parenting that start at conception and cover all the way to young adulthood.

Whether you are looking for advice about disciplining your toddler, how to parent your spirited child, or cross-cultural parenting techniques, you will find everything you need in this list:

1. Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know, by Emily Oster

    Parents are able to influence the development of their child the moment they are conceived, through factors such as the mother’s diet, the home environment, and secondhand smoke.

    There are countless activities that pregnant women are told can have a positive or negative impact on the baby, from eating sushi to prenatal yoga. But which of these are based on scientific evidence and which are just hearsay?

    Expecting Better delves into these widespread pregnancy beliefs and produces statistics and facts that spell out the actual risk associated with each. The book is laid out by in chronological order, from conception to delivery, and describes many of the most common worries that expectant mothers have.

    The overarching message of the book is that there is no right or wrong answer for anything when it comes to pregnancy.

    Get the book here!

    2. The Science of Mom: A Research-Based Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, by Alice Callahan

      This book addresses many of the questions that new mother have about their babies in the first six months of their lives. Many controversial topics are addressed, such as vaccines, breastfeeding, and sleep.

      The author has a PhD in nutrition and writes in detail about the types of food to introduce to your babies early on to meet all of their dietary needs. A variety of scientific studies are used throughout the book to serve as support for the author’s opinions, and Callahan also explains how the average person can discern the validity of studies and their claims.

      Get the book here!

      3. No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame, by Janet Lansbury

        As a new parent, it can seem like your tiny baby grows into a toddler overnight, and a new element of parenting is suddenly required – discipline. Not only are your little ones gaining mobility and independence, they are also developing their own personalities and trying to figure out how to navigate this confusing world.

        As an RIE teacher with over 20 years of hands on experience helping parents and their toddlers, Janet Lansbury is an expert in this field. This book is compilation of her most popular and widely read articles that she first published on her own website.

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        The articles cover a wide range of topics, including tantrums, hitting, boundaries, and more. If you are struggling to find effective ways to discipline your tenacious toddler, this book might be just what you need.

        Get the book here!

        4. Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic, by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka

          All kids are NOT created equally. Some children are born with a natural tendency to be more strong-willed, and it is not at all a reflection of the way they have been parented. However, it does make parenting a more difficult task and can often leave parents feeling like they are doing something wrong.

          This book recognizes that these children need a slightly different approach and give parents strategies on how to deal with challenging situations, such as bedtime, mealtimes, sibling rivalry, school, and more.

          Rather than viewing the intensity of these children as obstacles, Kurcinka teaches parents how to re-frame their thinking to see the positive components of their behavior. It’s crucial that parents try to understand why their children are behaving the way they are and this book gives you tools to nurture challenging kids successfully.

          Get the book here!

          5. Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times, by Zoe Weil

            Living in a society where senseless violence and animosity have become the new normal, the task of raising a kind and loving child can seem almost impossible. But what the world needs now, more than ever, are compassionate people who care about the environment, other living species, and all people.

            Weil advises parents on how to guide their children towards living a more humane life, but most importantly, living their own as a message and an example. All age groups are included, from the early years all the way to young adulthood, and activities, important issues, tips, and more are discussed for each.

            The four elements that Weil emphasizes in raising human children are providing information, teaching critical thinking, instilling reverence, respect, and responsibility, and offering positive choices. Being kind is not synonymous with grand gestures. The little things people do on a daily basis will make the biggest difference.

            Get the book here!

            6. The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind, by Daniel J. Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson

              When your children decide to throw tantrums because you wouldn’t let them ride in the shopping cart standing up, are they doing that just to embarrass you in public and make you look like an incompetent parent?

              Not at all!

              They are simply adjusting to their rapidly developing minds and coming to terms with their desires and the parameters within which they must live. They are allowing their emotions to take over because they are not equipped to tackle the situation in a more rational manner.

              Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist, and Bryson, a parenting expert, teamed up to decode the complexities of the young developing mind to give you 12 strategies to transform challenging emotionally driven reactions into opportunities to help your children cultivate healthy development and productive behaviors for life.

              Get the book here!

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              7. Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, by Rebecca Eanes

                There are too many parenting books out there to read them all! Which ones are worth reading and which techniques are the most effective?

                Eanes does not claim to be a parenting “expert” but rather, a real mom, fully entrenched in the joy and hardships of parenthood. This book is the culmination of the parenting techniques she learned that actually worked for her family throughout the years, repackaged in an easy to ready format.

                The first half focuses solely on the parent and provides many tips on how to work on our response and emotions and increasing self-awareness before engaging with our children. She also includes many suggestions, techniques, and discussion questions to help you move from theory to practice.

                So often, children are punished for being human. They are not allowed to have grumpy moods, bad days, disrespectful tones, or bad attitudes. Yet, we adults have them all the time. None of us are perfect. We must stop holding our children to a higher standard of perfection than we can attain ourselves.

                Get the book here!

                8. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish

                  It can be easy for parents to yell and lash out when their kids are having a meltdown for seemingly frivolous reasons. However, it’s important to remember that young kids need to be heard and understood, and they are expressing themselves in the only way they know how.

                  This book helps parents to navigate the complicated but fragile methods of communication with their children that will tremendously impact their behavior and development.

                  It’s crucial that parents acknowledge the feelings that their children are feeling and show them that they understand, before setting out to try to resolve the issue. Their feelings are valid and important and need to be expressed.

                  Another point that is emphasized is to make correcting behavior about the behavior and not about the child. Changing the way parents talk to their children will lay a much stronger foundation for communication and improve the parent-child relationship tremendously.

                  Get the book here!

                  9. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, by Kim John Payne

                    A growing trend towards minimalist living has many families purging their closets, downsizing their homes and going against the consumerist culture that advertising and the media promotes. This mindset can also be applied to parenting.

                    Children do not need packed schedules full of activities or toy boxes filled to the brim. They also don’t need their parents to worry and obsess about their every move. To help parents adopt this more simplistic mindset, Payne gives suggestions such as streamlining your environment, establishing rhythms and rituals, scheduling breaks, scaling back on media, and lessening parental involvement.

                    Don’t overwhelm your children with too many choices and then step back to allow them to grow into the people they are meant to become more independently.

                    Get the book here!

                    10. Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting, by Dr. Laura Markham

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                      They say that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. This mantra is true in many facets of life.

                      Parents have a better chance of fostering deep, genuine relationships with their children if they use techniques that focus on love, compassion, empathy, and gentleness, rather than fear, strict rules, and discipline.

                      Markham guides parents to get in touch with and master their own emotions, so that they can parent with empathy, open communication, and healthy limits, encouraging children to be self-disciplined and accountable for their own actions.

                      “What matters most: Stay connected and never withdraw your love, even for a moment. The deepest reason kids cooperate is that they love you and want to please you. Above all, safeguard your relationship with your child. That’s your only leverage to have any influence on your child. It’s what your child needs most. And that closeness is what makes all the sacrifices of parenting worth it.”

                      Get the book here!

                      11. NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, by Po Bronson & Ashley Merryman

                        In contrast to typical parenting books, this book contradicts many commonly held beliefs about what is best for children and uses current social science studies as evidence for a new way of thinking.

                        For example, several studies showed that kids who are commonly threatened with punishment lie more frequently and get better at doing it. Another chapter talks about the fact that when white parents don’t talk about the issue of race or bring attention to it, kids tend to form their own (racist) opinions about people who look different from them.

                        Although some claims are lacking in details and specifics about how to tangibly apply it parenting practices, there is a lot of useful and surprising information to be gleaned from this book.

                        Get the book here!

                        12. Playful Parenting, by Lawrence J. Cohen

                          According to Cohen, kids misbehave because they feel disconnected from their parents and not heard. They act out in order to get attention, even if it is negative attention.

