Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.
Marley Hall is a writer and fact-checker who is certified in clinical and translational research. Her work has been published in medical journals in the field of surgery, and she has received numerous awards for publication in education.
Raising kids brings up all the feelings: joy, exasperation, pride, and worry (just to name a few). That's why it's important to have a toolkit of techniques for tackling both the fun and frustrating sides of parenting. When you're prepared for the curveballs that come with children's various stages of development, you're better able to give them what they need to stay healthy and happy as they grow.
We have ideas for navigating tough phases, planning safe and fun activities, and being savvy with tech to help kids thrive and make daily life easier.
It can be. In a survey by the Zero to Three foundation, 73% of responders call parenting their biggest challenge. It's no wonder—you're dealing with added responsibilities and costs as well as modern problems like screen time battles and planning pressures. But 91% of survey responders say parenting is also their greatest joy. The moment you see your child smile, master a skill, or discover a new passion, the hard work will feel well worth it.
Opinions abound, but many child development experts say the key to successful parenting is being supportive in both good times and bad. That means worrying less about bolstering their skills and more about building your bond. Research has linked warm, nurturing parenting behaviors to enhanced brain development and better stress responses in kids.
It depends on your kid! Some "easy babies" turn into challenging children, and some colicky infants become calm. A recent poll revealed that parents most commonly think kids are hardest to handle at age 8, when they want to be independent but are still prone to tantrums. Toddlers and teens can be tough, too—likely because these are both stages in which rapid growth in some parts of the brain outpaces development in areas that regulate emotion, say experts.
Kids become confident when they have opportunities to experience success and also rebound from failure. You can give them plenty of chances to do both by encouraging them to take risks, being supportive when they make mistakes, and praising their perseverance above all.
Researchers have identified four main parenting styles: authoritative parenting, authoritarian parenting, permissive parenting, and uninvolved parenting. Authoritative parenting is often touted by child development experts as being the best approach because it involves setting rules and limits on kids' behavior while staying warm, loving, and communicative.
Change is hard—especially when it's going on inside of you. The teenage years are an explosive period of development, and often, kids reach physical maturity before the parts of their brain that regulate mood and impulse control are fully formed. Outbursts, grumpiness, and poor choices can result. The occasional mood swing isn't cause for alarm if they're getting healthy food, sleep, and social connection generally, but always check in with a pediatrician if you're worried or need advice.
Screen time refers to the number of minutes spent on tech devices—phones, tablets, gaming consoles, or computers—during the day. Kids ages 8 to 12 spend four to six hours a day using screens while teens spend up to nine hours. Though it can be enriching in moderation, too much screen time is associated with mental health and behavior challenges.
Critical thinking is the ability to analyze and make judgments about information you receive. You can help children develop these important skills by encouraging their curiosity, challenging them to seek out and assess sources of information, and teaching them steps for solving problems independently.
Parenting buzzwords are used as a shorthand for the latest trends in childrearing. Common buzzwords include helicopter parenting, attachment parenting, and free-range parenting.
Sometimes called EQ, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage feelings in yourself and others. Strategies for building kids' emotional intelligence include encouraging group problem solving, modeling respectful behavior, and asking children to imagine what it's like to be "in other people's shoes."
Parent-child bond refers to how closely connected you and your child are emotionally. Research shows that developing strong bonds with your baby through warm, responsive behavior can boost early brain development and build a lasting sense of self-esteem.
Back-to-school is the annual transition, typically in August or early September, between summer break and a new academic year. In the weeks leading up to back-to-school time, reestablishing nighttime routines and connecting with new teachers about your child's unique needs can help ensure a smooth transition.
Zero to Three. National parent survey overview and key insights.
Luby JL, Barch DM, Belden A, et al. Maternal support in early childhood predicts larger hippocampal volumes at school age. PNAS. 2012;109(8):2854-2859. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118003109
Study Finds. Parents say 8-year-olds hardest age to keep under control, survey finds.
American Academy of Pediatrics. What's going on in the teenage brain?
Child Mind Institute. 12 tips for raising confident kids.
Kuppens S, Ceulemans E. Parenting styles: A closer Look at a Well-Known Concept. J Child Fam Stud. 2019;28(1):168-181. doi:10.1007/s10826-018-1242
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Screen time and children.
Michigan State University Extension Early Childhood Development. The importance of critical thinking for young children.
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