Bill Cirone, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

Children don’t arrive with instructions for care. What’s more, they are all different, so even if we figure out how to handle certain situations with one of our children, the next one may veer off in a completely different direction. In short, parenting can be challenging.

Here are five very common parenting challenges, with suggestions from author Dr. Philip Mountrose, on how to avoid some of those common errors, and parent more effectively.

The first challenge is inconsistency with rules. If parents don’t follow through, children learn that they don’t really mean what they say. The old advice is still sound: Tell young children what you want them to do and then have them do it.

Another area to avoid is talking too much. We often hear the complaint that children don’t listen. This begs the question: How did young people acquire these poor listening skills? Parents tend to dominate discussions with children, but lecturing is a sure way to have children tune out and disengage. A good rule is to talk less and listen more.

It is also a mistake to use words that do not match your actions. Too often young people see adults blaming, denying, and excusing instead of owning up to mistakes. Children welcome it when adults admit they made a mistake or don’t know something, acknowledging that they struggle, too. Children then become more free to learn from their own mistakes.

Failing to explain personal boundaries is another challenge for parents. Children need to learn to respect other people’s bodies and possessions. Parents can help children control their impulses to touch things that don’t belong to them, and can educate them about other subjects that need to be approached with caution, like talking about other people’s age, income, weight, physical disabilities, and the like.

Finally, the biggest concern is not spending enough quality time with children. Most parents do the best they can with the demands of their daily schedule. But it’s important to be always on the lookout for ways to improve in this area. Find ways to have fun with your children. Ask them what they want to do. Discover activities that everyone in the family enjoys. Enjoy the quiet times, as well, when you are simply together.

Parents who recognize any of these common behaviors can identify areas where they want to change. If you can improve in just one of these areas your family will be able to experience considerably more closeness and enjoyment together.