                          The best way to connect with kids is to speak the language they know best – playing. Frequent physical constant and being willing to play the fool are two key strategies that are emphasized in the book. Kids are made to feel foolish so often in their lives, when they are constantly being told what to do and being corrected.

                          When the tables are turned, kids are able to see their parents in a more relatable light.

                          Get the book here!

                          13. Smart Parenting for Smart Kids: Nurturing Your Child’s True Potential, by Eileen Kennedy-Moore & Mark S. Lowenthal

                            For kids who can be categorized as gifted or bright, different parenting techniques may be required in order to help these children achieve their highest potential, without feeling pressured.

                            The four essential components of smart parenting are laid out: a compassionate ability to view the world through our children’s eyes, the confidence to set judicious limits, a commitment to turn toward our children more often than away, and faith in our children’s ability to grow and learn.

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                            In additional, seven fundamental challenges are addressed in great detail: tempering perfectionism, building connection, managing sensitivity, handling cooperation and competition, dealing with authority, developing motivation, and finding joy.

                            If these are topics that resonate with you, this may be a helpful resource to help you help your kids succeed.

                            Get the book here!

                            14. Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age, by Maya Thiagarajan

                              After the massive success of the honest and confrontational book describing strict Chinese parenting techniques in practice, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, a massive debate was ignited, comparing Eastern and Western parenting styles.

                              Which approach is better and more effective? Why do Asian students do so well in math and science?

                              Thiagarajan is uniquely qualified to address these questions because of her personal experience growing up in India, and teaching in both the U.S. and Singapore. She explains the advantages and pitfalls of both methods of parenting and gives specific tips in a “How To” section in each chapter to aid Asian and Western parents in education and development both in and out of the classroom.

                              Get the book here!

                              15. The Gentle Parent: Positive, Practical, Effective Discipline, by L.R. Knost

                                Many parents who are currently raising young kids did not grow up in a household where gentle parenting took place. Yelling, corporal punishment, and threats were commonly used means of discipline for many decades.

                                Knost presents an alternative way of parenting – a gentle way – that is still as effective, if not more so. She explains the importance of treating children as people, with respect and one-another-love (Golden Rule).

                                This book is centered around the implementation of the three C’s of gentle discipline – Connection, Communication, and Cooperation.

                                Some suggestions for tools that parents can utilize in the place of yelling or aggression in include: prevention, remind and redirect, silliness, modeling, and teaching empathy.

                                “Yelling silences your message. Speak quietly so your children can hear your words, not just your voice.”

                                Get the book here!

                                Final thoughts

                                Being a good parent is a complicated and difficult challenge to take on.

                                Many of us are still holding onto to mistakes that our parents made with us when we were kids, vowing not to do the same to our own children. But no parent is perfect, and everyone will inevitably get something wrong.

                                These books are here to provide some guidance in tackling this impossible task. They have helped countless other parents in helping to communicate, understand, and relate to their children, so it may be worthwhile to give them a chance.

                                Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                More by this author

                                Katie Lemons

                                Parenting Blogger and Full-Time Working Mom

                                14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All How to Homeschool in the 21st Century (For All Types of Parents & Kids) Reading for Kids: 17 Reasons Why It’s Important and Where to Start 11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother 15 Insightful Parenting Books That Help Your Kids Start off a Healthy Life

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                                Published on July 23, 2020

                                11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

                                11 Signs You’re an Overprotective Parent (And What to Do About It)

                                Have you ever followed your child around the playground? They may have been a toddler and you were worried they would take the wrong step and fall off the jungle gym. Therefore, you followed your toddler around, keeping them within arm’s reach so that you could prevent them from falling or having an accident.

                                I have been that parent at the playground in the past. With twin boys who had no fear as toddlers, I would follow them onto playground equipment because I was concerned for their safety.

