From talking and reading to infants to enunciating values (best done in conversations around the dinner table), parents exert enormous influence over their children's development. They are, however, not the only influences, especially after children enter school. It's especially important that parents give children a good start, but it's also important for parents to recognize that kids come into the world with their own temperaments, and it's the parents' job to provide an interface with the world that eventually prepares a child for complete independence. In a rapidly changing world, parenting seems subject to fads and changing styles, and parenting in some ways has become a competitive sport. But the needs of child development as delineated by science remain relatively stable. There is such a thing as overparenting, and aiming for perfection in parenting might be a fool's mission. Too much parenting cripples children as they move into adulthood and renders them unable to cope with the merest setbacks. Of course, there is also such a thing as too-little parenting, too, and research establishes that lack of parental engagement often leads to poor behavioral outcomes in children, in part because it encourages the young to be too reliant on peer culture. Ironically, harsh or authoritarian styles of parenting can have the same effect.
How Parenting Affects Development
To parent effectively, it’s not enough to simply avoid the obvious dangers like abuse, neglect, or overindulgence. Indeed, The National Academy of Sciences delineates four major responsibilities for parents: maintaining children's health and safety, promoting their emotional well-being, instilling social skills, and preparing children intellectually. Numerous studies suggest that the best-adjusted children are reared by parents who find a way to combine warmth and sensitivity with clear behavioral expectations. Parents may find the Four C’s to be a helpful acronym: care (showing acceptance and affection), consistency (maintaining a stable environment), choices (allowing the child to develop autonomy), and consequences (applying repercussions of choices, whether positive or negative).