Keys for Effective Parenting

Keys to Effective Parenting in the Face of Stress and Trauma

Parenting matters. But effective parenting matters more when faced with highly stressful or traumatic situations. These situations can include war, natural disasters, domestic violence and abuse. The Center for Resilient Families, based in the College of Education and Human Development (CEHD), aims to improve access to evidence-based parenting programs for families affected by traumatic stress.

A parent or caregiver’s role is crucial in helping to support a child’s resilience, or “doing OK” despite experiences of adversity. Too often, children exposed to severe stress or trauma and at risk for behavioral or emotional problems have parents who may not be able to access the tools and resources that could help them be effective parents.

We took the Parent Management Training – Oregon (PMTO) model – a theory-based, well-validated parent training model tailored to prevent and address problems for youth from preschool through adolescence developed in the 1970s – and modified it for families experiencing trauma. Our goal is to support and strengthen emotional regulation for both the parent and child affected by traumatic experiences through communication and being mindful of behavior patterns. Parents can improve emotion regulation and parenting with strategies that build on strengths and encourage positive change. Below are a few key concepts:

Teaching through encouragement. It’s important to give your child strong encouragement in order to build resilience.

Effective discipline. In order for discipline to work, parents need to set clear boundaries, follow through when limits are crossed, provide small but non-physical consequences, and – most important –  reinforce and reward positive behavior.

Positive involvement. Put an emphasis on confidence building with your children. Boost their motivation by encouraging them through positivity and support.

Monitoring and supervision. Pay close to attention to what your children are doing, know their friends and be aware of what they are doing online. Talk with your child and model the type of acceptable ways you’d like to see them express themselves.

Effective socializing of emotions. Parents socialize their children through direct approaches such as discussion and reactions to their children’s emotional displays, as well as indirectly through modeling acceptable ways to express emotion. Be aware of your own emotion triggers and use tools to respond effectively to your own negative emotions. Let your children know that emotions are OK – and listen to and encourage them to talk about and respond to their own emotions.

This method for effective parenting is designed to support families where both parent and child – but specifically parents – have had traumatic experiences.

Abigail Gewirtz

About the Author

Abigail Gewirtz, Ph.D.

  • Professor, Department of Family Social Science and the Institute of Child Development
  • Principal Investigator, ADAPT
  • College of Education and Human Development (CEHD)
  • University of Minnesota

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