Here Are 3 Tips for Healthy Parenting

Dr. John Townsend

July 9, 2018

No doubt about it – parenting is a vast undertaking! I have two sons of my own. Trust me, I know that raising a child can be a tough but rewarding journey with a lot of responsibility. No matter how prepared you feel before your kid is born, you quickly learn that you have a lot to learn! Good thing making mistakes are a natural part of life!

Being a parent is very complicated because you have to raise this little person who is in your controlled home environment for 18 years. After that, they emerge as an adult and are hopefully ready to take on the world.

Part of being a healthy parent is learning to deal with failure. You can read more about how to work through it on one of my previous blog posts.

There is a lot of pressure put on parents to be perfect. This might be pressure you feel from other parents, or even yourself depending on the situation. It’s impossible to be a perfect parent! You can be a healthy parent, though.

So, what does great parenting look like?

Your job as a parent is to teach your child what it means to be someone who can handle the demands of reality, including finding their passion, having great relationships, and learning how to navigate the ups and downs that come with living.

Is there really a “wrong way” to parent?

I’m sure many of you are hoping that the answer is no – there is no “wrong way” to parent. Sorry – that’s not the case here! Unfortunately, there are some ways people approach child-rearing that doesn’t really work.

When you don’t give your child unconditional warmth (love) or structure, you’re setting yourself up for a dysfunctional relationship down the road. To be a successful adult, a child needs to have a steady relationship based on trust, and know that they are living in a home where they are loved and accepted no matter what.

Believe it or not, if you don’t implement structure or rules in your home, you could be unintentionally creating a culture of entitlement, which you definitely do not want. Who wants to raise a child who feels like the world owes them something?  

In my book, “The Entitlement Cure,” I talk about how I raised my own children with warmth and structure. Here’s an excerpt:

“I had told our kids in a thousand ways, ‘as you go through life with us, you will need a lot of things. You’ll get what you need — things like love, food, shelter, safety, values, structure, faith, opportunity, and an education. We are committed to seeing that you get what you need. But we also want you to know that you really don’t deserve anything. You can’t demand a toy, a phone, a laptop, or a car. That attitude won’t work with us. Need, yes; deserve, not so much.’”

As a parent, your ultimate goal should be for your child to be autonomous from you, especially financially. If you don’t have structure or warmth, you could be setting yourself up for having to continue parenting long after your child leaves the nest. For example, if you have too much structure, your child may take that as a sign that everything they do in life must adhere to strict standards. That’s not healthy. Again, no one is perfect.

3 Tips for Healthy Parenting

Now that we’ve talked a little bit about the wrong way to parent, let’s focus on a few ways to do parenting right. If these suggestions are new to you, do not fret – you aren’t alone! It seems to me that all parents are making it up as they go along, and most of us are just trying to do our best. You aren’t perfect and that’s okay!

Here are three tips for a healthy parent-child relationship that I’ve learned by raising my own kids and coaching thousands of other parents on healthy parenting.

  1. Marry warmth and structure with warmth being dominant. While you need a healthy balance between warmth and structure, warmth has to take a dominant role. A child has to know that, no matter what, you’re for them and love them. Warmth is a number one priority, with the structure being a close second. Integrate and balance them. But, remember warmth first.
  2. Keep the future in mind. We’ve already established that no parent, no matter how hard you try, is going to be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes and that’s okay. It’s part of the job. It’s about how what you do now is going to impact what he or she does when they are an adult. It’s always about the future, so don’t just try to solve the crisis at hand. Pick your battles wisely.
  3. Commit yourself.  Everyone has a unique experience growing up. The best thing you can do is reflect on your own upbringing and commit to being a better parent than you had.

You’re still going to make mistakes because parenting is a messy process. That’s okay! Remember to be intentional with your parenting. Be warm. Provide structure and unconditional support.

Related Articles

Craig Kautsch “True Grit” podcast

Ever wonder what the meaning of emotional intelligence really is? My next guest is Dr. John Townsend has written over 30 books on the topic. He has sold over 10 million copies, including the New York Times bestselling Boundaries series. John is a nationally-known...

read more
Vulnerability: Absolutely Risky. And Absolutely Necessary

Vulnerability: Absolutely Risky. And Absolutely Necessary

You and I need people in our lives who care deeply about us, who are safe, and who want our best. We want them to  “be there” with us, to encourage us when we are discouraged, to give us insight on what’s going on, and to call us to the right action steps to make life...

read more
NYT: How to Set Pandemic Boundaries for Relatives

NYT: How to Set Pandemic Boundaries for Relatives

Dr. Townsend had the privilege of being interviewed for this informative and timely article by the New York Times. Article Excerpt: Be a conduit, not a lifeline ... "When you feel overwhelmed, Dr. Townsend recommends that you create a list of all of your...

read more