                                After a few months of doing this, I stopped. I came to realize that children need to learn through their own experiences. They will fall, but they will also learn how to avoid danger and make calculated judgments about risks through their experiences. If I was always there to stop them from falling, they wouldn’t learn to stop themselves.

                                They had to learn things on their own. Of course, as a parent, it is still my responsibility to not place them in situations where they could be terribly injured.

                                For example, we started at playgrounds that were intended for children under the age of five. We didn’t move up to the big playgrounds until they were old enough and aware of their behaviors and the risks involved in playground play activities.

                                Why Parents Become Overprotective

                                The intention of overprotective parenting is well-meaning. These types of parents are highly concerned about their children’s safety and decision making. Their ultimate goal is to protect their child from harm. Parents should be concerned about the safety and well-being of their children.

                                However, on the flip side, parents should also be teaching their children about risk and responsibility. Those lessons are best taught through life experience. If we are always following behind our children, ready to catch them at a moment’s notice, then we aren’t allowing them to learn about risk and responsibility.

                                Unger, a researcher on overprotective parenting, suggests that parents should allow children to participate in activities on their own that are considered low-risk.[1] This means allowing children to engage in activities on their own that provide “manageable amounts of risk and responsibility.”

                                Unger cited that parents have become increasingly more protective of their children and are much more watchful of their children’s activities than previous generations.

                                The problem with being an overprotective parent is that the child misses out on the opportunity to build responsible behavior skills, build autonomy, and develop self-esteem. Their confidence can be undermined when mom or dad are always watching and guiding their behavior.

                                They can develop a sense that they are unable to make their own good decisions because they are never allowed to do so in life. Their confidence and self-esteem are hindered when they aren’t allowed to do things on their own without their parents hovering or watching over them.

                                What Are the Signs of an Overprotective Parent?

                                Parents with overly protective tendencies think that they are helping their child. Their goal is to protect their child, but it goes to the extreme. Below are some ways that a parent can be overly protective.

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                                This type of behavior can end up harming their child’s development when one or more of these behaviors is present. There are likely other ways that a parent can be overprotective of their child, as this list is not comprehensive.

                                These are examples so you can assess your behavior to determine if you need to loosen up overly protective parenting habits.

                                1. You choose your child’s friends or direct them toward friendships with particular children.
                                2. You don’t allow them to do activities on their own. For example, not allowing them to walk the dog in front of your home even though you live in a safe neighborhood and could even watch them from the front window.
                                3. You are constantly monitoring your child. For example, you show up at their sports practices often to check in and see how they are doing or you go online to check their grades every week to ensure that they don’t have any missing work in any classes. If they do have missing work, you make sure that they get it completed and turned in before their final grade can be affected.
                                4. You prevent them from making mistakes when you can see that they are going to make a low-risk mistake. For example, not allowing your five-year-old to put ketchup on their pancakes because you know they are going to dislike it and ruin their breakfast. You won’t allow them to chose to make such a mistake because you know that they will cry and get upset and you want to prevent them from becoming emotionally upset.
                                5. You don’t allow them to go to friend’s homes without you.
                                6. Sleepovers at other homes or camps are never allowed during their childhood.
                                7. You drill them with questions about their life when they are out of your sight, such as wanting to know about all the details of their school day every day when you pick them up from school.
                                8. You guide them to the extent that they are prevented from failing. For example, not allowing your teen to try out for the basketball team because you know that they will not make the cut.
                                9. You make their decisions for them. For example, you don’t allow them to choose whether they can walk to school or ride the bus. You drive them and do not allow for any decision outside of this because you want to keep them safe.
                                10. You are always volunteering to serve in their school classroom or chaperone the school trips because you want to “keep an eye on what is going on in your child’s class”.
                                11. You do not allow them to have secrets or privacy. For example, they are not allowed to have a locked diary that you do not read or you don’t allow them to lock their bedroom door ever.

