Good Parenting

"...Good parenting includes the ability to identify and understand what a child needs. When appropriate, these parents will separate what the child's needs form their own needs and can place the needs of their child before their own."

By: Michael G. Conner, Psy.D

Based on "The Art and Science of Custody Evaluations" by Gould and Martindale.

Competent parenting promotes child growth along traditional developmental lines. Competent parenting also channels and guides a child’s and adolescent’s energy and behavior toward successful and prosocial goals. Without appropriate parental supervision, children find this guidance from others, mostly likely from their peer group. Those children who are less well supervised tend to find and associate with others who are also less well supervised. The result often is a child whose primary socialization and attitude influence comes from his or her peer group rather than from his or her family. A lack of competent parental supervision leads to children who are poorly socialized and more likely to become problem children and adolescents.


Good Parenting


There is a lack of consensus about what defines competent parenting. There is little consistent information about the impact of different parenting activities on child development. Parents naturally have beliefs about what is in the best of their children. They believe they know what provides more intellectually, morally, and culturally appropriate and necessary experiences. Unfortunately, there is little or no empirical research to support such beliefs.


Schutz and colleagues (1989) suggest a group of parenting behaviors that are widely accepted by family experts as the means for parents to support the development of competent children.


Good Parenting Behaviors

  • Parent is actively and positively involved in child's life.

  • There are direct, open, and cooperative dialogues between parent and child.

  • Parent cooperatively communicates with other parent.

  • Parent is flexible in behavior and limit setting.

  • Parent appropriately modulates expressions of love and intimacy.

  • Parent sets clear boundaries between child and environment.

  • Parent identifies and understands child's needs.

  • Parent accurately observes child's behavior and own behavior.

  • Parent develops and nurtures independence, individuation, social responsibility, and self-confidence.

  • Parent develops and nurtures child's self-esteem.

  • Parent is knowledgeable about child's strengths and weaknesses.

  • Parent is perceived as a positive role model.

  • Parent applies appropriate discipline.

  • Parent supports child's relationship with other parent.

  • Parent encourages socially appropriate behaviors and respect for rules governing society.

Good parenting includes the parent's active and positive involvement in their child's life. A good parent understands and plans for the inclusion of the child in appropriate functions and encourages the sharing of mutually satisfying activities. Kelly and Emery (2003) suggest that good parenting helps the child feel involved and like they are a part of the family. Children need to feel special and wanted in their relationship with each parent.


Good parenting involves direct, open, and cooperative communication between a parent and child.  Good parenting involves a two-way exchange of feelings that communicates closeness, warmth, interest, and caring (Fisher & Fisher, 1986). Good parenting includes cooperative communication between parents. Each parent needs to understand and be aware of what is happening is a child’s life, how they feel as a result, what the child needs and what their child would like to have or see happen. A good parent will communicate information and their experience with a child to the other parent and do so in a manner that insures consistency in meeting the child’s needs in different homes.


Good parenting requires flexibility and the ability to set limits. Expectations should realistic, discussed and agreed upon by parents. Good parents set appropriate limits as to what they will allow and do for each other, for their children, as well as among children. This includes appropriate modulation of intimacy. Good parents avoid extremes of the psychological closeness and distance. This is characterized by the development and maintenance of interpersonal closeness that feels comfortable to both parent and child and is consistently experienced. Parents who are excessively close with younger children create a psychological burden for the child. Children become distressed when parents alter their relationships from that of “parent-child” to a “parent-adult” interaction. Parents who are distant, and have “adult-child” relationships can create distress in a child if the child is not competent to face, overcome and learn from life challenges.


Good parenting requires the parent to sets clear and realistic boundaries between the child and the environment.  When necessary, good parents may behave in ways that create a buffer between the child and challenges in their environment. Parents may limit a child’s behavior, interpret life experiences and give their children perspectives that provide children “freedom within limits” and “freedom with structure.” Parents assume responsibility when they limit behavior, interpret life or provide perspectives in ways that may impede or enhance developmental growth.


Good parenting includes the ability to identify and understand what a child needs. When appropriate, these parents will separate what the child's needs form their own needs and can place the needs of their child before their own (Ackerman & Schoendorf, 1994; Rohman, Saks, & Lou, 1987; Schutz et aI., 1989), Good parenting includes the ability to accurately observe the behaviors of the child as well as one's own behavior and the ability to accurately interpret the feelings of the child as well as one's own. Good parents are able to communicate their observations, interpretations and perspectives in a manner that is sensitive, has empathy for the child, and demonstrates that the parent understands (Ackerman & Schoendorf, 1994; Bray, 1991; Fisher & Fisher, 1986).


Parents need to develop and nurture in their children the ability to move toward independence, individuality, social responsibility, and self-confidence. Good parenting encourages children toward alternative forms of action and new behavior in such a way that their children feel a degree of freedom when making these choices. Positive self-esteem is encouraged when parents set firm, clear, and consistent standards of behavior and when children are expected to behave in mature and respectful ways. Positive self-esteem is also bolstered when the rights of both parents and children are recognized (Ackerman, 1995; Maccoby & Martin, 1983; Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992; Schutz et aI., 1989).


Good parenting support and promotes resilience in children. Resilience is the ability to experience challenges and even failures in life, but also to respond in a manner where by a child can (1) accurately conceptualize their experience as merely problems and challenges, (2) develop and act on course of action, (3) maintain or alter their social network effectively, and (4) to maintain sufficient energy and persistence in their efforts. Resilience consists of the child’s sense of self-mastery, relatedness others and their emotional reactivity (Prnce-Embury, 2006). Parents build resilience in their children be providing experiences that confirm their ability to solve problems, provide social enrichment opportunities that create a sense of connection and belonging with peers and teach through a variety of alternative methods that children can use to regulate and manage their emotions.


Good parents know and can describe their children's strengths and weaknesses. Children are generally not the same and each child usually is usually different from his or her siblings. A good parent knows these differences, respects them, and supports them for each child (Ackerman, 1995; Ackerman & Schoendorf, 1992; Rohman et aI., 1987).


Good parents serve as positive role models that can help their children recognize and see their individual strengths and weakness. Good role models teach, often through their example, how to set limits, following rules, and to respect their self and others (Schetky & Benedek, 1980). Children who can see, understand and can describe their own strengths, as well as “spot” those in others, are more likely to interact and socialize well.


Discipline is a necessary part of raising children. Parental discipline takes many different forms and is often the result of cultural expectations. A good disciplinarian sets appropriate limits, enforces transgressions, and provides guidance about the inappropriateness of a child’s behavior and how it may be changed (Ackerman, 1995; Bray, 1991; Derdeyn et aI., 1982; Stahl, 1994; Schutz et aI., 1989). Consequences for choices are most instructive when the child perceives there is a choice


A good parent actively supports the need of a child to spend time with the other parent (Schutz et aI., 1989) and to participate in social groups and familial activities that encourage the child’s social development. Good parenting appears to include the teaching of socially appropriate behavior and respect for the rules that govern society. Teaching social rules and respect for social norms helps teach children about moral behavior within our society.