Our Child, Us and I: The top three parenting skills

What are the most important parenting skills?

A study authored by Dr. Robert Epstein, a psychologist who specializes in parenting and stress, reported in the November 2010 issue of the Scientific American Mind found some familiar and some surprising factors. The research involving over 2000 parents found that the top three parenting skills include:

  1. 1. Loving your child
  2. 2. Maintaining a high quality relationship with your partner
  3. 3. Managing your own stress levels well.
  4. The first factor seems rather obvious. However it’s factors two and three that should give us pause.

Paradoxically, the findings suggest that in order to be good parents at times we need to focus away from our children. The strength of the relationship between the parents helps the overall parenting process. In a similar vein, well-known family therapist Dr. William Doherty in his book Take Back Your Marriage recommends that couples intentionally create daily space for themselves in order to not “sacrifice their relationship to their kids.”

As far as stress goes, you already know that it affects your health. But did you also know that our stress level has a direct link to the quality of parenting we provide? In other words, the way in which we manage the stress in our life mediates the relationship we have with our children. Epstein’s study discussed above found that parents who are better at managing their own stress also have children who are overall happier. In other words take time off. Take care of your own stress. This in turn will make you a better parent.

With holidays right around the corner, it seems that the two best gifts we can give our children are these: Strengthening the relationship with our partner, and learning to handle our own stress better.

Dr. Epstein’s work can be read here This article from a recent issue of Psychology Today explains further details of the findings.