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Verified by Psychology Today


Do’s and Don’ts of Compassionate Parenting

Parenting's not all stress

Compassionate Parenting Tenets

  • Provide unconditional love, compassion, and acceptance
  • Instill optimism
  • Use guidance and discipline opportunities to teach skills in negotiation/cooperation.
  • MODEL (children learn from watching you) the Five R’s of parenting:
  1. Resourcefulness
  2. Responsibility
  3. Respect
  4. Relationship investment
  5. Regulation of impulses and emotions

MODEL Resourcefulness

  • Do stay focused on solutions
  • Don’t blame

  • Do ask questions that elicit solutions from the child
  • Don’t solve the problem or offer unsolicited advice

  • Do encourage the child to consider alternative solutions
  • Don’t imply that there is only one “right way” to do things

  • Do encourage brainstorming of possible solutions
  • Don’t dismiss the child’s ideas out of hand

MODEL Responsibility

  • Do keep your commitments
  • Don’t break promises

  • Do consider the feelings of others
  • Don’t act like the “Lord and Master”

  • Do pick up after yourself
  • Don’t make others wait on you

  • Do hold morals above convenience
  • Don’t justify your incorrect behavior

  • Do be authoritative
  • Don’t be authoritarian

  • Do admit to being unsure
  • Don’t pretend to know it all

  • Do be truthful and honest
  • Don’t be phony, lie, or cheat

  • Do show that power includes responsibility
  • Don’t exert power arbitrarily

MODEL Respect

  • Do treat everyone with respect
  • Don’t ridicule anyone

  • Do let the child speak for himself
  • Don’t speak over the child

  • Do listen
  • Don’t assume you know what the child is thinking or feeling

  • Do reflect
  • Don’t react

  • Do focus on uniqueness of each child
  • Don’t compare the child to other children, including siblings

  • Do talk
  • Don’t yell, scream, or lecture

  • Do let the child have her own childhood
  • Don’t use your childhood as a standard

  • Do validate the child’s feelings (affirm the child’s right to have them)
  • Don’t invalidate the child’s experience (tell him what he really feels or what she doesn’t have the right to feel)

MODEL Regulation of impulses, emotions

  • Do ask the child to list the consequences of acting on impulse
  • Don’t lecture or moralize about consequences

  • Do show compassion for self and others
  • Don’t blame or put down self and others

  • Do hold the child’s perspective alongside your own
  • Don’t get locked in your own perspective

  • Do express deeper feelings
  • Don’t express symptoms/defenses, e.g., shaming anger, anxiety, obsessions

  • Do be flexible
  • Don’t be rigid

Model Relationship Investment

  • Do let the child know she is important to you.
  • Don’t assume your child knows that caring and love motivate you, especially in discipline

  • Do celebrate special occasions
  • Don’t downplay birthdays and holidays

  • Do show compassion and kindness
  • Don’t take the child for granted

  • Do hug the child six times per day
  • Don’t withhold hugs as a consequence of bad behavior

  • Be trustworthy (keep your promises)
  • Don’t use a double standard (e.g., “Do as I say, not as I do.”)

  • Do establish safety
  • Don’t make the child afraid or ashamed

  • Do show respect for the rights and feelings of others
  • Don’t violate the rights and feelings of the child for mistakes

Instill Optimism

  • Do enjoy the child
  • Don’t imply that the child is a burden

  • Do learn from the child
  • Don’t assume you know it all

  • Do play
  • Don’t tease (at the child’s expense)

  • Do teach the core value of self and others
  • Don’t imply that the child is inferior or superior to others

  • Do teach that mistakes are temporary, due to situation or particular effort, and usually correctable
  • Don’t imply that mistakes are permanent, irrevocable, or due to personality or lack of aptitude or talent

  • Do praise specific effort or accomplishment
  • Don’t praise the child in general

  • Do kiss goodnight
  • Don’t send a child to bed in anger

  • Do laugh with the child
  • Don’t take everything seriously

  • Do sit with the child at meals
  • Don’t ignore the child while eating

  • Do fun things together
  • Don’t always say, “go play” or “Watch TV”

  • Do show pleasure to see the child after school
  • Don’t ignore the child’s homecoming or immediately discipline or make assignments

Use guidance/discipline to teach negotiation/cooperation skills

  • Do empower (help the child to do well)
  • Don’t engage in power struggles

  • Do express problems accurately
  • Don’t exaggerate or minimize

  • Do teach the child how to do better
  • Don’t shame or humiliate the child

  • Do set limits
  • Don’t hit, spank, demean, or make the child feel bad about herself to control behavior

  • Do criticize specific behavior at specific times
  • Don’t criticize globally or label the child (lazy, dumb, liar, etc.)

  • Do offer specific sanctions for specific behavior
  • Don’t discipline a “bad boy/girl”

  • Do respectfully ask how the child can prevent the mistake in the future
  • Don’t threaten or punish

  • Do withhold rewards or privileges
  • Don’t withdraw affection or threaten abandonment

  • Do let the child learn
  • Don’t intervene too soon

  • Do enhance the child’s strengths
  • Don’t focus on the child’s weaknesses

  • Do respectfully confront
  • Don’t avoid

  • Do attend to positive behavior
  • Don’t reinforce negative behavior with exaggerated attention

  • Do allow your child to make choices within parameters acceptable to you
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff or try to control everything

  • Do teach that some tasks are negotiable
  • Don’t imply that all tasks and instructions are carved in stone

  • Do show that cooperation is fun and productive
  • Don't make cooperation unnecesarrily difficult

  • Do model the empowerment of cooperation
  • Don't make cooperation punishing or seem like weakness

  • Do foster an attitude of cooperation
  • Don’t demand submission

  • Do point out your child’s internal reward for cooperating
  • Don’t call your child selfish

  • Do give your child freedom of choice within parameters of acceptable behavior
  • Don’t make most choices for the child

  • Do show value for the child when you want cooperation
  • Don’t devalue the child to get submission

  • Do model the benefits of negotiation
  • Don't cut off negotiation if it's not going your way

Compassionate Parenting