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Do you know everything there is to know about your kids? Can any parent possibly know everything or understand their kids perfectly—100% of the time? Let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, no one is perfect and there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We’re all human, and we make mistakes sometimes. We’re also highly influenced by our own childhood experiences with our parents or primary caregivers. The ways that we were parented taught us many of our own parenting habits that we use today. Some of these habits may be beneficial for the healthy growth and development of our kids, while some may be less effective.

Luckily for parents today, research from the Center for the Study of Social Policy (2017), and beyond, has determined a variety of factors that impact the overall outcomes of children and teens as they develop into adults.

With this research, five protective factors were pinpointed that have been found to help offset some of the negative effects kids can experience from excessive stress, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), and/or childhood trauma. One such factor that we’ll be discussing throughout the following paragraphs is parenting skills and childhood development.

The Importance of Parenting Skills and Childhood Development

While we may strive to know all there is about our kids, some of the most important things we can learn about them as parents are the stages of childhood development, as well as the most effective strategies for parenting at each developmental stage. As kids grow into adults, they progress through a variety of developmental stages that impact their intellectual, emotional, social, psychological, and moral development.

Research shows us that there is a relationship between a child’s development and their immediate environment and early interactions or attachment with parents or primary caregivers.

In order for kids to thrive, they need parents or caregivers who provide:

  • Affection
  • Respectful communication
  • Active listening skills
  • Consistent expectations, boundaries, and rules
  • Opportunities to safely explore one’s environment and develop autonomy

When parents are successful and effective in parenting their kids, it helps them:

  • Excel academically
  • Become motivated to achieve their goals
  • Develop curiosity about their environments

In order to develop the most effective parenting skills, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of each of the developmental stages and what kids need most at each stage.

Having accurate information about childhood development can help parents set realistic expectations. Knowing what is realistic for kids at each age can also help parents to see them in a more positive way that promotes their healthy development even further. Knowing what kids need according to their developmental stage is important info for parents to have when trying to understand their children and teens.

How Parents Can Develop Their Knowledge About Parenting Skills and Childhood Development

Parents who wish to expand their knowledge on childhood development may wish to sign up for a parenting class, a developmental psychology course, family therapy, or conduct their own research independently. When learning about childhood development, and getting a better understanding of what kids need at each developmental phase, it’s important to understand childhood development as it relates to the following five factors:

  • Physical, cognitive, language, emotional and social development
  • Cultural factors that influence one’s perception of kids and parenting habits
  • Signs of a developmental delay or special needs assistance
  • Discipline, and how to effectively use it to positively impact behavior
  • Factors that promote or burden the healthy outcomes of kids

According to research, it is during early childhood that the foundations for intellectual, social, emotional, and moral development are set. This is also influenced by a child’s immediate environment, and any opportunities they have to through experiences for early brain development.

In order for healthy early brain development to occur, kids’ developing brains need:

  • Regular sleep
  • Good nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Various stimulating experiences
  • Tuned-in, emotionally available parents or primary caregivers

When parents or caregivers are able to recognize the needs of their kids, respond and interact with them in an affectionate, sensitive way, it helps them to form a secure bond or attachment.

Pro Tip: Meet Your Child Where They Are

Meeting your child where he or she is at the appropriate developmental stage is key for establishing a secure attachment. For instance, when a child is an infant who cannot speak or understand language, learning is based on mimicking facial expressions, touching everything, putting things in their mouths, etc. To establish a bond, interact by returning a similar facial expression, physical touch, warm, sensitive, affectionate verbal communication, etc. Understanding what your child needs beyond physical needs at each developmental stage is important for establishing a secure attachment.

Secure attachments lead toward feelings of:

  • Trust
  • Self-confidence
  • Safety
  • The ability to explore their environment as there is a secure base or foundation and they are not in survival mode

Secure attachments that are formed by positive parenting skills and behaviors that consistently stay sensitive and warm as a child grows can lay a solid foundation for social-emotional, cognitive and moral development for the positive throughout each of the developmental stages. This can help build resiliency in kids and offset some of the negative effects of childhood trauma.

When a secure attachment cannot be formed…

There are times when our own childhood experiences can influence our parenting styles and beliefs, and when we have attachment injuries or our own, or insecure attachments with our own parents and/or primary caregivers, it’s incredibly difficult to exercise the parenting skills needed to help kids establish a secure attachment without a bit of extra support via parenting classes, family therapy, etc.

If parenting is inconsistent, detached, unresponsive, rejecting, or hostile with conflict in the home, this can lead to an insecure attachment. According to the attachment theory of psychology, insecure attachments can lead to a variety of learned behaviors that influence children into adulthood as it relates to their own personal relationships, coping skills, development, etc.

Signs of an insecure attachment in children include:

  • Anxiety
  • Mistrust
  • Fear
  • Distress

In order to thrive, kids need parents who are:

  • Responsive
  • Nurturing
  • Trusting/trustworthy
  • Reliable

They also need regular, consistent, and predictable routines, exposure to communication and language with the opportunity to participate, and an environment that is safe both physically and emotionally. Once kids have this foundation laid, they will feel safe to explore and learn about the world through their experiences.

If you are concerned that your child or teen may be at risk of having an insecure attachment, it’s important to understand that as parents we oftentimes revert to the ways we ourselves were parented when we have children of our own. This is not a reflection of “bad parenting”, simply an indication of a need to further develop one’s parenting skills and knowledge of childhood development. Learning about the most effective ways to parent according to each stage of development can help parents to evaluate their own experiences and how it impacted their development, and to consider the most beneficial way to guide their kids moving forward.

If you’re interested in further developing your parenting skills or would like to learn more about family therapy, teen therapy, and equine therapy services provided by Idaho Youth Ranch, we’d love to speak with you. Our dedicated team of professionals is here to help you and your family thrive. Give us a call today.


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