                                Why Being Overprotective Is Not a Good Idea

                                Kids learn from natural consequences. If they are not allowed to have natural consequences because their parent is continually protecting them from failure and harm, their development is being hindered.

                                For example, let’s look at a child named Sally who is 13. She is a child who is overly managed by her parents and is not allowed to go to sleepovers or even go to another friend’s home. Her parents are worried about stranger danger and what can happen if they are not with their child.

                                Sally is allowed to have friends at her home, but her parents are always watching the kids. Whenever Sally and her friends begin to disagree, the argument is squelched before the children can even begin to work things out between themselves because Sally’s parents will intervene and solve the problem.

                                Sally is never alone with friends outside of school because her parents are always present. The presence of her parents in her socialization is hindering her development.

                                She doesn’t know how to work out disagreements between her peers because she has never been allowed the opportunity to even try. Her social skills are lacking because parents intervene to direct her behavior while she is with her friends.

                                Kids Need Space and Time

                                Kids need space and time to be independent while they are children. If Sally were to be left alone with her friends, her friends would eventually push back at her bossy behavior when her parents are not present.

                                However, because Sally’s parents are always present she gets away with being overly-bossy to her friends. She is not learning about the natural consequences of her bossiness but someday will when it may be difficult to change her behaviors as she is older in more set in her ways.

                                It is easier to learn through natural consequences at a young age. Sally will likely end up going to therapy as an adult because she can’t keep friendships intact. Her bossy behaviors and lack of awareness have led to her having severed friendships repeatedly as a young adult.

                                She will have to work with a therapist to uncover the reason why she is losing friends and then work to change her behavior to learn better ways to act towards her friends in the future.

                                Effects of Overprotection

                                There are a variety of effects of overprotective parenting. It is often dependent on the methods the parent utilizes and the extent of the overprotective behavior.

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                                For example, let’s look at Tina who is a girl age 10. She wants to run and participate in her school’s after-school competitive track program. However, she is not allowed to participate in after school activities because her parents are worried that she will be exposed to boys and may start having relationships with the opposite sex too young.

                                Another concern is that a boy may “take advantage” of their daughter, so they want to protect her from being exposed to boys outside of school and their supervision.

                                The problem with this is that Tina is missing out on participating in a sports activity that could help her develop friendships. She is also missing out on the opportunities associated with being a part of a team, working hard physically to compete, and developing sportsmanship skills.

                                Her parents are well-meaning, but their over-protection is preventing her from participating in a sports activity that she deeply desires to engage in.

                                There are other effects of overprotective parenting. Below are some examples.

                                Examples of Overprotective Parenting

                                This list is not comprehensive, as every parenting situation and family is unique. However, this list can help provide some insight into the detrimental effects that overprotective parenting can cause.

                                1. Lack of Self-Esteem Development

                                If children are not allowed to try things on their own, they cannot build self-confidence and self-esteem.

                                2. Lack of Autonomy

                                If a child is always accustomed to having a parent around and supervising their behavior, they can become dependent on the decision making of their parents because they are never allowed to be alone or do things alone.

                                3. Anxiety

                                A child who is never allowed to try to do things on their own can become anxious when they are finally allowed to try things out on their own. They worry about making mistakes or failing because they have continually had a parent to help them avoid mistakes and failure.

                                4. Lack of Responsibility

                                When parents are always helping and guiding their children to an extreme, children will fail to develop their own responsibility skills. If they are never held responsible for anything, how can they develop a sense of responsibility?

                                5. People-Pleasing Tendencies

                                Youniverse explained that children who have overprotective parents who constantly direct their children’s behavior end up seeking the approval of those in their life.[2] These children will grow up accustomed to someone always telling them what the “right behavior” looks like.

                                If they don’t have that praise or comfort of someone saying they did things right, they can become anxious or depressed. They become people-pleasers who seek the appraisal of others.

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                                6. Risky Behavior

                                When children are raised in an overly protective home, they often engage in risky behavior when the reigns are lifted. They haven’t experienced the failures associated with low-risk situations at a younger age because of their overly protective parents.

                                Therefore, when they get older, access to high-risk situations becomes more easily accessible, and without understanding high risk versus low-risk situations, they engage without the wisdom of previous experiences.

                                Because of their inexperience with risks in general, they may engage in high risk because they are unaware of consequences.

                                7. Diminished Development Regarding Fear, Social Skills, and Coping Skills

                                Psychology Today explains that children with overprotective parents have developmental issues, such as not being able to deal with stress and poor social skills.[3]

                                For example, a child who isn’t allowed to play on a playground because the parent wants to protect their child from injury is prevented from learning about risk-taking on the playground and the bumps and bruises from consequences.

                                Such a child may grow up to either having too much fear because it was instilled by their parents or have no fear because they have no concept of high-risk versus low-risk behavior.

                                8. Lack of Immunity

                                The Psychology Today article also explained that children who have overly protective parents that do not allow exposure to germs can become children who have a compromised immune system. Exposure to germs as children is needed for them to develop a healthy immune system naturally.

                                When parents are disinfecting everything the child encounters and not allowing exposure to germs (e.g., not allowing them to go to a petting zoo or to play in the sandbox because of the germs in those places), they can be stunting their child’s ability to develop their immune system.

                                9. Control Freaks

                                Children who have been parented by control freaks learn this behavior from their parents. Parents are the primary role model of behavior for their children. If children see their parents acting as though they must have control over others and every situation at all times, then they too will learn to behave in this same manner.

                                What to Do If You Are an Overprotective Parent

                                If after reading this content you feel that you may be an overprotective parent, there is hope. You can change.

                                It begins with loosening the reigns of control over your child in a calculated and reasonable manner. Allowing for low-risk behaviors and the consequences involved can help your child become more independent.

                                There is definitely a balance to protective versus overprotective parenting. Allowing for activities and exposure to experiences that are low-risk is a good way to start.

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                                For example, allowing your child to play on age-appropriate playground equipment (without following them) is a good first step. They will experience some bumps and bruises, but this is a part of normal development and learning about consequences.

                                You will want to research authoritative parenting methods if you feel you are an overprotective parent. Overprotective parents tend to be authoritarian parents.

                                Here is a LifeHack article I previously wrote about authoritarian parenting, so you can understand the drawbacks to this parenting method: Authoritarian Parenting.

                                Authoritative parenting is not control-based parenting. It involves teaching consequences naturally, allowing age-appropriate decision-making, and having conversations with children rather than dictating for ultimate control and compliance.

                                MSU Extension provides some great guidelines for authoritative parenting.[4] Below are some of the behaviors they described with authoritative parenting methods:

                                • Provide reasonable, age-appropriate expectations for children.
                                • Stress and anxiety for children can have positive outcomes, as they are allowed to experience these feelings in small doses as children. They can then build their coping skills and ability to deal with stress and anxiety through experience.
                                • Encourage independence, as it helps children build their confidence and self-esteem.
                                • Allowing for failures when they are young helps them learn how to pick themselves back up and try again. Developing this ability at a young age regularly will help prepare them for bigger failures when they are older, such as breakups, failed classes, or losing a job.

                                Final Thoughts

                                It is never too late to work on our parenting skills. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, therefore, we can always be working on improving our parenting methods.

                                We all want our children to be successful, happy, and competent as adults. It does not happen overnight. Parenting is a continual process of trying daily to help our children live and learn through their own life experiences.

                                If we try to protect them every step of the way, then they are not being allowed to truly experience life.

                                Allow for age-appropriate experiences and allow for failures so that they can learn how to pick themselves back up and try again.

                                More Tips on Effective Parenting

                                Featured photo credit: Sue Zeng via unsplash.com

                                Reference

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